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As U.S., U.K. plan to roll out vaccines in December, Canada largely silent on distribution – CBC.ca

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Two of Canada’s closest allies have laid out plans to distribute new vaccines against the deadly novel coronavirus, with the first shots expected to be delivered in December.

Canada, meanwhile, has been largely silent on how promising vaccine candidates will be distributed here after Health Canada regulators give them the green light — providing few, if any, details beyond a promise to work with the provinces and territories and buy cold storage.

The federal government has procured some 358 million doses from seven companies — an insurance policy against the possibility that some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials. Little is known about how and when the vaccines will be made available, however.

“Our government has worked hard to secure tens of millions of doses, so we’re prepared once a safe, effective vaccine is ready for Canadians,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today, adding that it’s “premature” to say when communities will have access to the vaccines.

Trudeau said Canada — unlike the U.S., the United Kingdom and Germany — doesn’t have any domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity, which means it could be a while yet before Canadians get a dose. “We’re looking forward to being able to vaccinate Canadians in the coming months,” he said.

WATCH: Trudeau says lack of Canadian manufacturing capacity to blame for vaccine challenges

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters outside his home in Ottawa on Tuesday 1:59

Dr. Moncef Slaoui is the chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed — the U.S. mission to develop a vaccine, manufacture it in large quantities and push it out into communities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to meet on Dec. 10 to make a final decision on Pfizer’s highly-effective vaccine and Slaoui said inoculations will begin immediately.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours from the approval,” Slaoui said in an interview with CNN.

“I would expect maybe on day two after approval, on Dec. 11 or Dec 12, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the U.S., across all states, in all areas where the state departments of health have told us to deliver the vaccine.”

20 million Americans to be vaccinated in December

Slaoui said as many as 20 million Americans will be vaccinated in December, and 30 million more Americans will be vaccinated in every subsequent month.

Since October, Pfizer has been manufacturing hundreds of thousands of doses each week — even though it hasn’t yet received regulatory approval. The company hopes to make 100 million doses available this year and another 1.3 billion in 2021. Each patient will need two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, says 20 million Americans will be vaccinated in December. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

The National Health Service (NHS) in England has designated 1,250 local health clinics as vaccine sites where, starting as early as Dec. 1, staff will be on hand to administer the vaccine over 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Each clinic site is expected to inoculate at least 975 people per week.

The NHS already has started booking vaccine appointments, designating blocks to priority groups. Vaccinations in the U.K. will start with older adult residents in long-term care homes and care home workers, all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers, before being offered to those aged 75 years or younger.

“I have tasked the NHS with being ready from any date from Dec. 1. The logistics are complex, the uncertainties are real and the scale of the job is vast, but I know that the NHS, brilliantly assisted by the armed services, will be up to the task,” Matt Hancock, the U.K.’s health secretary, told Parliament last week.

In May, the U.S. tapped a retired four-star army general, Gen. Gustave Perna, to coordinate the distribution efforts — a massive task that will see millions of doses of the vaccine deployed to every state starting next month, through a partnership with U.S. drug distribution giant McKesson.

Perna is a former commanding general for the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which manages the Army’s global supply chain, making him uniquely qualified to run such a complicated distribution network.

“The country’s existing public health infrastructure is well tested — we see evidence every fall when Americans receive the flu vaccine in large numbers. But these are not normal times,” Perna said in a media statement. “Leveraging our military planning and logistics capability and combining that with proven methods will allow existing systems to scale quickly to get the vaccine to the American people.”

Operation Warp Speed will also distribute ancillary kits with all the required supplies to administer COVID-19 vaccines, such as needles, syringes, alcohol pads and limited personal protective equipment. (Supplied by the U.S. Department of Defense)

More than 1 million standard kits — which would cover 100 million vaccine doses — have been assembled by Operation Warp Speed.

The military and McKesson will distribute vaccines along with ancillary kits with all the required supplies to administer them, such as needles, syringes, alcohol pads and limited personal protective equipment.

Pfizer has an assembly centre in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the drug manufacturer plans to use private shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx to deliver vaccines to hospitals and vaccination sites within hours.

