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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday –



The latest:

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer says it’s a “tragedy” that people in the province are facing cancelled surgeries and a deeply strained health-care system even as vaccines against COVID-19 are widely available. 

During a briefing Wednesday, Dr. Saqib Shahab said elective and urgent surgeries are being delayed as resources and staff get redeployed to COVID-19 hospital wards.

“We’ve got a billion-dollar health-care system, one of the best … in the world that is not able to do what it is designed to do because it’s dealing with a … vaccine-preventable problem,” Shahab said.

“It is a tragedy of our times, that being in a very privileged society, we are facing this dilemma.”

On Friday, the province’s proof of vaccination program begins. The government has committed to more testing in the hope that will help decrease case numbers and serious illness brought on by the virus.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said he has reached out to his counterparts in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario to explore the possibility of sending COVID-19 patients there or using some of their health-care workers. Merriman said Alberta does not have the capacity to help at this time.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit record highs in Saskatchewan in recent days but Merriman said the province’s health-care system is “intact” and urged people to seek care if they need it.

“If you do need health care, please seek it out and we will manage the best we can.”

The health minister said the Saskatchewan Party government will not bring in additional public health measures other than those already in place: an indoor masking order and requirement to self-isolate after a positive test.

“Public health measures are extremely important, but that’s not going to get us to the end of this pandemic. Vaccines are,” Merriman said.

About 73 per cent of Saskatchewan’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.

Merriman said Wednesday that of the 67 patients in ICU, 54 are unvaccinated and another four are only partially vaccinated.

“The facts are clear,” the health minister said. “If everyone was vaccinated we may still have some cases but it would be a very manageable number of cases and hospitalizations each day.” Instead, he said, the province has “too many” unvaccinated people and that is putting unnecessary pressure on the health-care system.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:35 a.m. ET

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | What this year’s cold and flu season could look like: 

What this year’s cold and flu season could look like

16 hours ago

There are concerns cold and flu viruses will spread more easily this fall as pandemic public health measures continue to ease around the world. In Quebec, there’s already been a sharp rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases with kids. 2:07

What’s happening around the world

Jazmin Alessandra Barahona Escobar, 10, and her brother Jean Franco Barahona Escobar, 12, wait in an observation room after receiving their first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine at Hospital El Salvador vaccination centre in San Salvador, El Salvador, earlier this month. (Jose Cabezas/Reuters)

As of early Thursday afternoon, more than 233.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization said on Wednesday it is in advanced talks with vaccine makers to buy additional shots for its member states.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore’s health ministry reported 2,478 new cases on Thursday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.

Vietnam’s commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City will start relaxing its coronavirus curbs, officials said, allowing more business and social activities.

In Europe, the number of daily new infections in Ukraine rose to almost 12,000 over the past 24 hours for the first time since April, health ministry data showed.

Pupils will from Oct. 4 no longer have to wear protective face masks in French primary schools in areas with a low COVID-19 infection rate, according to a government decree.

In Africa, health officials in South Africa — which has seen the most cases and deaths of any country on the continent — are planning a mass vaccination event in the coming days. The government said vaccine centres and pop-up sites will be open in “all corners” of the country on Friday and Saturday as health officials work to boost the number of people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Somalia’s first public oxygen plant opened on Thursday, a ray of hope for a country where a lifesaving treatment for the coronavirus has been largely unavailable to patients during the pandemic.

WATCH | Somalia gets lifeline amid COVID-19 with opening of first oxygen plant

Somalia gets lifeline amid COVID-19 with opening of first oxygen plant

2 hours ago

A Somali charitable foundation has bought a new oxygen plant, which it will also maintain, to produce oxygen for public hospitals in the capital Mogadishu for free. (Feisal Omar/Reuters) 0:54

In the Middle East, Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday in a move to boost the countries’ struggling economies. The Jaber crossing had reopened in 2018 after the Syrian government drove rebels from the south, but the pandemic led to measures being imposed to curb transmission.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 12:40 p.m. ET

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Pfizer officially requests Health Canada approval for kids' COVID-19 shot – CTV News



Pfizer-BioNTech has asked Health Canada to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years old.

The vaccine was developed in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech and is now marketed under the brand name Comirnaty. It was authorized for people at least 16 years old last December, and for kids between 12 and 15 in May.

