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B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations highest since May – Vancouver Is Awesome

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B.C. health officials had a mix of good news and bad news related to COVID-19 today. The good news was that it announced that third doses of vaccine will start to be rolled out to those older than 70 years, and some health-care workers. In what is expected to provide better protection, the plan is to start providing third doses to everyone in B.C., starting in January.

The bad news was that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. is at a new high since May 13: 390.

Of those, 155 are intensive care units (ICUs) – more than at any time since September 22 – and 133 COVID-19 patients in ICUs are unvaccinated.

Of the 43 COVID-19 patients younger than 50 years old who are now in ICUs in B.C., and 42 of those people are unvaccinated, Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

Another two people have died from COVID-19 in the past day, raising B.C.’s pandemic death toll to 2,131. New cases continue to rack up, with health officials newly diagnosing 457 British Columbians with COVID-19 in the past day.

Of the 202,973 people known to have contracted COVID-19 in B.C. since the first case was detected in January, 2020, 96.4%, or 195,646 people, are deemed by the province to have recovered. In most cases, that diagnosis is because the patients have gone more than 10 days after first feeling symptoms, and are therefore considered to be not infectious. 

Today’s higher number of hospitalizations may in part be due to a data correction.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said there had been recent inaccurate hospitalization data from Interior Health.

“In total, the number of people ever hospitalized who had COVID-19 in Interior Health has gone up by about 204 – from 1,544 people to 1,748 people,” she said. “And the number of people currently in hospital will go up, from 23, which is reported today, to 63. … It is important to recognize that the overall number of cases is accurate, and stays the same. It’s the number of people who have ever been hospitalized as part of their COVID-19 infection that we are now correcting.”

She added that in addition to the official number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, there are “in the vicinity of” 170 additional people in B.C. hospitals who no longer have acute COVID-19 illnesses, and who are not deemed infectious, but who are taking up beds because they are dealing with lingering health problems. 

Some good news is that B.C.’s total number of hospital beds appears to have risen. Earlier this month, Health Minister Adrian Dix said that B.C. had 9,218 base beds, which largely existed pre-pandemic, and 2,353 so-called “surge” beds that were newly added during the pandemic. Today, he said B.C. has 9,229 base beds, and 2,553 surge beds, which would be a total of 11,782 beds. With 8,817 filled base beds, and 410 filled surge beds, B.C.’s total hospital-bed occupancy is now 78.3%. Dix has said numerous times that pre-pandemic, B.C. hospitals had been at 103% capacity. 

The lower occupancy rate at B.C. hospitals now is because the province has been postponing surgeries to ensure that there is room in hospitals if there is a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Between October 17 and October 23, 200 surgeries were postponed, Dix said. The postponed surgeries in that week included:
• 17 in Fraser Health;
• 77 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 98 in Island Health;
• eight in Northern Health; and
• none in Interior Health. 

“There have been now been 2,140 surgical postponements,” Dix said. “For the most recent reporting week we have – from October 3 to October 9 – authorities report that 6,604 surgeries were completed.”

Despite more room in B.C. hospitals than pre-pandemic, there are parts of the province – particularly in Northern Health – where hospitals’ ICUs are at capacity. So far 67 ICU patients from that region have been transported to hospitals in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. 

B.C. has been rapidly hiring contact tracing workers who determine who might have come in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19. There are now 1,542 contact tracers in B.C., including 20 people who were hired in the past week. 

B.C. for the first time released the exact number of people who have so far received third doses of vaccine: 90,425. Those doses have largely gone to immunocompromised people.

Vaccinations in the general population have slowed as the vast majority of people are already vaccinated.

Health officials administered initial vaccine doses to 2,726 people in the past day, as well as second doses of vaccine to 7,849 people. 

Across B.C., 89.6% of eligible people older than 12 have had at least one dose of vaccine, with 84.5% of eligible people having had two doses, according to the B.C. government.

Of the 4,155,181 B.C. residents who have received one dose of vaccine since mid-December, 2020, 94.3%, or 3,918,385, are fully vaccinated, with two doses.

The B.C. government estimated in July that the province’s total population is 5,147,712, so Glacier Media’s calculation is that 80.7% of B.C.’s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 76.1% of the province’s total population has had two doses.

Northern Health is by far the hardest hit region in B.C., in part because the vaccination rate is lower in that area.

Glacier Media’s broke down the 457 new infections by health region, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets).
• 1 in Fraser Health (176);
• 0.5 in Vancouver Coastal Health (61);
• 1.1 in Interior Health (83);
• 2.7 in Northern Health (82); and
• 0.6 in Island Health (55).

There were no new infections among people who normally do not reside in Canada.

The result by health region, for the 4,829 people fighting active infections, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) is:
• 11.1 in Fraser Health (2,002);
•  5.4 in Vancouver Coastal Health (670);
•  8.7 in Interior Health (642);
•  29.2 in Northern Health (877); and
•  6.8 in Island Health (579).

There are 59 active infections in the province in people who normally reside outside B.C. 

Active outbreaks are ongoing at 28 health-care facilities. The outbreak at Evergreen Manor in White Rock has been declared over. •

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Mixing Pfizer, AstraZ COVID-19 shots with Moderna gives better immune response – UK study

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A major British study into mixing COVID-19 vaccines has found that people had a better immune response when they received a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech shots followed by Moderna nine weeks later, according to the results on Monday.