Watch: Bains and Anand explain how Ottawa is developing Canadian vaccine production.:

Federal Industry Minister Navdeep Bains and Procurement Minister Anita Anand spoke with reporters on Tuesday. 1:48

While Operation Warp Speed will deliver vaccine shipments, it will be up to the states, territories and major metropolitan areas to further define where the doses ultimately go. All 50 states have submitted COVID-19 distribution plans to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC has flowed more than $300 million to the states to fine-tune the deployment process and, last month, the agency publicly released a 75-page playbook detailing everything from vaccine provider recruitment and enrolment guidelines, vaccine storage and handling tips to information on which groups should be first in line for a shot.

The CDC also has signed agreements with major U.S. pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens to assist with on-site vaccinations at long-term care facilities (LTCs), which have been especially hard hit by the pandemic.

Operation Warp Speed chief operating officer Gen. Gustave Perna, left, and Stefano Pessina, right, the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, meet to discuss COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans. The CDC has signed agreements with major U.S. pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens to assist with on-site vaccinations at long-term care facilities. (Supplied by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)

Germany also could start administering shots of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as next month, Jens Spahn, the country’s health minister, said Sunday.

Spahn said he has asked Germany’s federal states to have their vaccination centres ready by mid-December. “I’d rather have a ready-to-go immunization centre that remains inactive for several days than a licensed vaccine that cannot be administered,” the minister said, adding that vulnerable persons, such as the elderly, would be treated first.

Canadian officials working ‘around the clock’: health minister

The Canadian federal government, by comparison, has said little publicly about what it has planned for vaccine distribution.

The scientists at the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recently issued preliminary guidance on who should get priority for a vaccine.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced last week the government has plans to purchase more than 100 new freezers to help store incoming COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer but also Moderna.

When asked Tuesday why Canada seems to be further behind in the race to distribute vaccines, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the whole process is complicated and Health Canada hasn’t yet approved a vaccine candidate.

“I can’t speak to allied countries’ regulatory processes. I can just speak to mine,” she said.

Hajdu said the health department is “working hand in glove” with procurement officials to distribute a vaccine, once Canada gets one.

“All of our departments are working right now, around the clock actually, on making sure we have a concrete plan with the provinces and territories, that we are ready to deploy the vaccines as soon as they arrive on Canadian soil,” she said.

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Heavy snow hits parts of Nova Scotia Friday – CBC.ca

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Parts of Nova Scotia were hit with wintry weather Friday during a system that dumped up to 25 centimetres of snow in some areas before tapering off in the evening.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau said the RCMP has responded to accidents in areas including Lower Sackville, Fall River and Windsor.

“Everybody needs to just take it slow,” she said. “When the roads can be covered in snow and ice, it can lead to collisions.

“So we’re asking people to just slow down, take their time, be patient. We just want everyone to make it home at the end of the day.”

Croteau said she did not know of any significant injuries that came as a result of any of the collisions.

Several Halifax Transit bus routes were on snow plans due to slippery road conditions. Updates are being posted to the Halifax Transit Twitter page.

A Halifax Transit bus got stuck at an intersection due to heavy snow on Friday. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Friday evening, a vehicle crash knocked out electricity for some Nova Scotia Power customers in Cole Harbour. At one point, more than 2,000 customers were in the dark in the Forest Hills area.

As of 10 p.m., most of the power was restored, according to the utility’s outage map.

A picture posted to Nova Scotia Power’s Twitter account showed a Halifax Transit bus on Merrimac Drive with a power pole on top of it.

CBC meteorologist Jim Abraham said only some parts of Nova Scotia were affected by the system.

“As the sun goes down, it’s clear in Digby and clear in much of Cape Breton, but in between there’s this heavy band of snow that has plagued parts of southwestern and central Nova Scotia all day,” said Abraham.

However, Abraham said most of the snow was supposed to taper off by about 7 p.m.

“It should end early enough that we can tidy it up before we go to bed,” he said.

In a tweet, the city of Halifax said the winter parking ban will be enforced from 1-6 a.m. Saturday.

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Heavy snow hits parts of Nova Scotia Friday – CBC.ca

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Parts of Nova Scotia were hit with wintry weather Friday during a system that dumped up to 25 centimetres of snow in some areas before tapering off in the evening.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau said the RCMP has responded to accidents in areas including Lower Sackville, Fall River and Windsor.

“Everybody needs to just take it slow,” she said. “When the roads can be covered in snow and ice, it can lead to collisions.

