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B.C. unveils plan to vaccinate millions by September – Toronto Star

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Nearly one year after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in B.C., the province announced its plan to have everyone who wants a vaccine immunized by September.

B.C. has distributed 100,000 immunizations in the past six weeks, and the province announced its timeline for the general population on Jan. 22.

Beginning in late-February, the province will move on to Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout. From December to March 800,000 doses of vaccine are expected to arrive in B.C., from April to June 2.6 million doses, and June to September six million doses are expected in the province.

“The plan forward is one that will put 4.3 million British Columbians in a vaccinated situation by the end of September,” Premier John Horgan said.

“By the end of September everyone who wants a vaccination will have one and the community immunity that we’re all striving for will be a reality,” Horgan said.

The plan depends on a consistent supply of vaccine, which has been disrupted recently with Pfizer upscaling its production plant in Europe, Horgan said. New vaccines, not yet approved by Health Canada, will also allow amendments to the plan going forward.

The province announced plans Friday to establish vaccine distribution in clinics in 172 communities in March through local health authorities in partnership with businesses, volunteers and municipalities.

It will be the largest immunization program in the history of the province, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, with 8.6 million immunizations (two doses per person, 35 days apart) planned in the coming months.

People born in 1941 and earlier who were not immunized in Phase 1 are eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 2, starting in late February and early March, as the age group eligible for vaccine moves down from there in five-year increments. Starting in mid-to-late February, health authorities will be reaching out to seniors 80 years and older and Indigenous seniors 65 and older, and Indigenous Elders, to provide information on how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

Hospital staff, community general practitioners, and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1 will be eligible in Phase 2 as well as vulnerable populations living in congregate settings and shelters and staff in community home support and home care programs.

People aged 16 to 69 who are considered extremely vulnerable will also be eligible during this time including those with specific cancers, people receiving immunotherapy, sever respiratory conditions, rare diseases, immunosuppression therapies, adults on dialysis, people who have had their spleen removed, women who are pregnant with significant heart disease (congenital or acquired) and those with significant neuromuscular conditions requiring respiratory support.

Vaccinations to begin on general population in April

Phase 3 (April to June) will broaden the vaccine distribution into the general population. Starting with B.C. residents aged 60 to 79, who will likely get their first shot in April.

As more vaccines are approved, particularly those with less stringent transportation and temperature restrictions, other age groups may be considered during Phase 3 — specifically those between the ages of 18 and 64 who are front-line essential workers or work in specific industries.

When Phase 4 begins (July to September) vaccinations will be available for those aged 59 and under, moving down in five-year cohorts to age 18.

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When vaccine distribution starts coming to the general population in Phases 3 and Phase 4 clinics will be held at large centres including school gymnasiums, arenas, convention and community halls and mobile clinics in self-contained vehicles will be available for some rural communities and for those who are homebound due to mobility issues, with more details coming on those operations in late February and early March.

The province’s communication plan launching in late-February will let residents know when they can expect to be vaccinated, how and where to pre-register and how to access vaccination clinics. Residents can register two to four weeks before being eligible for a vaccine.

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’We need this’: Getting COVID-19 vaccine to remote and urban Indigenous populations – Salmon Arm Observer

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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.”

First Nations

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The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 – Cochrane Today

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The latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada (all times eastern):

6:35 p.m.

British Columbia is reporting 589 new cases of COVID-19, along with seven deaths.

But the province cautions the numbers are considered provisional due to delayed updates in its lab reporting system.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a statement that the federal government’s approval of the vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Verity-Serum Institute of India is encouraging news.

More than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., with roughly 73,000 of those being second doses.

5:40 p.m.

Alberta has recorded 356 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. 

There were 269 people in hospital with the virus, including 55 in intensive care. 

The test positivity rate was 3.9 per cent.

Two doctors who co-chair the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s pandemic committee are urging the Alberta government to hold off on easing restrictions on Monday.

They also think restrictions should be tightened on bars, restaurants and pubs, which they say are overcrowded and not following existing rules.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says he still needs to see latest data, but so far there’s been nothing that warrants alarm.

4:30 p.m.

Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka will be in lockdown starting Monday based on COVID-19 trends.

Ontario announced the decision on Friday after local leaders in Thunder Bay called for help amid growing spread of the virus.

Public health restrictions will loosen in seven other Ontario public health units on Monday.

Data has shown COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dropped after strict public health measures took effect in January, but numbers are starting to rise again.

4:10 p.m.

Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says the case involves a woman in her 20s, adding that the infection does not appear to be directly linked to other cases announced this week.

She says health officials are still trying to determine the source of an outbreak of three cases in the Summerside area, about 60 kilometres west of Charlottetown.

Morrison says COVID-19 testing is being offered in the Summerside area for people between the ages of 14 and 21 on Saturday and for those between 22 and 29 on Sunday.

3:10 p.m.

Saskatchewan health officials announced 153 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths Friday. 

There were 155 people in hospital, with 16 in intensive care. 

The province says 3,545 vaccine doses were administered Thursday for a total of 69,451.

1:55 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting one new travel-related case of COVID-19 today involving a person in their 20s in the Moncton region.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says there are 41 active known cases in the province and that one person is in hospital with the disease, in intensive care.

She says if the number of new cases remains low, all areas of the province may be able to move from the “orange” to the lower, “yellow” pandemic-alert level on March 7.

