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B.C. COVID-19 vaccine plan: Seniors 80+ can get shot starting March 15 – Vancouver Sun

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Vaccinations for people between the ages of 60-79 will begin in mid-April, while those under 59 can get their shots between July and September

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VICTORIA — Seniors over 80 and Indigenous people over 65 will start receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations on March 15, B.C.’s premier said Monday morning as he released details of the province’s mass vaccination plan for the general public.

The province will extend the timeline between the first and second dose to 16 weeks, or 112 days, to allow a broader segment of the population to receive vaccine protection sooner. During Monday’s press conference, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said research has shown that one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine provides up to 90 per cent protection for up to four months.

Approximately 400,000 people, including 175,000 seniors over 80 living at home and 35,000 Indigenous seniors over 65, will receive their first dose of the vaccine in mid-March and early April as part of phase 2 of B.C.’s four-phase vaccination strategy.

About 190,000 vaccines are destined for high-risk groups, including health care workers, and high-risk people living in congregate settings, such as shelters or correctional facilities. Vaccines will also be delivered to about 9,000 people living in remote or isolated Indigenous communities who are still waiting for the vaccine.

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Premier John Horgan said while the vaccine plan will likely provide optimism for seniors, he stressed that it’s import for people to continue to follow public health guidelines over the coming months.

“Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this,” Horgan said. “We have months to go. And I want British Columbians to take the good news we’re hearing today with the joy that it deserves but we need to remind ourselves not just today but next week and next month that we have a long long way to go.”

Seniors can begin calling to book their appointment on or after March 8. Each health authority will have their own call centre number.

The province has divided the over-80 population into subgroups the avoid overloading the call system, which has been a source of frustration in other provinces. The subgroups are as follows:

• On March 8, seniors over 90 and Indigenous people over 65 can begin calling to book their appointment starting March 15.
• On March 15, seniors over 85 can call to book a vaccination appointment starting March 22.
• On March 22, seniors over 80 can call to book their vaccination appointment starting March 29.

The province is asking people to only call when they are eligible. Anyone who misses their age-based dates can still call and book their vaccination any time after they become eligible.

Seniors can have a family member, friend or any support person call for them. Health authority call centre information and step-by-step process will soon be available via gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst and health authority websites. Fraser Health Authority will also have an online booking system because of the number of seniors in the region.

When people call their regional health authority, they will be asked for their full name, date of birth, postal code, personal health number and contact information. People will be given a choice of nearby vaccination clinics and the call centre agent will confirm the time and location of the vaccination appointment. The province will also direct people to information if they are feeling hesitant about receiving the vaccine.

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To avoid fraud, the province is warning people that the health authority will never ask people for their social insurance number, driver’s license number or banking and credit card details.

Vaccinations for people between the ages of 60 to 79 will begin in mid-April as part of Phase 3. The vaccine will be prioritized based on five-year increments, starting with people aged 75 to 79 and Indigenous people over 60, who can start registering for an appointment at the end of March. People will be expected to register through a two-step online registration and booking system with a provincial call centre to help those who need it.

Finally, those under 59 will receive their vaccinations between July and September, again based on five-year increments, going from oldest to youngest.

The province is expecting 415,000 vaccines to arrive between now and mid-April, including 255,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine that will provide first doses until March 29. Two shipments, or 160,000 doses, of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive in mid-to-late March.

Henry said the third vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca, approved by Health Canada on Friday, could provide the opportunity for some first-responders and essential front-line workers — such as postal workers, poultry workers, teachers and police officers — to get the vaccine sooner. She said those workers could have the choice between receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine sooner or waiting for until their age category for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

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“I think it’s really good news,” Henry said. “It means that everyone moves up in line.”

B.C. is expecting 60,000 doses of AstraZeneca by the second week of March. The federal government has secured 22 million doses, which are expected to arrive between April and September.

The two-dose AstraZeneca viral vector vaccine vaccine has been shown to be 62 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 starting from two weeks after the second dose, said Health Canada. It is considered “fridge stable,” making it easier to transport and distribute than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which have to be stored in extremely cold temperatures.

