The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stepping up efforts to track coronavirus mutations and keep vaccines and treatments effective against new variants until collective immunity is reached, the agency’s chief said on Sunday.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky spoke about the rapidly evolving virus during a Fox News Sunday interview as the number of Americans known to be infected surpassed 25 million, with more than 419,000 dead, just over a year after the first U.S. case was documented.
Walensky, who took over as CDC director the day President Joe Biden was sworn in, also said the greatest immediate culprit for sluggish vaccine distribution was a supply crunch worsened by inventory confusion inherited from the Trump administration.
“The fact that we don’t know today, five days into this administration, and weeks into planning, how much vaccine we have just gives you a sense of the challenges we’ve been left with,” she told Fox News Sunday.
Biden’s transition team was largely excluded from the vaccine rollout deliberations for weeks after his election, as then president Donald Trump refused to concede defeat and permit access to information his successor needed to prepare to govern.
In a separate interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, said a plan for distributing the vaccine, particularly beyond nursing homes and hospitals, “did not really exist when we came into the White House.”
Walensky said she was confident the government would soon resolve supply questions, and go on to dramatically expand vaccine production and distribution by late March.
Uncertainty over immediate supplies, however, will hinder efforts at the state and local levels to plan ahead for how many vaccination sites, personnel and appointments to set up in the meantime, exacerbating short-term shortages, she said.
Race against variants
Vaccination has become ever more urgent with the recent emergence of several coronavirus variants believed to be more transmissible, and in the case of one strain first detected in Britain, possibly more lethal.
“We are now scaling up both our surveillance of these and our study of these,” Walensky said, noting that the CDC was collaborating with the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and even the Pentagon.
The object, she said, was to monitor “the impact of these variants on vaccines, as well as on our therapeutics,” as the virus continues to mutate while it spreads.
Until vaccines can provide “herd” immunity in the population, mask-wearing and physical distancing remain vital to “decrease the amount of virus that is circulating, and therefore, decrease the amount of variants,” Walensky said.
Although British officials on Friday warned that the variant of the coronavirus first identified in the U.K., already detected in at least 20 U.S. states, was associated with a higher level of mortality, scientists have said existing vaccines still appeared to be effective against it.
They worry, however, that a more contagious South African variant may reduce the efficacy of current vaccines and shows resistance to three antibody treatments developed for patients. Similarities between the South African variant and another identified in Brazil suggest the Brazilian variant may likewise resist antibody treatment.
“We’re in a race against these variants,” said Vivek Murthy, nominated by Biden to become the next U.S. surgeon general, on ABC’s This Week program on Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, said in late December he was optimistic the United States could achieve enough collective immunity to regain “some semblance of normality” by the fall of 2021.
But Murthy said getting to herd immunity before a new school year begins in September was “an ambitious goal.” Nevertheless, Murthy suggested the government may exceed Biden’s objective of 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days of his presidency, telling ABC News, “That’s a floor; it’s not a ceiling.”
Fauci, appearing separately on CBS News’ Face the Nation, said the 100-million goal includes those who may have received both injections of the two-dose vaccines and those who only got the first.
About 21.8 million Americans, or about 6.5 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose of vaccine to date, of the 41.4 million doses shipped, CDC data showed on Sunday.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
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Ontario on Monday reported 1,958 new cases of COVID-19, according to a tweet from Health Minister Christine Elliott. The province also reported 43 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 5,846.
“Locally, there are 727 new cases in Toronto, 365 in Peel and 157 in York Region,” Elliott said in a tweet.
Hospitalizations in Ontario stood at 1,398, with 397 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard.
The updated figures come after schools in seven public health units in the hard-hit province were set to reopen for in-person classes on Monday. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that means 100,000 students will be returning to the classroom for the first time since before the winter break.
Ontario is implementing more safety measures in areas where schools are reopening, including requiring students in Grades 1 through 3 to wear masks indoors and when physical distancing isn’t possible outside as well. It’s also introducing “targeted asymptomatic testing” and enhanced screening protocols in those regions.
