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B.C.’s ‘extremely medically vulnerable’ can begin booking COVID-19 shots March 29 – Cranbrook Townsman

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People deemed clinically extremely vulnerable will be able to register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment starting on March 29.

In a Tuesday (March 23) news release, the province said that about 200,000 people with conditions that compromise their immunity will get a letter from the health ministry starting this week and might also be contacted by their treatment clinic or local health authority. That letter will let them begin to book appointments at noon on March 29.

The province said the conditions were determined by looking at people who have ended up in hospital, ICU or died due to COVID-19. Data from B.C. was used to determine which risk factors were most linked to serious illness or death from COVID and experts in cancer care, kidney disease, transplant, rheumatology, diabetes and developmental concerns, came together to review all the data and give clinical advice.

Ethics experts were consulted to make sure the list was fair to the rest of B.C.’s population.

READ MORE: Health officials give timetable for vaccinating all B.C. adults by July

B.C.’s aged based vaccination schedule was also moved up by one day. The timetable for seniors between the ages of 74 and 76 is:

  • Wednesday, March 24 at noon for people born in 1945 (age 76)
  • Thursday, March 25 at noon for people born in 1946 (aged 75)
  • Friday, March 26 at noon for people born in 1947 (aged 74)

The list of eligible clinically extremely vulnerable conditions includes:

People who have undergone a transplant:

  • People who have received a solid organ transplant at any time in their life

People with specific cancers:

  • People who have had systemic therapy for cancer now or have had it in the past 12 months, this includes chemotherapy, molecular therapy, immunotherapy, monoclonal antibodies and hormonal therapy for cancer.
  • People who are receiving radiation therapy for cancer now or in the past six months
  • People having or who have had targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as CAR-T cell treatments in the past six months
  • People who have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic disorders)
  • People who have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past six months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine related to the transplant

People with severe respiratory conditions: cystic fibrosis, severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), severe asthma:

  • cystic fibrosis: anyone with this condition (aged 16 and older)
  • people who have been hospitalized because of COPD at least one time since April 2018
  • People who have been hospitalized because of asthma at least one time since April 2018

People with rare blood diseases

  • including homozygous sickle cell disease, highest-risk thalassemia, meaning thalassemia and two of the following: transfusion dependent, receiving iron chelation therapy, pre-transfusion hemoglobin level of less than 70 in the last two to three years
  • people who have iron overload
  • people who have had their spleen taken out as treatment for thalassemia or have other significant health conditions
  • people who are over the age of 50
  • adults with atypical hemolytic uremia syndrome (aHUS) or paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)

Other rare diseases:

  • people who have a condition for which they see a metabolic (biochemical diseases) specialist and who are known to have a metabolically unstable inborn error of metabolism
  • people who have severe primary immunodeficiency, meaning these people have combined immune deficiencies affecting T-cells; familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis or have Type 1 interferon defects
  • received a splenectomy at any time in their life or have been told they have a spleen that does not function (functional asplenia)
  • People with diabetes who take insulin:
  • People currently using insulin for diabetes (pump or injection)

People with a significant developmental disability:

  • such as Down syndrome and other conditions, that is significant enough the person requires support for activities of daily living and therefore use or receive support from: Community Supports for Independent Living, Community Living British Columbia, Nursing Support Services program for youth aged 16 to 19

People on dialysis or with Stage 5 chronic kidney disease:

  • dialysis (hemo and peritoneal)
  • glomerulonephritis receiving steroids
  • chronic kidney disease stage 5 (eGFR 15 ml/min)

People who are pregnant and have heart disease:

  • people who are pregnant and have a serious heart condition, congenital or acquired, that requires the person to see a cardiac specialist during their pregnancy

People with neuromuscular/neurologic or muscle conditions who require respiratory support:

  • people with significant muscle weakness around their lungs, such that they need to use a ventilator or use bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) continuously
  • These include many patients with spinal muscular atrophy, Pompe disease and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, as well as a range of other conditions that lead to muscle weakness around lungs and where the individual is using home ventilation or BiPAP on a continuous basis.

