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Active cases of COVID-19 at highest level since early January, as B.C. records 716 new cases – CBC.ca

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B.C. is making good progress on vaccinations, B.C. health officials said Wednesday, but active COVID-19 case counts remain high.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced 716 new cases of COVID-19, including two epi-linked cases, as well as three more deaths.

There are currently 5,573 active cases of coronavirus in the province, the highest number since Jan. 9, with public health monitoring 9,696 people across B.C. due to COVID-19 exposure.

In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, there are now 1,612 active cases confirmed — the highest number since the start of the pandemic. 

Henry and Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 303 people on Wednesday, 85 of whom are in intensive care.

A total of 86,857 people who tested positive for the virus have recovered, while 1,441 people in B.C. have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

So far, 582,634 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, with 87,180 of those being second doses. 

On Tuesday, 25,126 doses went into arms, the highest number of vaccinations in a single day to date.

Wednesday’s update also noted 71 new cases linked to variants of concern for a total of 1,581 such cases, 148 of which are still active.

Focus on vaccines

Despite rising case counts, Henry and Dix say there is still cause for optimism as vaccines roll out.

“We have seen much progress in recent weeks,” they said.

“The timing for our age-based program has been accelerated, front-line workers will soon be immunized and now, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable with complex and challenging health conditions will also be able to get immunized.”

Earlier Wednesday, the province announced it would recruit 1,400 furloughed workers in the province’s hard-hit hospitality and tourism sectors to help launch mass immunization clinics in April.

The workers are employees of 14 companies dealing with significant layoffs as a result of the pandemic and include Air Canada, WestJet, Vancouver International Airport, the Vancouver Canucks and Tourism Whistler. 

The workers will focus on logistical support, including managing the thousands of people who are expected to stream through the clinics.  

Teachers and other school-based staff in the Surrey School District started receiving priority access to vaccines on Wednesday.

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Today's coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 192 cases of COVID-19, one death; Mostly spectator-free opening ceremony kicks off Tokyo Games – Orangeville Banner

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Why are Covid cases rising among double vaccinated? – Deccan Herald

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By Jamie Hartmann-Boyce for The Conversation,

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, has announced that 40 per cent of people admitted to hospital with Covid in the UK have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

At first glance, this rings very serious alarm bells, but it shouldn’t. The vaccines are still working very well.

There are several factors at play that explain why such a high proportion of cases are in the fully vaccinated.

Covid vaccines are extremely effective, but none 100 per cent so. This itself isn’t surprising – flu vaccines aren’t 100 per cent effective either.

Yet in the US alone flu vaccines are estimated to prevent millions of cases of illness, tens of thousands of hospitalisations and thousands of deaths every year. The Covid vaccines are doing the same in the UK right now – all one has to do is compare the curves from the winter wave with those from this summer.

As cases are rising, hospitalisations and deaths are rising too, but not at anywhere near the same level as they were in the winter. In the second half of December 2020 – a time when UK case rates were similar to what they are now – about 3,800 people were being admitted to hospital with Covid each day.

The average now is around 700. So though that’s still higher than we wish it was, it’s a lot lower than it was the last time we had this many infections.

Covid is also growing among the vaccinated because the number of people in the UK who have had both doses is continuing to rise. At the time of writing, 88 per cent of UK adults have had a first dose and 69 per cent a second. As more and more of the population is vaccinated, the relative proportion of those with Covid who have had both jabs will rise.

If you imagine a hypothetical scenario in which 100 per cent of the population is double vaccinated, then 100 per cent of people with Covid, and in hospital with Covid, will also have had both jabs. As with deaths, this doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working. It just means the vaccine rollout is going very well.

Also read: WHO warns of ‘long term’ Covid impact on mental health

We also need to remember that the vaccine rollout in the UK has systematically targeted people at the highest risk from Covid.

Older people and people with health conditions that make them more vulnerable were the first to get vaccinated. Once vaccinated, these people (including me) are at much lower risk from Covid than they would have been otherwise – but they are still at risk.

That means that when we compare people with both vaccinations being hospitalised to those who haven’t had both doses, we aren’t comparing like with like. People with both vaccinations are more likely to have been at greater risk from Covid in the first place. This makes them both more likely to be hospitalised and more likely to have already received both of their vaccine doses.

Is Covid different in the vaccinated?

The latest data from Public Health England suggests that against the delta variant, which is now dominant in UK, two doses of any of the vaccines available in Britain are estimated to offer 79 per cent protection against symptomatic Covid and 96 per cent protection against hospitalisation.

We don’t have clear estimates yet from Public Health England on the level of protection against death caused by the delta variant – fortunately, this is partly driven by the fact deaths have been relatively low during this third wave in the UK.

But for the alpha variant, Public Health England data estimates the Pfizer vaccine to be between 95 per cent and 99 per cent effective at preventing death from Covid-19, with the AstraZeneca vaccine estimated to be between 75 per cent and 99 per cent effective. The evidence we have so far doesn’t suggest that the delta variant substantially changes this picture.

There’s lots we still need to learn about how people with both vaccine doses respond to getting infected with the virus. The UK’s Covid Symptom Study is looking at this.

One of the key questions that remain is who is at most risk. Emerging data – released in a preprint, so yet to be reviewed by other scientists – suggests people who are overweight or obese, poorer people, and people with health conditions causing frailty seem to be more likely to get infected after having both jabs.

The preprint also suggests that age itself doesn’t seem to affect chances of developing Covid after being vaccinated, nor does having a long-term condition such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease – but we need more data on this to be sure of these findings.

