In the quest to develop shots against Covid-19, researchers have overcome challenges that typically make vaccine projects stretch across years if not decades. Assuming one or more of their experimental vaccines proves safe and effective in late-stage trials — a huge feat in itself — drug companies and health officials will next face a whole new set of obstacles in their effort to deliver the shots widely around the world. Preparations for vaccinating the planet’s 7.8 billion people are already underway.
Getting the Green Light
Typically, a vaccine must show that it works in trials involving thousands of volunteers before regulators consider permitting its use outside of research. While China and Russia are using special regulatory provisions to deploy Covid vaccines before they’ve undergone full testing, nine U.S. and European companies that are in the forefront of the vaccine effort have forsworn any shortcuts. It can take as long as a year for the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. to decide on an approval request after vaccine trials are complete, but regulators there as well as those in the U.K. and the European Union have laid out fast-track options due to the pandemic.
To run a vaccine candidate through the necessary stages of testing requires producing tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of doses. Making enough of a proven vaccine to supply the world in the midst of a worldwide crisis is a job of a different magnitude. The need to secure sufficient quantities of the special glass vials that hold vaccines adds to the task. A number of companies have already scaled up manufacturing capacities for their candidates. Because each vaccine has its own production process, what matters is the extent to which any vaccine that actually crosses the finish line can be mass produced. For that reason, public health specialists are hoping that more than one proves safe and effective in short order. The U.S. already has begun to stockpile doses of experimental vaccines backed by government funding, betting regulators will give a nod to one or more.
Transport and Storage
Transporting vaccines from manufacturing sites to everywhere they’re needed would be a huge undertaking. By one estimate, airlifting single-dose regimens to protect the world’s population would require the space in about 8,000 cargo planes. The scale and speed of the mobilization being planned by global health groups and governments is unprecedented, according to Gian Gandhi, a supply specialist at Unicef who is coordinating distribution efforts including the advance purchase of hundreds of millions of syringes. Complicating things, vaccines must be refrigerated when transported and stored, and some of those against Covid may need to be kept at temperatures as low as minus-112 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-80 degrees Celsius). The goal is to have 65,000 vaccine fridges in place in poorer countries by year’s end, according to Gavi, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to immunization in such regions.
Most of the approaches to a Covid vaccine depend on two shots, which would significantly complicate a rollout. A two-jab vaccine would more or less double the manufacturing, shipping and refrigeration challenges. It would mean twice as many needles are required for injections. And because some people don’t return for the second of a two-dose vaccine, it would make it more difficult to ensure that enough people are immunized against Covid-19 to stop its spread. Johnson & Johnson and rival Merck & Co. are betting on one-shot vaccines, which could give them a distribution edge.
Wealthy countries aren’t expected to have trouble finding money to purchase vaccines: many have already struck deals to buy those that pan out. The risk for poor countries is that rich ones will monopolize vaccine supplies, as they did in the 2009 swine flu pandemic. A program called Covax — led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization — aims to ensure that vaccines are distributed equitably around the world, with rich and poor countries receiving supplies at the same time. Its program for funding vaccines for developing countries has raised $700 million of a $2 billion target for 2020. Apart from purchasing vaccines, countries will have to fund distribution networks. U.S. officials say an estimated $6 billion in additional money is needed to help states prepare for a rollout there, for example. Still, vaccine campaign expenses are likely to pale in comparison to the cost of the pandemic: an estimated $375 billion a month globally.
Amid expectations of huge demand and limited supply, there’s concern vaccines could be diverted illegally. Novel packaging and technology including bar codes to trace doses in transit are under consideration, according to Unicef. Criminal organizations in the U.S. have already sought to smuggle fraudulent, mislabeled and unauthorized Covid products, including personal protective equipment and test kits. The stakes would be even higher with vaccines.
Vaccines are seen by health experts as the key to leading the world out of the pandemic, but not everyone will embrace them. The persistent myth that childhood vaccines pose significant risks has undercut confidence in immunization in many countries. In a few others, particular vaccine campaigns have generated distrust. The fast pace at which Covid shots are being developed has added to safety worries. In a poll in August, about a third of Americans said they wouldn’t get a Covid vaccine. One in six respondents in the U.K. said they definitely or probably wouldn’t in a June survey. A vaccine rollout can stop a virus from circulating by establishing so-called herd immunity. It’s reached when a significant percentage of the community has developed immunity by getting infected or getting a vaccine. For Covid-19, the percentage is estimated to range from 55% to 82%.
The Reference Shelf
Fraser Health outbreaks push active COVID-19 infections in B.C. to all-time high of 2390 – Powell River Peak
B.C. has never had more people actively battling COVID-19 infections, as new government data showed a total of 2,390 people suffering with the virus that has spurred a global pandemic.
That’s 46 more people suffering with the illness than was the case yesterday and it comes as 272 people were newly identified as infected in the past 24 hours. With 10,420 tests conducted, the day’s positive-test rate was 2.6%.
The hotspot for new infections remains the 1.8-million-resident Fraser Health region, which includes much of the eastern and southern Lower Mainland, including 20 communities, such as Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey, Delta, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack, but not Richmond or Vancouver.
Only about two-thirds of the new cases are from Fraser Health today, however. That’s down from the average in the past week, which had seen about three-quarters of all new cases located in the Fraser Health region.
