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19-year-old youngest in Quebec to die from complications linked to COVID-19

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MONTREAL — A 19-year-old in Quebec has died from complications linked to COVID-19, the Health Department confirmed Friday, marking the first time since the pandemic hit that someone in the province under the age of 20 has succumbed to the disease.

Spokeswoman Marie-Claude Lacasse said in an emailed statement the Health Department cannot release any information about the identity of the person who died, or any details about the death.

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The province said 3,279 people between the ages of 10 and 19 have tested positive for COVID-19 to date. Among those cases, 31 people needed to be hospitalized, including six who were in intensive care.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu offered her condolences to the family of the 19-year-old Friday, as did Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

“It’s hard to find words for how much suffering that family must be going through right now,” Hajdu told a news conference in Ottawa.

“It’s troubling, it’s worrying,” Legault told reporters northeast of Montreal, regarding the young man’s death.

“(COVID-19) attacks vulnerable people more, people who are older, but young people are not immune,” the premier said, stressing the need to wear a mask to prevent the potential spread of the deadly virus.

Dr. Brian Ward, a professor of infectious diseases at the McGill University Health Centre, said while COVID-19 poses a greater risk to older people and individuals with medical problems, young people can still become seriously ill from the disease.

“It’s not the first death in the world of somebody under the age of 20,” Ward said in an interview Friday. “And so, as long as Canada continues to accumulate cases, we can expect more deaths across the age range.”

Dr. Earl Rubin, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, said young people dying from COVID-19 is a “very rare occurrence,” and most youth who do test positive do not need to be hospitalized.

But, he said, the 19-year-old’s death may serve as an important reminder for young people to follow public health guidelines.

“It is a wake-up call that (COVID-19) is still an illness that they have to be aware of and do whatever they can to mitigate the chance of acquiring it and then transmitting it to others,” Rubin said in an interview Friday.

“It just reinforces that we are far from out of the woods and with a second wave potentially upon us, it’s important to remember and to heed and learn from it, more than anything else.”

Meanwhile, Quebec reported 93 new COVID-19 cases Friday, for a total of 61,495. Public health officials also reported three more deaths attributed to COVID-19. They said one death occurred in the past 24 hours while two others occurred between Aug. 14-20.

Quebec has reported a total of 5,733 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

The number of hospitalizations dropped by 10 to a total of 136 on Friday. Of those, 23 people are in intensive care, two fewer than a day earlier. Authorities said they conducted 16,164 COVID-19 tests Wednesday, the last day for which testing data is available.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2020.

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Coronavirus: 429 new cases as public health officials ‘less optimistic’ than last week – The Irish Times

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A further 429 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Wednesday. This brings to 36,155 the total number of cases of the disease in the Republic.

Some 189 of the new cases are in Dublin, and 60 in Cork. There were also 31 cases in Donegal, 28 in Galway, 18 in Kildare, 15 in Wicklow, 15 in Clare, 12 in Limerick, nine in Meath, nine in Louth, seven in Cavan, seven in Longford, six in Laois, five in Offaly, five in Westmeath, with the remaining 14 cases in eight counties.

One further death was reported to NPHET, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,804.

The reproduction number, an indicator of how widely the disease is spreading, now stands at between 1.2 and 1.4, according to Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the NPHET epidemiological modelling advisory group. A reproduction number of less than 1 means an epidemic is dying out; a figure greater than 1 signals it is spreading.

“While we are cautiously optimistic about Dublin, we have seen relatively high case numbers in the last few days, and it will be a number of days yet before the pattern is clear,” Prof Nolan told a briefing on Wednesday.

“Case numbers are clearly rising across the country. We need to remain vigilant, to ensure we do not lose the ground that we have gained across the capital city since we moved to Level 3, and to ensure we do not see further deterioration outside the capital.”

Of the new cases, 203 are men and 226 are women. Sixty-five per cent are under 45 years. Officials say 45 per cent are associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of cases, while 77 cases involved community transmission.

There are currently 130 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including 15 admissions in the past 24 hours, according to acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

“Recently we asked everyone to halve their social contacts,” he said. “Reducing the number of people that we meet – and engaging safely with a small core group – remains the cornerstone of our collective effort to reduce the spread of this virus and its impact on our health and the health of the people that we care about.”

