VICTORIA — British Columbia residents will need a vaccine card to get into restaurants, clubs, ticketed sporting events and organized affairs like weddings as the risk of infection is currently 10 times higher among those who are unimmunized.
Premier John Horgan said Monday the card will give people the confidence to attend non-discretionary activities and businesses, especially as the province is unlikely to move into the last step of its restart plan on Sept. 7 as the Delta variant leads to a sharp uptick in cases.
Over 83 per cent of those who are eligible for a vaccine have received one dose and nearly 75 per cent have been fully vaccinated, suggesting the majority of residents support proof of vaccination, he said.
Horgan said the province is working with the federal government and he has spoken with Quebec Premier François Legault about that province’s requirement for proof of both doses starting Sept. 1 for people wanting to participate in social and recreational activities.
The government has been working with the privacy commissioner to ensure data on the B.C. Vaccine Card, which can be downloaded onto phones, is kept secure, the premier said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said starting Sept. 13, B.C. residents will have to show proof of having had a single dose of a vaccine to enter gyms, fitness centres and casinos.
After Oct. 24, those aged 12 and up will need to be fully vaccinated at least seven days earlier and only children below that age will be exempt from entering establishments if they are with adults who have been fully vaccinated.
Henry said the new measures will help reduce transmission of the virus and allow businesses to remain open for those who are protected by vaccines.
“Over the past month, up until the end of last week, people who’ve not been fully vaccinated account for almost 90 per cent of all of our cases and over 93 per cent of hospitalizations,” Henry said.
“To put it in context, we have a rate of 28 per 100,000 cases in people who are unvaccinated, compared to two per 100,000 for people who are fully vaccinated. What that tells us is that your risk is 10 times higher if you’ve not been protected through vaccine.”
Businesses will be required to look for proof of vaccination at least until January, but that may change depending on the number of cases as people spend more time at indoor social settings during the respiratory season, Henry said.
There won’t be any exemptions for those who haven’t had two shots because it’s a temporary measure, likely until January, to get the province through a risky period, and the events are not essential, Henry said.
“It is really important that what we’re trying to do is be able to allow these discretionary events to be able to continue in a way that is safe for the vast majority of people who have been immunized.”
Provisions for those without a phone include access to a call centre, but further details will be provided after the Labour Day weekend and there will be a process for fully vaccinated visitors from outside the province to access the same services.
Both Horgan and Henry had previously suggested proof of vaccination would not be required, but that was before the seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases jumped to 557 last week, up from 36 in early July.
Stephen Hoption Cann, an epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia’s school of population and public health, said the proof of vaccination requirement was only a matter of time in keeping up with other jurisdictions trying to kick-start their economies.
“I think we’re realizing that we can only go on so long economically before we run into a huge amount of debt,” he said.
However, he said it makes sense to also require health-care workers in all settings to be vaccinated, after B.C. made it mandatory for those employed in long-term care and assisted living facilities to have both doses by Oct. 12.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is looking at mandatory vaccination in other areas in health care.
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade welcomed the announcement of the vaccine card, saying it provides clarity for businesses making decisions around protecting the health and safety of staff and customers as many establishments struggle to manage labour and supply shortages.
“It’s imperative that the provincial government works closely with business owners to ensure a seamless transition to the B.C. Vaccine Card, one that protects front-line staff, ensures the technology is widely accessible and available, and is compatible with similar efforts across the country.”
— By Camille Bains in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press first published Aug. 23, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Two-dose COVID-19 vaccination rate reaches 80 per cent in B.C.; 743 new cases Friday – CFJC Today Kamloops
The active caseload has risen to 5,979 across the province, with 1,268 of those cases in Interior Health.
There are 319 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, including 149 in intensive care.
Seven more people have died of the virus, raising the provincial death toll to 1,922 since the pandemic began. One of the new deaths took place in Interior Health.
