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Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday

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Developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine expect to have a modified jab to cope with the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa by autumn, the vaccine’s lead researcher said Sunday.

Health officials in Britain are trying to contain the spread of the variant first identified in South Africa amid concerns that it is more contagious or resistant to existing vaccines. More than 100 cases of the variant have been found in the U.K.

Sarah Gilbert, lead researcher for the Oxford team, told the BBC on Sunday that “we have a version with the South African spike sequence in the works.”

“It looks very likely that we can have a new version ready to use in the autumn,” she added.

 

A health worker administers the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Sunday. (Valentina Petrova/The Associated Press)

 

Her comments come as Oxford University said that early data from a small study suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers only “minimal protection” against mild disease caused by the variant.

The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, involved 2,000 people, most of whom were young and healthy. The volunteers’ average age was 31.

“Protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalization or death could not be assessed in this study as the target population were at such low risk,” Oxford University said.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is currently under review by Health Canada.

Meanwhile, Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canadians can soon expect the country’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign to pick up steam after Canada’s vaccine rollout was temporarily beset by delivery delays and reduced shipments of doses.

 

Canada’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign will soon ramp up after the country was beset by vaccine delivery delays and reduced shipments, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said on Rosemary Barton Live. Watch Rosemary Barton Live on Sundays at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT/12:30 p.m. NT on CBC News Network and CBC Gem. 10:13

“The temporary delays that we have seen are largely behind us,” Anand said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“The delays that we saw from Europe, from Pfizer, for example, were very disappointing and very concerning to me and to our government. But I have received assurances from the vaccine manufacturers that those delays are temporary and that we are very much on track,” the minister added.

Pfizer scaled back its delivery schedule last month as the pharmaceutical company upgraded its manufacturing plant in Belgium to boost production of its vaccine.

It’s also unclear how many Moderna doses Canada will receive in the coming weeks, with Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin — the military commander leading Canada’s vaccine logistics — saying the government is in the dark about how many shots are coming over the next two months. The Massachusetts-based company has not provided an explanation for the reduced shipments.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 803,909 cases of COVID-19 — with 44,751 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 20,763.

British Columbia is extending its pandemic restrictions indefinitely, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Friday. The province’s current orders were set to expire at midnight.

Recent days have seen a slow downward trend in the number of new daily cases in B.C., and the number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 is now at its lowest level since Nov. 21.

Alberta will introduce the first round of eased COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, including limited school and minor sport training.

More than 200,000 students not in school during pandemic, experts say:

 

Irvin Studin, the president of the Institute for 21st Century Questions, says more than 200,000 Canadian kids are currently out of school — physically and virtually. He is urging the federal government to address this ‘time-urgent catastrophe’ before it’s too late. Watch Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa weeknights at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. NT on CBC News Network and CBC Gem. 6:05

Saskatchewan announced 194 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths on Sunday.

In Regina, police issued a $2,800 ticket after breaking up a private gathering. The ticket is the 19th handed out by the Regina Police Service since public health orders were put in place nearly one year ago.

Manitoba reported 80 new cases and four additional deaths. The 80 new cases is the lowest one-day case increase in the province since Oct. 19, when the same number of cases was reported.

Ontario registered 1,489 new cases of COVID-19 and 22 more deaths on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce a phased reopening of the province on Monday, sources tell The Canadian Press.

Quebec‘s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 10,000 on Sunday, after recording 32 more fatalities and 1,081 new cases. The province has now seen 270,058 confirmed cases and 10,031 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

 

People are seen wearing face masks in Montreal on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

 

New Brunswick saw seven new cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case involving a female in the Eastern Health region under 19 years of age. The source of the infection is under investigation.

Meanwhile, the province said that risks of exposure at the Bigs Restaurant in Mount Pearl — which earlier had an exposure warning for Jan. 21 to Feb. 4 — is now deemed “very low.”

Nova Scotia logged one new infection, bringing the province’s active caseload to eight.

The announcement comes a day before the province is set to ease some restrictions, which include retail businesses and fitness facilities going to 75 per cent capacity and the ability for recognized businesses and organizations to have events, festivals, weddings and funerals with a capacity of 100 people indoors.

In the Northwest Territories, the Gahcho Kué diamond mine has suspended all operations after six workers tested positive for COVID-19 amid an ongoing outbreak at the facility.


What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 105.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 58.9 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.3 million.

In Asia, Israel has started to ease restrictions nearly six weeks after entering its third nationwide lockdown, allowing some businesses to reopen and for people to move more than a kilometre from their homes. But schools remain shuttered and international flights are severely restricted.

 

Medical personnel treat COVID-19 patients in an intensive care ward in Safed, Israel, on Sunday. (Oded Balilty/The Associated Press)

 

In Europe, Norway says it will apply, effective Sunday, stricter coronavirus restrictions in the southwestern coastal municipality of Bergen and 12 surrounding areas due to a spread of new coronavirus variants first detected in Britain and South Africa.

In the Americas, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says a “tentative agreement” has been reached with the teachers’ union over COVID-19 safety protocols, potentially averting a strike in the third-largest school district in the U.S.

In Africa, South Africa has suspended plans to inoculate its front-line health care workers with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a small clinical trial suggested that it isn’t effective in preventing mild to moderate illness from the variant dominant in the country.

Source: – CBC.ca

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Canada receives largest COVID-19 vaccine shipment to date | News – Daily Hive

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Canada has received its largest number of COVID-19 vaccine doses to date as February draws to a close.

At a press briefing on February 25, Major-General Dany Fortin said that 643,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have been distributed across the country this week alone.

Fortin said that a total of 440,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine would be delivered each week in March, which will round out the company’s first-quarter commitment of 4 million doses.

