Canada surpassed 500,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as infections continued to surge while the vaccine rollout reached its final province.
Saskatchewan pushed the country over the grim threshold Saturday, with 252 new cases reported as well as eight more deaths.
Earlier in the day, Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces hardest hit by the pandemic, each recorded daily case counts beyond 2,000.
It’s the fifth consecutive day Ontario has exceeded 2,000 new positive tests, with Saturday’s tally at 2,357.
The province, which is currently holding emergency talks to consider additional health measures, also recorded 27 new deaths.
Five regions in Ontario are scheduled to be in the province’s lockdown stage as of Monday.
Quebec recorded 2,038 new infections and 44 new deaths related to the novel coronavirus.
The latest 100,000 cases racked up in just 15 days across the country, marking the shortest growth period since the pandemic was declared in March.
It took six months for Canada to register its first 100,000 cases of the virus, another four to reach 200,000, less than a month to hit 300,000 and 18 days to hit 400,000.
Meanwhile, immunizations are now officially underway in all provinces, with New Brunswick the last to launch its inoculation program.
The province delivered its first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this morning, to an 84-year-old resident of a long-term care facility.
Pauline Gauvin told the health worker who administered the injection she felt comfortable having it, and, after asking what her next step in the process was, Gauvin was told she could go back to the waiting area.
“(I’ll) go mix with the crowd,” she said, smiling.
Other residents and health-care workers were set to get the shot today as part of the province’s plan to administer the vaccine to 1,950 people.
New Brunswick accepted an offer from the owner of a bluefin tuna exporting company in eastern Prince Edward Island for a loan of two freezers that can store the vaccine, which has to be kept below -70 C.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2020.
In pandemic politics, timing is everything – Winnipeg Free Press
Premier Brian Pallister said a disruption in the supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a good example of why Manitoba has been slow and cautious in its COVID-19 immunization rollout.
Government was prepared for this kind of bump in the road, he said.
However, according to the province’s own figures, Manitoba was falling behind its own vaccine schedule long before the Pfizer vaccine slowdown was announced.
Pfizer-BioNTech confirmed Friday it plans to delay some vaccine shipments (including to Canada) in the coming weeks to retool its manufacturing plants. Company officials said they expect to catch up by the end of March.
There are no details on how it will affect shipments to the provinces. But there will be a temporary reduction in doses.
Given how far behind Manitoba is in its immunization program, that slowdown may not make much of a difference.
But it does give the Pallister government political cover; the slower the shipments over the next few weeks, the easier it will be to catch up.
“I think this backs up our strategy,” Pallister said Friday. “Our vaccination team has focused a little less on trying to get good, short-term stats by rushing everything out and a little more on better, long-term protections by holding something back.”
Not exactly. The provincial government expressed confidence in the supply chain two weeks ago, announcing there was no longer any need to hold back 50 per cent of doses for followup booster shots.
“I think this backs up our strategy. Our vaccination team has focused a little less on trying to get good, short-term stats by rushing everything out and a little more on better, long-term protections by holding something back.”
— Premier Brian Pallister
Officials argued, rightly, there was enough certainty in the supply chain to rely on future shipments for second doses. They said they would maintain enough supply to meet demand for the following week. Beyond that, there was no plan to build up large inventories.
The province has fallen behind since then. The Pfizer delay buys time to catch up, while claiming plans were always in place for this. That’s why, late Friday, there was an announcement of a pause in new vaccination appointments (even though Pfizer shipments are still coming; there are just going to be fewer of them).
Pallister’s comments make for great political rhetoric, but they collide with the facts.
Manitoba has administered 13,539 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines since the immunization program began in December. The total number of vaccines received to date is 38,890. If all 5,300 doses sent to First Nations earlier this month have been used, it means only 48 per cent of doses have been injected so far. Manitoba was scheduled to receive 7,400 doses of Moderna this week. If those doses have arrived (the province refuses to confirm when it receives shipments), only 41 per cent of doses have been administered. The rest are sitting in freezers.
Nowhere in the Pallister government’s vaccine rollout plan did it say the province planned to stockpile that much inventory in case of a supply disruption.
Part of the reason for Manitoba’s slow rollout is the delay in getting vaccines to residents of personal-care homes. The province had enough inventory to start that program in early January, but didn’t begin until Monday. In a pandemic, every day matters.
The plan is to immunize an estimated 9,834 care-home residents over 28 days. The target for the first week was 1,157, but the number has fallen well short. As of Thursday, only 281 residents had received injections.
Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin would not provide any explanation for the low number Friday, other than to say there will be more updates next week.
To meet the federal government’s original shipment estimates for January and February (which will now change), Manitoba would have to administer almost 2,400 doses a day.
But just 1,130 people, including care-home residents, were vaccinated between Wednesday and Friday.
The province just can’t seem to get this program off the ground. But now there’s an excuse.
It remains unclear when the Pfizer doses will be delayed, or by how much. But politically, this could be a blessing in disguise for the Pallister government.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.
Province claims residents seeing light at end of the COVID-19 tunnel – Nanaimo News NOW
The optimistic statement from the province comes as the vaccine rollout suffered a blow.
Pfizer ran into production trouble while upgrading their facility, which the province admitted will create a short-term delay in the delivery of some vaccines.
Earlier on Friday, health minister Adrian Dix said the shortage will have a significant effect in February and March when only half of the 50,000 doses expected will be delivered.
Dix said this may mean public health officials will revisit leaving 35 days between the first and second dose of the vaccine, instead of the 21 to 28 days recommended by the World Health Organization. The gap was extended in an effort to provide more of the first dose to more people.
There was good news in Dr. Henry’s statement, which confirmed 509 new COVID-19 cases with 4,604 considered active. This is a decrease of roughly two hundred in two days.
Hospitalizations dipped to 349 with the number of people in critical care at its lowest point since November.
Island Health saw 13 new cases, with 175 considered active. This is a drop of more than 20 cases in two days. Ten people are in hospital for their symptoms including two receiving critical care.
The central Vancouver Island area remains the most affected in the health authority, with roughly two thirds of all active cases.
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COVID-19: B.C. health officials report 509 new cases, nine additional deaths – Vancouver Sun
Article content continued
Henry and Dix confirmed a new outbreak at Hilltop House, a residential care facility in Squamish.
Total outbreaks in B.C.’s health-care system remain unchanged, however, as the outbreak at Villa Cathay, a downtown Vancouver nursing home, has been declared over.
The outbreak at Wingtat Game Bird Packers, a Surrey poultry plant where at least 30 workers tested positive for the coronavirus in December, has been declared over as well.
“People throughout British Columbia are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” Henry and Dix said. “As of today, thousands of people working and living in long-term care homes, health-care workers and those in remote or at-risk Indigenous communities have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As well, health officials confirmed a short-term delay in the delivery of some Pfizer vaccines, due to upgrades at the pharmaceutical company’s production facility.
“We are working closely with the federal government to determine how this might impact our immunization rollout in the immediate term, and we will have more to share in the coming days,” they said.
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