He said that while school-age cases were stable, there had been a sharp rise in cases among 19-24 year-olds and the rise in cases among over-65s was of concern.

Older people were at “grave risk” of a spillover of cases among people of working age, he said.

Rejecting the “narrative” that the disease was less severe of dangerous than before, Prof Nolan said Covid-19 was “as fatal as it ever was to some sectors” while young people were vulnerable “in a different way”.

Public health officials gave examples of recent clusters that have occurred in the west.

One cluster of 30 cases arose after a young couple went away for a weekend and attended a house party. This resulted in six to eight cases, and cases in three to four households. On the second day of their trip, they went with friends to a town centre, resulting in four more cases.

They attended a bar, where six people at an adjacent table, and four staff, tested positive. They then went on to a “drinks venue”, where four more cases occurred.

In another cluster of 24 cases involving intergenerational social mixing, the outbreak started in a small rural place where middle-aged people had gathered. There was socialising in a pub and workplace and further transmission occurred in the pub over the weekend. Fourteen of the cases were directly linked to socialising and 11 involved people aged between 45 and 70. In the outbreak, there were three family clusters, three schools were affected and also one workplace.

A third example arose from two student parties on the same night. There was mixing between the parties, leading to 21 cases among those on attendance. One of these people then had dinner with a university friend, who later went to class. Later 15 out of 26 people in the class tested positive, giving 36 cases in total. The students were masked and observed social distancing, but public health officials believe transmission occurred during break-time.

So far, 87 cases have been detected in schools, out of 4,455 tests carried out, the briefing heard.

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Race for a COVID-19 vaccine raises cost, safety—and trust—issues – The Georgia Straight

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As COVID-19 numbers rise again, the prime minister has re-emerged as a regular fixture at daily government briefings.

On September 25, Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government has signed another agreement to buy a vaccine. This time with AstraZeneca for up to 20 million doses of its COVID–19 vaccine.

That brings the number of agreements signed by the government with vaccine manufacturers to seven. The others are with Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson and Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer, and Moderna.

Three of the companies have vaccine candidates in phase three trials. In all, the government has committed to purchasing some 300 million doses from vaccine manufacturers.

The Trudeau government has also announced its participation in the COVID-19 accine Global Access Facility, or COVAX. It’s part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) effort to deliver “fair, equitable and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines.”

The Canadian government is contributing $220 million to the facility. Its mandate includes delivering vaccines to “low- and middle-income countries.” Canada’s participation in the effort gives it the option of purchasing another 15 million doses of a vaccine.

“We cannot beat this virus in Canada unless we end it everywhere,” Trudeau says.

But while Trudeau is pushing an international approach to find a vaccine, other countries are going it alone.

The COVAX facility is backed by some 172 countries, but the U.S. is not supporting the effort. Neither is China or Russia.

And while the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine has seen unprecedented cooperation between nations, some experts say it seems to be headed for the kind of scenario that plagued the search for a vaccine for AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s.

Back then, pharmaceutical companies and their research and development backers chased profits, making what treatments became available unaffordable for many, especially in the developing world.

In Canada, where large pharmaceuticals enjoy high-level access in Ottawa, who pays for a COVID-19 vaccine and whether it is subsidized are also emerging questions.

Canadians could be asked to pick up some of the cost.

“There’s a lot of money on the table,” says Thomas Tenkate, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s School of Occupational and Public Health.

He notes that pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders have historically placed a steep price on their research and development of new drugs.

While vaccines developed in the world have been distributed universally—polio comes to mind—the scenario with COVID-19 is shaping up to be much different. In all likelihood there will be multiple manufacturers distributing their own variations of the vaccine in different countries.

“With so many clinical trials on the boil you’ve got to think there will be a range available,” Tenkate says.

Tenkate says most researchers and countries will be looking to see what the U.S. does. “There’s a lot of political pressure in the U.S. to have something done [a vaccine] quickly.”

FDA approval usually opens the floodgates to approvals in other countries. But not necessarily in Canada, where Health Canada rules around the approval of new drugs are notoriously stringent.

