This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians.
There are competing schools of thought on when to punish someone for killing a migratory bird, and the Canadian government found itself at odds with the Trump administration.
There’s the broad, existing practice: that penalties should apply to industries whose products and activities accidentally kill birds, such as oil wells, buildings and power lines.
Then there’s the narrower interpretation: that punishment be limited to people who intentionally kill a bird unlawfully — by poisoning, trapping or shooting without a licence.
The Canadian government supports the existing interpretation of a century-old international treaty that protects hundreds of species that flutter across the border.
The Trump administration planned to limit penalties under a new regulation that was going to take effect this week on U.S. territory.
Now that move has been delayed by the new U.S. administration. Apparently some chirping from Ottawa played a role in that pause.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a one-month delay to allow further public comment on the new regulation.
The rule would protect normal industrial activity from liability, and would reserve fines for those who intentionally set out to unlawfully kill birds.
It would apply to more than 1,000 bird species, according to a U.S. government’s environmental study, including ducks, geese, swans, herons, cormorants, plovers, hummingbirds and sparrows.
The study said hundreds of thousands of birds were killed over a recent nine-year period in the U.S. by regular human activity, including things such as buildings, communications towers and oil pits.
Fines and civil penalties associated with accidental cases totalled about $105.8 million US over that same period from 2010 to 2018.
The U.S. federal study notes that bird populations are already in decline.
But it says illicit activity is only responsible for a small portion of those deaths. The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates, for example, that about 1,000 golden eagles are illegally shot each year in the U.S., which covers roughly 17 per cent of all golden eagle deaths.
What’s the Canadian role
Enter the Canadian government.
Ottawa complained that the move violated the spirit of a 1916 cross-border agreement. It said the Trump administration move would imperil the 80 per cent of migratory birds in Canada that pass through the U.S. Canada submitted a formal complaint as part of the U.S. rule-drafting process but the last administration rejected it.
Now, the new administration has cited three reasons for hitting the pause button: environmental concerns, potential litigation, and the effect on several treaty partners.
The U.S. administration specifically mentioned the Canadian objection in announcing the one-month pause.
“The public has a strong interest in conserving the migratory bird resource and fulfilling shared objectives and obligations with a treaty partner, Canada,” said Tuesday’s regulatory announcement.
“These interests could be harmed by allowing this regulation to take effect on its current effective date.”
A period for public comment has been reopened. People are invited to submit reactions to the proposed change.
Comments are allowed until March 1.
The new rule, which was supposed to kick in Feb. 8, has now been delayed until at least March 8. That’s if the Biden administration doesn’t cancel the rule entirely. The new administration has told a Federal Court that it could completely withdraw the Trump-era rule.
A behind-the-scenes look at why Canada delayed 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccines – CBC.ca
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Danuta Skowronski was poring over Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine data on a Friday night in mid-December when she had an “aha!” moment.
The epidemiology lead at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control realized she could actually “correct” the data Pfizer had submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the effectiveness of just one dose of its vaccine.
In clinical trials, Pfizer couldn’t accurately determine the efficacy of a single shot because participants had already received their second dose after three weeks, and there was no comparative one-dose study done.
But Skowronski, who has been working on vaccine effectiveness analyses for more than 15 years, realized the company had included in its analysis the two-week time period immediately after vaccination — before the body’s immune response typically kicks in.
She told CBC News vaccines are never expected to protect “instantaneously,” and that there is always a “grace period” of a couple of weeks that factors into vaccine effectiveness.
“What we found was that they were underestimating the efficacy of the first dose, and rather than the efficacy being 52 per cent, it was actually 92 per cent, ” she said. “For us, that was a game changer.”
The finding led the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to change the recommended time between doses of COVID-19 vaccines from three weeks to an unprecedented four months.
B.C. announced it would be delaying second doses earlier this week. Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador quickly followed suit.