Under the new rules, mask-wearing will still be required for indoor activities but not outdoor ones, and restrictions will be eased for entertainment centres, churches and sporting activities.

1:50 p.m.

Health officials in Manitoba say one more person has died due to COVID-19 and there are 64 more cases. 

The number of new infections has been steadily decreasing in Manitoba over recent weeks. 

There are 191 people in hospital due to the novel coronavirus. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccination task force, says there’s no indication yet about how much of the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine will come to the province. 

But she says 250 clinics and pharmacies are ready to provide doses when it arrives.

1:35 p.m.

Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

The new case is in Arviat, a community of about 2,800 and the only place in Nunavut with active cases.

Arviat, which continues to see an outbreak of the virus, has been in a strict lockdown for over 100 days.

All schools and non-essential businesses in the community are closed and travel is restricted.

There are 26 active cases in Nunavut, all in Arviat.

1:10 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador health authorities are reporting four new cases of COVID-19.

Officials say they are also battling the province’s first outbreak at a hospital.

Though Eastern Health officials will not provide exact numbers, they say fewer than 10 people are affected by an outbreak at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in St. John’s.

Public health says a wider outbreak in the St. John’s metro region is ongoing and there are now 11 people in hospital with the virus, including five in intensive care.

12:10 p.m.

Canada’s chief public health officer says the daily COVID-19 case counts are nearly 75 per cent higher than they were at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic last spring.

Dr. Theresa Tam says the average daily case counts in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have increased between eight and 14 per cent over the previous week.

She says that as of Thursday evening, there have now been 858,217 COVID-19 cases in Canada, including 21,865 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tam warns that COVID-19 variants can still emerge and those that spread more quickly can become predominant.

12:05 p.m.

Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 today.

Nine of the new cases have been identified in the health region that includes Halifax, and one is in the eastern region.

Of the new cases, five are close contacts of previously reported cases, three are under investigation and two are related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

12 p.m.

Ontario’s science advisers say prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations based on neighbourhood as well as age could prevent thousands of cases and reduce the number of deaths due to the pandemic.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table makes the findings in a new report released today.

The group says the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on older adults and residents of disadvantaged and racialized urban neighbourhoods. 

It says targeting those residents for vaccination first could minimize deaths, illness and hospitalizations across Ontario. 

11:50 a.m.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada has secured two million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine through a deal with Verity Pharmaceutical Canada Inc. and the Serum Institute of India.

She says 500,000 of those doses will be delivered in the coming weeks.

Another 1.5 million doses will arrive by mid-May.

This is on top of the 20 million doses already secured through an earlier deal with AstraZeneca.

Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in Canada earlier today.

11:25 a.m.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on the federal government to work to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines to give poorer countries greater access to doses.

Singh joined with former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis today to demand Ottawa support developing nations at an upcoming World Trade Organization meeting.

Those countries are asking for a patent waiver, which would allow them to produce generic versions of the vaccines.

Singh is also calling for the WTO to suspend its dispute resolution mechanism as it applies to poorer countries so that pharmaceutical companies cannot sue them over vaccine production.

(The Canadian Press)

11 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 815 new COVID-19 infections and 11 more deaths attributed to the virus.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 13, to 620, and 119 people were in intensive care, a drop of three.

Quebec has now vaccinated more than 400,500 people with a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine after administering 12,038 doses on Thursday.

10:40 a.m.

Ontario’s ministry of health says there are 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says that of those new cases 362 are in Toronto, 274 are in Peel Region and 104 are in York Region.

There were also 28 more deaths linked to the virus in Ontario since the last daily update.

8:30 a.m.

Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, the third to be given the green light for national use.

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version, based on information provided by Dr. Theresa Tam, erroneously stated that daily COVID-19 case counts are nearly 75 times higher now than they were at the peak of the first wave. In fact, Tam later clarified they are 75 per cent higher than at the peak of the first wave.

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Canada approves use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine – MENAFN.COM

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(MENAFN – IANS)

Ottawa, Feb 27 (IANS) Canada announced its approval of the use of the Covid-19 vaccine co-developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca on Friday, clearing the way for millions of more inoculations in the country.

“AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine is indicated for active immunisation of individuals 18 years of age and older for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019,” said Health Canada in its news release.

“The efficacy of the vaccine was estimated to be 62.1 per cent. Overall, there are no important safety concerns and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants,” it added.

Canada, which began to assess the submission from AstraZeneca and Oxford University for safety and efficacy since last October, has secured access to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine before July, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The approval follows that of Pfizer and Moderna, both of which also require two doses.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines based on mRNA technology, AstraZeneca uses more conventional viral vector technology.

One major advantage is in logistics. The shot can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures, unlike its leading mRNA-based competitors, which require ultra-cold storage.

Health Canada said it has no immediate safety concerns for those 65 and older.

France has restricted the vaccine to people under the age of 65 despite the World Health Organization’s insistence that the product is safe and effective for all age groups.

As of Friday morning, more than 1,729,203 doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines have been administered across Canada, according to Health Canada.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government was “very confident” that it would meet its end-of-September goal of vaccinating every Canadian who wants to be inoculated.

Canada has a population of nearly 38 million.

–IANS

int/rs

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