At his press conference, Trudeau made a point of stressing that any vaccine approved for distribution in Canada will have to pass Health Canada standards. But that process can also be prone to politics.

Questions of transparency, for example, were recently raised about the government’s own Vaccine Task Force. The task force is made up of infectious disease experts and representatives of pharmaceutical companies. It’s advising the government on what research projects to explore.

Gary Kobinger, director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre at the Université Laval, quit the group last week citing potential conflicts among group members as a reason. “You need people to trust the vaccine,” Kobinger told the CBC.

The government responded by bringing in protocols that require potential conflicts of task force members to be made public.

It usually takes anywhere from five to 10 years to develop a vaccine. But the big money is on a vaccine for COVID-19 by next spring or a little later. That’s a year and a half roughly since the onset of the disease.

Russia is already claiming to have developed a vaccine. The U.S. says it’s close. China has said a vaccine may be ready by November. The predictions are overly optimistic. Most of the larger clinical trials have just started in recent months.

There are some 126 clinical trials on the WHO’s radar. Some 26 involve human trials. Nine of those have reached phase three, but none will be completed until late 2022 at the earliest.

The largest human trial of 60,000 participants by Belgium-based Johnson and Johnson company Janssen Pharmaceutica won’t be completed until 2023, according to documents submitted to WHO.

The company says that it “anticipates the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine to be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021, if proven to be safe and effective”.

Further monitoring of subjects after the trials are completed will be needed to make sure any side effects are manageable.

Tenkate worries that “corners may have to be cut because of the reduced timelines” to find a vaccine.

Whatever vaccine we end up with in the short term will be more akin to treatment than a cure.

When politicians talk about a vaccine for COVID-19, it’s easy to jump to conclusions, but there is no magic pill. And there won’t be for some time, given that almost 20 years later there is no vaccine for SARS—COVID-19’s, genetic predecessor.

The danger with a COVID vaccine is that we will, in all likelihood, not know enough about the side effects.

Each country will have its own approval process. And while the rules around those “are pretty consistent around the world,” says Tenkate, there are differences. What is greenlighted for sale in Russia may not receive approval in other Western countries.

For Canada, it will come down to “understanding the risks,” Tenkate says, particularly with the possibility of multiple vaccines. “Ultimately, for a lot of people, it’s going to come down to trust.”

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Oxford-Astra COVID vaccine review to start in Europe – BNN

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European regulators are set to start an accelerated review of a COVID-19 vaccine front-runner from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, in a sign the shot could be the first to seek approval in the region.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to announce the “rolling review” as soon as this week, according to the person, who didn’t want to be identified because the decision is still private. Such assessments are used in emergencies to allow regulators to see trial data while the development is ongoing to speed up approvals of drugs and vaccines that are urgently needed.

The move would be a key step forward for the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot after trials were halted earlier this month due to concerns about a participant in the U.K. study who became ill. The partners, along with companies such as Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., are sprinting ahead with experimental shots as governments look for a way out of the global crisis.

The death toll from the disease exceeded 1 million this week, while the infection rate has rapidly picked up again in Europe.

While the British regulator cleared the Oxford-Astra trial to restart less than a week after it was paused, U.S. authorities have yet to give the go-ahead for trials to resume in the country. Studies in South Africa, Brazil and India have also restarted.

The EMA’s head of vaccines, Marco Cavaleri, said in July the agency would start rolling reviews of potential candidates after the summer. The approach means that a final approval could be granted a matter of days after the review period ends. Cavaleri said at the time the first approval of a vaccine could come by the end of the year.

In a normal environment, drugmakers submit trial data to the regulator for a review that can take many months. Once that’s complete, an opinion is given on whether the product should be authorized for use, which must be signed off by the European Commission.

In emergencies like a pandemic, a rolling review avoids delays so that an EMA recommendation and approval from the European Commission can be sought as quickly as possible. The agency started such an evaluation of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 in April, while trials were ongoing, and the drug was given conditional approval three months later.

AstraZeneca declined to comment. A spokesperson for the EMA declined to comment on the review.

“EMA has always stated that it will communicate the start of a rolling review for COVID-19 treatments or vaccines,” it said in a statement. “We have not made such an announcement for a vaccine.”

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