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AstraZeneca pause could slow Canada's COVID-19 vaccine rollout – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Concerns over blood clots in patients who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine may further slow the vaccine rollout in Canada.

Provinces are reconsidering their rollout plans in light of new guidelines from NACI to avoid use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under the age of 55. NACI’s updated guidelines comes after 31 people in Germany developed blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, nine of them died.

In Germany, 2.7 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine, this puts the chance of getting a blood clot at about one in 100,000, as opposed toaone in a million chance,according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The European Medicines Agency shared similar data, with 25 people out of 20 million developing blood clots. 

“The odds of dying in a car crash are one in 100, to put that in perspective,” Rodney Russell, professor of virology and immunology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“It still puts it in the same range as dying by getting hit by lightning, but it sounds a lot worse,” he said.

The general adult population has a one in 1,000 chance of developing a blood clot in a given year. This is 100 times more likely than the risk associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

While the rare cases of blood clots are concerning, Russell is also worried about what this may do for Canada’s vaccine rollout. Canada is set to receive 1.5 million doses of the vaccine by April 4.

“The key to getting back to normal is for everyone to get vaccinated,” he said.

He said that reports saying that people aren’t showing up to get their vaccines indicates that there’s already a high rate of hesitancy among Canadians.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines came out of the gate with 95 per cent efficacy rates, a number that was much higher than anticipated, he said. When AstraZeneca released their data with a lower efficacy, people began to prefer one over the other.

He said it’s important that people understand that each vaccine will have the same end result: preparing the body to create an immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

“It’s the protein at the end of the assembly line that gets seen by the immune system,” he said.

While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which use mRNA technology, have a higher efficacy than the AstraZeneca vaccine, which uses viral vector technology, they all target the same protein.

The mRNA vaccines use molecules called mRNA to tell the body how to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, while viral vector vaccines use genetically modified virus to deliver the instructions on making the spike protein, according to Health Canada. According to the CDC, viral vector vaccines have been studied since the 1970s and most recently two viral vector vaccines have been used in Ebola outbreaks. They say that mRNA vaccines are newer with Pfizer and Moderna being the first of their kind approved in Canada and the U.S..

Russell said that it’s unfortunate that the efficacy of the various vaccines have been focused on, leading to the public to label Pfizer and Moderna as good and AstraZeneca as bad. Real-world data has allowed AstraZeneca to increase the efficacy data from 62 per cent to 76 per cent.

The news of lower efficacy was followed by Health Canada’s approval of the vaccine for use in people under age 65, an age determined by a lack of data, not safety issues, he said.

“Don’t forget, this is the vaccine that they mistakenly gave half doses in the phase three trial,” he added.

Since day one, AstraZeneca seems to be followed by bad news that Pfizer and Moderna have so far been able to avoid, and extra precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of the new vaccines.

“We’re trying to show how careful we’re being, but by doing that, then we’re pausing every week for different reasons, at some point people start to think ‘well this is garbage and shouldn’t be put in our bodies because every week there’s a new problem with it,’” he said.

If given the chance, Russell said he’d get the AstraZeneca vaccine today.

“I’d rather be vaccinated and watching for side effects than not know when I’m ever going to get a vaccine,” he said. “You still have 17 million people who’ve been vaccinated and not had any trouble.”

And there’s the trouble. Russell, like many Canadians, doesn’t know when he’ll be able to get the vaccine. He thinks it will be late summer, but in light of the latest data on AstraZeneca, it could be even later.

He said that a day or two of pauses may not cause a backlog, but if the pauses last for weeks it will cause delays and backlogs. Not to mention the potential for doses to expire and go to waste.

Canada’s rollout plan relies heavily on the use of AstraZeneca. The country has 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on order.

“It has to increase hesitancy, which is going to slow down acquisition of herd immunity,” Russell said. “And it’s vaccines that are going to get us there.”