In Quebec on Monday, health officials reported 1,203 new cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations stood at 1,321, with 217 people in intensive care, according to the province.
As of 11:20 a.m. ET Monday morning, Canada had reported 750,546 cases of COVID-19, with 62,621 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,180.
The House of Commons is back in session on Monday, albeit with virtual attendance, after a six-week break. The minority federal government’s handling of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign is expected to dominate the agenda.
Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 10:55 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 99.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been detected worldwide, with more than 54.8 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong has formally approved use of the Fosun Pharma-BioNTech vaccine, the city government said on Monday, the first COVID-19 vaccine to be accepted in the Asian financial hub.
The first batch of around one million doses is expected to arrive in the second half of February, the government said in a statement. The move comes with Hong Kong lagging other developed cities in rolling out vaccines and after mainland China started its vaccine program in July last year.
Hong Kong has secured a total of 22.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Fosun Pharma-BioNTech, China’s Sinovac Biotech and Oxford-AstraZeneca, the city’s leader Carrie Lam said in December.
Fosun Pharma is German drug manufacturer BioNTech’s partner in Greater China including in special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. Fosun is responsible for cold-chain management, storage and distribution. China’s Sinovac vaccine is likely to arrive in Hong Kong after BioNTech’s vaccine in February, with AstraZeneca’s vaccine due by the middle of the year.
Home to 7.5 million residents, Hong Kong has a separate approval process from the mainland for vaccines. The city has recorded nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases and 166 deaths since January 2020. Cases have spiked over the past week after an outbreak in an old residential building located in a busy commercial and residential area.
In China, a vaccination program for emergency use started in July with products from domestic manufacturers Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech. The program was widened in December to focus on additional priority groups including employees in the cold-chain industry, transportation sector and fresh food markets.
Bangladesh has taken delivery of five million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from an Indian producer. Bangladesh has planned to buy 30 million doses of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India in phases.
Australia has suspended its partial travel bubble with New Zealand after New Zealand reported its first coronavirus case outside of a quarantine facility in two months.
Thailand on Monday discovered a record 914 new cases of the coronavirus, all in Samut Sakhon province near Bangkok where a major outbreak began in December. The new cases shot the national total past 14,000.
The previous high was on Jan. 4, when 745 cases were reported, mostly in Samut Sakhon among migrant workers from Myanmar. The province is a centre for fishing and industry. The first case reported in the recent surge was detected there in mid-December at a major seafood market, which has been closed. Any new cases in other provinces will be announced in Tuesday.
In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he was looking at toughening border quarantine rules because of the risk of “vaccine-busting” new coronavirus variants.
Norway will widen the capital region’s lockdown from Monday, increasing the number of affected municipalities to 25, while Sweden said on Sunday it would temporarily stop all foreigners coming in from Norway from midnight.
German police said hundreds of cars and pedestrians are lining up at border crossings along the Czech-German border after Germany declared the Czech Republic a high risk area in the pandemic, meaning it requires proof of a negative coronavirus test result before entry.
At the crossings in Waldmuenchen and Fuerth im Wald, authorities said hundreds of cars lined up on the Czech side trying to get into Germany in the early morning hours. Further backup was expected during the day Monday.
In the Americas, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he has tested positive for COVID-19.
In the Middle East, Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday evening for a week.
Oman will extend the close of its land borders for another week until Feb. 1.
President Hassan Rouhani said COVID-19 vaccinations will begin in the coming weeks in Iran, the Middle East’s worst hit country.
In Africa, four Zimbabwean cabinet ministers have died of COVID-19, three within the past two weeks, highlighting a resurgence of the disease that is sweeping through the southern African country.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the coronavirus is reaping a “grim harvest” in the country.
“The pandemic has been indiscriminate. There are no spectators, adjudicators, no holier than thou. No supermen or superwomen. We are all exposed,” Mnangagwa said in a nationally televised address.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:10 a.m. ET
Have questions about COVID-19 in Canada? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday – CBC.ca
Germany is looking to ramp up the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after authorities last week gave the green light for it to be administered to people 65 and over.
