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B.C. groups concerned over lack of compromise in COVID-19 vaccine card plan – Sooke News Mirror

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A group of British Columbia community organizations wants changes to the province’s COVID-19 vaccine card, saying it fails to account for the needs of people who face legitimate barriers to getting a vaccine or proof of immunization.

A joint letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the plan could restrict access to services for people who can’t get a shot for medical reasons, as well as people without government identification.

It was released by Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society this month and says B.C. has failed to identify a workaround for people without ID, which could include women fleeing violence, people who are homeless and undocumented migrants.

The vaccine card system requires patrons to show proof of at least one vaccine dose by Monday and two doses by Oct. 24 to access certain indoor settings, including ticketed sports events, concerts, restaurants, gyms and movie theatres.

The card will not be required at grocery and liquor stores, pharmacies, fast food restaurants, salons, barbers, hotels, banks, retail stores, food banks and shelters.

B.C. residents need a personal health number to order a paper copy of their vaccine card or to download the card online for display on a smartphone. The card will be checked alongside government identification.

“If you’re homeless and living outside, carrying around a piece of paper is just not going to work out,” said Rowan Burdge, director of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and a signatory of the letter. “We’ve seen encampments where people’s belongings have been taken away.”

The letter says the province hasn’t done enough to follow the advice of organizations that understand how best to navigate public health guidelines for those living in poverty or with a disability, for example.

Disability Alliance BC, which also signed the letter, said in a separate statement that mandating so-called vaccine passports without accommodating people who cannot get vaccinated due to their medical condition is “blatant discrimination.”

The Health Ministry said in a statement it appreciates the groups’ feedback and it has “been doing what we can to address some of these challenges.”

Asked about accommodation for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons, the ministry said there will be an exemption process “for extremely rare circumstances.”

“Dr. Henry has said that if you are unvaccinated, for whatever reason, these kind of indoor settings with lots of people are high risk right now,” it said.

Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba have also introduced vaccine passport programs.

Burdge said she doesn’t want requests made in the letter to be conflated with anti-vaccination rhetoric.

“We absolutely are supporting people to get vaccinated. … But we’re worried about the systemic barriers that are going to come from this particular policy.”

READ MORE: Here’s what you need to know about B.C.’s new vaccine card

A number of B.C. communities have seen protests against the vaccine card, including outside hospitals.

Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 immunity task force, said there’s a widespread sense that COVID-19 has “hijacked our lives,” leading some people to scapegoat the public health measures adopted to protect the health-care system and those who are too young to receive a vaccine.

But Naylor said those measures, including achieving a higher rate of vaccination, are the “only way to restore normalcy in the months ahead,” particularly as the highly contagious Delta variant makes up the majority of Canada’s COVID-19 cases.

Vaccine passports have a role to play in curbing the fourth wave by encouraging immunization among people who may be late getting their first shot, but who aren’t staunchly opposed to vaccination, said Naylor, who led a review of Canada’s public health system after the outbreak of SARS in 2003.

Those opposed to vaccination or vaccine cards are “simply inviting continuation of some of the measures that everyone would like to avoid,” he said in an interview.

Naylor said even staunch libertarians, or those who believe in maximal freedom of choice and minimal government regulation, acknowledge that one person’s civil liberties stop when they lead to harm or encroach on the liberties of others.

“The notion here that you have people who could do harm to other people is relevant in considering the constraints on the civil liberties claim by people who choose to remain unvaccinated in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic.”

The Canadian Press


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COVID-19 vaccine boosters recommended for long-term care residents, national advisory committee says – CBC.ca

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Canadian seniors living in long-term care homes and other congregate-care settings should get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, Canada’s vaccine advisory body recommends.   

Residents of such sites, including retirement homes and assisted-living facilities “are at increased risk for COVID-19 infection because of their daily interactions with other residents and staff,” said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) in updated guidance released online on Tuesday. 

“They are also at increased risk for severe disease because of their age and underlying medical conditions.”

The amount of time that has passed since residents received their initial vaccinations is a factor in the recommendation —  given that older adults may “have a less durable response to vaccines and/or past infection compared to younger adults.” 

“Older Canadians residing in congregate living settings were prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine when the vaccines were first authorized; therefore, many completed their COVID-19 vaccination series early in the vaccine roll-out, leaving more time for waning should it occur,” NACI said. 

Many long-term care residents had their initial COVID-19 shots spaced out over shorter intervals based on the manufacturers’ guidance — 21 days between doses for Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) and 28 days for Moderna (Spikevax).

Current evidence now suggests that longer intervals between doses result in higher immune responses, NACI said, and therefore the original schedule may have contributed to “more rapid waning of protection, including against variants of concern.”

In its guidance, NACI noted that its booster shot recommendation for residents of long-term care homes is not the same as recommending a third dose as part of the initial vaccination schedule. 

“The intent of a booster dose is to restore protection that may have waned over time in individuals who responded adequately to a primary vaccine series,” the advisory committee said. 

That’s different than the recommendation NACI issued just over two weeks ago for moderately to severely immunocompromised Canadians. People who are immunocompromised should receive three doses of COVID-19 vaccine as part of the standard immunization schedule, NACI said, because they may not mount an adequate immune response to two doses in the first place.

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North Bay–Parry Sound's COVID-19 vaccination rates rank near bottom-third in Ontario – BayToday.ca

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The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is trailing the majority of the 33 other districts in Ontario when it comes to vaccination rates but officials are confident the mobile vaccination clinics held on a retrofitted transit bus can boost those numbers toward the 90 per cent goal.

