Canada is the latest country to investigate how to stretch vaccine doses as far as possible, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have tragic consequences all around the world.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Tuesday she has asked the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to investigate whether it would be warranted to delay the second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to get first doses to more people faster.
“This is a topic of, of course, active discussion,” Tam said at her regular Tuesday briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.
The situation, she noted, is grim, with more than 7,500 new patients diagnosed every day, more than 77,700 people actively infected with it, and more than 4,000 people in the nation’s hospitals with it. Over the last week, an average of 122 Canadians have died of COVID-19 every day.
Tam said there is some promising evidence that single doses of vaccines designed to be given in two shots are effective for a while, but that evidence is limited. She stressed Canada remains committed to giving two doses of the vaccines but that she has asked the advisory committee to look at what is known about the matter, and what should be considered when deciding whether to adjust the dosing schedule.
Health Canada has approved two vaccines against COVID-19, and about 150,000 people have now been given at least one dose. On Monday, the first people began receiving their second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 21 days after they received first doses on Dec. 14.
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That schedule follows the advice of Pfizer and BioNTech, which said their vaccine is 95 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms within seven days of receiving a second dose. The doses are to be administered 21 days apart.
U.S. biotech firm Moderna, whose vaccine was approved in Canada Dec. 23, calls for two doses to be given 28 days apart.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has been approved in the United Kingdom but not yet in Canada, also requires a second dose after 28 days.
Several countries are now investigating or authorizing the delay of those second doses, to get more people vaccinated with first doses.
Denmark authorized a six-week delay. The U.K., which recorded a single-day record of 58,784 new cases Tuesday, is pushing that second dose back by 12 weeks for its two approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca.
Germany is also investigating whether to delay the second dose.
Pfizer told The Canadian Press in a statement it doesn’t endorse a delayed-dose plan. While peer-reviewed reports on its vaccine’s clinical trial found the vaccine was about 52 per cent effective at preventing illness after one dose, most patients received the second dose after 21 days so there is no data analyzing how well one dose works beyond three weeks.
Moderna similarly said it can’t comment on whether its vaccine is effective outside the two-dose, 28-day schedule. Moderna said two equal doses given 28 days apart provided a stronger immune response than one double dose delivered in a single injection.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday delaying Pfizer’s second doses up to six weeks could be acceptable under exceptional circumstances.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it is worth investigating the idea of delaying doses, or injecting half-doses, but that at the moment there is no evidence supporting the authorization of any changes.
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Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist in Toronto, said there might be some evidence for delaying a second dose to six weeks, rather than 21 or 28 days.
“For many vaccines a second dose is given at six weeks and that works nicely,” he said, noting sometimes the “boost” from the second dose is actually better if it’s given a little later. He said he suspects the six-week window wasn’t used in the COVID-19 trials because this is a public health emergency.
However Fisman said Canada has bigger vaccine concerns right now because we just aren’t vaccinating people fast enough on the suggested dose-schedule.
“Right now we are vaccinating slower than we are getting doses, so it’s sort of a moot point in Canada,” he said.
Canada has received 424,050 Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses thus far, but records currently show only about one-third have been injected.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Canadian home sales see a record December — and a record 2020 – CBC.ca
National home sales set an all-time record in December, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Friday.
Sales were up 47.2 per cent compared to December 2019, the largest year-over-year increase in monthly sales in 11 years.
The spike in sales from November to December, 7.2 per cent, was driven by gains of more than 20 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Greater Vancouver.
It was a new record for the month of December by a margin of more than 12,000 transactions.
For the sixth straight month, sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019.
It was also a record for the entire year.
Average home price up 17%
Almost 552,000 homes traded hands over Canadian MLS systems — a new annual record. It was an increase of 12.6 per cent from 2019 and 2.3 per cent more than the previous record year, 2016.
The actual national average home price was a record $607,280 in December, up 17.1 per cent from the final month of 2019.
The CREA said that excluding Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, two of the most active and expensive markets, lowers the national average price by almost $130,000.
Many of the areas with the biggest price gains last month were in Ontario, including Belleville, Simcoe, Ingersoll, Woodstock and the Lakelands region, where prices were up more than 30 per cent from December 2019.
Areas with more modest price growth included Calgary and Edmonton, where prices rose 1.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.
TD expects sales and prices to cool
“What a fitting end to a surprisingly strong year,” TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said in a note to clients. “Relative strength in high-wage employment, record low mortgage rates, rising supply of homes available for purchase and solid demand for larger units all supported exceptional sales and price growth last year.
“Looking ahead, we’re expecting sales and prices to cool somewhat from their robust pace in the first quarter. However, December’s surprisingly strong performance makes hitting our forecast a tougher proposition.”
Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s senior economist, said in a statement that Canada faces a “major supply problem” in 2021.
“On New Year’s Day there were fewer than 100,000 residential listings on all Canadian MLS systems, the lowest ever based on records going back three decades,” he said.
“Compare that to five years ago, when there was a quarter of a million listings available for sale. So we have record-high demand and record-low supply to start the year. How that plays out in the sales and price data will depend on how many homes become available to buy in the months ahead.”
Quebec confirms it will delay second vaccine dose for CHSLD residents and staff – Montreal Gazette
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On Feb. 15, Quebec will begin vaccinating seniors ages 80 and over who live at home.
Health officials told the Montreal Gazette this week that they aren’t ready to release details about the next phase of vaccination plan.
Public health authorities say they’re closely monitoring seniors in CHSLDs who have received the first dose to make sure it’s still effective weeks later, said Richard Massé, a public health epidemiologist.
Massé defended Quebec’s decision to ignore a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Vaccination, which said if provinces delay administering the second dose due to logistical or epidemiological reasons, it should be given with 42 days of the first dose.
On Thursday, Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health, which includes the Chief Medical Officer of Health from each province and territory, also weighed in on Quebec’s plan, saying if the second dose is extended beyond 42 days, “the impact on people vaccinated must be closely monitored.”
Wife of Nunavut man who died from COVID-19 pleads with people to get vaccinated – CTV News
IQALUIT, NUNAVUT —
The wife of a Nunavut man who died from COVID-19 after contracting it in his community is urging the territory’s residents to get vaccinated.
Diane Sammurtok’s husband Luki died in December after being flown from his home in Arviat to a southern hospital.
Sammurtok called in to Arviat’s local radio station and pleaded with people to get the vaccine.
A recording of the call was played at a news conference today and broadcast over radio and television.
Speaking through tears and sobs, Sammurtok said she doesn’t want anyone to go through what she did.
Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat, had tears in his eyes as he listened and his voice shook as he addressed the media.
Savikataaq urged people to stop spreading misinformation about the vaccine and said he will get it when it’s his turn.
Vaccination clinics are underway in four Nunavut communities this week and are tol roll out in four more next week.
There are no active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.
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