The first phase of the vaccination, which started in January, targeted residents, staff and essential visitors of long-term care and assisted living homes — the majority of whom have received their jabs — as well as health workers caring for COVID-19 patients and people living in remote Indigenous communities some of whom are still waiting for their shots.

During the first two weeks of March, vaccinations will be delivered to health care workers, high-risk seniors and staff in independent living homes, high-risk seniors living in supportive housing and high-risk people living in congregate settings like shelters, group homes, correctional facilities and residential treatment centres. Another 70,000 people will receive their second dose in March.

The biggest challenge for the province so far has been supply delays as Canada relies on drug manufacturers outside its borders for vaccine doses.

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The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which have been administered during Phase 1, have shown to be more than 90 per cent effective and have reduced COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes.

As of Feb. 26, 252,373 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province, 73,808 of which are second doses. That represents about 3.5 per cent of B.C.’s population, which lags behind nearby Washington State which has vaccinated about 14 per cent of its population.

The B.C. government has promised that approximately 4.3 million British Columbians over 18 will be vaccinated by September, equating to 8.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

with files from Cheryl Chan

kderosa@postmedia.com
twitter.com/katiederosayyj


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B.C. kicks off COVID campaign to boost vaccination – Powell River Peak

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia has kicked off a new COVID-19 vaccination campaign to encourage as many people as possible over the next two weeks to get immunized at places that are convenient, like beaches and summer camps.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the new strategy, called Vax for BC, gives residents who aren’t vaccinated, and those who’ve waited at least seven weeks since their first shot a chance to visit walk-in clinics.

A campaign on Aug. 4 dubbed Walk-in Wednesday will make 20,000 doses available at clinics before a push later in the month and in September to target young people returning to school.

“People in B.C. will be able to get vaccinated on your way to work, during your lunch break, or even when cooling off at the lake,” Henry said Tuesday.

The campaign aims to increase immunization by switching the focus from mass clinics to mobile clinics where advance booking is not required but is encouraged.

“These next two weeks are crucial to our immunization campaign and most importantly, protecting our province and putting the pandemic in our rear-view mirror,” she said, adding two doses of a vaccine provide the best protection against infection.

British Columbia’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases dipped to 36 in early July, but recently climbed to 86 cases.

The province reported 150 new cases on Tuesday, with more than 60 per cent of them in the Interior Health region. There were 783 active infections in B.C., up from 695 on Monday, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Recent statistics show that most new cases of COVID-19 have been among unvaccinated people in the province, where 62.3 per cent of eligible residents are fully immunized and 80.7 per cent have received at least one dose.

Data from the BC Centre of Disease Control show that less than five per cent of COVID-19 cases from June 15 to July 15 were among fully vaccinated people. During the same time period, 78 per cent of people hospitalized in B.C. with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Henry said infections are spreading among clusters of people in communities where vaccination rates are lower so they will be a focus of the immunization plan, including in regions covered by Northern and Interior Health.

Between one and two per cent of people in B.C. are against being immunized, but that number could be as high as five per cent for COVID-19 vaccines among organized groups that are particularly vocal, especially on social media, she said.

People who are unvaccinated could be barred from establishments, Henry said, adding she supports that move by any business because outbreaks could sicken staff and shut down operations.

“We absolutely can say ‘To come in here you have to be immunized.’ And that gives people a level of comfort that they’re in a safer environment,” she said, adding outbreaks have occurred at crowded indoor events like weddings and funerals as well as at nightclubs where unvaccinated people introduced the virus.

While immunization is not mandatory, it’s particularly important for health-care workers, Henry said, noting unvaccinated staff at long-term care homes must wear masks and be regularly tested at work.

“I have very little patience for people who aren’t immunized in health care. We’ve had a vaccination policy for influenza. We will have a very similar policy that if people choose not to be immunized and you work in health care, then you will not be able to work in certain settings without taking additional measures. There will be consequences for that decision.”