Canada is now an outlier in the global vaccination rollout. No other country in the world has delayed second doses up to four months, and there is no evidence yet on the long-term effect it could have on immunity to COVID-19.
Some scientists say we are venturing into uncharted waters. Others are comfortable with the risk.
Why is Canada delaying second doses?
NACI says if second doses are stretched to four months across the country starting this month, close to 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could get at least one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine by the end of June.
But Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, says the decision to delay doses amounted to a “population level experiment.”
“The comment from the chief science adviser was most unfortunate,” said Skowronski. “It did not reflect the careful risk-benefit analysis that went into this decision, and frankly, that is a science and an art to be able to do that.”
But aside from a vague reference to “real-world effectiveness” from Canada and other countries in NACI’s recommendations, little evidence has been communicated to Canadians to convince them that the change in vaccine rollout strategy is the right move.
NACI says its decision to delay second doses is based on emerging real-world data from Quebec, B.C., Israel, the U.K. and the U.S. that showed “good effectiveness” of between 70 and 80 per cent from a single dose of the vaccines “for up to two months in some studies.”
But it also makes clear that these studies haven’t yet collected four months of data on the long-term effectiveness of a single dose, meaning NACI is betting on the “high levels of protection” shown so far.
“It’s shown us really good vaccine effectiveness two months after receipt of the first dose and that the effectiveness isn’t decreasing over time,” Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of NACI and a lead author of the recommendations, said in an interview.
“After looking at it from all of these angles, and given that we are in a situation of limited supply, the committee came to a strong consensus that we recommend the interval to be extended to four months.”
Deeks said NACI will continue monitoring vaccine effectiveness data as it comes out around the world to determine if it needs to further alter its recommendations — meaning another change to Canada’s vaccine rollout strategy is possible.
“If we need to reassess and revise the recommendations, we will,” she said. “But this will allow more Canadians to receive the first dose and have a vaccine in a more timely manner and will have an impact on serious disease.”
‘Not based on evidence’
The move has effectively doubled Canada’s doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight, but some scientists are critical of the move to experiment with delaying intervals.
“The decision is not based on evidence. It’s really based on an extrapolation of the evidence,” said Brad Wouters, executive vice-president of science and research at the University Health Network in Toronto.
“We’ve only been giving this vaccine for two months, so we don’t have data out to four months — no one in the world has been waiting four months for a second dose.”
WATCH | The science behind delaying the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccines:
Wouters says it’s unclear if the delay will impact the effectiveness of the second dose, and the decision comes with a lot of uncertainty in the months ahead.
Skowronski says once good protection is established, it doesn’t suddenly disappear or “fall of a cliff.” Instead, protection against a disease wanes gradually after a vaccination, which buys researchers time to “re-evaluate the optimal timing of the second dose.”
She said that longer intervals between a first and a second dose of a vaccine are generally preferred because shorter intervals can interfere with the immune boost response and longer intervals are often associated with ultimately higher antibody levels.
Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, says the clinical trials on COVID-19 vaccines ran with the shortest time frame possible so they could get data out quickly, but previous studies on other vaccines show longer intervals are generally better.
Skowronski says it’s unclear why Pfizer went with a three-week interval for their clinical trials, but it may have been due to pressure to get the vaccine out or because they didn’t expect to have such good protection with the first dose.
“The only reason to go with a shorter interval is if you don’t get good protection with the first dose, and a second dose administered sooner could top it up a lot,” Skowronski said.
“That’s a scenario that we are not dealing with here. We’re getting excellent protection after the first dose, and we have a clear and present danger threat now with ongoing elevated pandemic disease risk on top of that scarcity of vaccine supply.”
Lack of clear communication for Canadians
While Skowronski is confident delaying the second dose is the right move for Canada, she and other experts feel the communication to Canadians from NACI on the decision could have been more clear.
She said it’s important to stress to Canadians that they still need a second dose eventually to have as much protection from COVID-19 as possible and that they should take any vaccine offered to them to combat its spread.
