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Confusion, health concerns and short supply mar Ontario's AstraZeneca vaccine pilot rollout – Toronto Star

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A provincial pilot project allowing people aged 60-64 in some Ontario cities to get a COVID-19 vaccination quickly became a source of frustration Thursday over unclear rules and limited supply, leading to questions for the government at Queen’s Park.

The confusion over eligibility and access came on the same day as the news that several countries were pausing their use of the same AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns over blood clots.

The Ontario government’s website initially said only people “who were born between 1957 and 1961 (60 to 64 years old)” could sign up to be vaccinated in one of 327 pharmacies and some select clinics in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor.

By Thursday afternoon, the province had updated its website to read that vaccines should also go to people who “will be, or have been, 60 to 64 in 2021.”

Al Hood, who turns 60 in September, was born in 1961. It was tough convincing his local pharmacies he qualified for vaccine even after the update from the province confirmed his eligibility.

“We called multiple pharmacies to get him an appointment,” said daughter Laura on Thursday. “When we told them when his birthday is, they said he does not qualify as he has not yet turned 60. They refused him service and hung up on him multiple times.”

At Queen’s Park, Health Minister Christine Elliott came under fire for the confusion.

After a rash of complaints from people like Al, who had been turned away for shots, she said the government is “working with pharmacies” to clarify that anyone who turns 60 or 65 this year is cleared to get the AstraZeneca shot.

“If you’re 59 now but you will turn 60 in September … yes, you can still be given the shot,” she told reporters.

Opposition parties said the chaos was avoidable if the government would have been more precise in its eligibility criteria and said some vaccine-seekers may be out of luck for now after being rejected by busy pharmacies, which can be hard to reach with a deluge of callers.

“You actually have to try hard to screw up this badly,” said Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca.

Elliott’s office issued the following statement to reassure Ontarians: “You are eligible if you are 60-64 as of the day of vaccination OR, if you will be, or have been, 60-64 in 2021.”

Loblaw, the company that owns the pharmacy that refused Al Hood the vaccine, said in an email that there was initially “some uncertainty around the age specifications.”

The company went on to say, “We received clarification on eligibility criteria and have communicated that to all stores today.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the list of participating pharmacies emailed to the Star by Loblaw still said, in bold, “We will vaccinate only eligible individuals aged 60 to 64 years of age.”

Loblaw’s PR advised anyone erroneously denied appointments call their pharmacies back.

For Al, this was easier said than done.

“The pharmacies were picking up the phone and hanging right up,” Laura said. “We probably made 15 calls.”

By Thursday afternoon, the Hood family finally got an appointment for Al at a Loblaws in Greater Napanee, Ont.

In Toronto, long lines and dwindling vaccine stock made it difficult for some to get a dose.

Valerie Lopes, 62, said she spent a total of six hours and contacted around 30 pharmacies within 10 km of her East York home in the last two days trying to get the vaccine.

“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “Every time I tried to register, I was told there are no appointments left.”

Lopes eventually got put on a waitlist at a nearby pharmacy, but said the process doesn’t feel over yet.

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“I’m so nervous that it’s not going to happen,” she said.

Kathy Domoney, 61, had to call five Shoppers Drug Mart locations before she found one that still had the vaccine.

“I phoned to all the various Shoppers Drug Marts that the press release listed as available,” she said. “Several of them had recordings saying that they don’t have any vaccines. Seems like a lack of communication rolling it out.’”

Half an hour into her wait at the Coxwell and Danforth Shoppers, Marian Jen, 60, said she was glad things were moving faster Thursday — her neighbours had to wait in line for three hours the night before.

“Right now, we’re (vaccinating) about 40 patients an hour,” said John Papastergiou, a pharmacist at the Coxwell and Danforth Shoppers. “Unfortunately, we’re going to run out this afternoon, but there are three other stores on the Danforth getting vaccines today.”

Papastergiou said the other locations will be able to supply the neighbourhood with vaccines throughout the weekend.

“Hopefully after then we’ll have gotten some information on more supply,” he added.

According to the Ontario Pharmacists Association, The project is still ramping up, and will launch more broadly on Friday after more vaccines arrive.

The Canadian Press reported Thursday at least nine European countries were pausing their use of AstraZeneca’s doses — some entirely, and others only on specific batches — pending further investigation of the clots.

But the provincial health minister said that Ontario would proceed with the rollout of the vaccine.

“AstraZeneca has been approved by Health Canada,” Elliott said, saying the province will follow any evolving science and data on the issue. “I don’t think this is going to deter anyone.”

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said she would have preferred to hear specific details from the minister or her officials on the latest guidance from Health Canada, which approved AstraZeneca two weeks ago, on the European concerns.

“I think that would have provided more of a comfort level or a confidence level.”

The Star was contacted by several Toronto residents who cancelled vaccination appointments in the coming days because they had left their names on waiting lists at several pharmacies, and were asked if they were backing out because of the blood clot issue.

The European Medicines Agency is probing the issue but says 30 blood clots in more than five million patients who received the vaccine is not out of step with the normal rate of blood clots in the general population.

With files from Maria Sarrouh and Angelyn Francis

Ben Cohen is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bcohenn

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‘I was shocked’: Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Comox Valley Record

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A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family.

The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.

Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.

Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.

She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”

Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.

Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five.

Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.

Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.

“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.

“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”

Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced.

Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor.

For Bardarson, that’s not enough.

“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”

Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations.

She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.

Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.

Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.

– Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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Two hippos in Belgian zoo test positive for COVID-19

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Two hippos have tested positive for COVID-19 at Antwerp Zoo in Belgium in what could be the first reported cases in the species, zoo staff said.

Hippos Imani, aged 14, and 41-year-old Hermien have no symptoms apart from a runny nose, but the zoo said the pair had been put into quarantine as a precaution.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time in this species. Worldwide, this virus has been reported mainly in great apes and felines,” said the zoo’s vet, Francis Vercammen.

The coronavirus is thought to have jumped from an animal to a human, and it is proved to have passed from humans to animals.

Pets including cats, dogs and ferrets have become infected following contact with their owners, while in zoos, cases have been reported in animals such as big cats, otters, primates and hyenas.

The disease has also spread in mink farms and to wild animals, such as deer.

Antwerp Zoo is investigating the causes of the contagion. None of the zookeepers had recently shown COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for the virus, the zoo said.

 

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Helen Popper)

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'I was shocked': Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Squamish Chief

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WINNIPEG — A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family. 

The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.

Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.

Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.

She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”

Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.

Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five. 

Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.

Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.

“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.

“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”

Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced. 

Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor. 

For Bardarson, that’s not enough.

“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”

Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations. 

She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.

Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.

Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.

___

The story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press


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