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APRIL 1: Nova Scotia reports 3 new COVID-19 cases, expands vaccination age limits – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Nova Scotia has expanded the age eligibility for all three of the vaccines being used in the province.

The age range for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been lowered to 70 years and up. Starting April 1, people can book appointments at community clinics and participating pharmacies across the province. The complete list of clinics can be found on the booking site www.novascotia.ca/vaccination

And beginning Tuesday, April 6, people aged 55 to 64 will be able to book appointments to receive AstraZeneca vaccine at participating physician and pharmacy clinics. The complete list of clinics will be posted on the booking site on April 6.

You can also book by phone at 1-833-797-7772. Appointments cannot be booked directly through a community clinic, pharmacy or physician. Walk-ins will be turned away.

“There are many opportunities for Nova Scotians to get their vaccine and we’re adding more and more appointments as we get more supply,” Premier Iain Rankin said at a news conference with Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, Thursday in Halifax. 

“There are still appointments available in different locations. . . .  New appointments for the weeks of April 12 and 19 have also been added. And 27 pharmacies will be operating next week with the new shipment of Moderna next week.”

The premier said the rollout hit a landmark of 100,000 administered doses this week.

As of March 31, 106,623 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered. Of those, 28,552 Nova Scotians had received their second dose.

“That’s more than half of Nova Scotians over the age of 80 who’ve now received their vaccine shot and over 85 per cent of health-care workers now have their first shot,” Rankin said. “We’re well on track to meet our target of delivering the first dose to every Nova Scotian  by the end of June.”

More AstraZeneca on the way

The new age range for AstraZeneca falls within that recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in the wake of rare incidents of brain blood clots in younger people, mostly women, in Europe. The vaccine will only be administered to people over 55. 

“But I want to assure Nova Scotians that if we didn’t think this vaccine was safe, and if Health Canada did not believe it was safe, it would not be part of our vaccine program,” Strang said. 

Thursday marked the last day of the first AstraZeneca rollout of 13,000 doses, which were fully booked. Strang said another shipment of 38,000 doses is expected next week. 

The Chronicle Herald has heard complaints from people who couldn’t get a booking for AstraZeneca despite days of logging onto the online system or calling. 

Asked about this at the briefing, Strang said “the vast majority” of people were able to book their appointment successfully. But he said people who couldn’t get through in the first rollout can try again on April 6.

Three new cases

Nova Scotia reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. 

Of two cases in the central health zone, one is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.  The other is a close contact of a previous case. 

A case in the western zone is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. 

The number of active cases is now 24, an increase of one case compared to yesterday. 

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 4,240 Nova Scotia tests on Wednesday and expected to handle another 4,000-plus day on Thursday. 

Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has completed 307,642 tests. There have been 630 positive COVID-19 cases, 605 resolved cases and one death.   

New variant pre-screening

“Our testing sites have been busy and the lab has done well over 4,000 tests in each of the last two days and they already have another 4,000 tests ready to process today (Thursday),” Strang said at the briefing. 

He thanked the people who have been coming out for testing as well as the hard-working staff at the Nova Scotia Health lab. 

Strang said the lab has developed a pre-screening test for variants of the COVID-19 virus, which often cause more severe disease and are more contagious. 

“This test can give an initial sense of whether  a positive specimen is a variant. It can’t identify which variant but it does give us same-day results and then all the positive specimens through the screening test are then sent to the national lab for confirmation of variants and that can take up to one to two weeks.”

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Exclusive-Canada’s Ontario to expand use of AstraZeneca COVID vaccine as epidemic rages

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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to people turning 40 or older this year, according to a government source.

The change will broaden access to vaccines as a third wave of infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals in Canada‘s most-populous province, and should make it easier to use doses that in some cases have been accumulating at pharmacies.

The change will be announced on Monday and go into effect across the province on Tuesday, according to the source. The vaccine has already been distributed to pharmacies but currently can only be given to people turning 55 or older this year.

Ontario announced new public health measures on Friday, promising checkpoints at provincial borders, new police powers and closing outdoor amenities, while leaving many workplaces open. The measures were widely criticized by doctors and public health experts, and the province quickly reopened playgrounds and modified the new police powers.

On March 29, Health Canada said it would review reports of serious blood clots and bleeding in a small number of people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine in other countries, and an independent panel called the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) recommended that it only be given to people 55 and older. All provinces followed that advice.

But NACI’s recommendations are not binding. Last week, Health Canada, the country’s drug regulator, said it had reviewed all available evidence and would not restrict the use of the vaccine, because its benefits outweigh its potential risks. Health Canada said at the time that NACI was reviewing its recommendations.

On Sunday, NACI’s chair told Reuters that the panel would make a new recommendation on Tuesday.

Health Canada said regulators in the UK had estimated the risk of clots to be very small, roughly four in a million people who receive the vaccine. It also said the complication was treatable. Two people have developed it in Canada, and both are recovering.

Several other countries have limited the use of the vaccine to older people. Denmark has withdrawn the shot, and Norway said on Thursday it would take more time to decide whether to resume use.

Ontario reported 4,250 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The Ontario Hospital Association said 59 patients were admitted to intensive care on Saturday, bringing the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs to 737.

Health Canada says those who receive the vaccine should seek medical attention immediately if they experience shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent belly pain, neurological symptoms like severe headaches or blurred vision, or skin bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.

 

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)

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Trudeau mobilizes federal workers to battle COVID-19 in Toronto and rest of Ontario

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he would send federal healthcare workers to help Toronto and the province of Ontario battle a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has forced shutdowns of schools and businesses.

“We are mobilizing federal healthcare workers from across government departments to deploy on the front lines in Ontario and specifically the Greater Toronto area where the situation is most critical,” Trudeau said in a video posted on Twitter.

Other provinces, especially on the Atlantic coast, are working “to determine what human resources and equipment they could free up over the coming days,” Trudeau said, adding that the federal government would cover the costs of that help.

The government will also seek to boost rapid testing, especially for essential workers, Trudeau said.

The government of Ontario, Canada‘s most-populous province and industrial powerhouse, has moved schools online and announced more stringent public health measures on Friday, including shutting the provincial borders to non-essential travel.

On Saturday, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair deployed two mobile health units to set up more hospital beds in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and the prime minister said he stood ready to send the Red Cross to staff mobile vaccination clinics in Ontario if help is requested.

Canada‘s seven-day average of new infections was 8,669, the chief medical officer said on Sunday, a 26% increase compared with the previous seven days. Ontario reported 4,250 new cases on Sunday.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

More than 48 million doses are to be delivered by the end of June, which is enough for all of Canada‘s population of some 38 million to receive at least one shot, with a total of 100 million doses expected by the end of September.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Canada has second case of rare blood clots after AstraZeneca vaccin

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(Reuters) – Canada on Saturday reported a second case of rare blood clots with low platelets after immunization with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in a week, while it said it still recommended the use of the shot.

The person who experienced the very rare event has been treated and is recovering, Canada‘s health ministry said in a statement, adding that the person lives in the province of Alberta.

Based on the evidence available, Canada still maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the potential risks, the statement said.

Canada health authorities “will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely and examine and assess any new safety concerns,” the statement said.

Canada reported a first blood clotting associated with the vaccine on Tuesday, and a day later, after a review, health authorities said they would not restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. That panel is in the process of reviewing its advice.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign, but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

Amid a spiking third wave of infections, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, announced new public health restrictions on Friday, including closing the provinces borders to domestic travelers.

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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