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Canada is 38th in the latest global COVID-19 vaccine ranking

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As COVID-19 vaccines continue to be administered across the country, a new ranking shows Canada is lagging behind many other nations when it comes to just how fast we’re inoculating our population.

According to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, Canada has slipped to 38th in the world when it comes to vaccination rates per 100 people.

As of the morning of Thursday, Feb. 11, Canada was ranked the 38th country by Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker based on vaccination rates per 100 people. (Courtesy Bloomberg)

If we include the European Union, Canada slips down by one more spot.

Countries ranked ahead of Canada include some of the nation’s closest allies, including the U.K. and the U.S., which are both in the top 10, as well as countries like Israel, which tops the list, and the United Arab Emirates.

While infectious diseases expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch says Canada could have done better in its efforts, he believes the situation will improve.

“I do appreciate it has been slow, that’s just a matter of accessing vaccinations. But it does appear, based on what we’re hearing, that we will meet our mid-term and longer-term goals, with the longer-term goal of having every Canadian vaccinated by the late summer of early fall of 2021,” he explains. “I still think that’s pretty reasonable.”

Federal officials have repeatedly said it’s expected the country will have enough vaccines for every Canadian who wants one to get a shot by the end of September.

This is despite recent delays in shipments from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — the two approved COVID-19 vaccines in Canada at this time.

Bogoch notes the vaccines that we have received have largely been used to inoculate people who need it the most.

“We started vaccinations in mid-December of 2020. Yeah, it’s been slow, but we’ve targeted our highly vulnerable populations and it appears that the taps are really going to turn on in April,” he says.

Without the ability to produce vaccines domestically yet, Canada is dependent on foreign-based companies for its supply.

Bogoch points to the need to improve production capacity here, adding we simply don’t have the buying power of the U.S., the E.U., or the U.K.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in early February that Canada had signed a memorandum of understanding with Novavax to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Montreal. However, the new National Research Council biomanufacturing facility where this would happen is still under construction and Novavax’s vaccine candidate is still awaiting Health Canada approval.

The prime minister did not provide a timeline for when Canadians can expect domestic production to begin, only that it would start once the facility is completed.

While Trudeau said recent funding has accelerated construction, work is only expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“We’ve relied on foreign companies in foreign countries to produce and ship [vaccines] to us. Our neighbour, our friendly neighbour, who can produce these locally is not shipping vaccines to us. So when you put this all in perspective, I think we have to just have a realistic conversation about what we were actually going to do in a situation like this and how we were going to do it,” Bogoch tells NEWS 1130. “And when you consider those aspects, I think we’re exactly where you’d expect us to be.”

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International permanent residency holders running out of time to come to Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Immigrants waiting to come to Canada have been speaking out about the COVID-19 travel restrictions denying them the chance to start their new lives.

Last March, the federal government updated their exemptions to the international travel restrictions, which included “permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.”

Almost overnight, families and individuals around the world who had been approved for permanent residency (PR) in Canada after March 18, some of whom had been waiting years for their approvals, were no longer allowed to begin their new lives.

Applicants with a valid confirmation of permanent residency (COPR), but without immediate or extended family members in Canada are not included in the list of essential or exempted traveller lists, and for those holding COPRs issued from October 2020 onwards, authorization letters are needed to fly in internationally.

Now, almost a year later, those who hold COPRs approved after March 18, 2020 are facing their visas expiring – COPRs cannot be extended – leaving families desperate.

Many have quit their jobs in anticipation of immigrating after receiving their COPR, sold their properties, taken their children out of school and incurred expenses in preparation for travel – booking hotels, flights and other accommodations.

Some have taken their fight online, using the hashtag #free_copr_after_march18 to raise awareness of their plight.

Others have been lobbying the government; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC); and the media to allow an exemption for those who received their COPR after the cut-off date.

These are some of their stories, in their own words.

(Disclaimer: replies have been edited for length, clarity and brevity)

CHIRAG RATHOD – INDIA

Chirag Rathod“My wife and I are in great mental depression as we were all set to start our new life after getting the COPR. We had all our bags packed. It did not happen. Now, my wife has started feeling suicidal. I shut down my company thinking that I would be travelling soon and now we have no source of income. We are in such a limbo about restarting our life in India, as we do not know when the Canadian government let us in; it may happen in a month or in a year we have no idea. We are clueless about what will happen to our COPRs after they expire, will it be honoured or will we have to go through the entire PR process again?”

