With the continued spread of the Omicron variant hospitals in Ontario, including at CHEO, say they are seeing a disturbing trend of COVID-19 admission in infants.
Looking to answer parents and caregivers’ most pressing questions about COVID-19 and children, CHEO offered a virtual town hall Thursday night hearing from health experts.
“As we see more infections spread in the community, it’s no surprise that COVID is reaching the most vulnerable members of the household and unvaccinated adults,” said Dr. Nisha Thampi, a pediatric infectious diseases physician and CHEO medical director for infection prevention and control.
Of the 13,339 positive PCR tests in Ontario Thursday, 946 are children under 12 and 1,068 are youth between the ages of 12 and 19. As of Jan. 4, 38 children under 4 years of age are in hospital across the province. With testing limited across Ontario, the true number of cases is likely far higher.
“We’re encouraging anyone who is pregnant get their COVID vaccine or their booster,” Thampi said.
The session comes as Toronto Public Health confirms a child under the age of 4 has died of COVID-19, while the medical officer of health in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph says a girl under the age of 10 who tested positive for COVID-19 died Monday.
“It is tragic, so heartbreaking to hear these stories,” said infectious diseases expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch. “This is very likely just a reflection of how significant and how much community transmission there is.”
Experts suggest key prevention measures for parents are to have a well-fitted mask when around babies, and limit close contacts as we get through the surge.
If there are signs of fever in very young babies, a month old or younger, CHEO recommends parents bring them to the hospital right away.
COVID-19 vaccine targeting multiple variants needed: expert – CTV News
Health Canada’s chief medical adviser says variant-specific vaccines can be approved faster than the general ones first issued to combat COVID-19, but one targeting the Omicron strain still likely won’t be ready in time to help with the latest wave.
Dr. Supriya Sharma said what is really needed are vaccines that can possibly stop more than one variant at a time, including those yet to come.
Omicron became the dominant variant in Canada in just over two weeks, and the Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday it’s now believed to be responsible for more than 90 per cent of all COVID-19 cases.
Studies suggest two doses of the existing mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are not good at preventing infection from Omicron.
Multiple studies, however, suggest the vaccines are excellent at keeping symptoms mild, preventing hospitalizations, and shortening the stay and lowering the level of care for those who do get admitted to hospital. Fewer vaccinated Omicron patients, for example, need mechanical ventilation.
Both Pfizer and Moderna are working on new versions of their vaccines that specifically target the Omicron variant.
Moderna is hoping to get its product into trials early this year. Pfizer said it could have 100 million doses of theirs ready as early as March, and Canada has contracts for boosters from both companies that would include vaccines for variants too.
But Sharma said even with the expedited review process for vaccine variants, that’s “probably not” fast enough.
“By that time, based on what we’ve known about the Omicron wave, it might well and truly be through,” she said. “And then the question is always, ‘is there another variant that’s coming up?”‘
The solution, she said, likely lies with vaccines that can target more than one variant at a time.
The COVID-19 vaccine technical committee of the World Health Organization said the same thing on Jan. 11, noting Omicron is the fifth variant of concern in two years and “is unlikely to be the last.”
Booster shots that heighten antibody development became the immediate response to Omicron for many governments, including Canada.
Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a British Columbia pediatrician and co-chair of the WHO’s clinical research committee on COVID-19, told The Canadian Press that boosters aren’t a long-term viable option.
“Boosting your way out of a pandemic is going to inevitably shoot you in the foot in the sense that you’re going to have a future variant that’s going to emerge that’s going to cause problems,” he said. “It’s going to evade your vaccines, and then you’re going to have to scramble.”
Omicron doesn’t evade the existing vaccines entirely but a future variant could, he said. The issue largely stems from the fact that the original vaccines train the body’s immune system to recognize what is called the spike protein found on the surface of a virus, and that spike protein is mutating significantly.
Think of the mutated spike protein as a bit of a disguise that makes it harder for the immune system to recognize the virus and mount a defence to kill it off.
Omicron has more than 50 mutations, and at least 36 are on the spike protein.
Multivalent vaccines that use the spike protein from more than one variant, or that target the genetic components of a virus rather than the spike protein, are possibly the ones that could offer protection for both this pandemic and the next novel coronavirus that emerges.
“It’s pan-coronavirus, where it’s looking at big broad neutralizing responses and you don’t have to update it every season and so on,” said Murthy. “That’s been the Holy Grail of flu vaccinology for the past number of decades. We haven’t achieved that yet, because flu is a bit tricky, but we think that it’s achievable for coronavirus, specifically.”
The United States Army has a version heading into Phase 2 trials that can attach multiple spike proteins. A vaccine with the specific spike proteins from all five COVID-19 variants of concern would likely be more successful, even against future variants, because they all share some of the same mutations and what one might miss another may catch.
Moderna is working on trials for multivalent vaccines using combinations of the spike proteins from the original virus and one of the variants, or two of the variants together. It’s not clear when they would be ready for use.
Sharma said even if the vaccines aren’t working as well against variants as they were against the original virus, to her “they’re still miraculous.”
“To have a vaccine that was developed that quickly, that still has, through multiple variants ΓÇª with boosters, up to 70, 80 per cent effectiveness against serious disease, ailments, hospitalization and death,” she said. “That is miraculous for a new vaccine for a new virus.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2022.
Another COVID outbreak at BGH – Brantford Expositor
The Brant Community Healthcare system declared a COVID-19 outbreak Friday on Brantford General Hospital’s B5 surgical floor.
In a news release, BCHS, which operates BGH and the Willett urgent-care centre in Paris, said two people have tested positive for the disease. They did not indicate if those infections were in staff members or patients.
Visitors will not be permitted in the unit, though exceptions may be made for compassionate reasons.
BCHS said safety precautions remain in place, including enhancing cleaning and disinfection efforts, screening, mandatory masks, and contact tracing.
Outbreaks were declared Jan. 7 at three units at BGH – B6, B7 and B7- and on Jan. 5 at the Willett transitional unit.
Ontario woman who had cancer surgery delayed gets her date after media blitz – Timmins Times
Surgery will be at Mt. Sinai in two weeks
Cassandra Dimaria has a new surgery date.
The young Woodbridge woman was the subject of intense media attention last week after she revealed that life-saving cancer for her stage 4 colon cancer had been repeatedly cancelled.
On Saturday, Dimaria said her cousin, Vanessa Pilieci, had been in touch with Philomena Servidio, President and CEO of Colorectal Cancer Resource & Action Network.
“She’s been my advocate,” she said of Servidio.
“I had no idea people like her existed. If I’d known, my journey would have gone much smoother than it did.”
Her surgery is scheduled to happen in two weeks at Mt. Sinai; Dimaria needs a specific surgery that’s only done there, she said.
And she said she’s grateful for the media attention to her situation and to those who contacted her surgeon on her behalf.
“I am definitely relieved. I just want to have my surgery, heal, and put all this behind me.”
It’s been an experience, she adds, watching people come together to help her.
“In a matter of just a few days, look what the community has done for me. People I don’t know have helped fight for me.
“It shows you — share your story!”
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