The approval of a fourth vaccine in Canada should not give Canadians the green light to hold off on getting inoculated in order to wait for other doses with higher efficacy rates, medical experts say.
That attitude will end up lengthening the time it takes to get the pandemic under control, said Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
“If people start to do that, they actually prevent Canadians from moving slowly back to normal,” he said.
On Friday, Health Canada approved the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is the fourth vaccine approved along with shots from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford.
Different efficacy rates
Each vaccine has a different efficacy rate. Vaccine efficacy refers to the percentage reduction of disease in a vaccinated group of people compared to an unvaccinated group, under ideal conditions.
Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna both have been determined by Health Canada to have efficacy rates of around 95 per cent. AstraZeneca-Oxford has an efficacy rate of 62 per cent while Johnson & Johnson has an efficacy rate of 66.9 per cent.
Despite different efficacies, trials have shown that those who did become infected after getting vaccinated experienced only mild illness, said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Mississauga, Ont.
Of the thousands of participants in trials for the vaccines, not a single person who received a shot died or was hospitalized from COVID-19, he told The Canadian Press.
WATCH | CBC’s The National. Why experts say take the vaccine you’re offered:
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said debates over efficacy are going to be part of the challenge of getting people vaccinated.
“I think there is obviously something we have to deal with here,” he said.
Some of that could have been sparked by confusion over the messaging of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended against using that vaccine in people aged 65 and older “due to limited information” on its efficacy in that age group.
In Europe, French and German officials are reversing their initial hesitancy about AstraZeneca and are now urging people to take the vaccine. There are reports that many in Germany have declined the AstraZeneca shot over concerns it may not work as well as others.
Detroit turned down Johnson & Johnson
In Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan last week turned down 6,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, saying he favoured shots from Pfizer and Moderna for now.
WATCH | Dr. Sharma addresses vaccine hesitancy:
Juni said long-term care homes are the only settings where it makes sense to use the highest efficacy vaccines, as residents are at extreme risk.
For most people, “there is no such thing as a bad vaccine,” he said.
Juni compared the differences in efficacy to high octane versus low octane gas. Most engines, he said, just need gas.
“But obviously in the situation we’re in right now, if you actually are about to run out of gas, you just take whatever is coming that actually works.”
Waiting for a preferred vaccine is just too risky, Chagla said. “You don’t want to be that person with zero per cent protection going into COVID-19 when you could be someone with at least 60 to 70 per cent protection, if not higher.”
‘Just take it’
“You would rather start the clock with some protection rather than no protection,” Chagla said.
Given the opportunity to get vaccinated, he offered some blunt advice: “Just take it.”
WATCH | J&J vaccine good for less accessible, marginalized communities, doctor says:
Dr. Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at University Health Network in Toronto, said for those concerned about different efficacy rates, it’s important to know it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison because the clinical trials of vaccines were carried out differently.
Chakrabarti said the timing of the trials may have impacted efficacy. Pfizer and Moderna tested their products when the COVID burden was relatively lower in parts of the world. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, meanwhile, had their trials later when more transmissible coronavirus variants were spreading at a rapid pace.
What shouldn’t be lost, Hota said, is the overall goal of getting vaccinated which is to protect the most vulnerable from getting COVID-19 and to get us out of this pandemic.
That means, with the vaccine rollout being such a massive undertaking including: vaccine availability, vaccine prioritization schemes and vaccine registries, vaccine preference should not be a consideration.
“[If] you have to deal with people wanting to make decisions based on preference. It’s just, first of all, not justifiable … but really not feasible,” Hota said.
She said people jabbed with higher efficacy vaccines are less likely to suffer from mild symptoms if they were to be infected, and on an individual level, if you don’t want to get sick at all, “that might be a better decision for you.”
“On a public health sort of population level, I would be very disappointed if people felt that was OK and it wasn’t going to cause any harm because we do need to get to a point to immunize as many people as quickly as possible to make gains in managing the pandemic itself.”
Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said on Friday that vaccination with a vaccine with 66 per cent efficacy does not mean a person will have a 34 per cent chance of contracting COVID-19.
“While each of the vaccines Health Canada has authorized has different efficacy numbers, the reality is that you will have a greatly reduced chance of getting COVID-19 with any of the … vaccines that have been authorized,” Sharma said.
She drove home that point earlier this week, telling CBC’s The National that her message to Canadians is that when it’s their turn, “you roll up your sleeve” and “take the vaccine that’s offered to you.
“And that will help all of us bring down the COVID-19 numbers across Canada, which is the most important thing that we’re trying to do.”
Join us as experts answer some of your vaccine questions on a special CBC News National Town Hall on Tuesday, March 9. We’ll discuss the differences between vaccines, how vaccine passports work and where you might be in the queue. The special starts at 8 p.m. ET on CBC Gem and CBC News Network, and 10 p.m. local time (10:30 p.m. NST) on CBC Television.
Conversion therapy ban now law in Canada – CTV News
The federal legislation to ban conversion therapy practices in Canada received royal assent on Wednesday, meaning the bill is now a law, but the new criminal offences won’t be in effect until early January.
