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Britain first to approve Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, rollout starts Monday – The Globe and Mail

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AstraZeneca’s logo is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration taken November 9, 2020.

DADO RUVIC/Reuters

British regulators have approved a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca which scientists say will massively boost efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike the vaccines currently in use — made by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna — the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored in regular refrigerators and it has been priced far lower. Scientists say that will make it easier to distribute the vaccine to doctors’ offices, seniors’ homes and throughout developing countries. AstraZeneca said it will produce three billion doses on a not-for-profit basis throughout the pandemic. The company added on Wednesday that it could soon start producing two million doses per week.

The British government has bet heavily on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and ordered 100 million doses, enough to cover 50 million people since it requires two doses. The first batch is set to arrive in the country this week and inoculations will begin on Monday. Initial doses will be given to as many people as possible with the second dose coming up to 12 weeks later.

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The approval was “truly fantastic news, and a triumph for British science,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter Wednesday. “We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”

The U.K. has already vaccinated around 800,000 people with the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. But that vaccine must be stored at -70C while the Oxford-AstraZeneca drug can be kept in fridges at between 2-8C. It also costs around $5 per dose compared to $26 for the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine and $43 for Moderna’s.

The approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency comes at a critical moment in the U.K. The country has been struggling with a rampant surge in COVID-19 infections which scientists believe could be linked to more contagious variant of the virus that has emerged in recent weeks. That variant has spread to dozens of countries, including Canada, despite bans on British travellers.

The number of daily cases in Britain hit record high of more than 53,000 on Tuesday and hospital admissions have reached levels not seen since the pandemic began last March. Much of the country has been put under near total lockdown and on Wednesday Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to announce further restrictions.

“The regulator’s assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. “Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible.”

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been in development since last January. It uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees but is harmless to humans. Once modified with the genetic sequencing of the spike protein found in COVID-19, the vaccine prompts the human immune system to react.

That’s different from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines which involve messenger RNA, or genetic coding that instructs the vaccinated person’s cells to produce the viral protein, or antigen. That gives the immune system a preview of what the real virus will look like, without causing illness, and it can build defences.

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Approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has taken longer than the other two vaccines because of complications in the testing process.

Initially the vaccine was supposed to be administered in two full doses, like the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. However, a mistake in the early trials saw only half a dose administered at first followed by a full second dose. That combination proved to be more effective, yielding 90 per cent protection as opposed to 62 per cent for the two-full doses. By contrast the two other vaccines showed 95 per cent efficacy during trials.

The MHRA has approved the two-full dose regime of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and said that further data from the trials showed that it was 70 per cent effective after the initial dose. It was 80 per cent effective after the second dose, the agency added on Wednesday.

Prof. Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the MHRA’s Commission on Human Medicine Expert Working Group, said that an analysis of data from the half-dose, full-dose combination found that the results had not been borne out.

June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said data showed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was effective 21 days after the first dose. She added that initial doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech offered enough protection that the second doses could be administered up to three months later.

“The public and everyone who’s listening can be absolutely confident that the scientific rigour of our assessment has been as we would normally do it according to guidelines and standards,” said Dr. Raine. “These are difficult times for so many of us. But vaccines such as this one have the potential to save many lives and will see us come through.”

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Dr. Pirmohamed also said the MHRA was not recommending mixing the vaccines — for example giving an initial dose of one vaccine and a second dose of another — but that studies were underway to see if that would be possible in future.

Public health officials and scientists said approving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was a critical moment in the pandemic. “At a time when we see the pandemic accelerating beyond our control, a rapid, efficient vaccination programme with good population coverage is our only way out,” said Daniel Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London. “With two vaccines now in the roll-out and very substantially more doses, it starts to look realistic that this could be achievable by the spring or early summer.”

