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Alberta opens second age bracket for AstraZenica COVID-19 vaccine appointments – Global News



Another age bracket of Albertans will be able to book appointments for the AstraZenica COVID-19 vaccine starting Thursday, after more than 11,500 bookings were made Wednesday.

According to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Albertans who were born in 1958, as well as First Nations, Metis and Inuit people born in 1973, will be eligible for an AztraZenica immunization.

Read more:
All eyes on Alberta COVID-19 vaccine booking system Wednesday for AstraZeneca

The province is rolling out eligibility for its current 58,000 doses of the third vaccine to be approved in Canada based on birth year.

“If you are eligible to get the vaccine, please do so. And encourage your friends and neighbours to do so as well. The more people who become immunized, the less the virus will be able to mutate, and the less it will impact our communities.”

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Those eligible are encouraged to book online or book in off-peak times, as 811 demand and call volume is expected to be high.

Click to play video 'Senior Toronto scientists question 4-month delay of 2nd dose'

Senior Toronto scientists question 4-month delay of 2nd dose

Senior Toronto scientists question 4-month delay of 2nd dose

Hinshaw said as of Wednesday, nearly 138,000 seniors over the age of 75 who are not living in designated supported living or continuing care facilities – which were included in Phase 1A of Alberta’s vaccine rollout – have either gotten their shot or have their appointment booked.

So far, 309,000 doses of vaccine have been administered to Albertans, with 91,000 people being fully immunized against COVID-19 with two doses.

Hinshaw said it “can be tempting to let your guard down after immunization,” but stressed that more research needs to be done before health officials can determine how being vaccinated impacts viral transmission.

“Even if you have been vaccinated with one or two doses, all public health orders in place still apply,” she said.

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Hinshaw stressed that while it’s recommended those with chronic health issues try to get a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine rather than AstraZenica, the AstraZeniva vaccine is “not unsafe” for those who suffer from chronic conditions.

“If an individual who has a chronic condition wishes to receive AstraZenica and they’re in the appropriate age group, they could choose to do so,” she said.

“There is no requirement to prove that an individual is healthy if they wish to receive AstraZenica vaccine and they are in the eligible age group.”

Those looking to book an AstraZenica vaccine appointment are encouraged to weigh their options and make the best decision for them, Hinshaw said.

Click to play video 'AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine ‘not unsafe’ for chronic conditions: Hinshaw'

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine ‘not unsafe’ for chronic conditions: Hinshaw

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine ‘not unsafe’ for chronic conditions: Hinshaw

Bookings for Phase 2A of the vaccine rollout is scheduled to start Monday, March 15, and will be open to those 65 to 74, no matter where they live, as well as First Nations, Metis and Inuit people 50 and older. Staff and residents of licensed supportive livings are also included.

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However, Global News called 10 pharmacies in Edmonton currently providing immunizations, and several were already scheduling Phase 2A appointments. Hinshaw said some pharmacies have already started taking those appointments because they have stores of Pfizer vaccine that could be set to expire soon.

“We have also indicated to pharmacies that if they have doses of vaccine (that) will be expiring, that they should using those so that we don’t waste that produce,” she said.

“And so there may be pharmacies that have appointments open that haven’t been taken by those 75 plus, and then they would naturally go on to that next eligible category in order to not waste the vaccine.”

Alberta Health later said in an email that while pharmacies are taking those bookings, people are being asked to “be patient” and wait until Monday.

Read more:
Alberta COVID-19 vaccine booking site experiences ‘very high volumes’ as appointments open to those 75 and older

Hinshaw said the province is still working through the expression of interest process of getting doctors’ offices and clinics added to the list of places where vaccines can be administered. She said pharmacies have been the dominant provider of flu vaccines in Alberta, which means they already have the infrastructure in place for storage and tracking of vaccines that few clinics currently have.

Read more:
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine not recommended for people in Canada over age 65: NACI

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Hinshaw said roughly half the current supply of AstraZenica vaccine has to be used up before April 2, with the remainder having a longer shelf life.

With the current uptake in appointments, she doesn’t forsee any issue with having those vaccines in Albertans’ arms before their expiry date.

“With respect to whether Albertans might be waiting for an mRNA vaccine — the Pfzer or the Moderna – it’s difficult to say. I do think that we have good evidence, certainly real-world evidence out of the U.K., that the AstraZenica vaccine is effective at preventing severe outcomes in the individual who receives it,” Hinshaw said.

“So I would encourage Albertans who are eligible for vaccine to look at the options and then choose the vaccine that they’re able to get as soon as they can.”

16-week gap between shots

Starting Wednesday, appointments for first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses in Alberta will be spaced up to 16 weeks apart, but one infectious diseases researcher said that may not always be the case.

The change in timing comes after a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which cited evidence showing there was some protection against severe outcomes after the first dose.

Read more:
Provinces, territories can wait 4 months to administer 2nd COVID-19 shot, NACI says

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Up until Wednesday, doses were being spaced out up to six weeks in Alberta, which is already more than the two- and three-week recommendations of manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna.
However, it is not clear how long the province may follow the NACI recommendation of up to 16 weeks.

