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CDC director diverges from recommendation, endorses COVID-19 booster for millions of older Americans – CTV News

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans, opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against COVID-19.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday.

The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.

However, Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected.

The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are health-care workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus.

But Walensky disagreed and put that recommendation back in, noting that such a move aligns with an FDA booster authorization decision earlier this week. The category she included covers people who live in institutional settings that increase their risk of exposure, such as prisons or homeless shelters, as well as health care workers.

The panel had offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want one. But the advisers refused to go further and open boosters to otherwise healthy front-line health care workers who aren’t at risk of severe illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.

The panel voted 9 to 6 to reject that proposal. But Walensky decided to disregard the advisory committee’s counsel on that issue. In a decision several hours after the panel adjourned, Walensky issued a statement saying she had restored the recommendation.

“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Walensky said in a statement late Thursday night. “At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”

Experts say getting the unvaccinated their first shots remains the top priority, and the panel wrestled with whether the booster debate was distracting from that goal.

All three of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. are still highly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even with the spread of the extra-contagious delta variant. But only about 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or just 55% of the population.

“We can give boosters to people, but that’s not really the answer to this pandemic,” said Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University. “Hospitals are full because people are not vaccinated. We are declining care to people who deserve care because we are full of unvaccinated COVID-positive patients.”

Thursday’s decision represented a dramatic scaling back of the Biden administration plan announced last month to dispense boosters to nearly everyone to shore up their protection. Late Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration, like the CDC panel, signed off on Pfizer boosters for a much narrower slice of the population than the White House envisioned.

The booster plan marks an important shift in the nation’s vaccination drive. Britain and Israel are already giving a third round of shots over strong objections from the World Health Organization that poor countries don’t have enough for their initial doses.

Walensky opened Thursday’s meeting by stressing that vaccinating the unvaccinated remains the top goal “here in America and around the world.”

Walensky acknowledged that the data on who really needs a booster right away “are not perfect.” “Yet collectively they form a picture for us,” she said, “and they are what we have in this moment to make a decision about the next stage in this pandemic.”

The CDC panel stressed that its recommendations will be changed if new evidence shows more people need a booster.

The CDC advisers expressed concern over the millions of Americans who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots early in the vaccine rollout. The government still hasn’t considered boosters for those brands and has no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix-and-match and give those people a Pfizer shot.

“I just don’t understand how later this afternoon we can say to people 65 and older, `You’re at risk for severe illness and death, but only half of you can protect yourselves right now,”‘ said Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University.

About 26 million Americans got their last Pfizer dose at least six months ago, about half of whom are 65 or older. It’s not clear how many more would meet the CDC panel’s booster qualifications.

CDC data show the vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness for all ages, but there is a slight drop among the oldest adults. And immunity against milder infection appears to be waning months after people’s initial immunization.

For most people, if you’re not in a group recommended for a booster, “it’s really because we think you’re well-protected,” said Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Public health experts not involved in Thursday’s decision said it is unlikely people seeking third doses at a drugstore or other site will be required to prove they qualify.

Even with the introduction of boosters, someone who has gotten just the first two doses would still be considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s Dr. Kathleen Dooling. That is an important question to people in parts of the country where you need to show proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant or enter other places of business.

Among people who stand to benefit from a booster, there are few risks, the CDC concluded. Serious side effects from the first two Pfizer doses are exceedingly rare, including heart inflammation that sometimes occurs in younger men. Data from Israel, which has given nearly 3 million people — mostly 60 and older — a third Pfizer dose, has uncovered no red flags.

The U.S. has already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content

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COVID-19 Update: Four Alberta doctors launch lawsuit over vaccine policy | 1,592 cases, 25 deaths reported over three days | Sask. won't impose more restrictions – Calgary Herald

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Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in Calgary

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With news on COVID-19 happening rapidly, we’ve created this page to bring you our latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Calgary.

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What’s happening now

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Share your COVID-19 stories

As Alberta grapples with a fourth wave of COVID-19 at the start of another school year, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.

  • Are you or a loved one seeking medical care outside the country after facing a cancelled surgery here?
  • Are you someone who has decided to get vaccinated after previously being skeptical of the vaccines?
  • Are you a frontline heath care worker seeing new strains on the health system?