Generally, the Covid Symptom Study has found that people report the same Covid symptoms whether or not they’ve been vaccinated, but that people who’ve been vaccinated have fewer symptoms over a shorter period of time, suggesting less serious illness. The most commonly reported symptoms in people who had had both doses were headache, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and loss of smell. 

(The author is a Senior Research Fellow, Departmental Lecturer and Director of Evidence-Based Healthcare DPhil Programme, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford)

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Canada’s and Zimbabwe’s paths for COVID-19 vaccination are worlds apart – The Globe and Mail

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A forklift carries a pallet of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine from China upon its arrival at Robert Mugabe International airport in Harare.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/The Associated Press

When mother-of-three Amanda Wood heard that hundreds of coronavirus shots were available for teens, only one thing prevented her from racing to the vaccination site at a Toronto high school – her 13-year-old daughter’s fear of needles.

Wood told Lola: If you get the vaccine you’ll be able to see your friends again. You’ll be able to play sports. And enticed by the promise of resuming a normal, teen life, Lola agreed.

In Zimbabwe, more than 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) and a world away from Canada, immunity is harder to obtain.

On a recent day, Andrew Ngwenya sat outside his home in a working-class township in Harare, the capital, pondering how he could save himself and his family from COVID-19.

Ngwenya and his wife De-egma had gone to a hospital that sometimes had spare doses. Hours later, fewer than 30 people had been inoculated. The Ngwenyas, parents of four children, were sent home, still desperate for immunization.

“We are willing to have it but we can’t access it,” he said. “We need it, where can we get it?”

The stories of the Wood and Ngwenya families reflect a world starkly divided between vaccine haves and have nots, between those who can imagine a world beyond the pandemic and those who can only foresee months and perhaps years of illness and death.

In one country, early stumbles in the fight against COVID-19 were overcome thanks to money and a strong public health infrastructure. In the other, poor planning, a lack of resources and the failure of a global mechanism intended to share scarce vaccines have led to a desperate shortage of COVID-19 shots – and oxygen tanks and protective equipment, as well.

With 70% of its adult population receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Canada has among the world’s highest vaccination rate and is now moving on to immunize children, who are at far lower risk of coronavirus complications and death.

Meanwhile, only about 9% of the population in Zimbabwe has received one dose of coronavirus vaccine amid a surge of the easier-to-spread delta variant, first seen in India. Many millions of people vulnerable to COVID-19, including the elderly and those with underlying medical problems, are struggling to get immunized as government officials introduce more restrictive measures.

Ngwenya said the crush of people trying to get vaccinated is disheartening.

“The queue is like 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) long. Even if you are interested in a jab you can’t stand that. Once you see the queue you won’t try again,” he said

Vaccines weren’t always plentiful in Canada. With no domestic coronavirus vaccine production, the country got off to a sluggish start, with immunization rates behind those in Hungary, Greece and Chile. Canada was also the only G7 country to secure vaccines in the first round of deliveries by a U.N.-backed effort set up to distribute COVID-19 doses primarily to poor countries known as COVAX.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it had always been Canada’s intention to secure vaccines through COVAX, after investing more than $400 million in the project. The vaccines alliance, Gavi, said COVAX was also meant to provide rich countries with an “insurance policy” in case they didn’t have enough shots.

COVAX’s latest shipment to Canada – about 655,000 AstraZeneca vaccines – arrived in May, shortly after about 60 poor countries were left in the lurch when the initiative’s supplies slowed to a trickle. Bangladesh, for example, had been awaiting a COVAX delivery of about 130,000 vaccines for its Rohingya refugee population; the shots never arrived after the Indian supplier ceased exports.

Canada’s decision to secure vaccines through the U.N.-backed effort was “morally reprehensible,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha, chair of global health and epidemiology at the University of Toronto. He said Canada’s early response to COVID-19 badly misjudged the need for control measures including aggressive contact tracing and border restrictions.

“If not for Canada’s purchasing power to procure vaccines, we would be in bad shape right now,” he said.

Weeks after the COVAX vaccines arrived, more than 33,000 doses were still sitting in warehouses in Ottawa after health officials recommended Canadians get shots made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna instead – of which they had bought tens of millions of doses.

The Wood children got the Pfizer vaccine. When Canada began immunizing children aged 12 and over, Wood, who works with children in the entertainment industry and her architect husband didn’t hesitate.

Wood said her children, who are all avid athletes, have been unable to play much hockey, soccer or rugby during repeated lockdowns. Lola has missed baking lemon loaves and chocolate chip cookies with her grandmother, who lives three blocks away.

“We felt we had to do our part to keep everyone safe, to keep the elderly safe, and to get the economy going again and the kids back to school,” she said.

In Zimbabwe, there is no expectation of a return to normal anytime soon, and things are likely to get worse – Ngwenya worries about government threats to bar the unvaccinated from public services, including transport.

Although Zimbabwe was allocated nearly 1 million coronavirus vaccines through COVAX, none have been delivered. Its mix of purchased and donated shots – 4.2 million – consist of Chinese, Russian and Indian vaccines.

Official figures show that 4% of the country’s 15 million population are now fully immunized.

The figures make Zimbabwe a relative success in Africa, where fewer than 2% of the continent’s 1. 3 billion people have been vaccinated, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, the virus is spreading to rural areas where the majority live and health facilities are shambolic.

Ngwenya is a part-time pastor with a Pentecostal church; he said he and his flock have had to rely on their faith to fight the coronavirus. But he said people would rather have vaccines first, and then prayer.

“Every man is scared of death,” he said. “People are dying and we can see people dying. This is real.”

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