As B.C. public health officials subtract another year of age each day to ramp up COVID-19 mass vaccination, the groups admitted to the program get larger quickly.
As of Saturday, age 79 and up were eligible to call one of five regional health authority call centres, adding 30,630 people to the vaccination group. As of Monday, vaccination appointments open to B.C. residents age 78 and up, meaning another 34,254 are eligible to call for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment as of March 22.
Age 77 bookings open Tuesday, a group estimated to be 36,816. Age 76 on Thursday adds 38,117 and the age 75 group, opening Saturday March 27, represents 41,739. That’s a total of more than 181,000 people eligible this week, and the biggest groups, the back end of the post-war baby boom population age 60 and up, are still to come.
The decision to open an age group each day is to smooth the flow of phone calls to centres that were briefly overwhelmed as community vaccinations opened for age 90 and up in early March. Fraser Health, with the largest population and highest coronavirus transmission rate, has the only working online booking system for appointments, but that changes in early April to prepare for the peak of B.C.’s largest mass vaccination.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the vaccination team have targeted April 6 to begin taking online registration in Northern Health, Interior Health, Island Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, in addition to the call centres. They expect to book more than 420,000 appointments for the age-based program by April 18.
The parallel program to target supplies of the more portable AstraZeneca vaccine to priority work groups is also ramping up quickly. Fraser Health received 22,500 doses to immunize people in 71 food processing plants, 48 farm and greenhouse operations and any industrial sites with outbreaks.
Northern Health’s 15,000 doses are mainly for five industrial projects using camps: Coastal GasLink, LNG Canada, B.C. Hydro’s Site C, the Trans Mountain twinning project and Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kemano T2 tunnel project.
Interior Health gets 6,500 doses for people in three industrial camps, 34 food processing sites and six farms or nurseries, while Island Health is assigned 1,000 doses for four large food production facilities.
Vancouver Coastal has 16,000 doses for 53 food processing facilities, six industrial sites with a history of COVID-19 clusters, five group staff housing sites at Whistler, and thousands of temporary foreign workers who arrive and go into isolation at hotels in Richmond.
U.S. will accept mixed doses of vaccines from international travelers
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Friday that it will accept mixed-dose coronavirus vaccines from international travelers, a boost to travelers from Canada and other places.
The CDC said last week that it would accept any vaccine authorized for use by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization. “While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records,” a CDC spokeswoman said.
The White House said Friday the new vaccine requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States will begin Nov. 8 for visitors crossing at land borders as well as international air travelers.
Representative Brian Higgins, a New York Democrat representing a district along the Canadian border, had on Friday asked the CDC if it would accept the mixed vaccine doses noting “nearly four million Canadians, equivalent to 10% of their fully vaccinated population, have received mixed doses of the available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines – this includes the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
The CDC said the vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use, as well as those authorized by the WHO, will be accepted for entry into the United States, including the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The CDC said “individuals who have any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series are considered fully vaccinated.”
The CDC plans to answer other questions and release a contact tracing order for international air visitors by Oct. 25.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Aurora Ellis)
Transplant programs reviewing policy on recipients being vaccinated against COVID-19 – Squamish Chief
Transplant centres in Western Canada have stopped short of requiring organ recipients to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but they say conversations about such a policy are ongoing.
Some centres in other parts of the country, including Ontario, are requiring proof of vaccination before a patient is approved for the life-saving surgery.
BC Transplant, located in Vancouver, said COVID-19 vaccination is not required to be eligible for a transplant, but programs in the province are actively reviewing it.
“The transplant programs are strongly encouraging all pre-transplant patients to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as they do with many other vaccine-preventable infections,” the agency said in a statement.
Similarly, Alberta Health Services told The Canadian Press it has long been a requirement that patients preparing for transplant have all vaccines to help maximize their chances of success post-transplant. It notes, however, it’s only a practice guideline at this point.
Saskatchewan has also not made any changes.
“Saskatchewan’s organ transplant teams are strongly supportive of all recipients and donors having COVID vaccinations, and the issue of requiring these vaccinations in recipients is actively being discussed,” Lisa Thomson, a spokeswoman for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said in a statement.
The Ajmera Transplant Centre at Toronto’s University Health Network recently announced its decision to implement a policy that requires patients who may benefit from receiving a transplant be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they are listed for solid organ transplant.
However, there may be exemptions for medical reasons or in cases of urgent need of a transplant.
“We all recognize that (COVID-19) is a massive, massive risk factor. The prudent and ethical thing to do to protect patients and to protect each other, and show fidelity and respect to those organ donors, is to require this (policy) to be a price of pass and go,” UHN president and chief executive officer Kevin Smith said in an interview.
The decision to enact the policy is based on a few factors, according to the organization.
It said transplant patients are severely immunocompromised because of lifelong treatment to prevent rejection of a new organ. If someone who is immunocompromised gets COVID-19, they are at a very high risk of being hospitalized or placed on ventilation.
Unvaccinated recipients could also pose a risk to other patients post-surgery. Transplant recipients have high health needs after their transplants and require frequent visits to a hospital. These individuals may pose a greater risk of spreading illness, should they get infected, to other immunocompromised patients in an inpatient or outpatient setting.
“Thinking about an outbreak in an environment like that would be just a massacre,” Smith said.
Infectious disease experts noted this type of policy isn’t new.
“There’s just requirements pre-transplant in order to be eligible for listing. Some of it is complying with some of the medical measures to see if patients would be eligible,” said Dr. Dima Kabbani, an assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta.
Kabbani added pre-transplant vaccine recommendations are already in place for hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease and influenza.
Manitoba’s Shared Health said there is no requirement for Manitobans awaiting a transplant to be vaccinated for COVID-19, but noted patients may be required to show proof of vaccinationif there are requirements elsewhere.Kidney transplants are performed in the province while all other organ transplants take place in other provinces.
Jessica Bailey, 35, is living with stage five kidney disease and awaiting a transplant in Saskatoon.
The government has postponed surgeries as the province deals with a devastating fourth wave of COVID-19.
Bailey said she is not in favour of requiring recipients to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She said she is double vaccinated but believes recipients should still have the choice on whether they want the vaccine.
She does encourage patients who may be on the fence to look at the bigger picture.
“If you can get a transplant just by getting the vaccine, go and do it. Pick and choose your battles,” Bailey said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 15, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
Health Unit Gearing Up For Flu Shot Program – ckdr.net
With the colder months not far away, the Northwestern Health Unit is preparing for their annual flu shot program.
“The Northwestern Health Unit will begin to offer the flu vaccine in November and we will inform the public when they can start booking appointments,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young Hoon. “As always the influenza vaccine will also be available at many pharmacies and from other health care providers.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada only reported 79 lab confirmed cases of influenza in 2020 compared to 54-thousand cases just the year before.
The drop is largely attributed to strong public health measures and lockdowns due to COVID-19, but officials say there could be more documented cases this year.
“Influenza vaccination were relatively high last year so we’re working off a similar assumption for this year that they will be high,” says Dr. Young Hoon. “I believe we will have enough vaccine to provide to whoever wants to be vaccinated and we’re prepping to have a relatively high rate this year.”
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