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Coronavirus: US batch of AstraZeneca vaccine given green light from Health Canada – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on loan from the U.S. can now be administered to Canadians, following Health Canada’s assessment of the batch itself and the manufacturing site where it originates.

Maj-Gen. Dany Fortin said on Thursday that deliveries to provinces are already underway.

Canada has purchased 20 million AstraZeneca doses coming from the U.S. Another two million is being sent from the Serum Institute in India and another 1.9 million from COVAX, a global vaccine sharing network designed to assist mostly middle to low-income countries.

The news comes just days after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization changed its recommendation to advise suspending use of the vaccine in those under the age of 55, due to the possibility of blood clots.

“When a new potential safety concern or adverse event following immunization is brought to our attention, thorough examination and assessment occurs to determine if the event is related to a vaccine. If necessary, prompt, appropriate action is taken,” said deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo on Thursday.

Asked whether the change in guidelines impacts vaccine hesitancy, Njoo said he understands Canadians could feel confused — but for the most part, he said, the drug remains safe.

“If you look overall, I would say that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective. You know, 20 million doses plus have been administered worldwide and only a few of these very rare side effects have been reported, ” he said.

Canada has already received 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India, but concerns mounted last week when India hit pause on international exports in order to fulfill domestic orders as cases soar. Canadian health officials maintain the supplier will fulfill its order, but have no indication of when the next shipment will be sent.

“We are working with the company on determining when the doses will arrive. We are expecting a delay in the shipment but they are committed to meeting their contractual obligations,” said Joelle Paquette, from the department of Public Services and Procurement, adding that Canada will receive its first delivery from COVAX next week.

The government is facing heightened pressure to get vaccines in the arms of Canadians as quickly as possible, amid a new round of shutdowns to curb the growing spread of the virus and its variants.

The federal government estimates that nearly 9.5 million doses will have been distributed to provinces and territories by the end of the week. Starting next week, Pfizer-BioNTech will start sending one million doses a week until the end of May. The government maintains the country is on track to obtain 44 million vaccine doses by the end of June.

More than 13 per cent of Canadians have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike

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MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada‘s manufacturers on Monday asked the federal government to curb a brewing labor dispute after dockworkers at the country’s second largest port said they will work less this week.

Unionized dockworkers, who are in talks for a new contract since 2018, will hold a partial strike starting Tuesday, by refusing all overtime outside of their normal day shifts, along with weekend work, they said in a statement on Monday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Quebec’s 1,125 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected a March offer from the Maritime Employers Association.

The uncertainty caused by the labour dispute has led to an 11% drop in March container volume at the Montreal port on an annual basis, even as other eastern ports in North America made gains, the Maritime Employers Association said.

The move will cause delays in a 24-hour industry, the association said.

“Some manufacturers have had to redirect their containers to the Port of Halifax, incurring millions in additional costs every week,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).

While the government strongly believes a negotiated agreement is the best option for all parties, “we are actively examining all options as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said.

Last summer’s stoppage of work cost wholesalers C$600 million ($478 million) in sales over a two-month period, Statistics Canada estimates.

($1 = 1.2563 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara

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OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada on Monday scrapped export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.

Turkey, which like Canada is a member of NATO, is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces gained territory in the enclave after six weeks of fighting.

“This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey,” Garneau said in a statement, adding he had raised his concerns with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier in the day.

Ottawa suspended the permits last October so it could review allegations that Azeri drones used in the conflict had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.

In a statement, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa said: “We expect our NATO allies to avoid unconstructive steps that will negatively affect our bilateral relations and undermine alliance solidarity.”

Earlier on Monday, Turkey said Cavusoglu had urged Canada to review the defense industry restrictions.

The parts under embargo include camera systems for Baykar armed drones. Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased, but reimposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan jumped sixfold last year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million in September alone before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, data showed.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)

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Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits

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By Liz Hampton

DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado refinery owned by Canadian firm Suncor Energy Inc meets required environmental permits and is adequately funded, according to an investigation released on Monday into a series of emissions violations at the facility between 2017 and 2019.

The 98,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, reached a $9-million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) March 2020 to resolve air pollution violations that occurred since 2017. That settlement also addressed an incident in December 2019 that released refinery materials onto a nearby school.

As part of the settlement, Suncor was required to use a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the violations and spend up to $5 million to implement recommendations from the investigation.

Consulting firm Kearney’s investigation found the facility met environmental permit requirements, but also pinpointed areas for improvement, including personnel training and systems upgrades, some of which was already underway.

“We need to improve our performance and improve the trust people have in us,” Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City refinery said in an interview, adding that the refinery had already undertaken some of the recommendations from the investigation.

In mid-April, Suncor will begin a turnaround at the facility that includes an upgrade to a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Plant 1 of the facility. That turnaround is anticipated to be complete in June 2021.

Suncor last year completed a similar upgrade of an automatic shutdown system for the FCCU at the refinery’s Plant 2.

By 2023, the company will also install an additional control unit, upgraded instrumentation, automated shutdown valves and new hydraulic pressure units in Plant 2.

Together, those upgrades will cost approximately $12 million, of which roughly $10 million is dedicated to Plant 2 upgrades, Suncor said on Monday.

 

(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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