Twenty-five more Albertans have died from COVID-19, including a woman in her 20s from the Calgary zone, as the province surpasses 800 deaths.
The woman died Dec. 12 and there are no known comorbidities linked to her death.
During Friday’s COVID-19 update, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said this death is a reminder that younger individuals are not immune to the impact of the disease.
“This is a tragic reminder of what we have been saying, which is that while the risk is lower for individuals who are younger, it is not zero,” she said.
Hinshaw also issued a reminder to younger Albertans to continue being cautious.
“It is critical to be thinking about your actions, about all of our actions, not just for yourself,” Hinshaw said, “This is just a reminder that there can be tragic consequences.”
The other deaths included five Albertans in their 90s, eight in their 80s, five in their 70s, five in their 60s and one in their 40s.
Eleven of the deaths were Albertans who lived in the Calgary zone.
The woman is the fourth Albertan in their 20s to die from the disease. The other deaths were reported April 3, Oct. 19, and Nov. 21.
The majority of the deaths happened within the past week, with three deaths recorded since the beginning of the month.
Alberta surpassed 800 deaths Friday, up from 700 total deaths recorded five days ago.
There were 1413 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province Friday with a test positivity rate of 7.35 per cent
European Union aims to tighten its control of vaccine shipments – The Globe and Mail
The European Union plans to exert more control over the export of COVID-19 vaccines as part of a growing row with drug makers that threatens to disrupt vaccination programs in several countries including Canada.
The EU said Tuesday that it’s finalizing a proposal that will require pharmaceutical companies to register their vaccine exports from the bloc. The plan is expected to come into force later this week and it could lead to restrictions on exports.
The move is the latest twist in a dispute between EU officials and AstraZeneca over delays in shipments of the company’s vaccine, which has been developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford. However, any export-control measure would affect vaccine production by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which also have manufacturing facilities in Europe. Moderna’s vaccine is manufactured outside of the EU but final processing and distribution takes place within the bloc.
All of Canada’s supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines comes from the companies’ European sites. Canada has yet to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is made in several locations including Belgium. The federal government has purchased 20 million doses, if it’s authorized by Health Canada, and shipments are expected to start in the second quarter of 2021.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau batted away any suggestion that the EU threats would affect vaccine shipments to Canada.
Mr. Trudeau said he spoke with executives at Pfizer and Moderna who assured him “that we are very much continuing to be on track for receiving our full doses of vaccines in the timelines provided.”
“It was very, very clear that the Canadian contracts that have been signed and the delivery schedule laid out will be respected,” he added.
Canada has purchased 40 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which is made at a facility in Switzerland, according to Paul Monlezun, a spokesperson for Moderna. After initial production in Switzerland, which is not an EU member, the vaccine is bottled and packaged in Spain and shipped to Canada through Belgium.
The 40 million doses that Canada has bought from Pfizer are expected to come from the company’s Belgian plant.
A statement from Pfizer Canada said it’s critical that governments don’t impose export restrictions or other trade barriers on the vaccines. “We look forward to receiving further details on the EU proposal and assessing its impact on patients,” Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou said Tuesday.
The EU’s action highlights the mounting tension over lagging vaccine production. AstraZeneca and Pfizer have both announced production slowdowns in recent weeks, leaving many countries scrambling to meet vaccination targets.
Pfizer said recently that it was remodelling its plant in Belgium in order to nearly double its production to two billion doses this year. The company said the refurbishment would affect some shipments until mid-February, but it added that the allocation of doses to Canada and other countries “will balance out” by the end of March. Canada was hit particularly hard by the slowdown and received no Pfizer doses this week, and is only expecting 79,000 doses next week. Updated numbers for the rest of February have not yet been released.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to be approved by EU regulators this week and health officials were counting on 80 million doses this quarter. However, last Friday, AstraZeneca said that because of production issues in Europe it would only be able to supply 31 million doses.
That enraged EU officials who have accused AstraZeneca of failing to properly explain the delay. “This new schedule is not acceptable to the European Union,” said Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. The EU “wants to know exactly which doses have been produced by AstraZeneca and where exactly so far and if or to whom they have been delivered.”
The EU and AstraZeneca will hold further talks on Wednesday to try to resolve the issue, but EU officials have made it clear they will be taking a tough line. The new regulations don’t amount to an export ban, but they will force drug makers to provide details about how many doses they manufacture in the EU and where they are shipped.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn wants the EU to go further and restrict exports altogether. “This is not about EU first; this is about Europe’s fair share,” he said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has also indicated that the EU expects a return for its investment in vaccines. “Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines,” Ms. von der Leyen said in a speech at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday. “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.”
