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Andrea Reimer opens up about hepatitis C diagnosis, treatment

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A former Vancouver city councillor has opened up about her hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment.

Andrea Reimer took to Twitter on Monday to share her experience, and to talk about the stigma associated with the illness.

Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted through infected blood, either through blood transfusions or contaminated needles. It can also be transmitted sexually, though less frequently.

More than a quarter-million Canadians are believed to currently have the disease, including 80,000 in British Columbia.


Health officials say 40 to 70 per cent of them may not know they carry the blood-borne virus, and symptoms can take decades to appear.

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Chronic infection can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. New medications, however, have proven effective at curing the virus in most people within months.

“56 days, 168 pills and a lot of bouts of nausea later I am very happy to say that yesterday I took my last round of treatment for hepatitis C,” wrote Reimer on Twitter.

“HepC infections come with stigma, and up until last year they also came with a lot of stress because the government didn’t cover treatment until you were critically ill at which point the chances of successful treatment and recovery are much lower.”

British Columbia’s pharmacare company has covered new hepatitis C drug treatments for years, though until recently only in severe cases.

The former BC Liberal government committed to making treatment available to anyone who has the disease, and that expanded coverage was rolled out under the sitting NDP government in 2018-2019.


New hepatitis C elimination program targeting drug users

B.C. now fully covers the cost of the drugs Daklinza, Epclusa, Harvoni, Solvaldi, Zepartier and Vosevi.

A full course of treatment with one drug combination built around Harvoni, for example, was priced in the range of $80,000, but British Columbia and Ontario led national negotiations with drug manufacturers to reduce prices in 2017.

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Reimer lauded the expanded coverage, saying giving access to people who are still healthy increases the odds of recovery to about 95 per cent.

“You also get to miss a lifetime of wondering if and when liver failure will happen and if you’ll be strong enough then to handle treatment,” she wrote.

“In 6 months I know whether it worked or not, but even after weeks of intense nausea I’m grateful for a gov that gives access to this medicine. Its humane healthcare but it’s also hope for a world where everyone is seen and valued regardless of the trauma they carry with them.”

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Reimer said she was also speaking up to encourage anyone who is a current or former IV drug user to get screened for the illness, and to take the treatment if they get a positive diagnosis.

“You may not be in a space where you can see it now but know that your life is worth saving,” said Reimer.

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1st Canadian human trial for coronavirus vaccine is underway. Here's what that means – thepeakfm.com

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Canadian trials have just begun for a prospective COVID-19 vaccine but its Quebec-based manufacturer is already tempering expectations.

Bruce Clark, president and CEO of the biopharmaceutical company Medicago, cautions observers against holding unrealistic assumptions that his product — or any of the numerous vaccine hopefuls in development globally — can bring the pandemic to a screeching halt if proven viable.

Clark notes more than 120 companies are trying to come up with a COVID-19 vaccine, many of which have never been in the vaccine space before.

He doesn’t doubt that “something’s going to come out of this,” but he questions how effective it may be.

Read more:
With over 70 coronavirus vaccines in development, how close are we to a successful one?

“Whatever vaccine we get in this first round — unless it’s a miracle — it’s not going to be perfect,” says Clark, whose company began trials for its proposed vaccine Monday in Quebec City.

“It’s going to have to undergo development, it’s going to take probably years to come up with an understanding of the right vaccine, the right approach. It’s not the panacea.

“To assume that we can have, in 18 months, the solution to a pandemic that comes around once in a generation, is naive.”

Canada’s deputy public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo expressed similar cautions Tuesday, while acknowledging the need to develop viable vaccines and therapies.

“Lots of different steps are still ahead of us before we might even anticipate that there might be a safe, effective vaccine that would be available for use in the general population,” said Njoo.

So much is still unknown about COVID-19, notes Clark, including how it may manifest during the flu season later this year.

He suspects a more likely scenario is that a vaccine will offer only part of the solution, along with new therapeutics and ongoing public health interventions.

Plant-based product to be tested on 180 people

Medicago’s first phase of clinical trials will test the safety of a plant-based product on 180 healthy men and women, aged 18 to 55.

The randomized, partially blinded study uses technology that does not involve animal products or live viruses like traditional methods.

Clark notes that vaccine developers typically use chicken eggs to propagate a virus, but Medicago uses recombinant technology involving the genetic sequence of a virus, with living plants as the host.

Read more:
Canadian company announces COVID-19 vaccine candidate

The resulting virus-like particles mimic the shape and dimensions of a virus, which allows the body to recognize them and spark an immune response.

Clark says the plant-based approach is significantly faster and offers more consistent results than egg-based or cell-based methods.

It’s the same method Medicago has used for a proposed seasonal flu vaccine that Clark says is currently being reviewed by Health Canada. If approved, Clark says it would be the first plant-based vaccine in the world.