WATCH | The evidence is there for the ‘concept of further delay’ of second doses: Dr. Naylor:
Dr. David Naylor, who co-chairs the federal government’s COVID-19 immunity task force, said the decision to delay doses is “defensible,” but agreed the decision could have been explained much more clearly to Canadians.
“There didn’t seem to be an organized communications strategy overall,” he said.
“The unhappy result is that a decision which might have been welcomed as a wider tide lifting many more boats and helping us end the epidemic more quickly has instead caused a real undercurrent of anxiety. I hope that subsequent communications will clear the air.”
Wouters says he worries about how Canadians will interpret the move to delay doses given the limited understanding the average person might have on the issue.
“There wasn’t a lot of information about why the decision was made, what the evidence was, what the process was,” he said. “There could certainly be a lot more transparency around the process and how that was done.”
Dr. Allison McGeer, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, says there is “overwhelming” evidence in favour of second doses.
“People who haven’t spent time in vaccination and thinking about vaccination are always really anxious about the stuff you don’t know in the future with vaccines,” she said.
“I’m comfortable with those uncertainties, and with the fact that we can deal with them when we get there. But if you’re not comfortable with that, there is a tendency to really worry about the potential consequences of doing that.”
Skowronski says Canadians should expect health experts to adapt to and absorb emerging evidence as it becomes available and incorporate that into recommendations.
“You don’t do business as usual in the midst of a crisis,” she said. “You don’t want experts that are holding steadfast to an earlier opinion or viewpoint while knowledge has amassed and moved on.
“You want your experts keeping pace with those developments and making decisions based on what is known as time evolves, especially during a dynamic crisis like an unfolding pandemic.”
To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.
Canada unveils greenhouse gas reduction credits to boost carbon trading market
By Nia Williams
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Canada released draft regulations on Friday aimed at stimulating domestic carbon credit trading, part of the federal government’s push to curb emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases.
Canada, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer and one of the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters on a per capita basis, has committed to reducing emissions by 2030 to 30% lower than 2005 levels. It is targeting net-zero emissions by 2050.
The new Federal GHG Offset System is designed to support a domestic carbon trading market. Projects that reduce or remove GHGs can generate credits and sell them to industrial facilities – such as cement works or refineries – that exceed emissions limits determined under Canada‘s carbon tax.
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the system will create opportunities for farmers, foresters and indigenous communities, among others, to earn revenues from projects that cut GHG emissions.
Ottawa also hopes it will spur innovation and private-sector investment in emissions-reducing technology, and allow Canadian industry to remain competitive by lowering the cost of carbon credits.
“This system will encourage cost-effective emissions reductions right here in Canada and create new economic opportunities, particularly in the forestry, agriculture, and waste sectors,” Wilkinson said in a statement.
Environmental group Greenpeace criticized the plan, saying Canada should focus on cutting emissions in all sectors of the economy.
“If we want to encourage climate action in agriculture or forestry, let’s do that directly rather than turning the work of farmers and forest protectors into a get-out-of-jail-free card for oil and coal companies,” said strategist Keith Stewart.
Projects must achieve permanent GHG reductions beyond what is legally required, and must have started operating no earlier than Jan. 1 2017. Ottawa is still working on rules for project eligibility and developing protocols for advanced refrigeration systems, landfill methane management, forest management and sustainable agricultural land management.
Next up will be protocols for projects including aerobic composting and livestock feed management, the government said.
Final regulations are expected in fall 2021.
Each credit will be equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent removed or reduced. The price will be set in the open market, with the federal carbon tax expected to act as a ceiling.
Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government said it will ramp up its price on carbon to C$170 ($134.32) a ton by 2030.