Here is the breakdown of all 14,381 detected COVID-19 cases in B.C., by health region, with new cases identified overnight in brackets:
• 4,664 in Vancouver Coastal Health (76);
• 8,219 in Fraser Health (183);
• 256 in Island Health (no change);
• 741 in Interior Health (seven);
• 412 in Northern Health (six); and
• 89 people who reside outside Canada (no change).
The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital fell by six to 78, with 25 of those people having infections serious enough to be in intensive care units.
The vast majority of those infected are self-isolating at home. Health officials are keeping tabs on a record 6,003 people because those individuals have come into contact with others who are known to be carrying the virus.
The vast majority of COVID-19 patients recover: 11,670, or more than 81%.
One new death was recorded overnight, pushing the provincial death toll from the disease to 263. That leaves 58 patients unaccounted for, and health officials have told BIV that it is likely that they left the province without alerting authorities.
“There has been one new community outbreak, at Suncor Firebag Oil Sands,” provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement. “There continue to be exposure events around the province.”
One hospital in Fraser Health, Surrey Memorial Hospital, has had an outbreak for weeks. That health authority earlier this week declared that the outbreak at Delta Hospital is over.
There are three new outbreaks at seniors’ homes and healthcare facilities:
• Hawthorne Seniors Care Community in Port Coquitlam;
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey; and
• Queen’s Park Hospital: Unit 3C NMSK 2.
Three such outbreaks have been declared over:
• Fort Langley Seniors Community in Fort Langley;
• Sunset Manor in Chilliwack;
• The Village in Langley.
Fraser Health yesterday declared that the outbreak at Good Samaritan Victoria Heights, in New Westminster, is over, and the province confirmed that news today.
Other seniors’ long-term care and assisted living facilities in B.C. that have active outbreaks, include:
• Gateway Assisted Living for Seniors in Surrey;
• Mayfair Terrace Retirement Residence in Port Coquitlam;
• Louis Breyer Home and Hospital in Vancouver;
• Revera Lakeview long-term care home in Vancouver;
• Evergreen Baptist Care Society in White Rock;
• Queens Park Care Centre in New Westminster;
• Three Links Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Royal Arch Masonic Home in Vancouver;
• Haro Park Centre long-term care facility in Vancouver;
• Banfield Pavilion 4 West in Vancouver;
• Peace Portal Seniors Village in Surrey;
• Rosemary Heights Seniors Village in Surrey;
• Zion Park Manor in Surrey;
• Laurel Place in Surrey;
• Amenida Seniors Community in Surrey;
• Baillie House in Maple Ridge;
• Fellburn Care Centre long-term care facility in Burnaby;
• St. Michael’s Centre long-term care facilityin Burnaby;
• Fair Haven Homes Burnaby Lodge in Burnaby; and
• Agassiz Seniors Community in Agassiz.
“As we all enjoy Halloween tomorrow, make it about the treats and not the tricks,” Henry and Dix said.
“Respect homes that are choosing not to participate this year and give everyone the space to stay safe, both indoors and outdoors.”
Family Thanksgiving dinner linked to 13 cases of COVID-19 in Renfrew County – CTV Edmonton
Three weeks after Thanksgiving weekend, a family dinner is Renfrew County is being linked to 13 cases of COVID-19.
Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Cushman tells CTV News Ottawa between 15 and 20 people attended an intergenerational Thanksgiving dinner over the holiday weekend.
Dr. Cushman says it appears someone at the dinner was asymptomatic or didn’t pay attention to the symptoms.
The Renfrew County and District Health Unit says 13 positive cases are linked to the Thanksgiving dinner, including two new cases Thursday. Not all 13 positive cases attended the dinner.
“What you see is the spread, now into the third group from those at the dinner,” said Dr. Cushman, noting there is now second and third generational spread of the virus.
Two family members who tested positive for COVID-19 were high school students.
“Luckily, no further spread yet (at schools), thanks to excellent public health precautions at the school,” said Dr. Cushman.
Seventy students at the school were tested for COVID-19, while 90 students returned to school on Friday after being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
Dr. Cushman says four outstanding students who developed symptoms on days 14 and 15 are now being retested, and will remain in isolation.
The Renfrew County and District Health Unit is also investigating a COVID-19 outbreak at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory at Chalk River. Six people have tested positive for COVID-19.
“This virus is very wily,” said Dr. Cushman, noting CNL has solid public health measures in place.
Alberta reaches record highs in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations – Calgary Herald
Alberta set records for new COVID-19 cases, active infections and hospitalizations, in figures released Friday.
In the largest single-day jump to date, the province had 622 new novel coronavirus cases. The previous high came on Oct. 24, when 575 cases were reported.
The new cases came from just under 13,000 tests, about a 4.8 per cent positive rate. It’s the largest positivity rate since April 28, when Alberta was in the midst of the first wave of COVID-19 infections.
There are now 5,172 active coronavirus infections in Alberta, up from 4,921 Thursday. It marks the first time Alberta has surpassed 5,000 active cases. Alberta has set records for active COVID-19 infections each day for the past 12 days.
The Alberta Health Services Calgary and Edmonton zones lead the province in active cases, combining for 85 per cent of the province’s total.
Hospitalizations from COVID-19 also surged Friday, with 10 more Albertans in hospital and seven more receiving treatment in intensive-care units. In total, there are 140 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, including 25 in ICU. Alberta has 70 ICU beds dedicated to the virus.
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