“We found a really good immune response across the board…, in fact, higher than the threshold set by Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine two doses,” Matthew Snape, the Oxford professor behind the trial dubbed Com-COV2, told Reuters.

The findings supporting flexible dosing will offer some hope to poor and middle income countries which may need to combine different brands between first and second shots if supplies run low or become unstable.

“I think the data from this study will be especially interesting and valuable to low- and middle-income countries where they’re still rolling out the first two doses of vaccines,” Snape said.

“We’re showing…you don’t have to stick rigidly to receiving the same vaccine for a second dose…and that if the programme will be delivered more quickly by using multiple vaccines, then it is okay to do so.”

If the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is followed by a Moderna or Novavax shot, higher antibodies and T-cell responses were induced versus two doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford, according to researchers at the University of Oxford.

The study of 1,070 volunteers also found that a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine followed by a Moderna shot was better than two doses of the standard Pfizer-BioNTech course.

Pfizer-BioNTech followed by Novavax induced higher antibodies than the two-dose Oxford-AstraZeneca schedule, although this schedule induced lower antibody and T-cell responses than the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech schedule.

No safety concerns were raised, according to the Oxford University study published in the Lancet medical journal.

Many countries have been deploying a mix and match well before robust data was available as nations were faced with soaring infection numbers, low supplies and slow immunisation over some safety concerns.

Longevity of protection offered by vaccines has been under scrutiny, with booster doses being considered as well amid surging cases. New variants, including Delta and Omicron, have now increased the pressure to speed up vaccination campaigns.

Blood samples from participants were tested against the Wild-Type, Beta and Delta variants, researchers of the Com-COV2 study said, adding that vaccines’ efficacy against the variants had waned, but this was consistent across mixed courses.

Deploying vaccines using technology from different platforms – like Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA, AstraZeneca’s viral vector and Novavax’s protein-based shot – and within the same schedule is new.

The results may inform new approaches to immunisation against other diseases, he said.

The study also found that a first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine followed by any of the other candidates in the study generated a particularly robust response, consistent with findings in June.

The study was designed as a so-called “non-inferiority” study – the intent is to demonstrate that mixing is not substantially worse than the standard schedules – and compares the immune system responses to the gold-standard responses reported in previous clinical trials of each vaccine.

 

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Josephine Mason and Mark Heinrich)

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WHO advises against using blood plasma of recovered patients as COVID-19 treatment – CBC.ca

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The World Health Organization on Monday advised against using the blood plasma of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat those who are ill, saying current evidence shows it neither improves survival nor reduces the need for ventilators.

The hypothesis for using plasma is that the antibodies it contains could neutralize the novel coronavirus, stopping it from replicating and halting tissue damage.

Several studies testing convalescent blood plasma have shown no apparent benefit for treating COVID-19 patients who are severely ill. A U.S.-based trial was halted in March after it was found that plasma was unlikely to help mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients.

The method is also costly and time-consuming to administer, the WHO said in a statement Monday.

A panel of international experts made a strong recommendation against the use of convalescent plasma in patients with non-severe illness, the WHO said. They also advised against its use in patients with severe and critical illness, except in the context of a randomized controlled trial.

The recommendation, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), is based on evidence from 16 trials involving 16,236 patients with non-severe, severe and critical COVID-19 infection.

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COVID vaccine clinics available this week – The North Bay Nugget

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A number of appointments for COVID-19 vaccine clinics – including some for children five to 11 years of age – are available across the region this week.

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Only individuals five to 11 years of age will be able to secure an appointment at a child and youth Clinic, although older siblings or parents will be able to receive an adult dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at these clinics if they are accompanying a child to their appointment.

The pediatric COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in five to 11-year-olds is not yet available at regular clinics. However, it is available at participating pharmacies throughout the district. Parents and guardians are encouraged to book an appointment at one of the participating pharmacies if they would like their child immunized this week and cannot secure an appointment at a clinic hosted by the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit.

Individuals are encouraged to bring a health card or another form of identification, if possible, as well as any required documentation for those with underlying health conditions eligible for a third dose. Eligible individuals who received their last dose before June 21 will be able to book and receive their booster dose this week.

Flu shots will also be available for those with COVID-19 appointments at the adult clinics this week.

Appointments are still available at the following clinics this week:

Parry Sound,  Wednesday, child and youth clinic at Parry Sound High School (111 Isabella St., Parry Sound) from 4 to 8 p.m.

South River,  Thursday, child and youth clinic at Almaguin Highlands Secondary School (21 Mountain View Rd., South River) from 4 to 8 p.m.

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Mattawa, Friday, child and youth clinic at Élisabeth Bruyère Catholic Secondary School (359 Brydges St., Mattawa) from 4 to 8 p.m.;

North Bay,  Saturday, child and youth clinic at Northgate Shopping Centre (1500 Fisher Street, North Bay), former Gap location, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sturgeon Falls,  Tuesday, child and youth clinic at West Nipissing Public Secondary School (175 Ethel St., Sturgeon Falls) from 4 to 8 p.m. and  Wednesday, at Marcel Noel Hall (219 O’Hara St., Sturgeon Falls) from 4 to 7 p.m.

To book an appointment or for more information, visit myhealthunit.ca/GetVaccinated or call the health unit call centre at 1-844-478-1400 or 705-995-3810.

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