While it takes five to six months to propagate a virus in eggs, the plant-based technique requires just five to six weeks, he says.

“In a pandemic, something like COVID, if you’re able to cut that much time off development, you have a substantial impact on public health.”

Meanwhile, Clark says viruses are prone to mutations as they adapt and grow in an egg, which could result in a vaccine that doesn’t exactly match the circulating virus. In contrast, “a plant is a plant,” and that makes production easily scalable.

“One plant behaves like 100,000 plants,” he says.

The trial will evaluate three different dosages alone, or with one of two adjuvants provided by GlaxoSmithKline and Dynavax. An adjuvant can boost the effectiveness of a vaccine for a better immunological response, thereby reducing the required dose, Clark adds.

Read more:
Activists warn coronavirus vaccine could be hoarded by rich countries

He hopes to know the safety of the product, as well as effectiveness of the adjuvants and dosing by October. Based on that, researchers would kick off a second, more targeted trial phase involving about 1,000 participants.

If that’s successful, Clark says a third phase would involve about 15,000 to 20,000 subjects, include older cohorts, and may be a global study, depending on circumstances of the pandemic by then.

Border issues complicate supply chains

If the vaccine proves effective, Clark points to another uncertainty.

Because the company’s commercial plant is across the border in Durham, N.C., he says there’s no guarantee of a Canadian supply.

“‘Guarantee’ is a strong word,” says Clark. “Strange things happen to borders in the context of a pandemic.”

Such border complications were made clear to Canadians in April when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau complained about problems with incomplete or non-existent deliveries of critical COVID-19 supplies. At the time, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered U.S. producers to prioritize the domestic market.

Clark suggests similar hurdles could impact vaccine distribution, putting immediate pressure on Medicago to complete construction of a large-scale manufacturing facility in its home base of Quebec City.

“Certainly, we need a facility in Canada,” Clark says.

“There’s no guarantee on the easy flow of materials back and forth across the border should we have a successful vaccine. We have to keep the focus on completing the Canadian facility so that we have domestic capacity. I think this is what most countries are concerned about.”

By the end of 2023, the Quebec City plant is expected to be able to produce up to one billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine annually.

Until then, Medicago says it expects to be able to make approximately 100 million doses by the end of 2021, assuming its trials are successful.

Clark says countries must temper any nationalist agendas that might emerge with a viable vaccine and acknowledge that the fight against COVID-19 is global.

Commentary:
‘Vaccine nationalism’ could threaten Canada’s access to a COVID-19 vaccine

Meeting that demand would require multiple manufacturers, multiple distribution routes, and lots of co-operation, he says, possibly through the World Health Organization.

“There has to be some ability to share those around and distribute, whether that’s through an entity like the WHO, or something equivalent.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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India reimposes lockdowns as Covid-19 cases near a million – latest updates – TRT World

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Coronavirus has infected more than 13.4 million people, of whom over 7.8 million have recovered and some 580,000 have died. Here are the updates for July 15:

A woman holds a small bottle labelled “Vaccine Covid-19” and a syringe in this illustration.
(Reuters)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 

Russian military says virus vaccine is tested and safe

The Russian Defence Ministry said it has developed a “safe” vaccine following clinical trials on a group of volunteers.

The ministry said 18 people had participated in the research and were discharged without “serious adverse events, health complaints, complications or side effects.”

The results of the trials “allow us to speak with confidence about the safety and good tolerability of the vaccine,” it said in a statement.

The Defence Ministry did not say whether the vaccine was in fact effective but a doctor working on the trials said the volunteers were now protected against the pandemic.

Maldives reopens for tourists

The Maldives reopened its tourist resorts and welcomed its first international flight in more than three months even as the Indian Ocean holiday hot spot records a steady rise in infections.

Tourism is a major earner for the Maldives, a tropical island paradise popular with honeymooners and celebrities.

Disneyland Paris reopens, but no hugs for Donald

Disneyland Paris, Europe’s biggest private tourist attraction, reopened its gates after four months of lockdown, albeit with limited access and a ban on hugging the famous characters.

As festive music played, Mickey, Pluto and other Disney characters greeted the first visitors –– all sporting face masks and some the trademark Mickey Mouse ears –– while keeping a safe distance from the guests.

Despite the merry mood, things at Disneyland are not quite back to normal as the pandemic was again showing a slight uptick in the country where it has claimed more than 30,000 lives.

Philippines confirms 11 more deaths

Philippines Health Ministry reported 11 deaths and 1,392 additional infections.

The ministry said total deaths had risen to 1,614, while confirmed infections reached 58,850.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is due to decide whether or not to maintain partial restrictions in the capital, set to expire on Wednesday, to slow the spread of the virus as some hospitals reach critical care capacity. 