How the Oxford-AstraZeneca drug works

16/16

14/14

11/11

The Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid-19

vaccine can prevent up to 90 per cent of people

contracting coronavirus when it is administered as

a half dose followed by a full dose

at least one month apart

Spike

protein

Spike protein:

Gene is cut from

Sars-CoV-2 genome

Virus

genome

Gene: Inserted into DNA

of adenovirus which acts

as vector in vaccine

Adenovirus:

Unable to

cause disease

Vaccine: Induces spike

protein antigen – triggers

antibody immune response

Antibodies

Human immune

system: Produces

antibodies against

spike proteins

Vaccine: Can be

stored in refrigerator

at 2-8°C. Two doses

of vaccine are

required

graphic news, SOURCE: Reuters; Oxford

Vaccine Trial; University of Oxford

16/16

14/14

11/11

The Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

can prevent up to 90 per cent of people contracting

coronavirus when it is administered as a half dose

followed by a full dose at least one month apart

Spike

protein

Spike protein:

Gene is cut from

Sars-CoV-2 genome

Virus

genome

Gene: Inserted into DNA

of adenovirus which acts

as vector in vaccine

Adenovirus:

Unable to

cause disease

Vaccine: Induces spike

protein antigen – triggers

antibody immune response

Antibodies

Human immune

system: Produces

antibodies against

spike proteins

Vaccine: Can be

stored in refrigerator

at 2-8°C. Two doses

of vaccine are

required

graphic news, SOURCE: Reuters; Oxford Vaccine Trial;

University of Oxford

18/18

16/16

13/13

The Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine can prevent

up to 90 per cent of people contracting coronavirus when it is administered

as a half dose followed by a full dose at least one month apart

Spike protein

Adenovirus:

Unable to

cause disease

Virus genome

Spike protein:

Gene is cut from

Sars-CoV-2 genome

Gene: Inserted into DNA

of adenovirus which acts

as vector in vaccine

Antibodies

Vaccine: Induces spike

protein antigen – triggers

antibody immune response

Human immune

system: Produces

antibodies against

spike proteins

Vaccine: Can be

stored in refrigerator

at 2-8°C. Two doses

of vaccine are required

graphic news, SOURCE: Reuters; Oxford Vaccine Trial; University of Oxford


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Fewer than 2400 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario, another 52 deaths logged – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Health officials in Ontario are reporting fewer than 2,400 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday.

The 2,359 infections mark a drop over Friday’s report when 2,662 cases were added and bring the province’s COVID-19 case total to 252,585, including deaths and recoveries.

Fifty-two of those deaths occurred in the previous day, 25 of which were residents in a long-term care home.

The Ministry of Health now considers 3,025 more cases to be resolved, a number that has been outpacing new infections in Ontario in recent days. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 222,287 people previously diagnosed with COVID-19 have recovered. 

The data released by the government Saturday shows there are currently 24,545 active cases of the novel coronavirus across Ontario.

With 63,453 tests processed in the last 24 hours, the province’s COVID-19 positivity rate stands at 4.5 per cent.

Where are the new COVID-19 cases in Ontario?

Most of the cases reported Saturday were found in Toronto (708), Peel Region (422), York Region (220), Hamilton (107) and Windsor-Essex (100).

Toronto Mayor John Tory commented on the city’s numbers in a tweet published Saturday where he said case counts are heading in the “right direction.”

“Let’s keep it that way. Stay home this weekend, Toronto,” he said.

For context, the province reported 779 cases in Toronto on Friday, 897 (102 of which were attributed to a previous technical issue) on Thursday and 925 on Wednesday.

Toronto has consistently reported the highest daily COVID-19 case numbers in the province since the start of the pandemic.

Several other regions reported case numbers in the high double digits, including Niagara, Waterloo, Halton, Simcoe Muskoka and Durham Region.

Right now, there are 1,501 patients in hospital with COVID-19, down from the 1,512 reported a day earlier.

Of those patients, 395 are being treated in an intensive care unit and 299 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

Update on COVID-19 vaccinations in Ontario

Health Minister Christine Elliott says that 276,146 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered throughout Ontario since inoculations began last month.

The province said that 11,161 of those shots were administered in the previous day.