The highest number of unvaccinated residents, at 32.5 per cent, are in the North Health region, while that percentage is at 18.1 per cent in Vancouver Coastal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

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The science didn't change, the virus did, Fauci says as U.S. CDC updates mask guidance – CTV News

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The change in CDC guidance recommending all Americans wear a mask indoors in areas with high COVID-19 transmission is a sign of the change the Delta variant has carved into the pandemic landscape, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.

“We’re not changing the science,” the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “The virus changed, and the science evolved with the changing virus.”

Before Tuesday, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention advised only unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors. But with the spread of the Delta variant — believed to be at least twice as transmissible as the Alpha variant, which was dominate in the U.S. in the spring — and vaccination rates remaining low while infection rates on the rise, the CDC updated its guidance to advise that everyone in high transmission areas wear a mask when indoors.

Currently, only 49.2% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Some experts point to unvaccinated Americans as an important factor in the mask guidance change, saying the measure had to be implemented to get them to mask up.

“Eighty million American adults have made a choice. They made a choice not to get the vaccine, and those same people are not masking and that is the force that is propagating this virus around this country,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN.

But others, including the CDC, said the decision had more to do with new data showing that, unlike with other strains, vaccinated people who are infected with the Delta variant can still get high viral loads, making it more likely they could spread the virus.

“Unlike the Alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn’t believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with a Delta variant,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, citing information investigators found when looking at outbreak clusters.

With nearly all 50 states undergoing a surge of new cases averaging at least 10% more than the week before, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said the U.S. is seeing just how dangerous the variant is in real time.

“This is actually what you want to happen with science. You want science to be dynamic, you want recommendations to reflect the latest science, and that’s what you see in the recommendations that were issued today,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.

But one thing hasn’t changed, Murthy added, saying data is still showing current vaccines are highly protective against infection, severe illness and death from the Delta variant.

Vaccinations are still the ‘bedrock’ of ending the pandemic

While masking up will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., getting vaccinated is still “the bedrock” to ending the pandemic, Murthy said.

“Vaccines still work. They still save lives. They still prevent hospitalizations at a remarkably high rate,” he added.

Vaccination rates are still not where they need to be to get enough of the U.S. inoculated against the virus to slow or stop its spread, experts have said. Many experts have advocated for vaccine requirements as one way to increase vaccination rates in the U.S.

Los Angeles officials announced Tuesday that the city will require all of its employees to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.

“The fourth wave is here, and the choice for Angelenos couldn’t be clearer — get vaccinated or get COVID-19,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. “We’re committed to pursuing a full vaccine mandate. I urge employers across Los Angeles to follow this example,” he added.

The move comes after the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Los Angeles County nearly doubled in the past two weeks. There are currently 745 people hospitalized with the virus, compared to 372 people two weeks ago, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Such requirements by local entities are “very reasonable,” Murthy said Tuesday.

Some U.S. hospitals and federal agencies are mandating that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing. Murthy noted that many private institutions are considering following suit.

“Those are decisions the federal government is not going to make,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “It’s going to be institutions that make them, but I do think that they are very reasonable, because this is a time when we’ve got to take all steps possible to protect not just ourselves, but the people around us, from COVID-19.”

Officials call for more vaccinations as hospitals are overwhelmed

The impact of the Delta variant and increasing cases can be seen in the data and in the strain on hospitals.

After decreases over the past couple of months, cases of COVID-19 among children and teens are on the rise again, with more than 38,600 infected last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday.

More than 4.13 million kids have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Kids represent more than 14% of the weekly reported cases.

In Springfield-Greene County in Missouri, the CoxHealth hospital system is having to expand its morgue capacity due to an increase in COVID-19 related deaths, President and CEO Steve Edwards said Tuesday.

“Last year we did expand it and we are expanding it further. We’ve actually brought in a portable piece of technology that allows bodies to be cooled and placed outside the morgue. We have had to expand that because the mortality has gone up so much lately,” Edwards said during an update in the county on behalf of CoxHealth.

In explaining what he called the “severity of the disease”, Edwards said, “We’ve had over 4,000 admissions for COVID. And with 549 deaths that means thirteen and a half percent of our admissions have died. And when we look in our ICUs, about 40% of patients that are in the ICU don’t make it out of the ICU.”