Send us your stories via email at reply@calgaryherald.com or by using this online submission forum .


Lawsuit launched against AHS for mandatory vaccination policy by four Alberta doctors

Alberta Health Services.
Alberta Health Services. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Four Alberta doctors are launching a lawsuit against Alberta Health Services and its president in opposition to the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff.

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The plaintiffs include two rural family physicians, a Calgary anesthesiologist and a Calgary pediatric neurologist.

“Any medical procedure performed on a patient without their informed consent amounts to assault,” the statement of claim says.

Lorian Hardcastle, an associate professor in the faculty of law and Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, said the claims about assault and informed consent seem “frivolous.”

“This isn’t a case where someone is being forcibly vaccinated. They’re being told that they either vaccinate or don’t work there,” said Hardcastle.

Read more.


Alberta reports 1,592 new cases, 25 deaths

Here are COVID-19 numbers released today by Alberta Health:

  • Alberta reported 1,592 new cases over the past three days.
  • There are 9,481 active cases, down from 10,037 on Friday.
  • There are 182 people in ICU, down nine people from Friday.
  • There are 821 people in hospital, down 68 people from Friday.
  • There were 25,901 tests completed for a positivity rate of about 6.1 per cent.
  • 86.6 per cent of eligible Albertans have received one dose, 78.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.
  • Of Alberta’s total population, 73.7 per cent have one dose, 67.1 per cent are fully vaccinated.
  • Of those currently in hospital, 75.15 per cent are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, and 24.85 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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Canadians hoarded cash during the early months of the pandemic

Canadian dollar bank notes.
Canadian dollar bank notes. Photo by 3d illustration/Getty Images

OTTAWA – The pandemic may have seen a rise in the use of credit and debit cards, along with payment options like Square, but Canadians aren’t giving up on cash.

In fact, the Bank of Canada, which prints bills, says there was $17 billion more dollars out in circulation last year than before the pandemic — suggesting Canadians are sitting on a hoard of cash.

Bank of Canada spokesperson Raewyn Passmore said Canadians still use and appreciate physical currency and they don’t see a big shift away from cash coming anytime soon.

“Cash remains popular among Canadians, and in the foreseeable future, the bank will continue to supply Canadians with bank notes they can use with the highest confidence.”

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The Bank of Canada believes people were holding onto their money in 2020. The amount of money out in circulation was $83 billion before the pandemic, but that swelled to over $100 billion by the end of 2020.

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Saskatchewan won’t impose more COVID-19 measures: Premier Scott Moe

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. Photo by Troy Fleece/Postmedia/File

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he will not bring in additional COVID-19 measures because it ultimately takes away people’s personal freedoms.

Moe made the comment while delivering a state of the province address in Saskatoon to members of the city’s chamber of commerce.

Some medical experts and the Canadian Medical Association have been calling for restrictions on gathering sizes as hospitals continue to admit a high number of COVID-19 patients.

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Also see: Military to support Saskatchewan with up to six critical care nursing officers


Jobs, COVID-19 on the agenda as fall legislature session begins today

The Alberta legislature in Edmonton on Nov. 5, 2020.
The Alberta legislature in Edmonton on Nov. 5, 2020. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia, file

Alberta’s government says it plans to focus on jobs and diversifying the economy while keeping an eye on its COVID-19 response as the fall sitting of the legislature is set to start today.

There are between 18 and 20 bills the government hopes to pass before Christmas, including one that focuses on building infrastructure, and environmental legislation aimed at conservation and recreation.

NDP house leader Christina Gray told reporters at the legislature Friday the Opposition would be holding the government accountable for the health-care crisis.

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Military to support Saskatchewan with up to six critical care nursing officers

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/File

The Canadian Armed Forces says it’s prepared to support Saskatchewan with up to six critical care nursing officers, who it says will be deployed to intensive care units.

The military also says it will provide medical air transport for in-province and out-of-province critical care patient transfers, as capacity allows, and may also supply a pair of Multipurpose Medical Assistance Teams to backfill the province’s nurses.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted late Friday the federal government had approved a request for pandemic aid in Saskatchewan, including military support.

Blair also noted that Ottawa is also in talks with the province to provide additional help from the Canadian Red Cross and other health resources.