At least 57,907 people have received both their first and second shots and are considered to be fully vaccinated.

Ontario is currently operating in Phase 1 of it’s vaccination rollout, which will see shots given to health-care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes, other congregate care settings and remote Indigenous communities

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2 New Deaths, 116 New Cases Of COVID-19 In Windsor Essex On Saturday – windsoriteDOTca News

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[unable to retrieve full-text content]

  1. 2 New Deaths, 116 New Cases Of COVID-19 In Windsor Essex On Saturday  windsoriteDOTca News
  2. BlackburnNews.com – Overdose alert issued for Windsor area  BlackburnNews.com
  3. Some local leaders fear looming crisis as migrant workers start to arrive in Windsor-Essex  CBC.ca
  4. 8 additional deaths, 99 new COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex  CTV News Windsor
  5. Ontario’s enforcement tour coming to Windsor-Essex this weekend  CTV News Windsor
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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Post-pandemic apocalypse – Winnipeg Free Press

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Statistic after statistic points to the debilitating state of commerce in Canada. But what exactly do all those pandemic-fuelled business closures mean for cities like Winnipeg, Vancouver or Toronto?

Data released this week by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows the situation is dire. More than one in six businesses — at least 239,000 across Canada and 5,601 in Manitoba — are at the risk of permanently disappearing because of COVID-19, or have already closed.

Economists, public policy stakeholders and municipal planners are split on how exactly this will affect the future of downtown cores and surrounding areas.


In interviews with the Free Press, experts described how jarring shifts in local economies will cause hypercompetition in some sectors, while others might completely disappear. It could also cause fewer jobs overall, less walkable areas, limited shopping options, and a rapid loss of the “biz village” concept, they said, along with severe population declines.

One in six businesses at risk — at least 239,000 across Canada and 5,601 in Manitoba

Click to Expand

2.4 MILLION PEOPLE likely be out of work — a staggering 20 per cent of private sector jobs, or just about ONE IN SEVEN of all employment in Canada

47% of businesses are fully open, as of Jan. 22 — down from 62 per cent at the end of November

36% fully staffed, as of Jan. 22 — down from 41 per cent at the end of November

22% businesses currently making normal sales, as of Jan. 22 — down from 29 per cent at the end of November

Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business

If there’s one thing they can all agree on, however, it’s that Canadians cities will likely never look the same again. And if governments plan on bringing things back to a sustainable “new normal,” analysts believe preparation for it should begin as soon as possible.

“I think there’s an implicit assumption that we’re in a sort of snow globe right now and that everything’s suspended so that one day soon we’ll all go back to normal,” said Vass Bednar, a policy expert who’s held several public and private sector leadership roles, including at Airbnb and Queen’s Park in Toronto.

“Those assumptions are almost certainly wrong,” she said. “The fact is, everyone will quickly notice how different things already are when they go on a walk around their cities to see not just closed signs, but also the larger store or restaurant signs taken off to indicate permanent closures for so many of their favourite places. And it will only get more severe.”

CFIB’s latest figures suggest that at least 58,000 businesses have already permanently closed their doors following pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions in 2020.

Sylvain Charlebois, a leading supply chain expert, said shifts toward more consolidation and amalgamation will cause city demographics themselves to change. (Supplied)

Sylvain Charlebois, a leading supply chain expert, said shifts toward more consolidation and amalgamation will cause city demographics themselves to change. (Supplied)

Based on a survey of its members done between Jan. 12 and Jan. 16, the organization now says a mid-range of at least 181,000 small business owners are also considering to close down or declare bankruptcy on top of last year’s numbers, adding up to 239,000 in total.

But should things remain unchanged, by the end of this year, closures could rise up to 280,117 across Canada. In Manitoba, that’s roughly 6,645 storefronts — with even the lowest estimates suggesting at least six per cent (5,601 businesses) will be lost.

That means more than 2.4 million people will likely be out of work — a staggering 20 per cent of private sector jobs, or just about one in seven of all employment in Canada.