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Made-in-Canada coronavirus vaccine starts human clinical trials – CBC.ca
A made-in-Canada vaccine to protect against COVID-19 began human clinical trials Tuesday in Toronto, says the biotechnology company that developed the vaccine.
Toronto-based Providence Therapeutics said three shots will be given to 60 adult volunteers at a clinical trial site in Toronto in the first phase of the trial on Tuesday.
Fifteen of those volunteers will receive a placebo, and 45 will get the vaccine, called PTX-COVID19-B.
Brad Sorenson, the company’s CEO, said it’s the first time a vaccine designed and manufactured in Canada has begun clinical trials. The company has purchased a site in Calgary to mass produce the vaccine.
Vaccines are designed to trigger an immune response in the body. Providence’s product is an mRNA vaccine and is similar to the Moderna coronavirus shot being given to people across Canada.
Quebec-based pharmaceutical Medicago began clinical trials last July of its coronavirus vaccine that is based on another technology. Unlike Providence, a large portion of Medicago’s vaccine doses will be manufactured outside the country, in North Carolina.
Medicago’s vaccine is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials — the last stage before it can apply for approval from Health Canada and other regulators to market the product.
Sorenson said Providence designed and built its vaccine last March.
“We reached out to the Canadian government in April and said, ‘Hey, you’ve heard of Moderna. We’re doing the exact same thing,’ ” Sorenson said in an interview.
“We went from concept into the clinic in under a year without the same level of support as our peers had.”
Purchased Calgary site
The federal government provided financial sponsorship and support for the early phase clinical trial through the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program.
Currently, Canada lacks the capacity to manufacture the millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines needed to immunize people outside of a clinical trial setting. It’s why the federal government struck deals with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — both manufactured abroad — to obtain the vaccines being rolled out across Canada.
While the company was developing the vaccine in pre-clinical studies, Sorenson said it also started to build the infrastructure to manufacture the vaccine in Canada as well.
The company purchased a 20,000-square-foot facility in Calgary that includes 12,000 square feet of lab space to mass produce the vaccine. The facility will be up and running in two months, Sorensen said.
Pending regulatory approval, a larger Phase 2 trial with adults over 65, youths under 18 and pregnant people could start in May, Sorenson said.
Initial focus was cancer research
If the vaccine proves safe and effective in clinical trials and Health Canada approves it, the goal is to have it ready for the global market by January 2022.
Several other Canadian vaccine candidates are poised to start clinical trials in Canada, including one from Saskatoon-based VIDO-Intervac that’s currently recruiting volunteers for a Phase 1 clinical trial in Halifax.
Virologist Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University and a scientist at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at VIDO-Intervac, is one of the many Canadian researchers involved in vaccine development and anticipating the results of clinical trials, including from Providence.
“The mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna have shown to have very robust immune responses, so perhaps this is a good strategy to be backing,” Kelvin said. “Phase one clinical trials will help us determine if this mRNA vaccine is going into that same progression.”
Michael Gardam, an infectious disease physician and chief operating officer at Health PEI, said the idea of having a domestic pandemic vaccine supplier makes sense. But Canada’s plan was based on making more familiar influenza vaccines.
“If we’re in Phase one, Phase two trials, by the time this Canadian vaccine may be approved, the pandemic may be largely over,” said Gardam, who is not involved in vaccine development. “But the concept is a good one.”
Sorenson founded Providence Therapeutics in 2013 to focus on cancer vaccines.
Several scientists contributed to the pre-clinical research on Providence’s vaccine, including those at the lab of Dr. Mario Ostrowski, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and an infectious disease clinician at St. Michael’s Hospital, Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Rob Kozak at Sunnybrook Research Institute, as well as Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist.
In August, Ostrowski, whose laboratory performed the animal trials, said results were on par with tests of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech at that stage.
Explained: What the Pfizer shortage means for Canada's vaccine rollout – CTV News
Canada won’t receive a single vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week due to an international shortage that has prompted finger-pointing in Ottawa and forced provinces to temporarily delay their vaccine rollouts.
For the next four weeks, Canada’s vaccine deliveries will be cut in half with up to 400,000 doses delayed, according to Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country’s vaccine rollout. Canada won’t receive any new deliveries from Pfizer this week, and only one-quarter of the previously promised delivery next week.