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B.C. lifting COVID-19 restrictions but not everyone ready to resume usual gatherings

People look at some cookware products at the Vancouver Fall Home Show at Vancouver Convention Centre on Oct. 14, 2021. After the cancellation last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the convention operated this year under health safety protocols.
People look at some cookware products at the Vancouver Fall Home Show at Vancouver Convention Centre on Oct. 14, 2021. After the cancellation last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the convention operated this year under health safety protocols. Photo by Liang Sen/Xinhua via ZUMA Press

British Columbia is lifting capacity restrictions on gatherings across much of the province today, though some say not everyone will be ready to party like it’s early 2020 while still wearing a mask.

Residents in swaths of the province will be allowed to attend events like hockey games, concerts and weddings without any limits on numbers, but capacity will be capped at 50 per cent in areas where vaccination rates are low, including parts of the Fraser, Northern and Interior health regions.

Heidi Tworek, a professor who specializes in health communications at UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, said employers, businesses expecting more customers and even individuals inviting someone over for dinner should expect a range of reactions because the lack of regular contact with people after nearly two years will have impacted some people’s mental health.

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Also see: Ontario lifts capacity limits in restaurants, gyms, casinos


Internal government analysis shows depth of reliance on now-defunct recovery benefit

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 21, 2021.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 21, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Blair Gable

The majority of Canadian residents who received the federal Canada Recovery Benefit were continuous or repeat recipients of the now-ended aid program, an internal government analysis reveals.

The assessment from Employment and Social Development Canada found that by early June, 1.5 million, or about 75 per cent of the 1.8 million unique recipients of the benefit, were continuous or repeat beneficiaries.

Among them were some 627,000 recipients who applied and received the benefit for months at a time, never once taking a break.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the briefing note to the top official at the department under the access to information law.

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Experts who reviewed the document suggested the analysis hints at the level of need for the income-support program, which came to an end over the weekend.

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Traveller returning home unable to use digital proof of vaccination at Vancouver airport

A B.C. man has been ordered to quarantine for two weeks after a CBSA officer refused to accept the digital version of his B.C. Vaccine Card

New Westminister resident Charles Wangersky recently returned to Vancouver airport with his wife and adult son after a trip to Florida for a family funeral. Wangersky said the border agent gave his son an order to self-quarantine as he didn’t have a scanner to read his QR code.

“There was a great deal of back and forth, trying to find his records with his personal care number, but in the end, they left him with a form to quarantine for two weeks,” said Wangersky. “Basically, he’s supposed to have absolutely no contact with anyone, until his two weeks are up.”

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Parents more hesitant to vaccinate kids than themselves, researcher says

Charles Muro, 13, receives a COVID-19 vaccination in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 13, 2021.
Charles Muro, 13, receives a COVID-19 vaccination in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 13, 2021. Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

OTTAWA — Jennifer Hubert jumped at the opportunity to get her COVID-19 vaccine, but she’s not looking forward to having to make the decision about whether to vaccinate her three-year-old son Jackson.

She recognizes the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but said she also understands her son is at a much lower risk for serious illness than older adults.

“To me it’s not a clear benefit,” she said.

While many parents were overjoyed at the news that Health Canada is considering approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine for kids age five to 11 in Canada, parents like Hubert are feeling more trepidatious, and public health officials said they are going to have a much more nuanced conversation with parents about vaccination than they did with adults.

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While 82 per cent of eligible Canadians aged 12 and up are already fully vaccinated, a recent survey by Angus Reid shows only 51 per cent of parents plan to immediately vaccinate their kids when a pediatric dose becomes available.

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Sunday

Fauci says vaccines for kids aged 5-11 likely available in November

FILE PHOTO: Brendan Lo (13) receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, U.S., May 13, 2021.
FILE PHOTO: Brendan Lo (13) receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, U.S., May 13, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

WASHINGTON — Vaccines for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 will likely be available in the first half of November, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Sunday, predicting a timetable that could see many kids getting fully vaccinated before the end of the year.

“If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval and the recommendation from the CDC, it’s entirely possible if not very likely that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November,” Fauci said in an interview with ABC’s This Week.