Moderna, which sends vaccines to Canada every three weeks, is expected to deliver 466,000 doses the week of March 8, and another 846,000 doses the week of March 22.

These next two deliveries will complete the company’s first-quarter commitment of 2 million doses.

“This is all good news for Canadians who are hoping to get vaccinated,” he said. “As we head into spring, we are collectively gearing up for what we call the ramp-up phase.”

Fortin revealed that Pfizer has begun to finalize weekly shipment numbers for the second quarter of the year.

The company is expected to send approximately 769,000 vaccine doses each week for the first two weeks of April.

While numbers for subsequent weeks are still being confirmed, Fortin said a total of 10.8 million Pfizer doses should arrive in Canada between April and June.

The country is still working with Moderna to finalize the company’s shipment dates and dosage numbers for the second quarter.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that 2.9% of the country has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.1% have been given two doses.

“We are on track to have [a] significant increase into the spring, and again into the summer,” Fortin said.

“The projection is that we have seen 88 million vaccines, of both approved products, in-country by September.

To date, 1,682,106 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across Canada.

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'Good to go': Canadian pharmacies ready for next phase of vaccine rollout – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s pharmacies say they’re primed and ready to start administering COVID-19 vaccines at their facilities across the country, as government officials prepare for the next phase of vaccine rollout.

Shoppers Drug Mart President Jeff Leger says he’s informed all levels of government that once given the green light, the company’s more than 1,300 locations and an additional 500 Loblaw pharmacies, would need just 48 to 72 hours to get their sites prepped for mass inoculations.

“Our stores have already been thinking about it, we’ve got the processes in place. We can move very quickly and we can move large volumes of people through our network,” Leger said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

He said a smooth rollout is contingent on provinces using a framework similar to that used during flu season.

“As long as we’re adhering to the same principles that we’ve done for flu vaccination…we’re good to go,” said Leger. “At the height of flu season we did as many as half a million in one week, we think we could do much more than that – really the constraint was supply.”

He added that this network of pharmacies can manage the finicky ultra-cold storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine. Leger says he’s also confident the company’s large roster of pharmacists will be able to draw the now-approved sixth dose from vaccine vials using low dead space syringes – though he said they’re still waiting on the shipments of those syringes from provincial governments.

“The supply of those syringes, our understanding [is that] they’ll be coming from the federal supplies and provincial supplies so as long as the supply of those low dead space syringes hold up then there shouldn’t be a problem for that,” he said.

This comes as Health Canada announced its highly-anticipated approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate on Friday, now the third vaccine given a formal stamp of approval in Canada. The federal government has secured 20 million doses of this vaccine, set to arrive between April and September, plus an additional 1.9 million doses before the end of June from the global vaccine sharing network COVAX.

The federal government also maintains the country is still on track to meet is six million dose target of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

While the details of how and when pharmacies will be incorporated into vaccine rollout plans differ by province, Joelle Walker, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, said all have signaled use of the facilities at some point to reach the broader public.

“Pharmacies are very conveniently located. Most Canadians live within five kilometres of a pharmacy which makes them very accessible to people who can’t travel to major centres to get vaccinated,” she said during a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Friday. “Most Canadians see their pharmacists more than any other provider and so it just makes them an obvious choice.”

Some provinces, including Alberta, have already laid out plans detailing how pharmacies will assist in administering vaccines. Forty-one Shoppers Drug Mart stores and Real Canadian Superstore locations in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer will be offering in-store shots to Albertans 75 and older as early as next week.

“This is a step that just makes sense. As anyone who has gotten a flu shot knows, pharmacists have a lot of experience in delivering vaccines. They have played an important role in our seasonal flu program for many, many years and they have the skills, they have the experience and they have the infrastructure in place to be an important part of our immunization program,” said Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday.

Many other provinces list pharmacies as designated vaccination sites in phase two, which for most is expected to begin in April.

Walker said she’s encouraged the federal government to work more closely with provinces to establish some level of national consistency on pharmacy involvement.

“It [would] make it easier for pharmacists to communicate that information to patients. Many people are saying ‘oh you know, in Alberta it’s over 75’ and not necessarily knowing that will be different in other provinces,” said Walker.

“That kind of consistency of information would really help bring that confidence to Canadians that there’s a process in place.”

As for tracking the second dose of any of the three approved vaccines, Walker said pharmacies are particularly well-equipped with this function as they remind Canadians daily to refill their prescriptions.

“The refill system in pharmacies is designed to do exactly that, to make sure their patients come back when they’re supposed to to pick up their refills.”

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Canadian firm develops biodegradable mask that's ready for production – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A private non-profit Canadian organization and its partners have created an eco-friendly biodegradable mask that is ready for manufacturing and public use, an innovation it says is the first of its kind in the world.

FPInnovations, a research and development centre that supports the Canadian forestry sector, said in a press release on Friday that the masks, which took only a few months to develop from research to market, are fully biodegradable, from the mask filtering materials, to the elastic ear loops and nose pieces.

“The development of a biodegradable mask clearly shows that stimulating the bioeconomy can contribute to a cleaner environment in Canada,” Stephane Renou, president and chief executive of FPInnovations said in a statement.

The project was highlighted by both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan.

“We need to keep wearing our masks to keep each other safe. And now you can wear one without worrying about damaging the environment … This is Team Canada at its best,” O’Regan said in a video posted on Twitter.

A key element that makes this mask appealing is that its components can be easily assembled and produced on existing commercial mask-converting machines, the group behind the $3.3 million project said.

Third party labs have assessed the masks, it added, saying it “would set the standard” for non-medical grade masks for its filtration capabilities, breathability and biodegradability.

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