($1 = 1.2656 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Leslie Adler, Aurora Ellis and David Gregorio)
One-on-one with Dr. Bonnie Henry: Where she thinks Canada stands in the fight against COVID-19 – CTV News
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Canada has approved four vaccines to be administered to Canadians. However, continued public health measures, new emerging coronavirus variants and record case numbers in the second wave have some health experts warning that life won’t return to normal anytime soon.
But Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is hopeful that people in British Columbia could be living in a “post-pandemic world” by the summer.
The province’s top doctor says she is “optimistic” that the recent approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the first one-shot immunization from Johnson & Johnson will allow the government to revise its vaccination timeline and have every eligible B.C. resident vaccinated sooner than previously thought.
Henry spoke to CTV’s Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme from Victoria on Friday to discuss where Canada stands now in the fight against COVID-19, as well as her upcoming book, “Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe: Four Weeks that Shaped a Pandemic,” detailing the first four weeks of the pandemic in B.C.
Below is a transcript of the interview, edited for length and clarity:
Lisa LaFlamme: I don’t know how you managed to write a book with your nonstop schedule, but it’s a very interesting read. Why now though, before the pandemic is over, before there is a conclusion?
Dr. Bonnie Henry: Oh, that’s a very good question. This book was actually written during the one week, the five days I had off in early August, and my sister was back out here with us and with me and she had put all this structure together and had this idea and she says she talked to me about it, but I don’t remember.
So she came out and basically sat me down and said, ‘OK these are the bits you need to write’, and it really was, in many ways, for me it was cathartic. It was putting some of the thoughts and feelings that we were going through that very challenging time a year ago now.
So we finished it in early August and it’s being released on the anniversary, but I don’t think any of us really knew that we’d be in the place that we are right now so it was one of those — it was just really about that really strange and challenging and difficult period of time that we all went through a year ago now.
LaFlamme: You’ve suggested we could still save the summer. Is it risky to raise people’s hopes after so many setbacks on the vaccine front?
Henry: I think we need hope. We need to know that there’s an end in sight and one of the things that we’ve been saying is this is like a triathlon and we’re in the marathon, but we don’t know where the finish line is or whether it’s an ultra-marathon or a regular 42.2 and those last miles are the hardest, so it is when we need that. We need to know that there’s an end in sight and there’s things that we can do that are going to get us there and I actually believe, from what we have learned about this virus and this year, we’ve seen that there’s a seasonality to it, we’ve seen that the vaccines — and this is the incredible thing that within a year we have now four safe and effective vaccines in Canada — and the thing that really has made it in my mind a possibility that we’re going to get there is the data that has shown how effective the vaccine is at protecting older people.
For those people who haven’t been in the vaccine world for a long time, that is something that is almost miraculous and I don’t use that word lightly. To be able to protect the individuals who are older, is something that makes our ability to get to that place where we can have those important connections together again a very real reality after just one dose of this vaccine.
LaFlamme: And I think everybody is encouraged by that. At the same time this big question — is a third wave inevitable?
Henry: Here in B.C. we’ve been seeing a steady increase in the last two weeks and we’re back to, in some ways, very much where we were at this point last year; relying on the important contact case management and contact tracing that public health does to try and stop those transmissions before they take off widely.
LaFlamme: When you reflect back it’s a little disconcerting to hear you say we’re right back where we were a year ago when you’re seeing numbers rise, when you think of the first wave and those earliest days, given the vast experience you’ve had with SARS and Ebola. Were you out there waving a red flag that there was danger ahead and people were reluctant to believe you or were you also blindsided at just how severe this coronavirus would actually become?
Henry: I was very, very concerned and worried and anxious, much more so than many of my colleagues in public health and in the health system because many of them had not been through this sort of thing, and our last pandemic of influenza, we managed fairly well. So there wasn’t the thought that quarantine was something that we would actually do, closing borders was something we would actually do, closing schools, closing workplaces — these measures that we had talked about in some sense and I have spent a lot of time looking into… There was a sense of disbelief that we would actually have to use them.