The data surrounding AstraZeneca has cast doubt on the vaccine since the start. It’s efficacy wasn’t as high, the third phase of the trial used incorrect dosing, it wasn’t approved for use in those over age 65, and then it was. For the general public, this may be a cause for doubt in the approval process, but it shouldn’t be,said CTV News medical specialist, Dr. Marla Shapiro.

“When I look to the immediate response and how nimble and flexible we are as data evolves, it really does tell me that we should have confidence in our advisory bodies who are monitoring and really have a very high bar of safety here and really want to make sure that we’re doing no harm,” she told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

Anything that slows down the ability to vaccinate will result in a slower return to so-called normal life in Canada, said Russell.

It doesn’t help that different provinces are taking different approaches, leaving Canadians unsure of what to do. People will wonder why their province didn’t pause it, or wonder what their province knows that others don’t, he added.

A single voice from the government about why there is changing information could help ease some concerns.

“I do think we need a much better communication strategy, we need a single, solid voice explaining to the Canadian population where the information is coming from, why we’re responding the way we do. We need to be completely transparent,” said Shapiro.

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IRCC: Canada welcomed over 35,000 new immigrants in June – Canada Immigration News

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Published on July 28th, 2021 at 05:00am EDT Updated on July 28th, 2021 at 07:14am EDT

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Canada recorded its strongest month for new permanent resident arrivals during the pandemic in June 2021, according to the office of Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, the minister says “We are going to make good on our commitment to land 401,000 new permanent residents.”

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Under its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, the Canadian government is seeking to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants annually, beginning this year. Prior to the pandemic, this target was set at 341,000 newcomers.

The plan is the most ambitious in Canada’s history. Only once has Canada welcomed over 400,000 immigrants in a year. This took place in 1913, but Canadian immigration plummeted immediately after due to the onset of the First World War.

The minister’s office estimates that Canada welcomed over 35,000 new permanent residents in June. In follow up email correspondence with CIC News, the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said its preliminary figures show Canada welcomed 35,700 immigrants last month. This figure is significantly higher than Canada’s totals in recent months.

Canada got off to a strong start to the year. It welcomed 24,680 new immigrants in January but lost momentum in the months to follow. The country then welcomed 23,395 in February, 22,425 in March, and 21,155 in April, and 17,100 in May.

Altogether Canada has welcomed some 143,000 new permanent residents through the first six months of 2021 which remains well short of the pace it needs to welcome 401,000 newcomers by the end of this year.

In order to achieve this newcomer target, Canada needs to land another 258,000 immigrants — an average of 43,000 per month — over the rest of the year.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Welcoming this volume of immigration over the remaining six months will be difficult but there is an outside chance it can be achieved.

Prior to the pandemic Canada welcomed an average of 25,000 to 35,000 newcomers per month. Immigration levels tend to be higher in the warmer months as more newcomers arrive during favourable weather conditions and leading up to the start of the academic and business calendar in September.

In 2019, levels were stronger in the second half of the year compared to the first as Canada welcomed 180,000 newcomers between July and December.

Assuming Canada welcomes that same level in the second half of 2021, it will conclude the year at just over 320,000 new permanent residents which is still below its target.

However there are several tailwinds remaining that could propel Canada closer to its newcomer goal.

Some 23,000 additional Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders are now eligible to move to Canada after restrictions on them were eased on June 21st.

Anyone else newly approved for permanent residence can also immediately move to Canada as a result of this easing.

IRCC also introduced six new permanent residency streams that will enable some 90,000 international student graduates and essential workers to remain in Canada. The department’s goal is to process some 40,000 of these applications by the end of this year.

The third tailwind is also from the domestic pool of permanent residence candidates. IRCC has been breaking various Express Entry records throughout the year as it prioritizes Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates.

Draw sizes are larger than ever while cut-off scores are at record lows. According to IRCC, some 90 per cent of CEC candidates currently reside in Canada so it is easier for the department to transition them to permanent residence amid the pandemic than candidates abroad. IRCC has already issued nearly 100,000 Express Entry invitations this year which is almost double the invitations it issued at the same point in 2020. A significant portion of those invited during the pandemic should complete their permanent residence landing by the end of 2021.