Hundreds of thousands of doses have been gathering dust in recent weeks due to the restrictions on who could get the vaccine and misgivings among some who were eligible.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany has received 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot so far but administered just 721,000.
Berlin is opening a sixth vaccine centre Monday at the former Tempelhof airport in the centre of the city that will administer only the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ZDF that he expects Germany to be able to administer up to 10 million shots a week by the end of the month.
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In Italy, the health ministry has now officially approved using the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for healthy people over age 65, citing limited vaccine supplies and the need to vaccinate people who might be vulnerable to complications.
The order was signed Monday. The European Medicines Agency had approved AstraZeneca for all age groups, but some nations like Italy and Germany initially limited it to under 65s due to what they called limited data.
Those limitations are one of the reasons why the 27-nation European Union has lagged so far behind Britain and the United States in vaccinating its people. Millions of doses of AstraZeneca have piled up across Europe, waiting to be given out.
Speeding up Italy’s vaccination campaign will enable the country to overcome the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Monday, noting that his government would do whatever was necessary to protect lives.
“The pandemic is not yet over, but with the acceleration of the vaccine plan, a way out is not far off,” Draghi said in a speech to mark International Women’s Day, his first such public address since taking office last month.
Italy is approaching 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths and health officials have warned that the country faces a third wave of cases as a more contagious variant of the disease gains ground.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:55 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
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As of 10:50 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 887,910 cases of COVID-19, with 30,594 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,249.
Across the North, Nunavut reported no new cases on Monday but added two additional recoveries, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 23. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided updated figures on Monday.
Ontario reported 1,631 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 10 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 626, with 282 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
A stay-at-home order in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay is lifting Monday as the province loosens pandemic restrictions. The three regions were the last ones still under the order, and are transitioning back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.
Toronto and Peel will enter the “grey lockdown” category, something local public health officials asked for in both regions.
In an interview with CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said the province has a “very robust” public health nursing system and is ready to go for the broader vaccine rollout. But the premier also noted that he is open to conversations about sharing some of the province’s allocated vaccine supply with provinces dealing with higher caseloads.
King also said Sunday that he believes the so-called Atlantic bubble will be back in action by early spring.
In Quebec, people in many parts of the province will be able to eat in restaurants and work out in gyms starting Monday as five regions are downgraded from red to orange on the province’s colour-coded pandemic alert level system.
The province on Sunday reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 592, with 107 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 56 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and two additional deaths. Saskatchewan health officials, meanwhile, reported 116 new cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus and two additional deaths. In Alberta, there wasn’t a formal update from health officials over the weekend because of a system upgrade.
In British Columbia, health officials will provide updated figures that cover the weekend later Monday.
WATCH | Vaccines won’t be the end of masks, physical distancing, Tam says:
–From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:50 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 116.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 66.1 million listed on the Johns Hopkins University tracking database as recovered. The global death toll was approaching 2.6 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam administered its first COVID-19 doses Monday to the front-line workers who made the nation’s relative success in controlling the pandemic possible — health workers, contact tracers and security forces who handled quarantine duties.
The Southeast Asian nation of 96 million people has a goal to inoculate at least half of the population by the end of the year. Thousands of doctors, nurses and technicians working at hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients lined up in the morning and received the first jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I have been waiting for this day for a long time,” nurse Nguyen Thi Huyen said after she got her injection. Huyen has been caring for COVID-19 patients at a tropical disease hospital in Hanoi the past year. Health protocols have limited her time with family, among other challenges.
The first batch of over 100,000 AstraZeneca doses in a 30 million order arrived two weeks ago. Separately, Vietnam expects to secure another 30 million doses of the same vaccine through the UN-backed COVAX program for vaccine equality.
The UN children’s agency said Afghanistan has received nearly half a million coronavirus vaccine doses via the global COVAX initiative. War-torn Afghanistan received 468,000 AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, the first shipment through COVAX, UNICEF said in a statement.
