The World Health Organization reported that the global number of new coronavirus cases and deaths continued to fall in the past week, with an estimated 3.3 million new infections and about 55,000 deaths, marking a 10 per cent drop in both from a week earlier.
In its regular assessment of the pandemic issued on Tuesday, the UN health agency said the biggest drops in new cases were seen in:
- The Eastern Mediterranean region, which saw a 17 per cent drop in new cases.
- The Western Pacific region, with a 15 per cent drop.
- The Americas region, with a 14 per cent drop.
The WHO noted that despite a “declining trend in new weekly cases and deaths” in the Americas, the “overall epidemiological situation has not improved significantly since a surge in mid-July 2021.”
The global health agency said all regions reported more than a 15 per cent decline in deaths, except for Europe, where the number of deaths was similar to the previous week and Africa, where there was about a five per cent rise. In the Western Pacific region, the number of deaths dropped by nearly a quarter.
WHO first reported a substantial decrease in cases in mid-September at four million new cases, with declines seen in all areas of the world — the first time in more than two months that COVID-19 cases had fallen.
Winter in the northern hemisphere, however, could bring increasing case numbers as more activities move indoors.
WHO, which has been working to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, has repeatedly decried global inequity in vaccine distribution and urged wealthier nations to do more to help countries with less access.
-From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:20 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is urging long-term care homes to give boosters to residents immediately, as the delta variant breaks out in facilities across the country.
The new guidance was released Tuesday after the committee reviewed evidence about waning immunity from the vaccines, the latest safety data and the spread of COVID-19 across the country.
The committee recommends long-term care residents and people living in seniors’ homes receive another shot of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine — like Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna — as long as it has been six months since their last shot. A booster dose of a viral vector vaccine like Oxford-AstraZeneca is only recommended when Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are unavailable or the person can’t have an mRNA vaccine for medical reasons.
-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:25 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Wednesday morning, more than 232.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In Africa, Algeria will start production of Sinovac’s vaccine in partnership with China on Wednesday with the aim of meeting domestic demand and exporting the surplus.
In the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his priority is keeping the nation’s economy open and increasing vaccinations among the country’s Arab minority as Israel copes with a wave of coronavirus infections.
In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he’ll appoint a chair this year to the planned public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic and bereaved families will have a role in the proceedings.
The COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, which has around 4,000 members, has been calling for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic so lessons can be learned to limit future virus-related deaths. It has criticized Johnson and his Conservative government for a lack of protective gear for health workers, delaying lockdowns and a too-lax travel policy.
Johnson confirmed in May a public inquiry will start to hear evidence next year. However, the group says, “we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week.”
The U.K. registered 167 virus-related deaths on Tuesday. Britain has Europe’s second-highest pandemic death toll after Russia, with more than 136,500 reported deaths.
Meanwhile, in Russia, health authorities reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for the second day in a row, but authorities say they are not considering imposing nationwide restrictions.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force on Wednesday registered 857 deaths, the country’s highest daily number of the pandemic. The previous record of 852 COVID-19 deaths was reported Tuesday.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore’s Health Ministry reported 2,268 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily total since the beginning of the pandemic. The country also reported eight new deaths due to the illness.
A recent rise in cases after the relaxation of some COVID-19 measures has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening. Roughly 80 per cent of its population has been vaccinated against the virus.
In the Americas, at least 400,000 people in the United States have received booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after U.S. health regulators cleared the third round of shots for millions of people, and a million more are seeking them, the White House said on Tuesday.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
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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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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