The dose-sharing deal with the United States has been finalized, and those 1.5 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine are set to arrive next week, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin announced Thursday.
Nearing the end of the first quarter and factoring in the scheduled deliveries for next week, Canada is on track to hit and possibly considerably exceed the total target of eight million COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered by the end of March, depending when next week these U.S. doses land.
“Public Service and Procurement Canada has recently negotiated the delivery of 1.5 million doses from the U.S., expected to arrive in Canada in the next week. When we have a confirmed delivery date to Canada, this quantity will be added to the quarterly distribution goal of vaccine doses,” Fortin said.
As part of the agreement, Canada is expected to have to return the favour by sending the U.S. back 1.5 million doses in the coming months, though with the vaccine rollout in that country well underway U.S. President Joe Biden is expecting to have enough supply for all eligible adults by the end of May, whereas Canada continues to hold on to an end-of-September timeline for wrapping up the mass immunization effort.
Potentially complicating things, it’s looking like these 1.5 million AstraZeneca shots will be coming from a plant that was not part of the initial Health Canada authorization, as the manufacturing facilities also have to pass regulatory approval.
Chief medical adviser at Health Canada Dr. Supriya Sharma said Thursday that additional U.S. sites are currently being assessed, but in the interim the federal health agency has authorized the vaccine doses to come into Canada to be stored, so that they would already be in the country for quick distribution once the green light to administer them is given.
Next week Canada is expecting a shipment of 1.2 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, with plans for shipments of approximately one million doses every week between April and June.
Heading into April, Moderna will keep shipping its shots every two weeks, meaning the next delivery will land the first week of the month and is expected to include 855,000 doses, increasing to 1.2 million doses in the following shipment.
Following the delivery of the U.S. doses, the next shipment from AstraZeneca is expected to come from the Serum Institute in India, with one million doses planned to arrive sometime in April, followed by the remaining 500,000 doses coming in May, rounding out the overall two-million-shot deal.
These figures are based on the expectation that the new European and Indian export restrictions won’t limit Canada’s supply. Fortin said Thursday that he is following the developments but so far there is no indication of coming delivery interruptions.
A delivery schedule has still not been established for the 20 million AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines that Canada has a contract for. Those will also be coming from a U.S. facility, but that facility was approved as part of the initial AstraZeneca authorization from Health Canada.
There is still no delivery schedule set for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines, with the only timeline being that they are expected “by September.”
“The steady increase of vaccine numbers and options available does not mean the end of our planning and cooperation with all stakeholders and all partners,” Fortin said, noting his days are largely occupied by the constant dialogue with provincial and territorial vaccine rollout teams.
“This work continues as we near the start of the second quarter of this year,” he said.
As of March 24, the federal government has distributed nearly six million COVID-19 vaccines to the provinces and territories.
As Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo noted on Thursday, Canada has hit a vaccination milestone, with more than 10 per cent of the adult population now having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s figures, this includes 60 per cent of people over 80 years of age, and 19 per cent of those aged 70 to 79.
Though, as Njoo noted, these figures are still far short of having enough immunized Canadians to prevent further outbreaks of the virus, particularly as variants continue to spread.
Seeking to combat the ongoing vaccine hesitancy among some Canadians, particularly around the AstraZeneca vaccine, the federal health officials at Thursday’s briefing reiterated that the best vaccine for people is the first one offered.
“I am waiting eagerly, anticipating and waiting my turn to get vaccinated as well, and when that time comes I will be rolling up my sleeve to take any of the authorized vaccines… I think it’s understandable, completely understandable that people have questions, but the same thing that we say to you is the same thing that I’ve said to my family members when they’re making their decisions,” said Sharma.
“We want to make sure that people that are lining up to get vaccinated, or making those decisions, have as much confidence in the process as we do… We want to make sure that people do get their vaccines, get them as soon as possible. And the sooner we can get vaccinated, the sooner that we can get back to a closer to normal existence.”
Canada employment regains pre-pandemic levels in September – Canada Immigration News
Canada’s economy gained 157,000 jobs last month, bringing the employment rate to within a percentage point of pre-pandemic levels.
Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey captured the Canadian labour market for the week of September 12 to 18. That week, several provinces had introduced proof-of-vaccination requirements to enter certain non-essential venues like gyms and restaurants.
The employment rate is the number of employed people as a percentage of the population age 15 and over. In September, Canada’s employment rate was 60.9 per cent, still 0.9 per cent under the February 2020 rate as a result of population growth.
The unemployment rate declined for the fourth consecutive month in September, falling to 6.9 per cent, the lowest rate since the onset of the pandemic.
Employment continues to increase for very recent immigrants
The employment rate among very recent immigrants continued on an upward trend, reaching 71 per cent last month.
Although the overall population of newcomers has not grown over the course of the pandemic, the number of very recent immigrants working in some industries has grown. Namely, in professional, scientific, and technical services, as well as finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing. These two industries have had sustained employment growth throughout the pandemic.
Immigrants who have been in Canada for more than five years saw an employment rate of nearly 59 per cent, which is down about one percentage point from September 2019. People born in Canada had an employment rate of about 61 per cent, down two percentage points in the same time frame.
White collar sectors ahead while blue collar lags behind
The services-producing sector surpassed its pre-COVID employment level for the first time. The increases were led by public administration, information, culture and recreation, and professional, scientific and technical services.
By contrast, some industries such as accommodation and food services has yet to return to the employment levels seen in February 2020. This is partially due to the industry being heavily affected by public health measures. This September employment in food services fell for the first time in five months. Employment in retail also declined.
The goods-producing sector saw little change overall, which has been the case since it lost 94,000 jobs between April and June. Manufacturing and natural resources were the exceptions, both industries saw some employment growth in September.