Indonesia sees biggest single-day jump in deaths

Indonesia reported 87 deaths, its biggest daily jump, bringing the total number of fatalities to 3,797, its Health Ministry said.

Indonesia also reported 1,522 infections, taking the overall tally to 80,094 cases, ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.

Russia registers 6,422 cases, pushing the total into 746,369

Russia reported 6,422 cases, pushing its confirmed national tally to 746,369, the fourth highest in the world.

Officials said 156 people had died of the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 11,770. 

India reimposes lockdown as cases near 1 million

India’s caseload is approaching 1 million with a surge of 29,429 new confirmed infections during the past 24 hours, prompting authorities to reimpose lockdowns in high-risk areas in nearly a dozen states.

The new confirmed cases took the national total to 936,181. The Health Ministry also reported another 582 deaths for a total to 24,309.

A two-week lockdown was imposed in eastern Bihar state, where nearly 2.5 million migrant workers have returned home after losing jobs in other parts of the country and further spread the virus.

Australia’s death toll rises to 111

Australia’s most populous states will impose harsher restrictions on movement if a Covid-19 outbreak is not quickly brought under control, state premiers said.

Victoria state reported another 238 cases in the past 24 hours, even after reimposing a lockdown last week on about five million people in Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city.

Nationally, Australia has now recorded about 10,500 cases, while the death toll rose to 111 after a woman in her 90s died from the virus.

Tokyo on top alert level after new cases

Tokyo is on its highest coronavirus alert level after a spike in new cases, the city’s governor warned, as experts said the rising infections were a clear “red flag.”

Daily coronavirus cases exceeded 200 in four of the last six days, touching an all-time high of 243 cases last Friday as testing among workers in the metropolis’s red-light districts turned up infections among young people in their 20s and 30s.

As of Wednesday, there were only seven people requiring intensive care for coronavirus and authorities have insisted that the medical system is in better shape than at the height of the previous wave in April.

And despite the latest outbreak, the situation in Japan remains considerably less serious than in many other comparable countries in terms of population.

Japan has had just over 22,500 cases and close to 1,000 deaths since the disease was first detected in the country. No one has died of coronavirus in Tokyo for three weeks.

Germany’s cases rise by 351 to 199,726

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 351 to 199,726, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by three to 9,071, the tally showed. 

Moderna vaccine enters final stage trial this month

An experimental Covid-19 vaccine that is being developed by US biotech firm Moderna induced antibody responses against the coronavirus in all 45 participants of a human trial, according to a new paper.

Moderna had previously published “interim results” from its Phase 1 in the form of a press release on its website in May, which revealed the vaccine had generated immune responses in eight patients.

Though these were called “encouraging” by Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases official, the full study had been eagerly awaited by the scientific community.

The company has since moved to the next stage of its trial, involving 600 people.

The new paper was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Moderna said the phase 3 trial on July 27 will recruit 30,000 participants in the US, with half to receive the vaccine at 100 microgram dose levels, and the other half to receive a placebo.

Thousands in Bolivia anti-government protest

Thousands of demonstrators have defied quarantine restrictions and marched on the Bolivian capital La Paz to protest against the government of interim President Jeanine Anez.

“The people are expressing their needs, they are expressing their voice in protest,” said Juan Carlos Huarachi, leader of the country’s biggest trade union, Central Obrera Boliviana, on Tuesday.

The demonstration, held over worker grievances about health and education policies and massive layoffs, was the biggest since the coronavirus pandemic reached the South American country in March.  

“There are many layoffs,” said Huarachi, “because of the fall in the economy.”

South Korea unemployment rate inches down

South Korea’s unemployment rate fell marginally in June but remained high in historical terms as the coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh on businesses and labour markets.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate slid to 4.3 percent in June, notches below a decade-high of 4.5 percent in May, data from Statistics Korea showed on Wednesday.

Data also showed the number of employed was around 27.1 million in June, 352,000 fewer than a year earlier. This marked the fourth month of year-on-year decline, the longest losing streak in more than 10 years. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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COVID-19 in B.C.: Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix on the Canada–U.S. border, air travel, and case number increases – Straight.com

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The good news is that the number of new cases today (July 14) dropped from the levels reported over the past few days.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix responded to questions about whether the recent numbers of cases over the past few days are cause for concern, and about the U.S.–Canada border and travel.

At today’s briefing, Dr. Henry announced there are 13 new cases, which brings the cumulative provincial total to 3,128 cases  over the duration of the pandemic. That includes 1,015 Vancouver Coastal Health; 1,649 in Fraser Health; 135 in Island Health, 212 in Interior Health; 65 in Northern Health; and 52 cases among people who live outside Canada.