People whose immune system is affected by immunosuppression therapies they take, including people taking high dose steroids or other medicines known to suppress the immune system:

  • people taking the following biologics since Dec. 15, 2020: Abatacept, Adalimumab, Anakinra, Certolizumab, Etanercept, Golimumab, Infliximab, Ixekizumab, Ocrelizumab, Sarilumab, Secukinumab, Tocilizumab, or Ustekinumab
  • people taking the following oral drugs since Dec. 15, 2020: Azathioprine, Baricitinib, Cyclophosphamide, Cyclosporine, Leflunomide, Mycophenolate, Sirolimus, Tacrolimus, Tofacitinib, Upadacitinib, Methotrexate, Dexamethasone, Hydrocortisone, Prednisone, or Methylprednisolone
  • people taking the following oral or injectable steroid products since Dec. 15, 2020: Dexamethasone, Hydrocortisone, Methylprednisolone or Prednisone
  • people 16 to 18 years of age, taking Canikinumab or Vedolizumab since Dec.15, 2020
  • people taking Rituximab since Feb. 15, 2020

@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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Exclusive-Canada’s Ontario to expand use of AstraZeneca COVID vaccine as epidemic rages

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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to people turning 40 or older this year, according to a government source.

The change will broaden access to vaccines as a third wave of infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals in Canada‘s most-populous province, and should make it easier to use doses that in some cases have been accumulating at pharmacies.

The change will be announced on Monday and go into effect across the province on Tuesday, according to the source. The vaccine has already been distributed to pharmacies but currently can only be given to people turning 55 or older this year.

Ontario announced new public health measures on Friday, promising checkpoints at provincial borders, new police powers and closing outdoor amenities, while leaving many workplaces open. The measures were widely criticized by doctors and public health experts, and the province quickly reopened playgrounds and modified the new police powers.

On March 29, Health Canada said it would review reports of serious blood clots and bleeding in a small number of people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine in other countries, and an independent panel called the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) recommended that it only be given to people 55 and older. All provinces followed that advice.

But NACI’s recommendations are not binding. Last week, Health Canada, the country’s drug regulator, said it had reviewed all available evidence and would not restrict the use of the vaccine, because its benefits outweigh its potential risks. Health Canada said at the time that NACI was reviewing its recommendations.

On Sunday, NACI’s chair told Reuters that the panel would make a new recommendation on Tuesday.

Health Canada said regulators in the UK had estimated the risk of clots to be very small, roughly four in a million people who receive the vaccine. It also said the complication was treatable. Two people have developed it in Canada, and both are recovering.

Several other countries have limited the use of the vaccine to older people. Denmark has withdrawn the shot, and Norway said on Thursday it would take more time to decide whether to resume use.

Ontario reported 4,250 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The Ontario Hospital Association said 59 patients were admitted to intensive care on Saturday, bringing the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs to 737.

Health Canada says those who receive the vaccine should seek medical attention immediately if they experience shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent belly pain, neurological symptoms like severe headaches or blurred vision, or skin bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.

 

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)

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Trudeau mobilizes federal workers to battle COVID-19 in Toronto and rest of Ontario

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he would send federal healthcare workers to help Toronto and the province of Ontario battle a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has forced shutdowns of schools and businesses.

“We are mobilizing federal healthcare workers from across government departments to deploy on the front lines in Ontario and specifically the Greater Toronto area where the situation is most critical,” Trudeau said in a video posted on Twitter.

Other provinces, especially on the Atlantic coast, are working “to determine what human resources and equipment they could free up over the coming days,” Trudeau said, adding that the federal government would cover the costs of that help.

The government will also seek to boost rapid testing, especially for essential workers, Trudeau said.

The government of Ontario, Canada‘s most-populous province and industrial powerhouse, has moved schools online and announced more stringent public health measures on Friday, including shutting the provincial borders to non-essential travel.

On Saturday, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair deployed two mobile health units to set up more hospital beds in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and the prime minister said he stood ready to send the Red Cross to staff mobile vaccination clinics in Ontario if help is requested.

Canada‘s seven-day average of new infections was 8,669, the chief medical officer said on Sunday, a 26% increase compared with the previous seven days. Ontario reported 4,250 new cases on Sunday.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

More than 48 million doses are to be delivered by the end of June, which is enough for all of Canada‘s population of some 38 million to receive at least one shot, with a total of 100 million doses expected by the end of September.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Canada has second case of rare blood clots after AstraZeneca vaccin

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(Reuters) – Canada on Saturday reported a second case of rare blood clots with low platelets after immunization with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in a week, while it said it still recommended the use of the shot.

The person who experienced the very rare event has been treated and is recovering, Canada‘s health ministry said in a statement, adding that the person lives in the province of Alberta.

Based on the evidence available, Canada still maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the potential risks, the statement said.

Canada health authorities “will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely and examine and assess any new safety concerns,” the statement said.

Canada reported a first blood clotting associated with the vaccine on Tuesday, and a day later, after a review, health authorities said they would not restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. That panel is in the process of reviewing its advice.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign, but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

Amid a spiking third wave of infections, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, announced new public health restrictions on Friday, including closing the provinces borders to domestic travelers.

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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