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Canada surpasses 500,000 COVID-19 cases – CityNews Toronto

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Canada has surpassed 500,000 cases of COVID-19 as infections continue to surge in several provinces.

Saskatchewan pushed the country over the grim threshold today, with 252 new cases reported.

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 today’s tally at 2,357.

The province, which is currently holding emergency talks to consider additional health measures, also recorded 27 new deaths.

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, 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 COVID-19 vaccine this morning, to an 84-year-old resident of a long-term care facility.

Other residents and health-care workers were also set to get the shot today, part of the province’s plan to administer the the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 1,950 people.

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Ontario working to adapt to the delay of Pfizer BioNTech vaccines: Public health officials – SooToday

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In response to the Pfizer BioNTech delay in delivering vaccines to Ontario, public health officials in this province could extend the interval between the two doses that are given to some less-vulnerable vaccine recipients. Pfizer revealed last week it had to shut down production for one week so it could scale ups European manufacturing capacity. 

Both the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that are provided in Ontario are double-dose vaccines, meaning the first dose is administered one day and then the follow-up second dose is delivered 21 to 28 days later.

Despite the shortage, Ontario officials told a technical briefing Monday that the plan is to accelerate the vaccines going out to long-term care homes, to high risk retirement homes and to First Nations elder care homes. 

“With uncertainty and reduced allocations we will be reallocating vaccines to 14 public health unit regions that haven’t received any vaccine yet so that they can begin to vaccinate their vulnerable populations, starting this week,” said a public health official.

She said Ontario is working on a new strategic approach. This will include a focus on areas where Ontario can reduce risk of illness and death for the most vulnerable populations. 

“We’re accelerating the vaccination of residents in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes,” she added.

Ontario is also planning to expand the time allocation between first and second dosages on the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

“We will be extending the interval between doses in some situations and only as needed to support the vaccinations of the most vulnerable populations. For resident groups, in long-term care, in high-risk retirement homes and elder care homes, we will be maintaining the recommended maximum interval of 21 to 27 days and for all other groups, we will expand that interval to no more than 42 days.”

The idea of expanding the time interval was taken into account during the vaccine trial studies and was proven effective with time intervals from 19 days to 42 days, the briefing was told. 

The health ministry official said this measure is supported by the World Health Organization as well as the Centers for Disease Control, based in the United States. 

The effort is also being accelerated for remote and isolated First Nations communities.

Despite the one-week delay from Pfizer, the company has stated it will live up to the contractual obligation to provide Canada with a total of four million doses of vaccine by the end of March, the briefing was told.

In response to a media question about the reliability of the Moderna vaccine delivery, the briefing was told that Moderna delivers its vaccines every three weeks, and in both instances, the vaccines from Moderna had arrived on time in Ontario. The next delivery, of about 80,000 doses, is expected on Monday February 1, 2021. There has been no indication that Moderna’s delivery schedule will be changed.

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Pfizer presses Health Canada to increase doses taken from each vial – The Globe and Mail

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A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Jan. 7, 2021.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Pfizer-BioNTech is pushing Health Canada to amend its COVID-19 vaccine label and formally recognize that each vial contains six doses rather than five, which would allow the company to send fewer vials to Canada but could complicate the vaccination program.

Pfizer submitted a request to Health Canada on Friday to amend the vaccine label, company spokesperson Christina Antoniou said on Tuesday. The company’s contract with Canada is based on delivering doses, rather than a set number of vials, she said.

“Obtaining six doses from the current multi-dose vial … can help minimize vaccine wastage and enable the most efficient use of the vaccine,” she said.

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Medical staff in Canada have sometimes been able to withdraw six doses, but officials have said it’s not consistent. However, Pfizer said with specialized syringes, a sixth dose can be reliably pulled from each vial. These syringes are in short supply around the world.

The United States and European Union have already accepted the requested change.

Canada is buying 40 million doses from Pfizer. If Health Canada approves the change, Canada could get about 6.7 million vials rather than eight million. The change could increase the number of people who can receive the vaccine worldwide. However, it could also be a challenge for Canada’s vaccination program, which has already hit several speed bumps.

SQUEEZING EVERY LAST DROP

Each dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine must be 0.3 ml. The company says if low-dead space syringes are used then six doses can be withdrawn from each vial of the vaccine. However, if standard syringes are used then medical professionals may only be able to extract five doses.

High-dead space syringe

0.092 ml of fluid retained

Low-dead space syringe

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

SQUEEZING EVERY LAST DROP

Each dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine must be 0.3 ml. The company says if low-dead space syringes are used then six doses can be withdrawn from each vial of the vaccine. However, if standard syringes are used then medical professionals may only be able to extract five doses.

High-dead space syringe

0.092 ml of fluid retained

Low-dead space syringe

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

SQUEEZING EVERY LAST DROP

Each dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine must be 0.3 ml. The company says if low-dead space syringes are used then six doses can be withdrawn from each vial of the vaccine. However, if standard syringes are used then medical professionals may only be able to extract five doses.

High-dead space syringe

0.092 ml of fluid retained

Low-dead space syringe

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

Shipments from Pfizer have had delays, and Canada will get no shots this week. Officials hope vaccine candidates from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca will soon be approved in Canada, but so far no delivery is expected before April.

A spokesperson for Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she could not comment until Health Canada decides whether to change the product information.

Late Tuesday, Martin Bégin, a spokesperson for Health Canada, confirmed the regulator has received Pfizer’s request. He was unable to provide a timeline for a decision.