Pfizer advised Canada earlier this month that upgrades to its plant in Belgium would temporarily slow production and reduce doses delivered to every country except the United States, which has its own production facility. The factory is expected to return to full production on Feb. 15.
The upgrades are expected to help boost Pfizer’s annual production capacity from 1.3 billion shots in 2021 to up to 2 billion, which would be enough to cover about 13 per cent of the world’s population.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke directly to Pfizer’s CEO last week and said he was assured that, despite the slowdown, the company will fulfil its contractual promise to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March.
The next shipment of Canada’s second approved vaccine, from Moderna, is expected in the first week of February and will include an estimated 230,400 doses.
In the meantime, the temporary shortage has forced provinces and territories to pump the brakes on their vaccine rollout plans. Opposition parties have accused the Liberals of mishandling the vaccine rollout and pointed to other countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., where more people have received their shots.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE VACCINE ROLLOUT?
Federal health officials overseeing Canada’s vaccine plan insist the Pfizer delay is temporary and will not hamper the country’s long-term goal of vaccinating every Canadian by Sept. 30. Fortin said future shipments and “a rapid scale-up of deliveries in the upcoming weeks” will make up for the current shortage.
For now, provinces have started retooling their vaccination plans to prolong the time between vaccinations and, in some cases, are turning people away from new vaccine appointments.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the Pfizer shortage “a massive concern” and announced that the province will no longer be able to meet its goal of vaccinating all residents and staff in long-term care homes by Feb. 15.
Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and British Columbia will all slow down their vaccine schedules to stretch whatever vaccine supply they have on hand. The provinces will delay second doses up to 42 days, with Quebec prolonging the wait up to 90 days.
The National Advisory Council On Immunization has advised that the wait period between first and second doses could be extended up to 42 days.
In Alberta, officials have paused new appointments for those looking to get their first vaccine. Manitoba temporarily stopped booking new appointments but is expected to resume this week.
WILL THE SHORTAGE MEAN LONG-TERM DELAYS?
The federal government insists that the country’s long-term vaccine rollout remains on track. Officials released projections last week that suggest Canada will still meet its goal of vaccinating 3 million people by the end of March, accounting for eight per cent of the entire population. A total of 36 million Canadians are expected to be vaccinated by the end of September.
Even if Canada doesn’t approve any more vaccines by the fall, estimates suggest that doses from Pfizer and Moderna will cover 13 million Canadians, or 34 per cent, by June and 36 million, or 95 per cent, by September 30.
Canada’s vaccine rollout could happen even faster if more vaccines are approved. The projections suggest that, based on all vaccines Canada has procured but have yet to be approved, as many as 23 million Canadians could be vaccinated between April and June, accounting for 61 per cent of the population. Canada could have enough doses for up to 73 million people between July on September. In such a scenario, there would be more than enough vaccines for everyone who wants one.
HOW DOES CANADA COMPARE TO OTHER COUNTRIES?
So far, 761,530 people in Canada have received at least their first shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, accounting for roughly two per cent of the population.
In the United States, about six per cent of the population has received at least their first shot. However, the U.S. is lagging when it comes to administering available vaccines, with only about half of all shots available still undistributed.
In Israel, which secured a large stock of Pfizer vaccines from the get-go, more than 2.5 million of the country’s 9 million people have been vaccinated. Teenagers between 16 and 18 are now receiving vaccines on the condition that they receive parental permission. https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/israel-expands-vaccination-campaign-to-teens-1.5279506
Canada’s rollout is more on par with countries such as Finland, Austria, Poland, Switzerland and Estonia, all of which have vaccinated around two per cent of their populations.
Canada is hardly alone when it comes to the delays. Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and several European countries have all begun slowing down vaccinations, and Italy has threatened to sue Pfizer.
In Ottawa, the Liberals have been criticized for how they’re managing the rollout. Some members of the opposition have called on Trudeau to ask U.S. President Joe Biden for help.
NDP House Leader Peter Julian said the Liberals need to explain the situation to Canadians.
“Why are other countries ahead?” Julian said. “That’s the question that the government will have to respond to. And we believe that the government needs to very clearly spell out their plan to accelerate the vaccine distribution across the country.”
The government says it has worked hard to secure as many doses as possible and signed multiple contracts in anticipation of multiple vaccine candidates booming available in the coming months.
With files from The Canadian Press
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