LaFlamme: What about accountability in this country for all the preparedness manuals that were clearly sitting on shelves somewhere? It felt for a lot of Canadians we were woefully unprepared — mixed messages, B.C. doing one thing, Alberta doing another, this patchwork across the country and I know that is the reality of a provincial-based health-care system, but for the collective good would you have preferred a more centralized response from the beginning?
Henry: I’ve been thinking a lot of about it for many years and I chair our Canadian Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Planning Task Force that actually had the plan that we used as a basis for this response. And yes, I do wish that we had had a much stronger co-ordinated federal, provincial response. Some of the things that we need to really move and change are having a national information system that allows us to rapidly share information on these critical communicable diseases with us across the country and with the federal government. We don’t have that. We needed that after SARS, we knew that, we spent years building something and then some provinces backed out, the federal government decided they weren’t going to use it and once again we’re here with a patchwork system.
There are so many things that could have been easier had we followed the advice that we’d had, and it is very challenging in times of non pandemics to spend the critical money that’s needed to develop information systems to have a stockpile. One of the things that I’ve been advocating for, as have many of my public health colleagues for many, many years is an onshore vaccination production capacity in Canada, but those things are hard to put forward when you have such urgent issues in our health system on a day-to-day basis. And of course, the tragedy of the reality of how we have neglected our long-term care homes across the country, that is something that we need to change.
LaFlamme: That is the true tragic legacy of this pandemic so far. Do you see that as a public health failure or where’s that responsibility?
Henry: I see it as a failure of multiple different levels. We have commoditized in some ways, we’ve got for-profit, we’ve got not-for-profit, we’ve got religious, but we have to look back on the history of long-term care. It really started as religious orders supporting older members as they aged and so it has been — it has grown up piecemeal. And then the way we’ve treated it as sort of partly in the health-care system and partly not has created a lot of barriers.
We had to take some drastic action very early on because normally, we wouldn’t be providing personal protective equipment and support to private care homes, but early on here in B.C. we said we have to do that because if those people get sick, it’s going to transmit into the community. So we needed to do things like that and overcoming that inertia to get those things done, but it was not easy.
Primary carers who work in our long-term care homes have been mistreated just to be frank for many, many years — underpaid, undervalued, many of them are people who are from racialized communities and that is something that we need to collectively address and change.
LaFlamme: And you were one of the first people in this country to actually be able to put a name and a face to the first Canadian victim of COVID-19. We still don’t know who patient zero is, but how did that experience shape your message so early on and in communicating hard information to Canadians on a daily basis?
Henry: It is really hard, and the backstory of it from the SARS outbreak in Toronto where …I got to know every single one of the families who had people who died in that outbreak. It really became an integral part of my approach to the many different outbreaks that we’ve been involved in; the importance of protecting people’s personal information and making sure that they can’t be linked and found by people who are trying to… It’s challenging, because everybody wants the story and wants to know all the details for families often need privacy, they need time to grieve, to understand what’s happening, and sadly with this virus as we have seen with many other communicable diseases, people can be mistreated, and treated badly.
Even now, we see instances of racism against community members who are COVID positive through no fault of their own, and it started very early on with anti-Asian sentiment that we’re still see. But the importance of getting people the information they needed to take the actions that we knew would protect each other without violating the intense personal privacy that people needed — very difficult balance and I know everybody wants more and more information, but it’s what you need to know as opposed to what people want to know. Finding that balance can be a very difficult challenge sometimes.
LaFlamme: I’m sure personally it was a great challenge too I mean, here you are presenting this message, but you’re also the target. There was a lot of love in the beginning for you, but we all saw that turn. What was that experience like for you and how do you sort of compartmentalize the trolls and the cruelty that is landing on your doorstep?
Henry: I was kind of prepared for that and I said it from the very beginning, I am the face and the voice unwittingly of a really strong, important team and they support me, I support them. That’s one of the things that gets you through the good times and the bad times my fellow chief medical officers of health from across the country, but also my team here in B.C. So that is really important for me.