Pfizer already submitted clinical trial data for its child-sized dose to Health Canada at the beginning of the month. The company said the results were comparable to those recorded in the Pfizer-BioNTech study in people aged 16 to 25.

Health Canada said it will prioritize the review of the submission, while maintaining high scientific standards for safety, efficacy and quality, according to a statement from the department.

“Health Canada will only authorize the use of Comirnaty if the independent and thorough scientific review of all the data included in the submission showed that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the potential risks in this age group,” the statement read.

The doses are about one-third the size given to adults and teens age 12 and up.

As soon as the regulator gives the green light, providers will technically be able to start offering the COVID-19 shot to kids, though new child-sized doses might need to be procured.

Pfizer has delivered more than 46 million doses to Canada to date, and an analysis of the available data on administration from provincial and federal governments suggests there are more than enough Pfizer doses already in Canada to vaccinate kids between five and 11 years old.

But simply pulling smaller doses from the vials Canada already had stockpiled across the country may not be advised, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said at a media briefing late last week.

“We also understand from Pfizer that this actual formulation has shifted, this is a next generation formulation, so that is something that needs to be examined by the regulator,” Tam said Friday.

Canada signed a new contract with Pfizer for pediatric doses last spring.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has also been tested on children as young as six months old. Topline data for children under five years old is expected as soon as the end of the year.

Health Canada said it expects to receive more data for review from Pfizer for younger age groups, as well as other manufacturers for various age ranges in the coming months.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has noted rare incidents of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after receiving an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

As of Oct. 1, Health Canada has documented 859 cases associated with the vaccines, which mainly seem to affect people under 40 year old. On balance, the risk appears to be low, according to Tim Sly, a Ryerson University epidemiologist with expertise in risk management.

“Of course, no one considers any complication in a child to be acceptable, and a tremendous amount of caution is being taken to look for and identify all problems,” said Sly in a recent email exchange with The Canadian Press.

COVID-19 infection also produces a very high risk of other cardiovascular problems, he said.

Aside from protecting kids against more serious symptoms of COVID-19, the vaccine would also reduce the risk of a child passing the virus on to a vulnerable family member and make for a better school environment with less stress about transmission.

Once the vaccine is approved for kids, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization will weigh in on whether the benefits of the shot outweigh potential risks for young children.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2021.

– With files from Mia Rabson

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N.Korea fires unidentified projectile off east coast -S.Korea military



North Korea fired an unidentified projectile off its east coast on Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.


(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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77 per cent of Canadians aged 55-69 worried about retirement finances: survey – CTV News



More than three quarters of Canadians nearing or in early retirement are worried about their finances, at a time when more and more Canadians plan to age at home for as long as possible, a new survey has revealed.

The survey from Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing (NIA),conducted in collaboration with HomeEquity Bank, found that 77 per cent of Canadians within the 55-69 age demographic are worried about their financial health.

Additionally, 79 per cent of respondents aged 55 and older revealed that their retirement income — through RRSPs, pension plans, and old age security — will not be enough to be a comfortable retirement.

“Determining where to live and receive care as we age has been an especially neglected part of retirement financial planning,” Dr. Samir Sinha, NIA director of health policy research, said in a news release.

“These are vital considerations that can also be costly. With the vast majority of Canadians expressing their intention to age at home, within their communities, it is essential that we find both financial and health care solutions to make this option comfortable, safe and secure.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed some shortcomings in the long-term care system, 44 per cent of respondents are planning to age at home, but many don’t fully understand the costs involved, the study notes.

Nearly half of respondents aged 45 and older believe that in-home care for themselves or a loved one would cost about $1,100 per month, while 37 per cent think it would cost about $2,000 per month.

In reality, it actually costs about $3,000 per month to provide in-home care comparable to a long-term care facility, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Health.

Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, the NIA’s director of financial security research, said it’s important Canadians understand the true costs of aging while they plan for their future.

“Canadians retiring today are likely going to face longer and more expensive retirements than their parents – solving this disconnect will need better planning by people and innovation from industry and government,” she said.

To help with their financial future, the researchers suggest Canadians should delay receiving any Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan payments as the monthly payments increase with year of deferral. For example, someone receiving $1,000 per month at age 60 would receive $2,218.75 per month if they wait until age 70 to begin collecting.

The researchers also suggest leveraging home equity and purchasing private long-term care insurance as ways to help with financial stability for the later years.

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