There are 21 outbreaks in B.C. healthcare facilities, including Kamloops Seniors Village (19 cases, one death), Overlander Seniors Centre in Brocklehurst (five cases), The Hamlets at Westsyde (six cases) and Hillside Village in Salmon Arm (nine cases, one death).
The province says 75 per cent of all new cases in the past week — and 82 per cent of all hospitalizations in the past two weeks — are among unvaccinated people.
A Canadian COVID-19 study that turned out to be wrong has spread like wildfire among anti-vaxxers – CBC.ca
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
An inaccurate Canadian study suggesting an extremely high rate of heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccines has been retracted due to a major mathematical error — but not before it spread like wildfire on anti-vaccination websites and social media.
The preprint study, which was released by researchers at the Ottawa Heart Institute last week but has not been peer-reviewed, looked at the rate of myocarditis and pericarditis cases after Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations in Ottawa from June 1 to July 31.
The study identified 32 patients with the rare side effects out of a total of 32,379 doses of mRNA vaccines given in Ottawa in the two-month period, finding an inordinately high rate of close to 1 in 1,000 — significantly higher than other international data has shown.
But the researchers made a critical error that experts say caused the study to be “weaponized” by the anti-vaccination movement at a time when concern over COVID-19 vaccine side effects are top of mind for parents whose kids may soon get the shot.
Risk of heart inflammation after shot ‘not correct’ in study
The researchers mistakenly failed to record the accurate number of vaccinations given out during that two-month period, despite the data on total doses being publicly available, and the figure turned out to be astronomically higher than what was presented in the study.
Instead of 32,379 mRNA vaccine doses administered in June and July, as the study suggests, there were actually more than 800,000 shots given out at that time, according to Ottawa Public Health.
That means the true rate of side effects is closer to 1 in 25,000 — not 1 in 1,000.
“We recalculated the rate, and the rate is not correct in that paper,” said Dr. Peter Liu, scientific director of the Ottawa Heart Institute and a co-author of the study, in an interview with CBC News.
“We were doing this on the run, in a way, and we were getting kind of the preliminary vaccination rate data, and so it turns out that that number was not complete.”
Dr. Andrew Crean, co-director of the cardiac MRI service at the Ottawa Heart Institute and the study’s lead author, confirmed to CBC News in an email Thursday that the preprint was being retracted.
“In order to avoid misleading either colleagues or the general public and press, we the authors unanimously wish to withdraw this paper on the grounds of incorrect incidence data,” the statement read.
“We thank the many peer reviewers who went out of their way to contact us and point out our error. We apologize to anyone who may have been upset or disturbed by our report.”
Crean said the authors uncovered the “significant error” days after posting it to the server, finding a “substantial overestimate” of the risk of heart inflammation after vaccination, then moved quickly to get the study withdrawn.
“As you know, preprints are not full peer-reviewed publications,” he said. “The peer-review process worked quickly and efficiently to detect our error and we were happy to retract this data once the error was confirmed.”
And Crean is absolutely right — this is exactly how the process is supposed to work.
Preprints are traditionally a way for academics to share early information on important subjects before the data is peer-reviewed and published, said Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, a website that tracks errors in science journals.
“If in fact this is retracted quickly and withdrawn quickly based on what seems to be a pretty significant error, then it’s actually science doing what it should,” he said.
“The problem is not the preprint server, the problem is that nobody ever provides any context around it.”
Side effect remains rare, treatable
The Ottawa Heart Institute issued a tweet late Wednesday night, a week after the study was released, saying the authors “have requested the retraction of the preprint” due to “incorrect data” that “vastly inflates the incidence of post-vaccine myocarditis.”
“We are sorry a preprint paper citing incorrect data led to misinformation on the incidence of post-vaccine myocarditis,” a spokesperson for the institute said in a followup statement to CBC News on Friday morning.
“COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have been proven effective against the disease. We invite anyone who has not yet received the shot to please get vaccinated.”
While some real-world data has shown an increased risk of heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccines among younger age groups, it’s important to remember the side effect is rare.