According to COVaxON, the province’s vaccination reporting system, 78 per cent of eligible North Bay–Parry Sound residents age 12 and older have had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s tied for 23rd out of 34 health units in Ontario.

The Health Unit also reports 84 per cent of eligible residents 12 and older in the district have received at least one dose, tied for 25th of 34 health units.

The recent introduction of the proof of vaccination program for Ontarians to gain entry to non-essential settings such as restaurants, fitness clubs, and cinemas is acknowledged by health officials as a means to encourage those who are not fully vaccinated to do so.

There was an uptick in vaccinations in the weeks following the announcement of the vaccine certificate program in Ontario. And, a boost in vaccinations followed locally, as well, in mid-September, as the Health Unit reported an increase, particularly among those aged 29 and younger. The Health Unit reported then a 128 per cent increase in first doses week over week. 

See also: Chirico impressed with new wave of vaccinations but still more work to do

The goal locally and province-wide is to have 90 per cent of the population vaccinated with first and second doses. As of Monday, that leaves 6,646 first and 14,680 second shots required. The Health Unit’s dashboard reports 692 doses administered over the weekend. It should be noted hundreds of third doses have been administered to eligible segments of the population over the past two weeks.

In North Bay–Parry Sound, the 30-39, 18-29 and 12-17 age groups all sit at less than two-thirds fully vaccinated, although the 12-17 category was not eligible for the vaccine for months following the initial local roll-out.

The Health Unit reports since June 1, 10 per cent of local positive cases have been detected in fully vaccinated people. Ontario reports 86 per cent of COVID-19 patients in ICUs are unvaccinated, while 72 per cent in hospitals (but not the ICU) are unvaccinated.

The Health Unit has consistently advocated for more people to roll up their sleeves and has gone to great lengths to achieve that goal by providing clinics in long-term care and retirement communities, mass immunization opportunities at Memorial Gardens, clinics focused on members of the vulnerable population, and now the mobile vaccination clinics that visit many of the underserved towns in the district.

See: How better conversations can help reduce vaccine hesitancy for COVID-19 and other shots

Andrea McLellan, Director of COVID-19 Immunization Strategy, previously spoke about possible reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

“It may be a lack of confidence in immunizations overall, it may be a personal choice they are making at this time and waiting to receive further information,” she said, noting there are excellent resources out there for those who are hesitant. “We are providing as much information to the public as we can — our website holds a wealth of information, the Ontario.ca website has a lot of information about the vaccine, as does Public Health Ontario.”

“Some people need a familiar health care provider to really reassure them that the vaccine is right for them,” Dr. Carol Zimbalatti added, encouraging people to reach out to their trusted health care providers for guidance. “Definitely, primary care offices have the information available to counsel their patients.”

The Health Unit will continue to roll out the vaccine through mobile clinics. McLellan says some of the feedback from the public indicated people who weren’t thinking of getting their shot did so thanks to the convenience of the bus set-up.

“We believe the mobile bus has been exceptionally successful,” McLellan said last week. “We’ve done over 300 at a couple of clinics, 150-plus at other clinics, 50 to 60 in smaller communities. The bus has been helpful in getting our numbers up. A lot of people are getting their first doses. And, we’ve accommodated a lot of people eligible for their third doses.”

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U.S. President Joe Biden receives COVID-19 booster shot following CDC backing – Global News

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U.S. President Joe Biden rolled up his shirt sleeve for a COVID-19 vaccine booster inoculation on Monday, hoping to provide a powerful example for Americans on the need to get the extra shot even as millions go without their first.

In getting the booster, Biden dismissed criticism that the United States should distribute more vaccines worldwide before allowing boosters at home.

“We are going to do our part,” he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week backed an additional dose of the Pfizer Inc BioNTech vaccine for Americans aged 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions and adults in high-risk working and institutional settings.

Biden, 78, said his wife Jill would also get a booster shot soon.

Read more:
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine given full approval by U.S. regulators

While scientists are divided over the need for booster shots when so many people in the United States and other countries remain unvaccinated, Biden announced the push in August as part of an effort to shore up protection against the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Only people who received their last dose of Pfizer’s shot at least six months ago are eligible for another shot now, U.S. regulators said. The FDA has not yet considered Moderna’s application for boosters and Johnson & Johnson has not yet applied for one.


Click to play video: 'U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines'



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U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines


U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

U.S. officials have cited a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” that state, local and federal officials as well as private employers have tried to counter with mandates to get the shots or, in some cases, face repeated testing.

But the aggressive American push for boosters, before many poorer nations have been able to provide even a modicum of protection for their most vulnerable populations, has drawn the ire of the World Health Organization and some aid groups, which have called on the U.S. to pause third shots to free up supply for the global vaccination effort.

Read more:
U.S. will give COVID-19 vaccine boosters to all Americans amid Delta surge

Biden said last week that the U.S. was purchasing another 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — for a total of 1 billion over the coming year — to donate to less well off nations.


Click to play video: 'U.S. FDA, CDC support Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for people high-risk or aged 65+'



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U.S. FDA, CDC support Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for people high-risk or aged 65+


U.S. FDA, CDC support Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for people high-risk or aged 65+

Vice President Kamala Harris, 56, received the Moderna vaccine, for which federal regulators have not yet authorized boosters — but they are expected to in the coming weeks. Regulators are also expecting data about the safety and efficacy of a booster for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot soon.

At least 2.66 million Americans have received booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine since mid-August, according to the CDC. About 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 through the Pfizer shot. U.S. regulators recommend getting the boosters at least six months after the second shot of the initial two-dose series.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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