The vaccines were made by the Serum Institute of India, and arrived in the capital of Kabul aboard an Emirates flight, UNICEF said. More vaccines will arrive in the coming weeks and months. India previously donated 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Afghanistan.
Thailand will reduce mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days starting in April for foreigners arriving in the country who have been vaccinated.
In the Americas, Dr. Anthony Fauci is projecting that U.S. high school students will be able to get vaccinated early in the next school year and that elementary school students should be in line for vaccinations in early 2022.
Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer and director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News’ Face the Nation that vaccines for teens will be available “maybe not the first day but certainly in the early part of the fall.”
Currently, three vaccines are approved for use in the United States. The single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-shot Moderna vaccine are approved for individuals 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for 16 and up.
Trials are underway to determine the safety of vaccines on younger people. Teenagers contract the coronavirus almost twice as often as younger children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Ecuador and Paraguay have both received some 20,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from Chile.
In the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president’s office said Monday, with both having only mild symptoms of the illness.
In a statement, Assad’s office said the couple did PCR tests after they experienced minor symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 illness. It said that Assad, 55, and his wife Asma, who is 10 years younger, will continue to work from home, where they will isolate for between two and three weeks.
Both were in “good health and in stable condition,” the statement said.
Syria, which marks 10 years of war next week, has recorded nearly 16,000 virus cases in government-held parts of the country, including 1,063 deaths. But the numbers are believed to be much higher with limited amounts of PCR tests being done, particularly in areas of northern Syria outside government control.
The pandemic, which has severely tested even developed countries, has been a major challenge for Syria’s health-care sector, already depleted by years of conflict. A decade of fighting has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.
Syria began a vaccination campaign last week, but no details have been given about the process, nor have local journalists been allowed to witness the rollout. The health minister said the government procured the vaccines from a friendly country, which he declined to name.
After delays, Israel started vaccinating Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements on Monday, more than two months after launching an immunization blitz of its own population.
Palestinian labourers who crossed into Israel at several West Bank checkpoints received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine from Magen David Adom paramedics. The vaccination drive orchestrated by COGAT, Israel’s military agency co-ordinating government operations in the West Bank, had been beset by postponements.
Some 100,000 Palestinian labourers from the West Bank work in Israel and its settlements, which are widely seen internationally as illegal and an obstacle to peace.
Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, the head of COGAT, said in a statement in Arabic that Israelis and Palestinians, “live in the same epidemiological space” and that it was a shared interest to vaccinate Palestinians.
Israel has administered over 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its population of 9.3 million. Over 3.7 million Israelis — more than 40 per cent — have received two doses of the vaccine. But until Monday, Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move that has underscored global disparities and drawn international criticism.
Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005, but still maintains control over airspace, the seafront and a large amount of the movement in and out of the area.
Human rights groups and many Palestinians say that as an occupying power, Israel is responsible for providing vaccines to the Palestinians. Israel says that under interim peace accords reached in the 1990s, it does not have any such obligation.
Israeli officials have said the priority is vaccinating Israel’s own population first, while the Palestinian Authority has said it will obtain its own vaccines through a World Health Organization partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX.
To date, the PA has acquired enough vaccine doses for only 6,000 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are home to nearly five million Palestinians. It received 2,000 doses from Israel and acquired another 10,000 doses of a Russian-made vaccine. Each is given in two doses.
Israel had also announced plans to share surplus vaccines with far-flung allies in Africa, Europe and Latin America, but the decision was frozen by legal questions. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with leaders of Denmark and Austria and said the three nations would join forces in the fight against COVID-19 with an investment in research and rollout of vaccines.
In Europe, British children returned to school on Monday after a two-month closure, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was a plan to get the country to “start moving closer to a sense of normality.”
As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to U.K. classrooms will be tested for the first few weeks. Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.
“We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far,” Johnson said as he urged people to get vaccinated. High schools and colleges can reopen in phases to allow for testing.
France could approve Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week, in line with the timetable for its broader European Union approval, the president of the country’s health regulator said.