I knew that over time the longer things go on the more challenging it becomes, the more likely people are to lash out and we know from human behaviour that in a time of crises and anxiety and particularly uncertainty and, I’ve come to learn, nuance creates this feeling of uncertainty that makes some people take it out with acting out and becoming angry. It’s hard, it’s really hard, but I try and balance that, and I can say that I am buoyed every day by positive messages that I get from people all the time from my neighbours, my mother of course…
LaFlamme: There’s so much confusion for Canadians on the role of [vaccine] manufacturers, laid out guidelines, 21 to 28 days between doses. Canadians are suddenly told no, the two doses will have a four month gap because an advisory committee has decided it’s safe. I know you’re a member of that, but do you understand or do you follow the fact that this is what is so confusing and perhaps leading to mistrust in public health in this country?
Henry: Yeah, I understand absolutely that people hear the different messages, but I think what we all need to recognize is that we are learning as we go. We learn more about the virus, we learn how it was transmitted, we learned that in certain conditions indoors, with poor ventilation with lots of people it spread more easily and maybe by aerosols, we learned the importance of masks in certain situations, these are all things that we learn. We get data, it’s a scientific way. You get data, you get more data, you get real-world data, you understand more, and you make changes depending on what you’re learning as you go. Same with these vaccines.
We have to remember that last summer, there was about 150 candidates for vaccines that were in the initial phases of trials. We didn’t know which ones of those were going to work or not. These amazing ones that we have, the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines, messenger RNA vaccines, brand new vaccine platform, nobody in the world has ever made a vaccine with these before, though there have been little bits of research that have gone back for decades saying that these might be a good idea and people are trying to find a new rabies vaccine, for example. So yeah, the companies wanted and needed to minimize the interval between doses, they needed to figure out if you needed one or two or more, and they needed to minimize the interval between doses so that they could get see if the vaccines worked and we’re safe as rapidly as possible. And that happened, and it happened even before we expected it because we had that surge of cases so the irony is you need more people to get sick to understand that the vaccines are actually protecting people. That is part of how the vaccines were developed and that’s what the manufacturer puts their information into the regulators like Health Canada, and the decision that Health Canada has to make is, does this vaccine work and is it safe? And with the protocols that were used in these clinical trials — so those are very rigid protocols, people are swabbed on a specific date, they’re get blood tests at a specific date, they get vaccines within a specific very narrow timeframe — those are the clinical protocols that help us understand does it work and is it safe.
Once we start using them in the real world, we get what we call effectiveness data. So that’s efficacy, that’s the rigid trials. And then once we get them in the real world we start to understand, well who do they work better for, and there wasn’t so many people who were over 65 in this study so we better watch people who are getting it who are over 65 and see if it is what the studies show. And we’ve learned in real life that — and these are studies too, this is scientific method, it’s just a different type of study … So we’re getting great information about how these work in the real world and that’s what drives our decisions now. So the clinical trials are the basis to figure out if they worked, and then we use the real world data to develop where do they work best and how do we make the best use of the vaccines we have and that’s why we made the decision that not only is it good to extend, it is safe to extend the dose interval to four months, but it’s maybe better for people in the long run and that is from vaccine science, from immunology. We know it takes time for our immune system to build up, and for some of these vaccines it may turn out that a single dose is all we need. We don’t know that yet because we haven’t done those, we haven’t followed long enough, but it is likely that we’re going to change again as we get more information. We may need maybe six months, that’s the optimal time to get a second dose, that’s going to help us get through the next two years of COVID circulation with protecting people so those are things that we’re going to learn as we go. So that’s the way science works in the real world, that we take the studies and then we see how it works in reality.
LaFlamme: Well we are all experiencing a harsh dose of the real world over this past year and Dr. Bonnie Henry we thank you so much for your time and valued insight over this year and, again, congratulations on the book.
Henry: Thank you so much.
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