Per the coming-into-force provisions of the bill, the four new Criminal Code violations will be enacted 30 days after it received royal assent, which will be Jan. 7.
That means that in a month it will be illegal to subject someone of any age, consenting or not, to so-called conversion therapy
As of Jan. 7 it will be a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to cause another person to undergo conversion therapy, and if someone is found to be promoting, advertising, or profiting from providing the practice, they could face up to two years in prison.
After the federal government tabled Bill C-4 on Nov. 29, MPs unanimously agreed to swiftly pass the bill through all legislative stages in the House of Commons without changes on Dec. 1.
The bill was then sent to the Senate, seeing Senators also unanimously agreed on Dec. 7 to pass the legislation with little debate and no committee study.
The accelerated all-party support for the bill has been praised by political leaders as well as by LGBTQ2S+ advocates, who have been pushing for years to see these new protections against the harmful practice enacted after unsuccessful past attempts.
“The passing of Bill C-4 and the unanimous support it received from every official in Parliament sends a clear message to LGBTQ2 Canadians: you are valid and deserving of a life free from harm,” said Nicholas Schiavo, founder of No Conversion Canada in a joint statement with U.S.-based LGBTQ2S+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention advocacy group The Trevor Project. “Today, as we celebrate this historic moment, we must thank survivors and their tireless advocacy to reach this moment where conversion ‘therapy’ is finally outlawed in our country.”
Justice Minister David Lametti, who sponsored the government legislation, and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien called the success of Bill C-4 “an important achievement.”
“The consensus demonstrated by Parliamentarians in Canada is a part of an emerging global consensus surrounding the real and life – long harms for conversion therapy victims and survivors… Canada’s criminal laws on conversion therapy are among the most comprehensive in the world.”
Several provinces and municipalities across Canada have already sought to outlaw conversion therapy in their jurisdictions, including Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Yukon, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
“I’m glad the senators took an approach of moving quickly in unanimity like we did in the Commons. I want to thank them for their work,” said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole on Wednesday on Parliament Hill. His party was the one to initiate the unanimous consent motions in both chambers after the Liberals made LGBTQ2S+ rights and the Conservatives’ past opposition to the bill as a wedge issue in the 2021 federal election.
Bill C-4 has now become the first bill to fully pass the 44th Parliament, and is the first bill to receive royal assent in a ceremony presided over by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon.
Canada joins diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, December 8, 2021 12:43PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 8, 2021 4:27PM EST
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will join a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year, citing extensive human rights abuses by the Communist regime in the host country.
The decision comes two days after the United States announced it would not send government officials to the Olympics over concerns about China’s human rights record, and particularly allegations of genocide against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang province.
Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have all since followed suit.
Trudeau said Canada too is “extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government.”
“I don’t think the decision by Canada or by many other countries to choose to not send a diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics is going to come as a surprise to China,” he said Wednesday.
“We have been very clear over the past many years of our deep concerns around human rights violations and this is a continuation of us expressing our deep concerns for human rights violations.”
A diplomatic boycott means Canadian athletes can and will still compete but no government officials will attend, including Pascale St-Onge, the new minister of sport.
While it has been rare in recent years for the prime minister to attend an Olympics, Canada normally sends multiple government representatives including cabinet ministers and often the governor general.
Last summer, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough represented the Canadian government at the delayed Tokyo Olympics. In 2018 in Pyeongchang, Trudeau requested then-governor general Julie Payette attend for Canada. Kirsty Duncan, then the sport minister, attended both the Olympics and Paralympics along with several staff members.
Former governor general David Johnston attended for Canada at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and at the 2012 Summer Games in London.
There were some calls for countries to stage a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing over human rights concerns, or at least to refuse to attend the opening ceremonies. But former prime minister Stephen Harper rejected that idea and sent his foreign affairs minister, David Emerson, to attend the games, including the opening ceremonies.
China denies allegations of human rights abuses and is accusing the United States of upending the political neutrality of sport. Chinese diplomats slammed the decisions by the U.S. and Australia, accusing countries of using the Olympics as a pawn, and adding several times that “nobody cares” whether diplomats attend the Games.
Mac Ross, a kinesiology professor at Western University’s International Centre for Olympic Studies, said Canada is sending a message to China and the International Olympic Committee that it “will not support the hosting of Olympic Games against the backdrop of widespread human rights violations.”
Ross also said China’s accusation that the boycotts politicize the Olympics ignores how many times China itself boycotted the Games.
“The People’s Republic of China has staged full boycotts of the Olympics multiple times, on purely political grounds,” Ross said. “Why are boycotts suddenly unacceptable? The answer is simple: they place the regime’s human rights record front and centre.”
In a written statement, Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker and Canadian Paralympic Committee CEO Karen O’Neill said they respect the decision made by the government.
“The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee remain concerned about the issues in China but understand the Games will create an important platform to draw attention to them,” they said. “History has shown that athlete boycotts only hurt athletes without creating meaningful change.”