Hungarians on Monday awoke to a new round of strict lockdown measures aimed at slowing a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths powered by virus variants.
In Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is set to take a lead role in ferrying COVID-19 vaccines around the world and expects demand for the service to last for up to three years.
The deputy chief executive of South African bank ABSA died on Sunday due to COVID-19 complications, his family said.
–From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9:55 a.m. ET
Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.
'Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined': Canada's tourism industry in crisis – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s tourism industry is facing a crisis greater than the combined impacts of Sept. 11, 2001, the SARS outbreak and the global financial crisis, according to a new report.
The depth of the crisis means it will be a long recovery for the tourist industry with potential shock waves for other areas of the economy, says Destination Canada, a Crown corporation whose mandate is to promote domestic tourism. The agency compiled new data for the report to be released Monday on an industry that is linked to one in 10 Canadian jobs, Destination Canada says.
“Tourism has a ripple effect into so many other parts of our quality of life as Canadians,” said Marsha Walden, president and chief executive officer of Destination Canada. “It’s one of those very few industries, maybe the only one, that can be found in every corner of this country.”
The report adds a new dimension to discussions about the pandemic’s uneven effects across different regions and sectors of the Canadian economy, for which limited data had previously been available. It also sheds light on the amount of time needed for certain key areas of Canada’s economy to recover.
Overall, the number of “active” businesses — one that is operating and has employees — in the sector declined by nine per cent between January and November of last year. Half a million people in the tourism industry lost their jobs in 2020, Walden said.
Within the tourism sector, travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating. Rail, scenic and sightseeing transportation saw the second-biggest drop with a 14.9-per-cent decline.
The hotel industry suffered throughout 2020, with losses concentrated in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, whose downtown hotels had the lowest occupancies of any region in Canada. Revenues for hotels in those three cities fell 79 per cent in the last year for a total loss of $2.3 billion across the three cities, the report says.
To compile the data used in the report, Destination Canada conducted original research and relied on information from government and industry reports, Walden said.
The report doubles as a call to action for Canadians to offset the damage to the country’s tourism industry by taking domestic vacations once the public health situation improves. If enough Canadians shift their international travel plans to focus on domestic destinations, that could speed up recovery for the tourism sector by up to one year, the report states.
Without any major change in consumer spending habits, it would take five years for the industry to reach pre-pandemic levels, the report says. But reallocating two thirds of the dollars spent on international travel in 2019 to domestic travel would replace the estimated $19.4 billion shortfall in the industry in 2020 and sustain more than 150,000 jobs, the report says.
“Canadians have been sitting at home, saving a lot of money this year, which is great for individuals and not so great for the economy,” Walden said. “We really need them to get out there and travel the country and spend money across the country once it’s safe to do so.”
Guidatour, which sells walking tours of downtown Montreal and other areas, is one of the small tourism-dependent businesses whose revenues plummeted last year as its usual customer base of international tourists disappeared. The company’s revenues were down 95 per cent last year, said the company’s owner, Angele Vermette.
Prior to the pandemic, Guidatour employed eight people full-time and had a network of about 100 tour guides that worked on a freelance basis, Vermette said.
Guidatour sometimes arranged more than 100 tours per day, but during the pandemic there were often days when it didn’t give a single one, Vermette said.
“These are passionate people that love their job,” Vermette said. “Being a tour guide, you don’t do that for your retirement, you don’t do that for the pay, you do that because you love history and you love tourism, you love your city.”
Improving economic activity in Canada’s downtown centres, where Guidatour primarily operates, will be key to a recovery for the tourism sector as a whole, Walden said, because visitors to a region typically travel first to a city core before continuing on to other areas.
Vermette said her staff have been working on developing new programming, some of which could also appeal to locals, in order to capitalize on any uptick in travel later this year. With the rollout of the vaccine, Vermette said she was hopeful that Guidatour would have more customers this year, but she noted that sales still won’t be close to what the company saw in 2019.
