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Charla Huber: Knowing younger kids can soon be vaccinated is a relief – Times Colonist



During the past nearly two years, we have heard the term “unprecedented times” more often than I can keep track of. I think this is one of the top buzz phrases of the pandemic.

When we hear a statement prefaced with “unprecedented times,” we know that folks are doing their best to navigate the situation and there may be some kinks along the way.

I am one of the parents eagerly waiting for a COVID vaccine for children ages five to 11 years old to be approved by Health Canada. If the approval comes quickly, my daughter could get the vaccine before her 12th birthday — otherwise getting the vaccine may be part of her birthday celebration in January.

If we wait for her to turn 12 before she can receive her vaccine, I wonder if we will need to wait for her to have two doses before she can go swimming or dine in. I ask this because right now, vaccine passports are required for those 12 and up.

As I ask these questions, I want to note that I do understand that we are in “unprecedented times” and I know that not everything will go smoothly. If we need to take a break from movie theatres and public pools, then that’s what we’ll do. I am in full support of the vaccine passport system.

I spoke with Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, on the phone and asked her my questions. “Currently the 12-year-olds are getting vaccines by cohort,” said Henry, ­explaining that 11-year-olds born in 2009 can get the ­vaccine prior to their 12th birthday. This is what sets apart the ­11-year-olds who turn 12 in ­January. My daughter will be in the first group of 12-year-olds that weren’t able to vaccinate in the cohorts.

Henry also said that Health Canada is expected to approve five to 11-year-olds to be vaccinated shortly. Meaning my daughter and others will not have to wait until the new year to get a COVID vaccine.

Henry explained that prior to approval, “safety data and efficacy data are being reviewed.”

I know that not all parents are as eager as me to have their children vaccinated. I’ve heard that there are many parents who have some hesitancy regarding getting children vaccinated.

“We are building confidence with parents,” said Henry. “Parental consent is important.”

I know my daughter couldn’t be more eager to get vaccinated. When I received my vaccines, both times she asked me to sneak her in and try and get her one, too. “Younger kids want to get their vaccines,” Henry said. “This has been so disruptive to their lives.”

Henry gave examples of how school years have been ­disrupted and childhood anxiety has increased over the course of the pandemic. I am not sure how long it will take us to look back at the COVID pandemic as a distant memory, but as a parent, it has been hard to know that I have been protected from COVID through vaccines while my daughter is still vulnerable. “For parents, it’s hard to be in society and to protect yourself and not be able to protect your child,” said Henry.

I feel a sigh of relief knowing my daughter and other children will soon be able to receive a vaccine. Even knowing that there may be some bumps along the way, I am appreciative of Henry and her team for doing their best to help us protect our kids.

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Singapore tests out ‘smart bandage’ for remote recovery



Researchers in Singapore have developed a smart bandage to enable patients to have chronic wounds monitored remotely via an app on a mobile device, potentially saving them visits to the doctor.

A research team at the National University of Singapore has created a wearable sensor attached to a transparent bandage to track progress in healing, using information like temperature, bacteria type, and levels of pH and inflammation.

“Traditionally when someone has a wound or ulcer, if it’s infected, the only way to examine it is through looking at the wound itself, through visual inspection,” said Chwee Teck Lim, lead researcher at the university’s department of biomedical engineering.

“If the clinician wants to have further information then they will obtain the wound fluid and send to the lab for further testing,” he said.

“So what we’re trying to do is use our smart bandage to cut the number of hours or days to just a few minutes.”

The “VeCare” technology will enable patients to convalesce more at home and visit a doctor only if necessary.

The bandage is being tested on patients with chronic venous ulcers, or leg ulcers caused by circulation problems in veins.

Data collection by researchers on the wounds has so far been effective, according to Lim, who said the smart bandage could potentially be used for other wounds, like diabetic foot ulcers.