The Chinese Embassy in Canada has not yet reacted to Canada’s decision, but tweeted ahead of the announcement that “the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are about athletic excellence and global unity. Stop using it as a platform for grandstanding and division.”
China threatened to take “countermeasures” against the U.S. but has not specified what that means.
Trudeau said Wednesday concerns about arbitrary detention of any foreign nationals by the Chinese government continues to be a concern but that Canada will do everything necessary to ensure the safety of Canadian athletes competing in Beijing.
“We know that our athletes need to have one thing in mind that is representing their countries to the best of their ability and winning that gold medal for Canada,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said the RCMP are always involved in ensuring security for Canada’s athletes and that Canada’s diplomatic missions in China will also be helping ensure the athletes have everything they need.
Canada’s diplomatic relationship with China is still strained following nearly three years of tension over China’s detention of two Canadians. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were finally released from Chinese prison in September.
Canada always alleged they were detained in retaliation for its decision to arrest Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States, which wanted her extradited there to face fraud charges.
The two Michaels, as Kovrig and Spavor came to be called, were freed the same day Meng struck a plea deal with the U.S. and was released from Canada.
Opposition Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he supports a diplomatic boycott but accused Trudeau of lagging behind Canada’s allies in making the decision.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC News
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tighter restrictions Wednesday to stem the spread of the omicron variant, urging people in England to again work from home and mandating COVID-19 passes for entrance into nightclubs and large events.
Johnson said it was time to impose stricter measures to prevent a spike of hospitalizations and deaths as the new coronavirus variant spreads rapidly in the community.
“It has become increasingly clear that omicron is growing much faster than the previous delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world,” he said in a news conference. “Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of omicron could currently be between two and three days.”
Johnson said that 568 cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed across the U.K., and “the true number is certain to be much higher.”
He said beginning next Monday, people should work from home if possible. Starting on Friday, the legal requirement to wear a face mask will be widened to most indoor public places in England, including cinemas. Next week, having a COVID-19 pass showing that a person has had both vaccine doses will be mandatory to enter nightclubs and places with large crowds.
Overall, the British government reported another 51,342 confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, with 161 more people dying.
The announcement came as Johnson and his government faced increasing pressure to explain reports that Downing Street staff enjoyed a Christmas party that breached the country’s coronavirus rules last year, when people were banned from holding most social gatherings. Johnson on Wednesday ordered an inquiry and said he was “furious” about the situation.
The revelations have angered many in Britain, with critics saying they heavily undermine the authority of Johnson’s Conservative government in imposing virus restrictions.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 2:55 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 267.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, which maintains an online database of global cases. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday that governments need to reassess national responses to COVID-19 and speed up vaccination programs to tackle the omicron variant, though it is too early to say how well existing shots will protect against it.
The variant’s global spread suggests it could have a major impact on the pandemic, and the time to contain it is now before more omicron patients are hospitalized, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“We call on all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing,” he told a media briefing. “Any complacency now will cost lives.”
In Europe, France’s Ile-de-France region — with the capital Paris at its centre — said all hospitals are activating an emergency plan due to the strained COVID-19 situation. The plan includes stepping up the number of ICU beds and, if necessary, rescheduling treatments to free up capacities.
Meanwhile, European Union health ministers discussed measures to try to halt the spread of the omicron variant, with the Netherlands calling for negative tests for incoming travellers from outside the bloc and France urging tests even for those arriving from EU states.
Poland and several other countries in central and eastern Europe are battling their latest surges of coronavirus cases and deaths while continuing to record much lower vaccination rates than in western Europe.
In Russia, more than 1,200 people with COVID-19 died every day throughout most of November and for several days in December, and the daily death toll remains over 1,100. Ukraine, which is recording hundreds of virus deaths a day, is emerging from its deadliest period of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the mortality rate in Poland — while lower than it was in the spring — recently hit more than 500 deaths per day and still has not peaked. Intensive care units are full, and doctors report that more children require hospitalization, including some who went through COVID-19 without symptoms but then suffered strokes.
The situation has created a dilemma for Poland’s government, which has urged citizens to get vaccinated but clearly worries about alienating voters who oppose vaccine mandates or any restrictions on economic life.
In the Americas, the number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reached 200 million Wednesday amid a dispiriting holiday-season spike in cases and hospitalizations that has hit even New England, one of the most highly inoculated corners of the country.
Brazil will require that unvaccinated travellers entering the country go on a five-day quarantine followed by a COVID-19 test, after its president said he opposed the use of a vaccine passport.
In Africa, South Africa reported nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, a record since the omicron variant was detected, and 36 new COVID-related deaths. It was not immediately clear how many of the infections were caused by omicron, given only a fraction of samples are sequenced, but experts believe it’s driving South Africa’s fourth wave of infections.
A weekly epidemiological report published Tuesday by WHO said that in the Middle East, the most cases reported last week were in:
- Jordan, with 32,108 reported cases.
- Iran, with 26,255 reported cases.
- Lebanon, with 10,406 reported cases.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea will consider expanding home treatment of COVID-19 patients, as both new daily infections and severe cases hit record highs, putting hospital capacity under strain.
-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 4:05 p.m. ET
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