In a statement to The Globe on Monday, Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette said the extra volume per vial acts as “a safeguard against potential loss of volume that can occur during storage, preparation and administration of the vaccine, and can result in overages that may amount to an extra dose or two. The monograph of the product would not change because of extra volume in the vial.”

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If health professionals use what’s called a low dead space syringe to extract each dose, Ms. Antoniou said, six doses can be consistently drawn. Dead space is vaccine that is left in a syringe after an injection. “If standard syringes and needles are used, there may not be sufficient volume to extract a sixth dose from a single vial,” Ms. Antoniou said. Some needles can limit dead space.

Pfizer did not provide The Globe with the data to show how often six doses are retrieved from a vial. The Globe asked the Ontario, B.C. and Quebec governments, but they did not provide such information.

The low dead space syringes are a “niche” item, said Troy Kirkpatrick, a spokesperson for BD, the medical technology company supplying the United States with syringes. BD is selling syringes to Canada, but not low dead space ones. The federal government was unable to tell The Globe which company supplies those.

Of the 145 million syringes Canada has bought for the vaccination program, 37.5 million are the kind that would be required if Health Canada approves Pfizer’s request, Ms. Anand’s office said. Her office was unable to say on Tuesday when they would all be delivered.

Ms. Antoniou said six low dead space syringes are needed for each vial.

Until now, the syringes “have historically had low demand,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said, and “no vaccine manufacturer identified the need for these types of devices when production capacity was increased.” He said the company is meeting its current contracts, and advising governments it will “take time” to increase production.

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Canada has also bought 40 million vaccine doses from Moderna. On Tuesday, the company said its shots require standard syringes.

At the University Health Network in Toronto, one of Canada’s largest hospital groups, Emily Musing, a vice-president and professional pharmacist, said staff have been able to “more consistently” get a sixth dose when using a one-milliliter syringe.

However, the hospital ran out and had to use three-ml syringes. “We found with the larger syringes, we were not able to pull up as many sixth doses,” she said.

Neither of those is as reliable as the low dead space syringe, Ms. Antoniou said.

Even without the requirement for the specialized syringe, some public health units were facing supply challenges. In Ontario, one health unit is asking pet clinics for syringes that are specialized enough to get a sixth dose from a vial.

“With an aim to maximize the efficiency of our approach to vaccine delivery, we have reached out to local veterinary clinics and community partners to ask for contributions of syringes,” said Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health at Hastings Prince Edward public health, which includes the city of Belleville.

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Andrew Blais, who works for a pet hospital in the region, said he was shocked to receive a request from the health unit on Monday for the clinic to donate 1 cc-size syringes. “It felt outrageous that they were even thinking about veterinary clinics,” he said. “I would have thought maybe they would start with public health agencies or other government-funded [agencies].”

“There was definitely a feeling of panic to it,” he said.

Alexandra Hilkene, a spokeswoman for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, said it’s Ottawa’s responsibility to procure syringes for vaccinations. However, she said the province can get additional supplies to help local public health units. She said Ontario sent three-ml syringes to Hastings Prince Edward on Jan. 22 and 25 for a total of 1,000. But those are not the specialized syringes to extract six doses.

Alberta’s health authority said it is buying low dead space syringes and other supplies to supplement shipments from Ottawa.

The federal government has not disclosed how much it is paying Pfizer for the vaccines. A New York Times report suggests that the reduction in vials shipped by Pfizer won’t change how much the U.S. pays. Reuters reports that Sweden is withholding payment until it gets clarity on Pfizer’s billings. The company told a local newspaper it charged for six doses per vial.

With reports from James Keller, Andrea Woo and Les Perreaux.

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B.C. couple accused of flying to Yukon to get vaccinated must wait for 2nd dose, ministry says – CBC.ca

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A Vancouver couple who allegedly flouted COVID-19 rules and flew to Yukon to get the first doses of a vaccine will have to wait their turn for their second doses, says B.C.’s Ministry of Health.

Rodney Baker, 55, the now former president and CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, and Ekaterina Baker, a 32-year-old aspiring actress, are accused of breaking Yukon COVID-19 rules by chartering a plane to the small community of Beaver Creek, a community roughly 450 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse near the Alaska border

There, they took advantage of a mobile vaccination clinic that was administering the first doses of the Moderna vaccine to locals, claiming they were new employees at an area motel, according to Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker

Many in Yukon’s rural communities have been prioritized to receive vaccinations because they are hours away from medical care. 

In a statement to CBC News, B.C.’s Ministry of Health said the couple will have to wait — like everyone else — until their eligible age category before receiving their second dose of the vaccine.

“There is no room in BC’s COVID-19 Immunization plan for people who deliberately put vulnerable populations at risk in order to receive their vaccine before the start of their eligibility group,” the statement read.

“As we move towards immunizing the general public … there will be clear processes in place to ensure people can verify their age and that they are currently living in BC.

“The pre-registration process will help ensure people wait their turn. The system will not allow people to book an appointment until their age category is eligible to pre-register for an appointment for the dose that they should be receiving.”

B.C.’s vaccine plan, which was announced on Friday, will focus on vaccinating high-risk and most elderly populations by April before reaching younger adults in the summer.

The goal is to vaccinate four million members of the general public against COVID-19 by September.

Currently, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends getting the second dose of the Moderna vaccine within 42 days of the first. 

According to current plan, those aged between 59 and 30 — like the Bakers — will receive vaccines between July to September, well after 42 days from their first doses.

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