(This story refiles to correct to cut extraneous word in the first paragraph)


(Reporting by Ying Shan Lee; Writing by Masako Iijima; Editing by Martin Petty, William Maclean)

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Courts block two Biden administration COVID vaccine mandates



The Biden administration was blocked on Tuesday from enforcing two mandates requiring millions of American workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a key part of its strategy for controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, temporarily blocked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers until the court can resolve legal challenges.

Doughty’s ruling applied nationwide, except in 10 states where the CMS was already prevented from enforcing the rule due to a prior order from a federal judge in St. Louis.

Doughty said the CMS lacked the authority to issue a vaccine mandate that would require more than 2 million unvaccinated healthcare workers to get a coronavirus shot.

“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” wrote Doughty.

Separately, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove in Frankfort, Kentucky, blocked the administration from enforcing a regulation that new government contracts must include clauses requiring that contractors’ employees get vaccinated.

The contractor ruling applied in the three states that had filed the lawsuit, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, one of at least 13 legal challenges nationwide against the regulation. It appears to be the first ruling against the contractor vaccine mandate.

The White House declined to comment.

The legal setbacks for President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy come as concerns that the Omicron coronavirus variant could trigger a new wave of infections and curtail travel and economic activity across the globe.

Biden unveiled regulations in September to increase the U.S. adult vaccination rate beyond the current 71% as a way of fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 750,000 Americans and weighed on the economy.

Republican state attorneys general, conservative groups and trade organizations have sued to stop the regulations.

Tuesday’s rulings add to a string of court losses for the Biden administration over its COVID-19 policies.

The most sweeping regulation, a workplace vaccine-or-testing mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court in early November.

In August, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the administration’s pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

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Omicron variant could outcompete Delta, South African disease expert says



The Omicron coronavirus variant detected in southern Africa could be the most likely candidate to displace the highly contagious Delta variant, the director of South Africa’s communicable disease institute said on Tuesday.

The discovery of Omicron has caused global alarm, with countries limiting travel from southern Africa for fear it could spread quickly even in vaccinated populations and the World Health Organization saying it carries a high risk of infection surges.

“We thought what will outcompete Delta? That has always been the question, in terms of transmissibility at least, … perhaps this particular variant is the variant,” Adrian Puren, acting executive director of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), told Reuters in an interview.

If Omicron proves even more transmissible than the Delta variant, it could lead to a sharp spike in infections that could put pressure on hospitals.

Puren said scientists should know within four weeks to what extent Omicron can evade the immunity generated by vaccines or prior infection, and whether it leads to worse clinical symptoms than other variants.

Anecdotal accounts by doctors who have treated South African COVID-19 patients say Omicron appears to be producing mild symptoms, including a dry cough, fever and night sweats, but experts have cautioned against drawing firm conclusions.

Puren said it was too early to say whether Omicron was displacing Delta in South Africa, since local scientists have only produced 87 sequences of Omicron so far.

But the fact that cases have started to rise rapidly, especially in the most populated Gauteng province, is a sign that some displacement might already be happening.

Delta drove a third wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa that peaked at more than 26,000 cases per day in early July. Omicron is expected to trigger a fourth wave, with daily infections seen topping 10,000 by the end of the week from around 2,270 on Monday.

Anne von Gottberg, a clinical microbiologist at the NICD, said it looked like infections were rising throughout the country.

On Monday, an NICD presentation a flagged a large number of COVID-19 admissions among infants aged under two years as an area of concern. But von Gottberg cautioned against linking that with Omicron just yet.

“It looks like in fact some of those admissions might have started before the emergence of Omicron. We are also seeing that there was an increase in influenza cases just in the last month or so, and so we need to be really careful to look at the other respiratory infections,” she said.

“We are looking at the data very, very carefully, but at the moment I’m not too sure that we can link it definitively to Omicron.”

South Africa has been praised for alerting the global scientific community and WHO so quickly to Omicron — a brave move given the damage that travel restrictions imposed by multiple countries including Britain will do to its important tourism sector.

The country has reported close to 3 million COVID-19 infections during the pandemic and over 89,000 deaths, the most on the African continent.


(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Johannesburg; Editing by Alison Williams)

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