“They’re all very scary figures,” said Jonathan Alward, Prairies director for CFIB. “I really, truly hope we’re wrong on this. But it just doesn’t seem like we are, at least not right now.

“In an ordinary time, businesses would never want to be rescued with help from the government. But right now, I think creating pathways for safe openings by tax breaks, subsidies and other strategies to provide easier access is just as important for communities themselves than the business owners.”


Fletcher Baragar is an economics professor at the University of Manitoba who’s extensively researched how bankruptcies and bailouts affect societies and communities. He said he’s never seen more closures than this past year — not during the 2008-09 financial crisis, or even in his studies of recessions that occurred before the turn of the millennium.

“It’s a common thing to see exits and entries all the time in the market — healthy changes are the whole point of an entrepreneurial marketplace,” said Baragar. “But when that business change happens so rapidly, it certainly affects everything else… and it’s incredibly uneven in the type of areas and sectors it affects when some benefit from it and others die out of it.”

Hospitality and arts are two of the hardest-hit sectors, CFIB data indicates, with 33 per cent and 28 per cent of businesses in those sectors expected to close up shop. In the retail sector, it’s 15 per cent of companies.

At the other end of the spectrum, agriculture and natural resources are the lowest-impacted of any sector — still, with six per cent of businesses expected to close. Next is construction, at nine per cent, and manufacturing, at 12 per cent.

Provincial breakdowns show Newfoundland and Labrador will see the most severe impact, with a high-end estimate of 28 per cent of all businesses to close. That’s followed by Alberta at 25 per cent and Ontario at 24. Manitoba is right in the middle at 18 per cent, and Nova Scotia is least-impacted at 14 per cent.

Retail locations, including those in Winnipeg's Osborne Village, are either closed or have only offered curb-side pick-up and delivery since province-wide code red restrictions were declared in mid-November. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Retail locations, including those in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village, are either closed or have only offered curb-side pick-up and delivery since province-wide code red restrictions were declared in mid-November. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

That’s why business owners have begun to ask themselves tough questions, said Baragar, about whether it’s even worth opening up when they’re allowed to and if it’s something they can afford financially.

“Of the ones remaining, I think there’s going to be a lot more consolidation and amalgamation internationally and from one side of the country to the next,” he said. “And that means fewer buying and service options for quite literally everything — restaurants, clothing, you name it.”

Sylvain Charlebois, a leading supply chain expert, said these shifts will also cause city demographics themselves to change. Pointing to recent Starbucks coffee shop closures, he said food companies are making note of this, and will “always go where the money is” — which he doesn’t believe is in urban centres anymore.

“Of course, the cost of city dwelling is a cruel barrier anyway,” said Charlebois, who’s a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “More than that, there’s other reasons that are also important. When businesses close in areas where they were supposed to be forming villages or walkable communities, it impacts the kind of people that want to live in those cities and how much they actually spend. It’s a cycle.”

Loren Remillard, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, said that’s something he’s already seen with Osborne Village in Winnipeg before, when storefronts began to abruptly shut down a few years ago.

“We realized during that time, just how much businesses are more than businesses for livable communities — they’re really the fabric of what binds them together,” he said. “You couldn’t have Little Italy or Little India or even Sage Creek without the actual biz village concept thriving for those ethnographic neighbourhoods.”

Remillard said a continuous push is being made to get larger companies to headquarter in Winnipeg, “so that if and when acquisitions or mergers happen during devastating economic periods, we risk little when their main office is here.”

But as a policy expert, Bednar believes messaging from government has been a crucial part of what makes the future for urban business so frazzled. “It was so much easier just to tell everyone to move online and give them some subsidies to string along,” she said.

“Eventually, when this is finally over, what happens when we’re offline again? Can you actually market or promote tourism if you don’t have physical stores? It might be time to start changing how we’re thinking and talking about these things.”

Twitter: @temurdur

Temur.Durrani@freepress.mb.ca

Temur Durrani

Temur Durrani
Reporter

Temur Durrani reports on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for this Free Press reporting position comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

   Read full biography

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