“So we’re asking people to just slow down, take their time, be patient. We just want everyone to make it home at the end of the day.”

Croteau said she did not know of any significant injuries that came as a result of any of the collisions.

Several Halifax Transit bus routes were on snow plans due to slippery road conditions. Updates are being posted to the Halifax Transit Twitter page.

A Halifax Transit bus got stuck at an intersection due to heavy snow on Friday. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Friday evening, a vehicle crash knocked out electricity for some Nova Scotia Power customers in Cole Harbour. At one point, more than 2,000 customers were in the dark in the Forest Hills area.

As of 10 p.m., most of the power was restored, according to the utility’s outage map.

A picture posted to Nova Scotia Power’s Twitter account showed a Halifax Transit bus on Merrimac Drive with a power pole on top of it.

CBC meteorologist Jim Abraham said only some parts of Nova Scotia were affected by the system.

“As the sun goes down, it’s clear in Digby and clear in much of Cape Breton, but in between there’s this heavy band of snow that has plagued parts of southwestern and central Nova Scotia all day,” said Abraham.

However, Abraham said most of the snow was supposed to taper off by about 7 p.m.

“It should end early enough that we can tidy it up before we go to bed,” he said.

In a tweet, the city of Halifax said the winter parking ban will be enforced from 1-6 a.m. Saturday.

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Cruise line says only vaccinated passengers can sail – CTV News

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Given all the problems faced by the cruise industry in 2020, the announcement by one operator that all passengers must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before they board sounds sensible.

But when Saga Cruises this week became the first to introduce the requirement, not everyone agreed — the British operator was inundated with so many responses, good and bad, it temporarily made its Twitter account private while it dealt with them.

Nevertheless, the move by Saga will be eagerly watched by many in the cruise industry interested to see if whether a vaccine rule will help kick start travel, or prove as divisive as other attempts to work around COVID-19.

Saga, which caters mostly to British people over the age of 50, told CNN Travel that the vaccinated-passengers-only rule was prompted by the results of a recent customer poll, which suggested 95 per cent of regular Saga customers would support such a policy change.

Saga Holidays’ CEO Chris Simmonds said in a statement that the decision was made partly because “many of our customers [are] amongst the first groups of people to be offered the vaccine.”

“With this in mind and having spoken with our customers, we want to ensure we are providing the safest possible experience whilst they are on holiday with us,” said Simmonds.

As well as offering cruises, Saga also organizes tours and all-inclusive holidays. Travelers will also need to be vaccinated before embarking on these vacations.

Before boarding a Saga ship, passengers must have had both COVID-19 jabs at least 14 days before departure.

Right now, Saga’s operations are paused, but the company aims to restart cruises in May 2021. If the U.K.’s vaccine rollout goes to plan, by then, a substantial number of Brits over 50 should have been inoculated against coronavirus.

Saga said crew, who largely skew younger, would not need to be vaccinated before working on board, stating that other protocols would be in place to protect staff until they’re able to receive inoculation.

The announcement raises the question of whether compulsory pre-boarding Covid vaccinations could become the norm for cruise passengers and/or staff.

Previously, testing had previously been championed as the key to unlocking the industry, but when seven people tested positive on-board small cruise ship SeaDream 1 in Nov. 2020, the efficacy of preboarding testing was called into question.

‘MULTI-LAYERED APPROACH’

Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), a global body that represents 95 per cent of the world’s cruise fleet, said “a multi layered approach” to on-board safety “is the right one to mitigate risk.”

Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokesperson for CLIA, said measures implemented by cruise lines are being constantly evaluated and will evolve “as the pandemic and circumstances change over time.”

Golin-Blaugrund wouldn’t comment on whether CLIA would enforce a vaccinated passengers-only rule for its member cruise lines.

“We share in the excitement surrounding the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and are optimistic that it will help facilitate the global recovery from the pandemic,” she told CNN Travel.

“At the same time, we understand that the rollout of the vaccine will take some time.”

Saga confirmed to CNN Travel that it will still instigate other safety measures on board its sailings, including reduced capacity, pre-departure COVID-19 testing, social distancing, increasing cabin air flow and improving on-board medical facilities.

British cruise goer Sara Roberts, 59, who was a passenger on board the virus-hit Coral Princess back in spring 2020, told CNN Travel she thinks a widespread return to cruising will only happen if and when passengers are confident ships are Covid safe.

