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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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Now is not the time for vaccine mandates, even as vaccinations among children remain low: experts – CBC.ca

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Less than half of Canadian children ages five to 11 have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, but Canadian experts say now may not be the time to start mandating them for students attending school in person.

In December, Windsor’s city council endorsed a recommendation from its health unit that all elementary school students be vaccinated before returning to school. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, New York City now requires students to be vaccinated before taking part in extracurricular activities. California, which already has strict vaccine requirements for students, is mulling the addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to that list.

“For provinces that don’t have vaccine mandate policies, to start a conversation about vaccine mandates at a time where emotions are very heightened around vaccination is a risky endeavour,” said public health researcher Devon Greyson.

Greyson, an assistant professor of health communication at the University of British Columbia, has studied the efficacy of childhood vaccine mandates. They found that while uptake does increase, the boost can’t be solely attributed to mandates. Better communication, access and reporting systems also played a role.

In fact, in some jurisdictions, mandates did more harm than good by pushing some people away from vaccination, Greyson says.

“I recommend first really trying to build confidence in the population and make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated before considering a policy that has potentially negative consequences on children or parents,” they said.

A children’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic is set up at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, on Dec. 21, 2021. About five per cent of five- to 11-year-old children in Canada have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

No provincial or territorial governments have announced plans for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools, but jurisdictions such as Ontario and New Brunswick already require vaccinations for certain preventable diseases in students entering the public school system. 

Legislation to strengthen mandatory-vaccination rules for N.B. schoolchildren was proposed in 2020, but was defeated. “There are varied opinions, and very strong opinions,” Premier Blaine Higgs, who voted in favour of the change, said earlier this month on CBC’s Power & Politics.

Dr. Cora Constantinescu, a pediatric infectious diseases expert who counsels vaccine-hesitant parents, says that with lower vaccine uptake among five- to 11-year-olds — and children returning to classrooms — there’s an urgency get them vaccinated as soon as possible. But she stopped short of calling for a mandate.

While Constantinescu believes that a vaccine mandate could be effective she pointed out some children risk being kept out of the classroom as a result of such a policy.

Only about five per cent of children ages five to 11 have been fully vaccinated, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern over the low vaccination rate on Wednesday, saying that it puts society’s most vulnerable people at greater risk.

WATCH | Experts weigh in on hesitation around vaccinations for kids:

Experts explain slower vaccine uptake among children

2 days ago

Duration 1:44

Ève Dubé, a INSPQ medical anthropologist, and Dr Fatima Kakkar, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, weigh in on why some parents are still hesitant to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. 1:44

Access remains a key issue

In October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the COVID-19 vaccine would be added to the list of vaccinations required for students to attend school in-person. The policy will be enforced after the federal government approves the vaccines, and the state will grant exemptions for medical reasons, plus religious and personal beliefs. 

Some school districts have already enacted mandates in the state.

Young children are particularly good at spreading respiratory illnesses — and that’s likely the case for COVID-19 as well, according to Annette Reagan, adjunct assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in California. 

People wait to get their children vaccinated at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal. Dr. Cora Constantinescu says that providing greater access to vaccines could help improve the vaccination rate among five- to 11-year-olds. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

She says that justifies the addition of COVID-19 vaccines to existing mandates.

“Increasing vaccination rates and stopping transmission in younger children is a good thing for our community, but it comes with the mandates,” said Reagan, noting that such policies limit parental autonomy.

The reasons behind low uptake among the pediatric group in Canada are varied, according to Greyson, but might be explained by timing and limited access to clinics.

Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine was approved by Health Canada for the five to 11 cohort in late November — just weeks before the holidays when non-emergency medical appointments tend to slow down. 

Pediatric vaccine doses may also be less widely accessible compared to adult doses, said Constantinescu, making it more difficult for parents to get their kids immunized.

“The low-hanging fruit of vaccine uptake is always access,” said Constantinescu. “We have not made this as easily accessible as we could have.”

Constantinescu believes, however, that the narrative children experience more “mild” illness when they contract COVID-19 is a key factor behind the low vaccination rate — a message that parents should reconsider.

“We pray and hope that it’s just going to be a mild illness in most kids. That would be fantastic and I sure hope that, but we don’t know,” she said. 

“What we do know is that the vaccine is safe and we have enough supply.”

‘It’s in the best interest of your child’

Perhaps the most significant risk that comes with vaccine mandates, however, is the potential for children with vaccine-hesitant parents to miss out on in-person learning. 

Constantinescu argues that some children may not get the protection provided by vaccination or the benefits of learning in person.

With new evidence that negative side effects, such as myocarditis, are rare in the five to 11 bracket, she says now is the time to “shout from the rooftops” that vaccinating against COVID-19 is safe.

“This is the top vaccine-preventable threat to our children and we have a safe vaccine,” she said.