“It’s certainly possible that the door has been left open to be able to revert back to the timelines that were on the box, on the label, and that we have more data for,” said Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Alberta.

“That said, from the standpoint of getting as many people as quickly as possible, it does make sense to hold off on those first doses initially, based on the data that has emerged. But I think as supply ramps up and starts to catch up with demand, I think certainly there could be a situation where that recommendation is relaxed.”

Read more:
Alberta considers further extending time between doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Schwartz said it may be possible to see large windows where people can select their date for a follow-up appointment.

Case numbers

Alberta labs confirmed an additional 399 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, from roughly 10,400 tests, putting the province’s positivity rate at 3.7 per cent.

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A total of 254 people were being treated in the province’s hospitals, with 37 of them in intensive care units.

Two deaths were reported on Wednesday.

A woman in her 70s in the Calgary zone with no known comorbidities died. A woman in her 80s in the Central zone also died. Her case included comorbidities, according to Alberta Health.

Click to play video 'Alberta identifies 47 COVID-19 variant cases Wednesday'

Alberta identifies 47 COVID-19 variant cases Wednesday

Alberta identifies 47 COVID-19 variant cases Wednesday

Forty-seven new cases of variants of concern were also detected in the province, bringing the total number of cases since Dec. 15 to 734.

Hinshaw said the percentage of variant cases in Alberta’s total case numbers has risen slightly in six weeks, from three per cent in late January to nine per cent currently – which is significantly lower than other jurisdictions, which have seen their cases rise from three to four per cent to nearly 50 per cent in the same time frame.

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“This means that our health measures — both the overall restrictions, as well as the targeted measures for variant cases – are working to slow the growth. And if we continue to work together, we can continue to limit the spread.”

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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CANADA STOCKS – TSX falls 0.14% to 19,201.28



* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.14 percent to 19,201.28

* Leading the index were Stantec Inc <STN.TO​>, up 3.4%, Imperial Oil Ltd​, up 3.3%, and Corus Entertainment Inc​, higher by 2.9%.

* Lagging shares were Aphria Inc​​, down 14.2%, Village Farms International Inc​, down 9.9%, and Aurora Cannabis Inc​, lower by 9.4%.

* On the TSX 91 issues rose and 134 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 24 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 228.0 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Royal Bank Of Canada and Suncor Energy Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.32 points, or 0.3%, while the financials sector climbed 2.46 points, or 0.7%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.52%, or $0.31, to $59.63 a barrel. Brent crude  rose 0.4%, or $0.25, to $63.2 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.1% for the year.

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Air Canada signs C$5.9 billion government aid package, agrees to buy Airbus, Boeing jets



By David Ljunggren and Allison Lampert

OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada, struggling with a collapse in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached a deal on Monday on a long-awaited aid package with the federal government that would allow it to access up to C$5.9 billion ($4.69 billion) in funds.

The agreement – the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company – was announced after the airline industry criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling. The United States and France acted much more quickly to help major carriers.

Canada‘s largest carrier, which last year cut over half its workforce, or 20,000 jobs, and other airlines have been negotiating with the government for months on a coronavirus aid package.

In February, Air Canada reported a net loss for 2020 of C$4.65 billion, compared with a 2019 profit of C$1.48 billion.

As part of the deal, Air Canada agreed to ban share buybacks and dividends, cap annual compensation for senior executives at C$1 million a year and preserve jobs at the current level, which is 14,859.

It will also proceed with planned purchases of 33 Airbus SE 220 airliners and 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX airliners.

Chris Murray, managing director, equity research at ATB Capital Markets, said the deal took into account the “specific needs of Air Canada in the short and medium term without being overly onerous.”

He added: “It gives them some flexibility in drawing down additional liquidity as needed.”

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government was still in negotiations with other airlines about possible aid.

Canada, the world’s second-largest nation by area, depends heavily on civil aviation to keep remote communities connected.

Opposition politicians fretted that further delays in announcing aid could result in permanent damage to the country.

Air Canada said it would resume services on nearly all of the routes it had suspended because of COVID-19.


The deal removes a potential political challenge for the Liberals, who insiders say are set to trigger an election later this year.

The government has agreed to buy C$500 million worth of shares in the airline, at C$23.1793 each, or a 14.2% discount to Monday’s close, a roughly 6% stake.

“Maintaining a competitive airline sector and good jobs is crucially important,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, adding the equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit when the airline’s fortunes recovered.

The Canadian government previously approved similar loans for four other companies worth up to C$1.billion, including up to C$375 million to low-cost airline Sunwing Vacations Inc. The government has paid out C$73.47 billion under its wage subsidy program and C$46.11 billion in loans to hard-hit small businesses.

Michael Rousseau, Air Canada‘s president and chief executive officer, said the liquidity “provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada.”

Jerry Dias, head of the Unifor private-sector union, described the announcement as “a good deal for everybody.”

Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector.

But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents roughly 10,000 Air Canada flight attendants, said the package protected the jobs of current workers rather than the 7,500 members of its union who had been let go by the carrier.

($1=1.2567 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)

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U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry



British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.

Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”

Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.

The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”

Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.

The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.

While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.

“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.

“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”

Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.

“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.

The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.

French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.

But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.

“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”

Source: – CTV News

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