Two provinces will offer the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 40 and over starting Tuesday, officials announced Sunday following days of mounting pressure to lower the minimum age.
Alberta and Ontario had previously stuck to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s recommendation to offer the AstraZeneca shot to those 55 and over due to a slightly elevated risk of an extremely rare blood clot disorder.
But as hospitalizations surged to unprecedented levels in Ontario and Alberta saw unparalleled rates of COVID-19, their governments announced matching plans to expand eligibility.
“Alberta is lowering the minimum age to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from 55 to 40,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tweeted on Sunday night. “This decision is based on growing scientific knowledge about the vaccine.”
He said more information would come Monday, and bookings would open Tuesday.
The office of Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott made a similar announcement hours earlier.
“Based on current supply, Ontario will begin offering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to individuals aged 40 and over at pharmacy and primary care settings across the province effective Tuesday,” spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene said in an email.
The statement came after Elliott’s federal counterpart told a news conference that such a move was well within the provinces’ jurisdiction.
“NACI provides advice to provinces and territories,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said. “They can adjust their use for AstraZeneca as per their desire and the advice from their own public health authorities and medical expertise.”
She noted that Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18.
“NACI continues to review the advice on AstraZeneca use and will have updated guidance in the very near future,” Hajdu added.
Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, tweeted that there is “‘surplus supply at risk of expiring.”
The head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association said most AstraZeneca doses in Ontario don’t expire until the end of May, but that a timer starts ticking as soon as a vial — which contains 10 doses — is punctured.
“Once a vial is punctured, it is only viable for up to 48 hours when stored in a fridge or six hours when not in the fridge,” Justin Bates said.
He said vaccine hesitancy around AstraZeneca has led to last-minute appointment cancellations, meaning some of those doses could go to waste — something pharmacists are working hard to avoid.
Many Ontario physicians took to social media to express their frustration with the province’s lack of action on the issue ahead of Sunday’s announcement.
“Pharmacies, listen up. DO NOT WASTE A SINGLE DOSE OF THE AZ VACCINE. Explain the risk and obtain informed consent to administer to people under age 55,” Dr. Brian Goldman said in a tweet Sunday.
Dr. Irfan Dhalla, vice-president of Unity Health Toronto, agreed.
“It’s hard to imagine the provincial government coming after pharmacies or family doctors for using AZ in people (under) 55,” he tweeted.
Later, he praised Elliott’s decision and urged the province to send more to COVID-19 hot spots.
Steven Del Duca, who heads up the Liberal party in the province, took that call even further.
“Doug Ford must release the AstraZeneca vaccine from pharmacy freezers and get it into the arms of anyone over 18 in a hot spot,” he tweeted Sunday. “(Patty Hajdu) was clear: there is nothing stopping him from getting shots into arms.”
Those in Alberta had made similar calls.
“It sounds like Alberta is having trouble using its AstraZeneca. Lower the minimum age; Gen X can help!” Lisa Young, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, tweeted earlier in the week.
Some have been hesitant to get the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a rare blood clotting condition, which has thus far affected two Canadians — one in Quebec and one in Alberta.
More than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered in this country.
The global frequency of the blood clot disorder, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, has been estimated at about one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses.
The risk of developing blood clots due to COVID-19 is much higher, and experts say people should accept the first vaccine they’re offered.
Meanwhile, the federal government announced Sunday that it was mobilizing its own resources and co-ordinating with lesser-hit provinces to send health-care workers and other support to help Ontario as it battles record-breaking COVID-19 numbers.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the Ontario government would respond to Ottawa’s offer.
Hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units continued to reach record heights in the province, which reported 4,250 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours.
Ontario announced a number of new restrictions to quell the skyrocketing numbers, but has faced pressure to roll back limits on outdoor activities, which critics have said will do little to stop the spread.
Meanwhile, data released by Canada’s chief public health officer indicated the average daily number of hospitalizations and deaths in the country jumped by more than 30 per cent between April 9 and 15 compared to the week before.
The latest national figures showed an average of 3,428 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent seven-day reporting period, representing a 34 per cent increase over the week before.
An average of 41 people died each day during the same stretch, which is 38 per cent higher than the previous week.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said cases, test positivity rates and intensive care admissions are all rising as Canada battles a wave of COVID-19 that is driven by more contagious virus variants.
Quebec, meanwhile, reported more than 1,300 new infections in the past 24 hours.
Nunavut counted three new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 22 active cases.
Prince Edward Island recorded three new cases, while Nova Scotia logged seven and New Brunswick added 10.
Farther west, Manitoba recorded 170 new cases of the virus and one added death, while Saskatchewan counted 289 new cases and one death.
Alberta, which is currently dealing with the highest rate of COVID-19 per capita in Canada, reported 1,516 new cases of the virus and three more deaths.
As of Sunday evening, Alberta’s rate of active COVID-19 cases was 405.6 per 100,000, compared to 282.26 per 100,000 in Ontario.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2021.
— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
Canada allows Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15
(Corrects headline and lead to make clear that Canada was not the first nation as stated by Canadian officials, adds context from Pfizer in fourth paragraph)
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada is authorizing the use of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15, the first doses to be allowed in the country for people that young, the federal health ministry said on Wednesday.
Supriya Sharma, a senior adviser at the Canadian federal health ministry, said the Pfizer vaccine, produced with German partner BioNTech SE, was safe and effective in the younger age group.
“We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she told reporters.
Sharma and a health ministry spokesman said Canada was the first country to grant such an approval, but a Canadian representative for Pfizer later said Algeria permitted use of the vaccine for this age group in April. The Canadian health ministry said it had no information about the discrepancy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to take a similar step “very soon,” U.S. health officials said.
Separately, authorities reported the third death of a Canadian from a rare blood clot condition after receiving AstraZeneca PLC’s’s COVID-19 vaccine. The man, who was in his sixties, lived in the Atlantic province of New Brunswick.
Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health in New Brunswick, said the province would continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Alberta reported a death from clotting on Tuesday and Quebec announced one on April 27.
“There will be rare cases where thrombosis will occur. However, the risks remain minimal compared to the risks, complications and potential consequences of COVID-19,” Russell told reporters.
Canada‘s federal government has bought tens of millions of doses of vaccines but critics complain the pace of inoculation is lagging due to bottlenecks in the 10 provinces, which are responsible for administering the doses.
Alberta will become the first province to offer COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 12 and over from May 10, Premier Jason Kenney said on Wednesday, a day after he introduced tighter public health measures to combat a third wave of the pandemic.
Alberta, home to Canada‘s oil patch, has the highest rate per capita of COVID-19 in the country, with nearly 24,000 active cases and 150 people in intensive care.
Around 20% of the 1,249,950 cases of COVID-19 in Canada have been reported in people under the age of 19. Canada has recorded 24,396 deaths.
(Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Nia Williams in Calgary;Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall)
Younger people filling up COVID-19 intensive care
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA (Reuters) –COVID-19 infections continue to spread fast across the Americas as a result of relaxed prevention measures and intensive care units are filling up with younger people, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
In Brazil, mortality rates have doubled among those younger than 39, quadrupled among those in their 40s and tripled for those in their 50s since December, Carissa Etienne said.
Hospitalization rates among those under 39 years have increased by more than 70% in Chile and in some areas of the United States more people in their 20s are now being hospitalized for COVID-19 than people in their 70s.
“Despite all we learned about this virus in a year, our control efforts are not as strict, and prevention is not as efficient,” Etienne said in a virtual briefing from Washington.
“We are seeing what happens when these measures are relaxed: COVID spreads, cases mount, our health systems become overwhelmed and people die,” she said.
Canada continues to report significant jumps in infections in highly populated provinces such as Ontario as well as in less populated territories of the North and Yukon, home to remote and indigenous communities, according to PAHO.
Puerto Rico and Cuba remain significant drivers of COVID-19 cases in the Caribbean, which is facing a new surge of the virus, PAHO directors said.
Cases are rapidly accelerating in the Guyanas and across Argentina and Colombia, where weekly case counts are five times higher today than they were this time last year and hospitals are reaching capacity in large Colombian cities.
In Central America, Guatemala is seeing significant spikes in cases and Costa Rica is reporting record-high infections.
While vaccines are being rolled out as fast as possible, they are not a short-term solution because they are in short supply, said Etienne, the World Health Organization’s regional director.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Alberta confirms first death linked to AstraZeneca vaccine
Reuters) -The province of Alberta reported its first death of a patient from a rare blood clot condition after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, its chief medical officer said.
Canada has reported at least five cases of blood clots following immunization with the vaccine, but public health officials maintain the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh the potential risks.
The Alberta case, of a woman in her 50s, marks the second case of blood clots, and the only death after more than 253,000 doses of AstraZeneca were administered in the province, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a statement on Tuesday.
“While any death is tragic, it is important to remember that the risks of dying or suffering other severe outcomes from COVID-19 remain far greater than the risk following AstraZeneca vaccine,” Hinshaw said.
AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for a comment.
Canada has had 1,243,242 confirmed coronavirus cases and 24,342 deaths, according to a Reuters tally
Last month, the province of Quebec reported Canada’s first death of a patient after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
AstraZeneca, working with the vaccine’s inventor Oxford University, was one of the leaders in the global race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Its cheap and easily transportable shot was hailed as a milestone in the fight against the crisis, but has since faced a series of setbacks.
The rare complication, which some regulators including Health Canada are calling Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombocytopenia, involves blood clots accompanied by a low count of platelets, cells in the blood that help it to clot.
Dozens of countries paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March after reports of rare, but serious, blood clots. Several of them have now resumed use either fully or with restricions after health regulators said the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.
(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Angus MacSwan)
Canada sends medical supplies to India as COVID-19 overwhelms country’s health care – Global News
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for Wednesday, May 5, 2021 – moosejawtoday.com
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