The minister’s office told the Globe that the 45,100 permanent residence applications IRCC processed in June were the highest ever, which suggests that IRCC has the capacity to process and finalize the necessary number of applications to achieve its levels goal.

There are risks along the way that could disrupt IRCC’s plans. The global coronavirus situation remains volatile and things such as increased case levels and travel restrictions could get in the way. For example, Canada continues to restrict flights from its main newcomer source country, India.

A prolonging of this restriction could get in the way of IRCC’s goal. Further delays to COPR holder arrivals is another risk. IRCC is currently seeking to correspond with thousands of expired COPR holders to arrange their landing in Canada. This is a time-consuming process as IRCC needs to individually contact each COPR holder to ensure they have all the necessary documents to complete the immigration process.

Nonetheless, the coming months should see immigration levels remain high. There also remains a strong chance that monthly immigration totals will hit record highs by the end of the year due to the combination of more overseas arrivals and in-Canada applicants completing their landings.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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Sask. softball gets boost with Team Canada's bronze finish – CTV News Saskatoon

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SASKATOON —
Members of the Saskatchewan softball community say Team Canada’s bronze medal win will help the future of the sport.

“Watching the Olympics, seeing Team Canada, seeing players that they recognize and names they recognize. It sets a drive for them to compete at the sport, and train hard, and have a goal and a dream of playing in the Olympics,” said Bryan Kosteroski, president of the Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association.

One of the names on Team Canada’s roster that stood out for Kosteroski was Jennifer Gilbert, who was born in Saskatoon.

“Now you look at Jennifer Gilbert, she was born in Saskatoon and has that Saskatchewan connection, they’re going to look at that and they’re going to say to themselves ‘you know what? I’m going to train, and I’m going to train hard. I want to be at the Olympic games in the future,” Kosteroski said.

“That’s the goal with all of these young ladies, that’s why they’re playing the sport, and that’s their drive, to play in the Olympics.”

Guy Jacobson, executive director for Softball Saskatchewan, said exposure coming to the sport of softball is always a good thing, and Team Canada’s win should have a big impact.

“It gives young players, especially young female players aspiring to maybe go further in the sport, an opportunity to think that there’s some great things down the path for them,” Jacobson told CTV News.

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Disney to close almost all of its stores in Canada by next month – CBC.ca

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Disney is planning on closing down almost all of its retail stores in Canada by next month.

The iconic chain announced in March that it planned to close 60 locations across North America this year, but had no specific comment on its Canadian locations, which at the time numbered 18.

“While consumer behaviour has shifted toward online shopping, the global pandemic has changed what consumers expect from a retailer,” the company’s statement at the time said. “Disney will remain flexible in its approach and continue to evolve its retail strategy to best meet the needs of consumers when and where they want.”

Since then, two stores in B.C. and one in Ontario have closed. It now appears as though almost all the remaining stores are slated to close down within weeks.

The chain currently has three locations in Vancouver, two in Calgary, two in Edmonton, one in Winnipeg, one in Ottawa five in the Greater Toronto Area and two elsewhere in Ontario. According to the store locator map on the company’s Canadian website, all but two of the GTA stores say they will be closed as of Aug. 18.

A spokesperson for Disney did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the fate of the two GTA stores not apparently slated for closure according to the chain’s website: one in the Eaton Centre downtown, and one in Scarborough in the eastern end of the city.

Shift to online

Retail analyst Bruce Winder says Disney has likely found more efficient ways to drive its brand and merchandise.

He says he expects the company will eventually connect its e-commerce platform shopDisney to its subscription streaming service Disney+.

The closure of Disney stores in Canada is part of sweeping changes hitting the retail industry and malls, Winder says.

“Malls are going to change considerably in terms of what they do and how they operate and what kind of stores are in there,” he says.

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