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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca
- Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: Covid@cbc.ca
In Europe, protests erupted in Italy on Friday as one of the most stringent anti-coronavirus measures in Europe went into effect, requiring all workers, from magistrates to maids, to show a health pass to get into their place of employment.
Police were out in force, some schools ended classes early and embassies issued warnings of possible violence amid concerns that the anti-vaccination demonstrations could turn into riots, as they did in Rome last weekend.
But by day’s end, the protests appeared to have been largely peaceful, including one at Rome’s central Circus Maximus where some protesters gave police officers flowers in a sign they meant no harm.
The green pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months. Italy already required the pass to access all sorts of indoor environments, including restaurants, museums, theaters, and long-distance trains.
But the addition of the workplace requirement has sparked heated debate and opposition in a country that was a coronavirus epicentre early in the pandemic but has kept the latest resurgence in check through continued mask mandates and one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe.
The new rule in a country that imposed the first COVID-19 lockdown and production shutdown in the West imposes a burden on worker and employer alike. Electronic scanners that can read cellphone QR codes with the green pass were set up at bigger places of employment, such as the office of Italian Premier Mario Draghi and the headquarters of state railway company Trenitalia.
Sanctions for employers who fail to check employees range from 400 to 1,000 euros ($575 to $1,437 Cdn). A worker who fails to show a valid pass is considered absent without justification and could face fines from 600 to 1,500 euros ($862 to $2,155 Cdn).
The aim of the requirement is to encourage vaccination rates to rise beyond the current 81 per cent of the population over age 12 who are fully inoculated. And if recent days are any indication, it was working: The number of first shots administered Thursday rose 34 per cent compared to the beginning of the week, Italy’s virus czar reported Friday.
But for those people who can’t or won’t get their shots, the expanded pass requirement imposes a burden of getting tested every 48 hours just to be able to go to work. People with a proven medical condition that prevents them being vaccinated are exempt.
Some employers are offering free tests at work, but the government has refused calls to make testing free across the board. Currently rapid tests run from eight euros ($11.50 Cdn) for children to 15 euros ($21.55 Cdn) for adults.
For some opponents, the requirement is disproportionate to the current need: Italy has kept the latest delta variant-fuelled resurgence largely under control through continued mask use and physical distancing, reporting around 67 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks.
But proponents say the requirement will keep workplaces safe and allow Italy’s economy, which shrank 8.9 per cent last year, to further rebound.
What’s happening in Canada
- P.E.I. logs 3 new cases, including a child under 12 years of age.
- N.S. reports 18 new cases, bringing province’s active caseload to 199.
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday, more than 239.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.
In the Americas, hundreds of white flags were put up in front of Brazil’s Congress on Friday, to protest more than 600,000 COVID-19 deaths in the country — the second highest toll in the world behind the U.S.
In Asia, South Korean officials will partially ease virus restrictions in the hard-hit capital region starting next week to address a battered economy and pandemic fatigue.
In Africa, South Africa will start vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 17 next week using the Pfizer vaccine, the health minister said.
Elsewhere in Europe, COVID-19 tests in France are no longer free for unvaccinated adults unless they are prescribed by a doctor.
U.S. to lift curbs from Nov. 8 for vaccinated foreign travelers – White House
The White House on Friday said it will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nationals effective Nov. 8, ending historic restrictions that barred much of the world from the United States.
Restrictions on non-U.S. citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by then-President Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries, without any clear metrics for how and when to lift them.
Curbs on non-essential travelers at land borders with Mexico and Canada have been in place since March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reuters first reported Friday’s announcement of the Nov. 8 starting date earlier in the day.
U.S. airline, hotel and cruise industry stocks rose on the news, including American Airlines, up 1.9%; Marriott International Inc, up 2.2%; and Carnival Corp, up 1.3%.
The United States had lagged many other countries in lifting such restrictions, and allies welcomed the move. The U.S. restrictions have barred travelers from most of the world, including tens of thousands of foreign nationals with relatives or business links in the United States.
The White House on Tuesday announced it would lift restrictions at its land borders and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. They are similar but not identical to requirements announced last month for international air travelers.
Unvaccinated visitors will still be barred from entering the United States from Canada or Mexico at land borders.
Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Reuters last week the United States will accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.
The White House, which held a meeting late Thursday to finalize the Nov. 8 date, still faces some remaining questions, including how and what exemptions the Biden administration will grant to the vaccine requirements. Children under 18, for example, are largely expected to be exempt from the requirements, an official said.
U.S. Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow said in a statement that the Nov. 8 date “is critically important for planning – for airlines, for travel-supported businesses, and for millions of travelers worldwide who will now advance plans to visit the United States once again.”
The White House announced on Sept. 20 that the United States would lift restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries in early November. It did not specify the date at the time.
Starting Nov. 8, the United States will admit fully vaccinated foreign air travelers from the 26 so-called Schengen countries in Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. The unprecedented U.S. restrictions have barred non-U.S. citizens who were in those countries within the past 14 days.
The United States has allowed foreign air travelers from more than 150 countries throughout the pandemic, a policy that critics said made little sense because some countries with high COVID-19 rates were not on the restricted list, while some on the list had the pandemic more under control.
The White House said last month it would apply vaccine requirements to foreign nationals traveling from all other countries.
Non-U.S. air travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding a flight, and will need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Foreign visitors crossing a land border will not need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.
The new rules do not require foreign visitors or Americans entering the country to go into quarantine.
Americans traveling overseas must still show proof of a recent negative COVID-19, and unvaccinated Americans will face stricter COVID-19 testing requirements. They will also be subject to restrictions in the countries they plan to visit, which may include quarantines.
The CDC plans to soon issue new rules on contact tracing for international air travelers.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by John Stonestreet, Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)
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