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Braced for an increase in COVID cases, Health Canada reviews 3 new vaccines



If authorized for use, new vaccine formulations will roll out this fall

With early signs indicating the COVID-19 caseload is poised to grow in the weeks ahead, Health Canada is actively reviewing three new vaccines specifically designed to target an Omicron subvariant of the virus.

The department told CBC News Monday that new mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna and a non-mRNA product from Novavax have been part of a months-long review process and supplies could start to roll out in the fall.

That timeline is similar to what is planned south of the border. The U.S. is poised to release an updated COVID booster in late September (new window) once regulators there sign off on the new shots.


These new vaccines are designed for the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant now in widespread circulation.

When asked how many doses of these products the country is set to receive, a Health Canada spokesperson wouldn’t give an exact figure but said in a media statement there will be an ample supply of the new formulation of mRNA vaccines.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has said the company’s shots are ready to be deployed as soon as regulators authorize their use.

Novavax’s protein-based XBB COVID vaccine candidate will not be available until later this year, Health Canada said.

That shot is an option for people who are unwilling or unable to receive an mRNA vaccine, the department said.

While the number of reported COVID-19 cases remains much lower than in the past, some agencies, notably Public Health Ontario (PHO), have reported an uptick in positive test results.

Of the roughly 12,700 tests administered in the province between Aug. 13 and Aug. 19, 9.9 per cent came back positive (new window) — a sharp increase from the 5.2 per cent positivity rate in early July.

Per cent positivity remained stable from late April 2023 to the end of May, trended downwards until late June and has been trending upwards overall with the trend accelerating in the most recent weeks, PHO said in an update on respiratory viruses published Friday (new window).

Despite an expected fall wave of COVID-19, health experts recommend most people wait for the next, updated vaccine — still a few weeks away — to get a booster for the most protection.

Ontario wastewater signals (new window) also suggest that COVID-19 infections are steadily increasing in number — although not to the high levels reported earlier this year.

The number of COVID-related hospitalizations in Ontario has been stable for months, despite an increase in test positivity.

The most commonly reported COVID-19 strain in Ontario is currently EG.5.1, followed by EG.5.1.1 and XBB.1.16, PHO said.

The new formulation of the vaccines could help with these subvariants, which are strains of the virus descended from the original Omicron.

Some Canadians remain opposed to taking COVID-19 vaccines. Health Canada sought to reassure those people that the products are going through an independent process that is based on scientific rigour and medical evidence.

The federal government is working with the provinces and territories on demand planning and forecasting to determine how many shots will be made available for the fall 2023 vaccination campaign, the spokesperson said.

While it’s up to Ottawa to buy the shots, lower levels of government are ultimately responsible for designing and delivering immunization programs.

With the review of those products now well underway, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending (new window) that all people previously vaccinated against COVID-19 prepare to get a dose of the new formulation once it’s available.

NACI, an independent body made up of volunteer vaccine experts, said an eligible individual should receive a shot if at least six months have passed since a previous COVID-19 vaccine dose or infection.

The committee said immunization is particularly important for people facing a heightened risk of infection, such as those 65 years of age or older, long-term care home residents, pregnant women, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and other racialized groups.

The new formulations under review are targeted to address the more recent, immune-evasive variants in circulation, NACI said (new window).

People with an updated shot will benefit from a better immune response against these variants compared to the current crop of vaccines, the committee said.

A booster dose starting in the fall of 2023 is expected to increase protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 symptomatic and severe disease that has waned since the last booster vaccination or SARS-CoV-2 infection, NACI said in making its recommendation.

Increased protection will help to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health system while other respiratory viruses, including influenza and RSV, are circulating in the fall and winter of the 2023-2024 respiratory virus season.

The committee said hybrid immunity — prior infection along with vaccination — offers greater protection against infection and severe disease than vaccination or prior infection alone.

For this reason, an additional dose of vaccine starting this fall is particularly important for those who have not been previously infected and have protection from vaccination alone, the committee said.

Relatively few COVID-19 shots have been administered in Canada this year.

Federal data on immunization is also out of date as uptake for these products has waned considerably.

As of June 18, 2023, about 6 per cent of the population has had a COVID-19 shot in the last six months.



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The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life




Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.

That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.

What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?

Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.

Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.


Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations

As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.

Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:

  1. Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
  2. Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
  3. Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.

Determining a Fair Payment Plan

Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.

Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.

Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers

When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:

  • Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
  • Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
  • Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
  • Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.


Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.

Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.

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Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home



THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.

The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.

No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.

Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.




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Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister



Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.

Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.

“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”


Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.

“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.

LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.

“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.

The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.

LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.

On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.

“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.

LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.

“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.

She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.

Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.

LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.

“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.

–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News



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