Similarly, Frontiers North Adventures, a family-owned business that offers tours to Churchill, Man., where visitors can see local attractions like polar bears and beluga whales, has been changing its offerings to appeal to Canadians looking to take domestic vacations this year.
In the past, around 80 per cent of the company’s customer base has been made up of foreign travellers, who begin the tour in Winnipeg before flying to Churchill, said John Gunter, the company’s president. But anticipating another weak year for international travel, the company is adding flights to Churchill directly from Calgary and Montreal in the hopes of tapping into the domestic market for northern adventures.
“We had to rejig our offerings to be more attractive to domestic and local audiences,” Gunter said. “If we have only Winnipeg to rely on, then it’s going to be another year of losses.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.
Canadians' hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccine dropping, new poll suggests – CBC.ca
A new survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute suggests Canadians are more willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine immediately rather than take a “wait-and-see” approach.
Those who responded to the poll also said they were less concerned about contracting COVID-19 than they were in the fall and earlier this winter, hinting at a spark of optimism about the pandemic.
Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, said the results offer both comfort and concern for public health officials, especially in places like B.C. where the daily number of COVID-19 cases has been rising in the past two weeks.
“I think people are perhaps indicating that their guard is a little bit lower than it was even two months ago,” Kurl said. “And that’s something that public health officials are really going to have to grapple with.”
Lower vaccine hesitancy
The online survey was conducted between March 1 and March 4, among a representative randomized sample of 1,748 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Specifically, 66 per cent of respondents said they would get a vaccine as soon as possible, opposed to a low of 39 per cent who gave the same answer in September.
And only 16 per cent said they would wait to get the vaccine, compared to a high of 38 per cent in September.
The number of respondents who said they would not get the vaccine at all remained relatively steady at 12 per cent, compared to 14 per cent in July.
As for worries about contracting the virus, 62 per cent of respondents cited varying degrees of concern — a drop of nine per cent compared to January but still relatively high compared to last February, at 30 per cent, and even June at 46 per cent.
The survey suggests Canadians are more concerned about friends or family contracting COVID-19 — 79 per cent said they had varying degrees of concern, compared to less than 10 per cent who said they weren’t concerned at all.
But while the number of respondents who are willing to get the vaccine sooner grows, the poll suggests more people are critical of the government’s actions to secure and distribute it.
More than half of survey respondents said “Canada has done a poor job in securing sufficient doses for Canadians,” compared to only 23 per cent who gave the same response in December.
However, just over half of the respondents also agreed that the amount of time they expect to wait for a vaccine is “not ideal but OK given the circumstances.”
Dropping confidence in government
Asked how confident they were in the federal government’s ability to effectively manage vaccine distribution, 54 per cent of respondents said they weren’t confident, compared to only 36 per cent in December.
On a related topic, there was a steady decline of Canadians who said the federal government had done a good job handling the pandemic over time — 48 per cent, opposed to a high of 70 per cent in April. Confidence in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic has similarly declined.
In B.C., confidence in Premier John Horgan’s handling is stronger — 66 per cent said Horgan has done a good job, compared to only 44 per cent of Canadians saying the same of Trudeau.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s approval rating among British Columbian respondents was even better. While it has declined from a high of 89 per cent last April, it still sits at 76 per cent as of this month.
Rollout fair, says majority in B.C.
However, Kurl warns those approval ratings can be highly variable.
“Approval numbers around these types of questions or metrics are really only as good or as bad as your performance in the recent past,” she said.
The majority of respondents in B.C., 63 per cent, also said they watch provincial or federal health media briefings from chief medical officers as their top choice for information about the virus.
Most of them also agreed that the vaccine rollout is fair, a good plan overall, and clear and easy to understand. The majority, 53 per cent, also said they believe it had been well thought out.
However, only 42 per cent said they believe the vaccine rollout will meet its targets and timelines.
CBC British Columbia is hosting a town hall on March 10 to put your COVID-19 vaccine questions to expert guests, including Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. You can find the details at cbc.ca/ourshot. Have a question about the vaccine, or the rollout plan in B.C.? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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