“Even if you took the worst-case scenario, it doesn’t happen in 99.9 per cent of cases,” said Montreal cardiologist and epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos. “So the vast majority of people, even young people, are going to get vaccinated and not have an issue with myocarditis.”
A small proportion of people who do experience the side effect will experience mild symptoms that are treatable without hospital care, Labos said, and don’t appear to cause “any major heart damage.”
“So it looks as if this is a relatively mild side effect that should not dissuade anybody from getting vaccinated,” he said. “Because the benefits really outweigh the risks.”
One study from Israel published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month showed a slight increased risk of myocarditis after vaccination — but the researchers stressed that COVID-19 is more likely to cause the side effect than the shot.
Despite this reassuring conclusion, experts say the speed in which preliminary data is being uploaded, manipulated and disseminated in the pandemic means one error can cause a lot of damage.
“Mistakes happen; I have no major criticisms to level against anybody here. They did exactly what they’re supposed to do: When you make a mistake — you fix it,” said Labos.
“The real problem here is that I worry that people are going to keep using the wrong version of the study to advance their agenda.”
Cherry-picking ‘rotten’ data
Despite not getting any mainstream media coverage in Canada or anywhere else at the time it was published, the study quickly spread around the world on social media and anti-vaccination websites, where it was incorrectly claimed as evidence of the damage COVID-19 vaccines cause.
The preprint has been shared on Twitter more than 11,000 times in the week since it’s been published, according to Altmetric, a company that tracks where published research is posted online. That’s in the top five per cent of all research it’s ever tracked.
One particularly damaging tweet that gained a massive response came from Robert Malone, an infectious-disease researcher and accused spreader of anti-vaccination misinformation who calls himself the “inventor” of mRNA vaccines despite evidence to the contrary.
University of Ottawa Heart Institute Retrospective Study Finds 1 in 1,000 mRNA Vaccinations Leads to Myopericarditis<a href=”https://t.co/tcRauKapjR”>https://t.co/tcRauKapjR</a>
The study also showed up on numerous anti-vaccination websites, misrepresented as evidence that the rate of myocarditis had been intentionally underestimated and that thousands of children could be at risk of heart failure after vaccination in the future.
Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta who has studied the challenges with preprints in the pandemic, says the way in which the erroneous study has been shared widely online to promote an anti-vaccination agenda is “incredibly frustrating.”
“First of all, the topic is so sensitive with parents, with young adults. When people are doing this risk-benefit calculus and they see a study like this, even if it just crosses their radar on social media, it can have an impact on their intentions,” he said.
“So a mistake like this can do real, serious harm — and I think it probably already has, unfortunately.”
The error highlights the challenges with preprints, Caulfield said. On the one hand, they can create an open dialogue with academics and get research into the public domain quickly on important topics, but on the other hand, they can do irreparable long-term damage.
“Preprints can quickly be weaponized by activists when the data seems to bolster their ideology, and they lend credibility to claims that might otherwise appear non-scientific,” added Jonathan Jarry, a biological scientist with McGill University’s Office for Science and Society in Montreal.
“And when a preprint gets retracted because it was fraudulent or just simply incorrect, that bell is hard to un-ring in the public square that is the internet.”
Caulfield said that once an inaccurate preprint gets released, it can “take on a life of its own.”
“And that’s exactly what has happened here,” he said. “I can guarantee that you are going to continue to see references to this version of the paper for a long time to come.”
These so-called “zombie papers” are often intentionally shared within anti-vaccination circles long after they’re retracted or corrected in order to disingenuously influence public opinion and fuel misinformation, said Caulfield.
“It’s extreme cherry-picking,” he said. “And the cherry is rotten.”
US President Joe Biden urges Covid-19 booster shots for those now eligible – Times of India
WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Friday urged those now eligible for Covid-19 booster shots to get the added protection a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.
Opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against Covid-19, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. Biden praised the decision and aimed to set aside any unease about the vaccination, saying that he would get his own booster soon.