At the moment, there are 209 active cases. There are 14 people in hospital (including five patients in intensive care units) and Dix stated that nine of those people are in Fraser Health with the remaining five in Vancouver Coastal Health.

There aren’t any new healthcare outbreaks. Accordingly, there remain three active outbreaks in healthcare: two in longterm care facilities and one in an acute care unit.

However, there were three new cases in healthcare, bringing the totals to 399 residents and 252 staff who have tested positive.

There aren’t any new community outbreaks.

However, more details were revealed about the exposure events in Kelowna from June 25 to July 6.

While the number of individuals involved were reported as increasing from eight to 13 people, Dr. Henry said that the number is now at 17 people from the regions of Interior Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Fraser Health.

She said what they understand so far from the investigation, which remains ongoing, is that a group of people who knew each other from Interior B.C., the Lower Mainland, and Alberta met in Kelowna. Dix had previously said that the individuals are in their 20s and 30s.

Although there is an outbreak at the Krazy Cherry Fruit Co. farm (as previously announced on July 13) in Oliver, B.C., Dr. Henry stated that there isn’t evidence that the virus is spread by food and that there isn’t any risk from cherries from the Krazy Cherry Fruit farm. 

However, she reminded people to still wash all food carefully before eating it.   

Dr. Henry reminded those who may have been exposed to not only monitor their symptoms for 14 days but to also limit their social contacts during that period. Anyone who has symptoms should call 811.

Thankfully, there aren’t any new deaths, leaving the total fatalities at 189 deaths.

There are a total of 2,730 people who have recovered.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
Province of British Columbia

Although B.C. had a series of consecutive days with new cases numbering 20 or more since July 8, Dr. Henry said that around 20 remains a small number “given our population”.

While she did express some nervousness about the situation, she said it would be more “worrisome” if the new cases weren’t linked and they didn’t know where the infections were coming from.

“It was distressing for me to see, especially 25 one day—that’s way above my comfort zone—but it is not unexpected and we do know where those cases are,” she said. “That is the other piece that we’re trying to balance here—is us increasing our travel, increasing our contacts in a measured way, but us in public health being able to respond when we have clusters, where we have cases, making sure can find those links and find people who are exposed so that they can stay away from others and we stop those transmission chains.”

She said “a good portion” of the new cases are related to the ongoing outbreak in Holy Family Hospital longterm care home in Vancouver.

“We have very few people who are not linked to a known cluster or case yet,” she said.

However, Dr. Henry reiterated that we know that transmission increases as people move around more during phases of reopening, and that the recent cases, which aren’t unexpected, reflect that.

However, she said we need to ensure that contact tracing can be conducted quickly and efficiently to contain the spread of the virus.

When she was asked about what actions should be taken in the wake of several public exposure events taking place, she said she would try to avoid returning to closures.

“I don’t believe that it’s good to shut things down because that just drives things underground,” she said.

She said it’s better for public health to work with people and industries to figure out how things can be done in the safest possible way.

In addition, she said while they are seeing some young adults in 20 to 40 years old infected, B.C. is not experiencing the same spikes among this demographic group yet like parts of the U.S. and other parts of Canada, including Alberta and Ontario, are.

In addition, both she and Dix repeated the importance of continuing on with health measures to protect all involved.

“We learned that indecision is the acquaintance of COVID-19, inconsistency is its friend, and bad decisions are its closest ally,” Dix said.

Video of Most of Canada’s new COVID-19 cases in people under 40

The current extension of the closure of the Canada–U.S. border to nonessential travel, which was first introduced in March and since been repeatedly extended, was slated to expire on July 21.

However, Canadian and American officials have agreed to extend the border closure until August 21.

Dix said it’s “positive and necessary news” and he said it’s important that there are restrictions not only on Americans visiting Canada but also Canadians visiting the U.S., as he has previously explained it’s important to prevent the virus from being brought back with returning Canadians.

The decision was made despite an open letter dated July 3 from 29 U.S. Congress members asking the Canadian government for a phased reopening of the border.

However, a spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told CTV that the health of Canadians remain a priority and that decisions about the border are made by Canadians for Canadians.

Meanwhile, as both domestic and international flights continue in and out of the province, several flights arriving at or departing from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) over the past month have been confirmed with COVID-19 cases aboard.

Dr. Henry said that travellers arriving with symptoms cause her “great consternation”.

She said it extremely important for airlines to collect and provide appropriate contact information and so that public health teams are able to identify people within specific rows near someone who develops symptoms after a flight.

For example, none of the four recent flights with COVID-19 cases that arrived at YVR in recent days had affected rows or seats listed.

“One of the most challenging things we do is trying to get flight manifests a couple of days later when we recognize somebody who might be ill and the type of information that’s on those flight manifests is not very helpful in trying to followup people, which is also one of the reasons why we post things publicly,” she said.

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