“We need to tell parents this is about protecting your child, first and foremost. It’s not about saving the pandemic, it’s not about saving the world.”

“This is because it’s in the best interest of your child.”


Written by Jason Vermes with files from Ashley Fraser, CBC News and The Associated Press.

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Nova Scotia reports 11 people in ICU Saturday, total of 287 people in hospital with COVID-19 – CTV News Atlantic

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In a news release Saturday afternoon, health officials in Nova Scotia said 82 people were admitted to hospital and are receiving specialized care in a COVID-19 designated unit. 11 people were reported to be in intensive care.

According to the province, the age range of those in hospital is 23-100 years old, and the average age is 67.

Of the 82 people receiving specialized care for COVID-19 in hospital, 79 were admitted during the Omicron wave.

There are also two other groups of people in hospital related to COVID-19:

  • 84 people who were identified as positive upon arrival at hospital but were admitted for another medical reason, or were admitted for COVID-19 but no longer require specialized care.
  • 121 people who contracted COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital.

The number of COVID-19 admits and discharges to hospital was not available Saturday.

On Jan. 21, the Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 3,682 tests.

According to a news release, an additional 502 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 are being reported.

Of the new cases; 219 are in the Central Zone, 88 are in the Eastern Zone, 59 are in the Northern Zone and 136 new cases are in the Western Zone.

Nova Scotia remains under a state of emergency. Provincial officials first declared a state of emergency on March 22, 2020 and it has now been extended to February 6, 2022.

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Exclusive-U.S. opposes plans to strengthen World Health Organization

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The United States, the World Health Organization’s top donor, is resisting proposals to make the agency more independent, four officials involved in the talks said, raising doubts about the Biden administration’s long-term support for the U.N. agency.

The proposal, made by the WHO’s working group on sustainable financing, would increase each member state’s standing annual contribution, according to a WHO document published online and dated Jan. 4.

The plan is part of a wider reform process galvanised by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the limitations of the WHO’s power to intervene early in a crisis.

But the U.S. government is opposing the reform because it has concerns about the WHO’s ability to confront future threats, including from China, U.S. officials told Reuters.

It is pushing instead for the creation of a separate fund, directly controlled by donors, that would finance prevention and control of health emergencies.

Four European officials involved in the talks, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed the U.S. opposition. The U.S. government had no immediate comment.

The published proposal calls for member states’ mandatory contributions to rise gradually from 2024 so they would account for half the agency’s $2 billion core budget by 2028, compared to less than 20% now, the document said.

The WHO’s core budget is aimed at fighting pandemics and strengthening healthcare systems across the world. It also raises an additional $1 billion or so a year to tackle specific global challenges such as tropical diseases and influenza.

Supporters say that the current reliance on voluntary funding from member states and from charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation forces the WHO to focus on priorities set by the funders, and makes it less able to criticise members when things go wrong.

An independent panel on pandemics that was appointed to advise on the WHO reform had called for a much bigger increase in mandatory fees, to 75% of the core budget, deeming the current system “a major risk to the integrity and independence” of the WHO.

LONG-STANDING SCEPTICISM

The WHO itself responded to a query by saying that “only flexible and predictable funds can enable WHO to fully implement the priorities of the Member States”.

Top European Union donors, including Germany, back the plan, along with most African, South Asian, South American and Arab countries, three of the European officials said.

The proposal is to be discussed at the WHO’s executive board meeting next week but the divisions mean no agreement is expected, three of the officials said.

The WHO confirmed there was currently no consensus among member states, and said talks were likely to continue until the annual meeting in May of the World Health Assembly, the agency’s top decision-making body.

European donors in particular favour empowering, rather than weakening, multilateral organisations including the WHO.

One European official said the U.S. plan “causes scepticism among many countries”, and said the creation of a new structure controlled by donors, rather than by the WHO, would weaken the agency’s ability to combat future pandemics.

Washington has been critical of the WHO for some time.

Former president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the WHO after accusing it of defending China’s initial delays in sharing information when COVID-19 emerged there in 2019.

The Biden administration rejoined soon after taking office, but officials told Reuters they think the WHO needs significant reform, and raised concerns about its governance, structure and ability to confront rising threats, not least from China.

One of the European officials said other big countries, including Japan and Brazil, were also hesitant about the published WHO proposal.

A Brazilian official with knowledge of the discussions said Brazil agreed that WHO funding needed to be looked at, but said it opposed the proposal to raise contributions as it had run up deficits tackling the virus and was now facing a fiscal crunch.

Instead, the official said the WHO needed to investigate other ways to raise funds, such as charging for its services, cutting costs or relocating operations to cheaper countries.

“Raising contributions should be the last resort,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the discussions.

Two of the European officials said China had not yet made its position clear, while a third official listed Beijing among the critics of the proposal.

The governments of Japan and China had no immediate comment.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Andreas Rinke in Berlin and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Josephine Mason, Kevin Liffey and Daniel Wallis)

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