“It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot,” Biden said. “It’s a bear, isn’t it?”
The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.
However, Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected.
The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are health-care workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus. But Walensky disagreed and put that recommendation back in, noting that such a move aligns with an FDA booster authorization decision earlier this week. The category she included covers people who live in institutional settings that increase their risk of exposure, such as prisons or homeless shelters, as well as health care workers.
An administration official said the White House did not have input in Walensky’s decision nor was given a heads-up. Biden on Friday said “the decision is left to the scientists and the doctors. That’s what happened here.”
The panel had offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want one. But the advisers refused to go further and open boosters to otherwise healthy front-line health care workers who aren’t at risk of severe illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.
The panel voted 9 to 6 to reject that proposal. Walensky decided to disregard the advisory committee’s counsel, issuing a statement saying she had restored the recommendation.
“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Walensky said late Thursday night. “At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”
It’s rare for a CDC director to overrule the panel recommendation; experts said it has only happened once this century.
Experts say getting the unvaccinated their first shots remains the top priority, and the panel wrestled with whether the booster debate was distracting from that goal. Biden stressed that the administration’s focus remained on getting people to get their first shots and that he intended to keep rolling out “vaccination requirements wherever I can.”
“The refusal to get vaccinated have cost all of us,” the president said. “It is not hyperbole: it is literally a tragedy. Don’t let it be your tragedy.”
All three of the Covid-19 vaccines used in the US are still highly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even with the spread of the extra-contagious delta variant. But only about 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or just 55% of the population.
“We can give boosters to people, but that’s not really the answer to this pandemic,” said Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University. “Hospitals are full because people are not vaccinated. We are declining care to people who deserve care because we are full of unvaccinated Covid-positive patients.”
Thursday’s decision represented a dramatic scaling back of the Biden administration plan announced last month to dispense boosters to nearly everyone to shore up their protection. Late Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration, like the CDC panel, signed off on Pfizer boosters for a much narrower slice of the population than the White House envisioned.
The booster plan marks an important shift in the nation’s vaccination drive. Britain and Israel are already giving a third round of shots over strong objections from the World Health Organization that poor countries don’t have enough for their initial doses.
Walensky opened Thursday’s meeting by stressing that vaccinating the unvaccinated remains the top goal “here in America and around the world.”
Walensky acknowledged that the data on who really needs a booster right away “are not perfect.” “Yet collectively they form a picture for us,” she said, “and they are what we have in this moment to make a decision about the next stage in this pandemic.”
The CDC panel stressed that its recommendations will be changed if new evidence shows more people need a booster.
The CDC advisers expressed concern over the millions of Americans who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots early in the vaccine rollout. The government still hasn’t considered boosters for those brands and has no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix-and-match and give those people a Pfizer shot.
“I just don’t understand how later this afternoon we can say to people 65 and older, ‘You’re at risk for severe illness and death, but only half of you can protect yourselves right now,’” said Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University.
About 26 million Americans got their last Pfizer dose at least six months ago, about half of whom are 65 or older. It’s not clear how many more would meet the CDC panel’s booster qualifications.
CDC data show the vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness for all ages, but there is a slight drop among the oldest adults. And immunity against milder infection appears to be waning months after people’s initial immunization.
For most people, if you’re not in a group recommended for a booster, “it’s really because we think you’re well-protected,” said Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.
Public health experts not involved in Thursday’s decision said it is unlikely people seeking third doses at a drugstore or other site will be required to prove they qualify.
Even with the introduction of boosters, someone who has gotten just the first two doses would still be considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s Dr. Kathleen Dooling. That is an important question to people in parts of the country where you need to show proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant or enter other places of business.
Among people who stand to benefit from a booster, there are few risks, the CDC concluded. Serious side effects from the first two Pfizer doses are exceedingly rare, including heart inflammation that sometimes occurs in younger men. Data from Israel, which has given nearly 3 million people — mostly 60 and older — a third Pfizer dose, has uncovered no red flags.
The U.S. has already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.
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