VICTORIA — British Columbia is updating its immunization strategy for COVID-19 today as Premier John Horgan is scheduled to be joined by health officials to lay out the latest on the government’s plan.
Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine that the province expected to arrive by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production delays in the supply from Pfizer-BioNTech.
Two doses of the vaccine are needed to ensure immunity from the virus that causes COVID-19 and Health Minister Adrian Dix said earlier this week that B.C. was set to begin administering second doses.
He said the province remains committed to ensuring all those who have had the first shot get a second dose within 35 days.
On Thursday, the province said it had administered 104,901 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, of which 1,680 were second doses.
Horgan is being joined in making today’s announcement by Dix, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading the COVID-19 immunization rollout.
Trivia night that led to Burnaby daycare outbreak linked to 300 COVID-19 cases: Dr. Henry – Vancouver Is Awesome
A pub trivia night that led to an outbreak at Burnaby’s largest daycare has resulted in more than 300 COVID-19 cases, Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news conference Thursday.
B.C.’s provincial health officer provided the number as she described the complex series of factors she is monitoring before she can decide whether to loosen or tighten restrictions in the coming days.
Among the issues she is watching is the recent “uptick” in the reproductive rate of COVID-19 transmission, which she said has been above one in Fraser Health and the Vancouver Coastal health region, as well the percentage of test positive cases, which is 8% in Fraser Health compared to 6.7% in the rest of B.C.
“It’s like a tree that keeps growing and spreading, but we need to keep cases low and slow so we can control that. We are continuing to watch these indicators and when we have confidence that they are slowing in a sustained way, that is when we will be able to ease restrictions,” Henry said.
The exposure at St. James’s Well in Port Moody was flagged by Fraser Health, which resulted in the pub being closed for several days and WorkSafeBC conducting an investigation requiring the pub to update its COVID-19 safety plan by adding supervised daily health checks for its 28 workers. The pub also implemented a policy requiring patrons to wear masks in any space shared with workers or other members of the public.
That exposure was linked to an outbreak at the SFU Childcare Society on Burnaby Mountain, with at least 28 cases in staff and children.
A representative from B.C.’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees told The Tri-City News the transmission at the Newport Village pub occurred when an asymptomatic patron left their table and interacted with another group.
Health officials have never named the pub, but St. James’s Well was identified on the Fraser Health website when it listed the exposure notification and asked people to self-monitor for symptoms.
The exposure event remains on the website.
While not naming the Port Moody pub, Henry said a pub she talked about before was responsible for hundreds of COVID-19 cases.
“We talked last week about the event of a pub. That led to over 300 people being affected, including transmission in a day care, transmission in a school, transmission in a number of other workplaces and in families.
“These are the chains of transmission we need to stop as soon as we can and that’s why we pay attention to not only the overall numbers and how they’re moving, but numbers in different communities and where those transmission events are happening,” Henry said.
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine reduces transmission after one dose – UK study – Reuters
LONDON (Reuters) – A single dose of Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine cuts the number of asymptomatic infections and could significantly reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, results of a UK study found on Friday.
Researchers analysed results from thousands of COVID-19 tests carried out each week as part of hospital screenings of healthcare staff in Cambridge, eastern England.
“Our findings show a dramatic reduction in the rate of positive screening tests among asymptomatic healthcare workers after a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” said Nick Jones, an infectious diseases specialist at Cambridge University Hospital, who co-led the study.
After separating the test results from unvaccinated and vaccinated staff, Jones’ team found that 0.80% tests from unvaccinated healthcare workers were positive.
This compared with 0.37% of tests from staff less than 12 days post-vaccination – when the vaccine’s protective effect is not yet fully established – and 0.20% of tests from staff at 12 days or more post-vaccination.
The study and its results have yet to be independently peer-reviewed by other scientists, but were published online as a preprint on Friday.
This suggests a four-fold decrease in the risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 infection amongst healthcare workers who have been vaccinated for more than 12 days, and 75% protection, said Mike Weekes, an infectious disease specialist at Cambridge University’s department of medicine, who co-led the study.
The level of asymptomatic infection was also halved in those vaccinated for less than 12 days, he said.
Britain has been rolling out vaccinations with both the Pfizer COVID-19 shot and one from AstraZeneca since late December 2020.
“This is great news – the Pfizer vaccine not only provides protection against becoming ill from SARS-CoV-2, but also helps prevent infection, reducing the potential for the virus to be passed on to others,” Weeks said. “But we have to remember that the vaccine doesn’t give complete protection for everyone.”
Key real-world data published on Wednesday from Israel, which has conducted one of the world’s fastest rollouts of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, showed that two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.
Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by David Goodman and Jane Merriman
’We need this’: Getting COVID-19 vaccine to remote and urban Indigenous populations – Vanderhoof Omineca Express
Chief Chris Moonias looked into a web camera as he prepared to get a COVID-19 vaccine just after precious doses arrived in his northern Ontario community.
“I’m coming to you live from Neskantaga First Nation community centre where our vaccines will be administered,” a jovial Moonias, wearing a blue disposable mask, said during a Facebook live video at the start of February.
Moonias was first to get the vaccine in the fly-in Oji-Cree First Nation on the shores of Attawapiskat Lake north of Thunder Bay.
The vaccine had arrived by plane earlier in the day after weeks of planning, and the chief’s video was part of a campaign to get community members on board.
Moonias said in an interview that he had done his own research, had spoken with medical professionals and wasn’t concerned about getting the shot.
About 88 per cent of eligible on-reserve members have since received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Second doses are to arrive Monday.
However, earlier this week, the reserve declared a state of emergency due to a COVID-19 outbreak, with some cases linked to the Thunder Bay District Jail.
Moonias said four off-reserve members in Thunder Bay, all under the age of 40 — including his nephew — have died. And he’s worried about the 200 other members who live off the reserve — almost the same number as those on the reserve — and when they’ll get inoculated.
“I even thought about flying my people up … to get the vaccine,” said Moonias, who added it’s unlikely to be an option because of cost.
Canada is in the midst of the largest vaccine rollout in its history. The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Indigenous populations much harder and Ottawa says they are a priority for vaccinations.
The actual distribution remains complex and varied across the country.
Neskantaga is one of 31 fly-in First Nations included in Operation Remote Immunity, part of the first phase of Ontario’s vaccination rollout. The operation was developed with Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Ornge, the province’s air ambulance service. The goal is to provide mass vaccinations by April 30 and it is having early successes.
There are challenges getting the vaccine to remote First Nations and questions about distribution for urban Indigenous populations.
The Assembly of First Nations says most Indigenous communities haven’t received sufficient supply to extend doses to their off-reserve members. The National Association of Friendship Centres says there is no national vaccination plan for urban Indigenous people.
There’s also concern there is no national plan to tackle decades of mistrust created by systemic racism and experimentation on Indigenous people.
There are many examples throughout Canadian history of scientists sponsored by the federal government or the government itself doing medical experiments on Indigenous people, including children, who were the subject of a tuberculosis vaccine trial in Saskatchewan that began in the 1930s.
Ontario New Democrat Sol Mamakwa, who represents the electoral district of Kiiwetinoong, said some constituents tell him they are scared to take the vaccine. They don’t trust it.
He has been travelling to communities to help promote it and received his first dose alongside members of Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation.
Community engagement has been key in vaccine uptake, Mamakwa said. Promotion begins weeks before vaccine teams arrive and includes radio campaigns, social media posts and live online question-and-answer sessions.
It’s about giving people information, he said.
“One of the only ways out of this pandemic is the vaccine,” said Wade Durham, Ornge’s chief operating officer, who added it’s key to have Indigenous people involved in vaccine planning.
Each First Nation in Operation Remote Immunity has a community member responsible for answering questions and setting up a vaccination site. Immunization teams are required to take cultural training and, when possible, include Indigenous medical professionals and language speakers.
Indigenous Services Canada said it is aware that a history of colonization and systemic racism has caused mistrust, so campaigns are being developed specifically for First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.
Michelle Driedger, a Metis professor of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, said experience has shown that stakes are high when it comes to Indigenous communities.
During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the Public Health Agency of Canada prioritized vaccines by geography. A main lesson learned was to increase Indigenous representation at decision-making tables, she said.
At the time, Indigenous people were over-represented in hospitalizations and intensive care stays, as well as in deaths. Those living in remote and isolated communities experienced worse outcomes.
Driedger said the vaccine response is better now, but there is “rational skepticism.” There needs to be a transparent vaccination plan for Indigenous communities — no matter where they are, she said.
The Matawa First Nations tribal council said its four communities reachable by road are not getting the same vaccine access as its five fly-in ones, and more needs to be done.
Provincial officials have said that remote First Nations received priority for the vaccine rollout because of less access to on-site health care and increased health risks. Chief Rick Allen from Constance Lake First Nation has said the vaccine needs to go where the outbreaks are.
Back in Neskantaga, Moonias said he’ll do anything he can to protect anyone he can.
He continues to give updates about his vaccination. In another Facebook video posted soon after he received his shot, the chief gave a thumbs-up and said he had no pain or discomfort.
“We need this. We need to beat this virus.”
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