ISAAC BELLO – NIGERIA

Isaac Bello“It has not been easy time emotionally and psychologically for me. The security situation around where I reside is deteriorating by the day. A lot of kidnapping for ransom takes place regularly. This tension is exacerbated by the fact that my family (spouse and children) are not accompanying me. I will have to land first, settle in and then apply for family sponsorship for them.

It would be nice and helpful if the government of Canada takes into consideration COPR holders irrespective of whether they have family in Canada or not, since they will have adequate quarantine measures in place. We should be able to land and confirm their permanent residency status since students and temporary workers are allowed in. We should also be exempted from travel restrictions as well since we are coming to stay permanently, unlike students and temporary workers. Many of us are stranded not knowing what our fate will be. Should we keep waiting, hoping that our peculiar situation will be addressed or should we try to pick up our lives where we left off?”

MAMTA SHARMA – INDIA

Mamta Sharma“I have two teenage daughters and I am a single parent taking care of all their emotional & financial needs.

I had informed their school about the withdrawal of their admissions. Now, in a limbo, I have to plead to the school to admit them back. I worked hard to provide them a better life and good future but currently it seems like a distant dream with lots of uncertainty. I am having sleepless nights and going through tremendous stress and trauma. It is affecting mine and my daughters’ mental health.

I am a valid COPR holder and should be given the right to enter Canada, my new homeland.

Being a single parent is itself a challenge in my community, I had worked hard for the Canadian dream for me and my daughters. We saved each and every penny wherever we could, I am emotionally strained but I have to appear strong in front of my daughters. It’s not only me, there are many people across the world who are facing the same issues. I know COPR visa is a privilege not a right, but understand how hard we have worked to reach for this position. “

FAUZIA KARIM – BANGLADESH

Fauzia Karim“We are family of three, I am originally from Bangladesh but living in India with my husband and 3-year-old son. We researched day and night about how things work in Canada; starting from transportation, housing, weather, daily life, job search, grocery and day care. Being a Bangladeshi citizen married to Indian man, I am already staying in India on a dependent visa and couldn’t work for the past four years. We invested a good portion of our savings in securing an invitation to apply for PR. My husband served his three months notice period to his employer, sold our car, home appliances and moved to his hometown.

We planned to travel to Calgary on Feb. 21 2021, travelled 800 km from our hometown to Delhi Airport, took a pre-departure COVID test, arranged a proof of funds letter from the bank, booked accommodations etc. We were denied boarding by Air Canada staff stating that our COPR was issued post- March 18 2020, and we aren’t travel exempt, we need to have an authorization letter from IRCC – which is only possible if we have an immediate or extended family member in Canada.

Apart from the financial and emotional stress, there is a lot we are going through. Every now and then are being questioned by family, relatives and several other people “When are you moving to Canada,” and now with no job in hand we are breaking down financially and on the edge of spending money from proof of funds, which was supposed to be for initial months for survival in Canada.”

GURPREET SINGH – INDIA

Gurpreet Singh“When my COPR was approved I was so happy that my dream is going to be true, and I started preparing for the travelling with the hope that soon they will allow us to enter Canada. I resigned from my job, as I needed to serve a three month notice period and booked the tickets and accommodation to complete a 14 day quarantine.

I was not aware that a nightmare was on the way. I am scared because I have resigned from my job, I have my three-year old son who is ready to start school and I am the sole bread earner for my family. I really don’t know how I will fulfill my families basic necessities without a job. As of Feb. 2021, no exemption has been granted to us and our COPR will expire in upcoming months. Now getting into these situations all doors are locked for me, and every night I cry from my heart which has also raised our stress and anxiety. As an immigrant I always wanted to settle in Canada permanently so that my spouse and son would get a good future. Being a skilled worker I feel that hard work pays off in Canada and eventually I will contribute to the Canadian economy.”