“Vaccination is a good way forward, providing the vaccine is proven to work,” said Roberts, who expressed concern at the current wait times in the U.K. between administration of the first dose and second dose.

Following her experience last year, Roberts also has lingering concerns surrounding cruise travel more generally.

“We have sailed with the majority of cruise lines over the last 15 years and it had always been my preferred type of holiday,” she said.

“However our experience aboard the Coral Princess made me realize you are not in control of your own destiny whilst aboard a cruise. Therefore, I would not consider embarking another for the foreseeable future until COVID is no longer a risk.”

GLOBAL CRUISE LINE PERSPECTIVE

For cruise lines that serve passengers from across the world, and of all ages, establishing a vaccinated-passenger-only policy could be difficult.

But alongside Saga’s announcement, there is already some precedent for this. Australian airline Qantas last year said passengers will need to be vaccinated before boarding international flights. Meanwhile Singapore Airlines recently announced plans to become the world’s first fully vaccinated airline, pledging to inoculate all crew and staff.

There’s also a possibility that port cities will only allow travelers to disembark cruise ships if they have proof of vaccination, which would take the decision out of the cruise lines’ hands.

Last fall, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on cruising in U.S. waters was lifted, the CDC introduced its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for cruise ships, outlining the lengthy process cruise lines need to follow to recommence US cruising.

Measures include mock “trial” cruises, universal mask wearing, physical distancing and COVID-19 testing. There’s no mention of compulsory vaccinations. The guidance was issued before the vaccines had been approved.

When asked whether Royal Caribbean, which owns Royal Caribbean Cruise Line alongside Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises, would adopt a vaccinated-passengers-only policy, spokesperson Jonathon Fishman told CNN Travel that the company was “still in the process of finalizing the details for our return to service.”

“As soon as we have more information on our requirements, we will let our guests know,” he added.

MSC Cruises, which was one of the first major cruise lines to restart operations last summer — in the form of a seven-day, Italian-residents-only, Mediterranean cruise — declined to comment, deferring to the CLIA.

MSC’s voyages were paused over the festive season due to the new Italian lockdown, but MSC Grandiosa is due to restart Italian voyages this weekend.

U.K.-based cruise line Fred Olsen said it had no news to share on this front as yet.

Roger Frizzell, who represents Carnival Corporation — the cruise giant that owns Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Cunard, Holland America and P&O Cruises — also said no firm decisions had been made.

“The new vaccines represent an important breakthrough for people throughout the world, including the travel, hospitality and cruising industries,” said Frizzell.

“We are reviewing the various vaccines, but we have not made any decisions on next steps at this point.”

Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line stated that “all options regarding vaccinations” were being explored for guests and crew — but that staff safety would be at the fore.

“It is our intention that all crew members be vaccinated before boarding our vessels to begin their duties, subject to availability of the vaccine,” said a Norwegian spokesperson.

CREW PERSPECTIVE

Conny Seidler, who worked as a dancer on board the Costa Deliziosa during the first half of 2020, said she’d long expected pre-boarding COVID vaccinations to become compulsory for crew.

The Deliziosa was the last ship carrying large numbers of passengers to make it back to port amid the global shutdown of the cruise industry last year.

“You need certain vaccines to be able to work on a cruise anyway,” points out Seidler, citing the yellow fever jab and tuberculosis as examples.

“From the point of view of the cruise, it’s obviously safer and lower risk if all the crew is vaccinated.”

Seidler, who is from Austria, acknowledges that such a regulation could put off some people, but she thinks most crew members would welcome this rule.

Many crew are currently out of work, and experienced a tough time working on COVID-hit vessels in the wake of the pandemic.

“I honestly don’t think there’s going to be a lot of crew members who are going to be against the vaccine,” says Seidler. “I can imagine most of the crew will be like: ‘As long as I can work, I’m happy to do it.'”

As for the passengers, Seidler suggests some may be unwilling to travel unless they know everyone on board has been vaccinated.

But Seilder thinks most big cruise lines will be hesitant to introduce a vaccinated-passengers-only rule, because the global vaccine rollout won’t be fast enough, and it could deter certain guests.

Still, Seidler reckons the more people vaccinated on board, the safer the environment will be, and the likelier it is that cruising can recommence successfully.

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