In New Orleans, as cases have gone up, hospitals have become strapped for resources and started turning people away, Communications Director for the City of New Orleans Beau Tidwell said Tuesday.

“For God’s sake, get your vaccine,” he added.

The CDC called on doctors and public health officials to act urgently to get more Americans vaccinated.

“COVID-19 cases have increased over 300% nationally from June 19 to July 23, 2021, along with parallel increases in hospitalizations and deaths driven by the highly transmissible B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant,” the CDC said in Tuesday’s health alert.

Without more vaccinations, the U.S. could see increased morbidity and mortality related to COVID-19, which could continue to overwhelm healthcare facilities, the CDC said.

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Vaccinated should wear masks indoors in US COVID hotspots: CDC – Al Jazeera English

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People in parts of the United States where COVID-19 infections are surging should wear masks indoors even if they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the country’s public health agency has advised.

Citing new information about the ability of the Delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and help protect others,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during an afternoon news briefing.

The US is averaging more than 57,000 coronavirus cases a day and 24,000 hospitalisations, and public health officials for weeks have warned that COVID-19 infections are increasing, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates.

Walensky said while vaccinated Americans represent “a very small amount of transmission” – and stressed that the vast majority of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths is occurring among unvaccinated individuals – vaccinated people still have the ability to pass the virus on to others.

“With the Delta variant, vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever,” she added.

Rising infections

The recent rise in cases comes after mask-wearing and other public health restrictions were loosened, and restaurants, bars and other venues reopened in many parts of the country amid a sharp increase in national vaccination rates.

The new CDC recommendations are not binding and many Americans, especially in Republican-leaning states, may choose not to follow them.

“This is not a decision that we … have made lightly,” Walensky said about the new guidelines, acknowledging that many people are frustrated by the ongoing pandemic. “This new data weighs heavily on me, this new guidance weighs heavily on me.”

US President Joe Biden welcomed the agency’s recommendations on Tuesday as “another step on our journey to defeating this virus”.

“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it,” Biden said in a statement, adding that masking students in schools “is inconvenient … but will allow them to learn and be with their classmates with the best available protection”.

“Most importantly, today’s announcement also makes clear that the most important protection we have against the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. Although most U.S. adults are vaccinated, too many are not. While we have seen an increase in vaccinations in recent days, we still need to do better,” Biden said.

The CDC had advised people to wear masks for much of the pandemic in settings where they could not maintain six feet (1.8 metres) of distance between themselves and others.

In April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the guidance was eased further for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.

Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.

Some municipalities and states have re-imposed mask mandates amid the recent increase in cases. [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Coronavirus vaccines are widely available across the US, and 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated while 69 percent have received at least one dose, according to CDC data. But millions of people remain unvaccinated – and the recent increase in cases is especially pronounced in US states with low vaccination rates, such as Florida.

‘Wrong direction’

Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, warned during the weekend that the US was moving “in the wrong direction” on the coronavirus – and he urged people to get jabs.

“If you look at the inflection of the curve of new infections,” Fauci said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union programme on Sunday, stressing that most infections are among Americans who have not been vaccinated.

“It is among the unvaccinated and since we have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that’s a problem – particularly when you have a variant like Delta which has this extraordinary characteristic of being able to spread very efficiently and very easily from person to person,” he said.

Some municipalities and states have re-imposed mask mandates amid the increase in cases.

In St Louis, Missouri, a county-wide mask mandate took effect on Monday, requiring most people, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors and on public transportation.

Sixty percent of US adults are fully vaccinated while 69 percent have received at least one dose, according to data from the CDC [File: Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters]

Los Angeles, California also recently reinstated its mask requirement, while the top public health official in King County, Washington, which includes the city of Seattle, last week asked everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces – even if they are vaccinated.

Calls have also grown to require health workers, among others, to be vaccinated.

“Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” a group of more than 50 healthcare organisations, including the American Medical Association, said on Monday.

That same day, the US Department of Veterans Affairs said it would require its doctors and other medical staff to get COVID-19 vaccines, becoming the first federal agency to impose such a mandate.

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