KESHAV SHARMA – INDIA

Keshav Sharma“After getting my COPR, I was very happy and started to prepare to move permanently to Canada. I resigned from my job, as I was speculating that approved COPR holders will be able to land in the country without much hassle. Then we found out about the 14 days quarantine rule, which was sensible to me and I am happy to arrange that as I can understand completely how critical it is to be safe. We later found out about the three day hotel quarantine rule which again I understand the point of view from the Canadian government. I thought because they had issued COPR to us eventually they will allow us to enter Canada. In short, the situation has become so frustrating and heartbreaking that I am kind of starting to feel emotional trauma. I don’t know what is in the future, as there is not a single clarification provided about the agenda of travel restrictions and files processing by IRCC. Life has become miserable for me. I have been postponing my future plans about my family and my career in hope of migrating. Canada is our country now and we must be given a chance to enter our own country.”

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'It was a boondoggle': Chaotic scenes in hotel quarantines frustrate travellers – CTV News

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SASKATOON —
Travellers say they’re frustrated by long wait times to book hotel quarantines and chaotic service during their stays.

Raymond Truesdale recorded a now-viral video of a crowd of hotel guests yelling at staff in a government-sanctioned hotel in Toronto on Friday. They said they hadn’t been fed for hours and weren’t getting clear answers from the front desk.

“It was a boondoggle. Pandemonium. You could see people really frustrated and I don’t blame them” he told CTV News in a video interview.

Truesdale, who is returning from a work trip in Tennessee, explained that fellow travellers were exhausted from 12- to 14-hour flights from overseas.

The new hotel stay requirement — which can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the hotel — began on Monday. All incoming air travellers to Canada must spend at least three days in one of the government’s approved hotels, at their own expense, as they await results of a COVID-19 test they were required to take when they landed in Canada.

A lack of bottled water and hot, prompt meals were two of many issues travellers say they faced, as well as poor service, minimal hotel security, and poor communication.

Arunthia Urmi, who stayed at a Holiday Inn in Toronto, told CTV News she wasn’t given any utensils with her late dinner and was running out of bottled water.

“I was so hungry. I called so many times,” she said, recalling her attempts to get more water from staff. “They said, ‘we can only give with meals, dinner and lunch, one bottle [each]. Other than that, you drink from the tap.’”

Jordan Evans, who flew in from Arkansas to be with her partner in Montreal, said at her quarantine hotel, she was given extra bottled water after waiting for more than six hours.

“[My supper] was cold. It was not what I ordered and they didn’t put a beverage in there. So I didn’t have a drink,” she told CTV News in a video interview, adding that her breakfast was only two small drinks, a yogurt cup and two pieces of bread.

The Hotel Association of Canada told CTV News the health and safety of its guests is its top priority.

“The health and safety of guests and staff is our top priority. We will continue to implement the advice of public health experts including the best practices provided by PHAC for those specific hotels,” a spokesperson said in an email, adding that every hotel is operated individually.

“The cost of each stay will vary between hotels, with additional fees for meals, augmented security, supervised movement to outdoor areas, designated transportation, and additional infection control measures.”

The mandatory, non-refundable hotel stay — which some travellers have skirted — requires travellers to show proof of their hotel booking before boarding their flight.

With no online option, the only way to book a room is through a dedicated phone line run by the Public Health Agency of Canada. But the influx of calls has clogged the lines, with many travellers experiencing frequent dropped calls and wait times of up to 16 hours.

‘I’M NOT ANGRY… I JUST WISH THE MEASURES WORKED’

David Anjo, who is moving back to Canada in July after 10 years of living in Vietnam, was unsuccessful in booking a hotel after spending half a day trying.

“The experience calling on a phone system that really wasn’t designed from the get-go to be very effective has been pretty frustrating,” Anjo told The Canadian Press. “There’s no doubt in my mind they could have done this a lot better.”

Dr. Rosa Wu, a psychotherapist who lives in the Vancouver area and returned from Taiwan to deal with a family health scare, said it took her husband three tries and nearly 10 hours to get through to an agent.

“I’m not angry at the fact that we have to do this,” she told The Canadian Press, from her room at the Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver International Airport. “I think it’s about time Canada implemented strict measures. I just wish the measures worked.”