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U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials are reviewing the Pfizer/BioNTech application seeking authorization of its 2-dose vaccine for younger children, with its panel of outside advisers scheduled to weigh in on Oct. 26.

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Saturday

Two Calgary-area restaurants reprimanded for not following vaccine passport rules

Two Calgary-area restaurants including the Purple Perk have been reprimanded by Alberta Health Services for not following provincial health orders in Calgary on Saturday, October 23, 2021.
Two Calgary-area restaurants including the Purple Perk have been reprimanded by Alberta Health Services for not following provincial health orders in Calgary on Saturday, October 23, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

Several Calgary-area restaurants have been reprimanded by Alberta Health Services for not following provincial health orders.

Closure notices posted online show Purple Perk, located at 2212 4 St. S.W. in central Calgary, has had its food handling permit suspended until the business is able to show it has implemented the provincial restrictions exemption program and follow orders from the chief medical officer of health around masking and social distancing. The suspension will be reviewed on Nov. 2.

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Meanwhile, Olifunt Bistro in Carstairs has been forced to close its indoor dining area only after customers were observed not being checked for proof of vaccination and staff were seen not wearing masks, according to a closure order dated on Oct. 21.

A closure order and permit suspension remain active against Without Papers Pizza on 9th Avenue S.E. after the restaurant was found to not be following public health orders earlier this month. The restaurant has been vocal on social media about its opposition to the province’s vaccination requirements for certain businesses.

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Saturday

Alberta hopeful to receive Johnson & Johnson vaccines in short order

Alberta is still working to procure Johnson & Johnson vaccine for vaccine hesitant Albertans.
Alberta is still working to procure Johnson & Johnson vaccine for vaccine hesitant Albertans. Photo by Dado Ruvic /REUTERS

Alberta officials are hopeful to receive an initial supply of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government soon, but there is still no timeline on when the doses will arrive.

Premier Jason Kenney said three weeks ago his government had requested an inventory of the single-shot vaccine from Ottawa in a bid to bolster sluggish immunization rates in some areas of rural Alberta. Kenney projected those shots could be available in the first week of October.

Alberta Health said Friday the province has requested up to 20,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also known as Janssen.

Read more .

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Deadline today for B.C. health workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – BC News – Castanet.net

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The deadline for British Columbia health-care workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is today.

The provincial health officer’s order covers doctors, nurses, students, residents, contractors, volunteers and all other health-care professionals.

Premier John Horgan says he’s hopeful that the small number of workers who are resistant to getting vaccinated will get the information they need to get their shots.

Those who don’t have their first dose of vaccine by the deadline can’t work unless they have a recognized exemption.

The order says unvaccinated workers who get their first shot before Nov. 15 can resume working seven days after the first dose, but they must wear personal protective equipment and take other precautions until they get their second shot.

The Health Ministry says 94 per cent of B.C. health workers were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 24, three per cent were unvaccinated and two per cent had one dose.

Overall, B.C. has reached an 89.6 per cent vaccination rate for first shots among eligible residents age 12 and up and 84.4 per cent have received their second dose.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem, the lead of the B.C. immunization rollout team, will provide an update on COVID-19 on Tuesday.

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Blue Origin, Boeing reveal plan to build 'business park' space station – CBC.ca

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Billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin on Monday unveiled plans to develop a commercial space station called “Orbital Reef” with Boeing, aiming to launch the spacecraft in the second half of this decade.

The venture will be built in partnership with Sierra Space, the spaceflight wing of defence contractor Sierra Nevada Corp, and will be backed by Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University.

Orbital Reef will be operated as a “mixed use business park,” and plans to provide the infrastructure needed to scale economic activity and open new markets in space, Blue Origin and Sierra Space said.

“Seasoned space agencies, high-tech consortia, sovereign nations without space programs, media and travel companies, funded entrepreneurs and sponsored inventors, and future-minded investors all have a place on Orbital Reef,” the companies said in a statement.

Sierra in April announced plans to offer the first free-flying commercial space station.

In July, Blue Origin had a successful debut space tourism flight, with Bezos and three others aboard. Earlier this month, 90-year-old Canadian actor William Shatner — Captain James Kirk of Star Trek fame — became the oldest person in space aboard a rocketship flown by Blue Origin.

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