Getting vaccinated for the flu may have prevented about six out of 10 people from becoming infected in an early Canadian flu season, says a study involving a network of family doctors who monitored patients in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
Dr. Danuta Skowronski, lead author of the study and lead epidemiologist for influenza at the BC Centre for Disease Control, said the study involved about 2,800 patients who were seen by their physicians for a flu-like illness between Nov. 1, 2019 and Feb. 1.
The current flu season was the most unusual in about five years because of an early spike in influenza B as influenza A was circulating across Canada and the northern hemisphere.
Skowronski said the doctors are part of the Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance Network involved in helping to determine vaccine effectiveness. They took nasal swabs from patients who were at least a year old and were seen within seven days of the start of symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat.
The study, published Thursday in Eurosurveillance, a journal on infectious disease surveillance, epidemiology, prevention and control, found about an equal number of people were sickened by influenza A and B.
“This vaccine prevented about 60 per cent of cases of influenza that would have otherwise occurred in unvaccinated cases,” Skowronski said.
She said vaccination effectiveness was estimated by comparing vaccine coverage of patients who tested negative for influenza versus those who tested positive.
The so-called test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004 and has come to be used globally in place of randomized control trials, which would require a group of unvaccinated patients, an unethical scenario given everyone should get the vaccine, Skowronski said.
“Other countries have now adopted that methodology,” she said. “Collectively, we submit our findings to the World Health Organization. Later this month the WHO will be meeting to decide whether it needs to update the vaccine strains for next season’s formulation,” she said of the virus that changes every year.
“This is good news in that the vaccine is performing better than it has in previous years,” Skowronski said of the findings, adding they highlight the fact that the public should get vaccinated annually to protect themselves against various strains of the influenza virus, especially if they have a heart or lung condition or are in contact with vulnerable people including the elderly.
“If you want to prevent a miserable illness, and influenza is a miserable illness, a vaccine will protect you against that. But that might be an individual decision. For me, it’s really a kind of double tragedy when high-risk individuals experience these severe outcomes and they could have been prevented through vaccination.”
Concerns about the novel coronavirus should create a greater appreciation for influenza vaccines, Skowronski said.
In place of no vaccine for COVID-19, people should rely on conventional public health measures used for other coronaviruses, such as washing their hands and sneezing and coughing into their elbow, she said.
However, she said knowing who will or won’t get the flu is complex and could include issues such as which influenza subtypes were prevalent around the time someone was born, giving them a lifelong immunity to those subtypes.
British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick are the only provinces that do not offer publicly funded vaccination for influenza for all residents but provide it in limited cases, including for pregnant women.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said an average of 12,200 people are hospitalized for the flu every year and 3,500 people die of it annually.
It says everyone aged six months and older should get immunized, and the best time for that is between October and December, before the virus begins spreading.
This report by The Canadian Press was first reported Feb. 20, 2020.
UK study finds mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provide biggest booster impact – Fiji Times
LONDON (Reuters) -COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna that use mRNA technology provide the biggest boost to antibody levels when given 10-12 weeks after the second dose, a new British study has found.
The “COV-Boost” study was cited by British officials when they announced that Pfizer and Moderna were preferred for use in the country’s booster campaign, but the data has only been made publicly available now.
The study found that six of the seven boosters examined enhanced immunity after initial vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, while all seven increased immunity when given after two doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
“A third dose will be effective for many of the vaccines we’ve tested and in many different combinations,” Professor Saul Faust, an immunologist at the University of Southampton and the trial’s lead, told reporters.
The study, published late on Thursday, found that a full dose or half dose of Pfizer or a full dose of Moderna gave a strong boost to both antibody and T-cell levels, regardless of whether the person initially received Pfizer or AstraZeneca.
“All four of the vaccination regimes most widely deployed in the UK lead to essentially the same levels of immunity and are likely to be equally effective,” said Professor Eleanor Riley, immunologist at the University of Edinburgh. She added that a policy change in booster gaps was also supported by the data.
“These data support the JCVI (vaccine committee) decision earlier this week to bring forward booster doses to 3 months after the second vaccination.”
When AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and Curevac were given as boosters, they increased antibody levels for either initial vaccine, albeit to a smaller degree, the study found. However, while Valneva boosted antibodies in people initially vaccinated with AstraZeneca, it did not provide a boost for Pfizer.
The COV-Boost study pre-dated the spread of the emergent Omicron variant of concern, and Faust said he had shared samples with the UK Health Security Agency to generate data on Omicron.
The study did however find that booster shots also helped to generate a broad T-cell response against the Beta and Delta variants, which may play a key role in longer-term protection.
A separate study by Imperial College London into how initial exposure to SARS-CoV-2 shapes immune responses, also published late on Thursday, similarly found a good T-cell response to both Alpha and Delta after infection followed by vaccination.
Dutch former queen Beatrix tests positive for COVID-19
Princess Beatrix, as she has been known since her abdication in 2013, got tested after coming down with “mild cold symptoms”, the statement said.
“The princess is at home in isolation and adheres to the rules of life for people who have tested positive,” it added.
The Netherlands has been experiencing a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is threatening to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson)
‘I was shocked’: Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Comox Valley Record
A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family.
The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.
Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.
Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.
She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”
Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.
Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five.
Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.
Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.
“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.
“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”
Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced.
Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor.
For Bardarson, that’s not enough.
“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”
Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations.
She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.
Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.
Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.
– Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
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