The phone line received 20,000 calls on Feb. 19, the first day it was introduced, the Public Health Agency of Canada told CTV News earlier this week. That figure was 15,000 on Feb. 20 and 10,000 on Feb. 21.

Wu said she ended up paying $2,000 for three nights, despite receiving her negative test result after the first day. She didn’t anticipate following the rules would prove this difficult and said travellers like her — who didn’t go abroad for vacation — have paid the price for a chaotic rollout of the quarantine program.

Megan Kat, a spokeswoman for American Express Global Business Travel, which is running the phone line for hotel bookings, said the company was aware of the high volume of inquiries and the wait times that callers were experiencing.

“We will continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada to mitigate caller wait times and provide the necessary support to those people arriving in Canada that need to book a hotel room,” Kat told The Canadian Press.

Without having proof of hotel bookings, some travellers to Canada have been outright barred from boarding planes by airport staff across the globe, including in Zimbabwe and Albania, according to reporting by CTVNews.ca and The Canadian Press.

The hotel-stay quarantines are part of the federal government’s attempts to crack down on non-essential travel amid increasing concern about more infectious variants of COVID-19.

“I’m just hoping that they’ll figure out something more efficient, in terms of booking the hotels,” Wu said, “because right now, it’s a complete disaster.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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Health Canada received more Johnson & Johnson data on same day as U.S. approval – CBC.ca

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Health Canada on Saturday received additional data required to inform its decision on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine — the same day the shot was approved in the United States.

“We were waiting on some manufacturing data, and that came in yesterday. So we’re starting to look at that,” Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“It’s really difficult to predict exactly when we might make a final decision because it really depends on that data. But we’re looking at … the next couple of weeks.”

The data received on Saturday is what health regulators need to ensure that “every dose of the vaccine that comes off the production lines meets quality standards,” Sharma wrote in an email to CBC News.

The approval timeline depends on that information, but it also depends on whether regulators need to discuss any questions that arise with the manufacturer. Work that happens in the final stages of review — including finalizing a risk-management plan for monitoring the vaccine after authorization — must also be completed.

The two-week approval target takes those steps into consideration but doesn’t account for unexpected issues that could crop up, Sharma said.

The government authorized the use of a third vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, on Friday.

WATCH | Johnson & Johnson vaccine approval could come in the next couple of weeks:

Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said the agency is waiting on manufacturer data to make a determination on Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, but contingent on that data, approval could come in the next few weeks. 9:23

Single-dose shot makes for easier rollout

In a global trial, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday, was found to be 66 per cent effective at staving off moderate to severe illness and was 85 per cent effective at preventing the most serious outcomes. 

Canada has ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine, with options for up to 28 million more. 

The best vaccine for an individual is [the] one that you can get.– Health Canada chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma

“In terms of the committee meeting that the FDA had, we had observers there as well, so all of that helps make for a more efficient review,” Sharma told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

While the vaccine was approved as a one-shot regimen, the company is also testing the efficacy of administering two doses of its product.

“If a vaccine is only only dose, then that makes it easier for administration. You don’t have to do the followup to record people and track them down to get the second dose,” Sharma told Barton. “So all of that helps, but what really helps the most is getting as many vaccines authorized and get that supply in as quickly as possible.”

Not a question of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vaccines

Now that more vaccines are earning approvals, Sharma said a “narrative” has emerged where people assume one shot confers better protection than another.

Efficacy, she said, simply means determining whether “something does what it’s supposed to do.” As far as COVID-19 vaccines are concerned, that means comparing one group of people who receive the shot against another group of people who didn’t and contrasting the number of cases in both groups.

“When we look across all the vaccines, the major five that are under review and authorized, if you look at that subsection that matters most — severe disease, hospitalizations, dying of COVID-19 — all of these vaccines are equally protective,” Sharma explained.

The chief medical adviser cautioned against pitting one shot against another, something she said can only happen in a “head-to-head” trial, which would see two vaccines being tested together in the same trial.

“The best vaccine for an individual is [the] one that you can get. That’s pretty simple,” she said.

“For people who are sitting back and waiting for another vaccine, I would say the longer, and the more people, who do that, the more we’re all going to be sitting at home if we’re lucky to have a home.”

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service. 

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