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Countries weigh need for booster COVID-19 shots

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COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be made widely available to Americans starting on Sept. 20, U.S. health officials said, citing data showing diminishing protection from the initial vaccinations as infections with the Delta variant rise.

In recent weeks several countries – including Israel, Germany and France – have decided to offer booster shots to older adults and people with weak immune systems. European Union officials said they do not yet see a need to give booster shots to the general population.

As of yet, there is no consensus among scientists and agencies that a third dose is necessary.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Aug. 18 that current data does not indicate a need for COVID-19 booster shots, adding that the most vulnerable people worldwide should be fully vaccinated before high-income countries deploy a top-up.

The following outlines the options countries and regions are considering on the issue:

UNITED STATES

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be made widely available from Sept. 20 to Americans who received their initial inoculation of two-dose COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and by Pfizer and BioNTech AG at least eight months earlier, U.S. health officials said on August 18.

EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union’s drugs regulator said on Aug. 6 there’s still not enough data to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

Recent supply contracts with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have included the potential for the bloc to buy booster shots.

AUSTRIA

Austria plans to start COVID-19 vaccine booster shots on Oct. 17, nine months after the first group of people to get the shots received their second dose.

BELGIUM

Belgium has authorised the use of boosters – specifically mRNA shots – for immunosuppressed people. More data is needed before considering extra shots for the elderly and people living in nursing homes.

BRITAIN

Britain has begun planning for a booster campaign starting later this year after top vaccine advisers said it might be necessary to give third shots to the elderly and most vulnerable from September. It said it would buy 60 million more doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine ahead of the possible booster programme, bringing its total order of the shot to 100 million doses.

BRAZIL

Brazilians should prepare for annual COVID-19 immunisations to reinforce vaccines, the head of public-sector laboratory Butantan said in May.

CAMBODIA

Cambodia started on Aug. 12 offering AstraZeneca booster shots to those who have received the inactivated virus vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Sinovac.

CANADA

The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering third COVID-19 vaccine doses to vulnerable people as early as this week, its chief medical officer said on Aug. 17.

CHILE

Chile began on Aug. 11 administering booster shots to those already inoculated with Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to lock in early success following one of the world’s fastest mass vaccination drives.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Some groups will probably need to get a third vaccine shot, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Aug. 17.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Dominican health authorities started distributing a voluntary third vaccine dose in early July.

ECUADOR

Ecuador will administer a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people with weak immune systems and will carry out tests to determine if the rest of the inoculated population also needs a booster, Health Minister Ximena Garzon said on Aug. 18.

FINLAND

It has not made a decision on the recommendation of a third dose but is expected to do so in August.

FRANCE

President Emmanuel Macron said France was working on rolling out third COVID-19 vaccine doses to the elderly and vulnerable from September.

GERMANY

Germany will in September start to offer a booster shot to vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those with weak immune systems. The shots will be mRNA-vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna regardless of what was used previously.

HUNGARY

Hungary has been offering an optional third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from Aug. 1.

INDONESIA

Indonesia started giving booster shots produced by Moderna to medical workers in July and is considering extra doses for wider use.

ISRAEL

Israel in July started offering a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to people aged over 60 and to those over 50 from Aug. 13. It continues to administer extra doses to health workers.

RUSSIA

Health clinics in Moscow started offering booster shots in July to people vaccinated six months ago or more, making Russia one of the first countries to begin re-vaccination.

PHILLIPINES

The Philippines is allotting 45.3 billion pesos ($899 million) for COVID-19 booster shots under its 2022 budget, an official said on Aug. 19, even as health authorities have yet to conclude there is a need for a third dose.

SINGAPORE

Singapore said in May it was making plans for booster shots later this year or early next year, if necessary.

SOUTH KOREA

South Korea said in June it plans to secure more mRNA vaccines to use as boosters next year for its entire population of 52 million.

SLOVENIA

Slovenia will most probably start recommending a third vaccine dose, the head of the National advisory committee on immunization, Bojana Beovic, told the Slovenian national broadcaster on Aug. 18.

SWEDEN

The majority of Swedes will be offered a booster shot against COVID in 2022, while high risk groups could get a third shot this autumn, the health authority said on Aug. 3.

SWITZERLAND

Switzerland has ordered 43 million doses of vaccines, including preparations for potential booster shots in 2022, should they be needed, the Health Ministry said.

GULF STATES

The United Arab Emirates will start providing a booster shot to all fully vaccinated people. The shot will be available to people considered at high risk three months after their second vaccine dose, and six months for others.

In June, the UAE and Bahrain made the Pfizer vaccine available as a booster shot to those initially immunised with a vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm.

THAILAND

Thailand plans to give booster shots of imported mRNA vaccine to its front-line workers – who were given imported Sinovac before the locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine was available in June.

TURKEY

Turkey is allowing people who were inoculated with Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine to take an additional Pfizer dose, the health ministry said on Aug. 16.

URUGUAY

Uruguay offers a Pfizer dose for those fully vaccinated wth Sinovac’s Coronavac. https://bit.ly/37SFw5P

COMPANIES

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna on Aug. 13 for people with compromised immune systems.

Pfizer and BioNtech have submitted data to the FDA for COVID-19 vaccine booster authorization and plan to submit it as well to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and other regulatory authorities in the coming weeks.

Pfizer and Moderna have raised the prices of their COVID-19 vaccines in their latest EU supply contracts, the Financial Times reported on Aug. 1.

Moderna had earlier struck deals with Spain’s Rovi and Switzerland’s Lonza at a Dutch plant that would boost 50-microgram dose production – half the level of its original shots – in Europe to up to 600 million doses annually, with the capacity due to come on line this year.

On Aug. 5, Moderna said that its COVID-19 shot was about 93% effective four to six months after the second dose, showing hardly any change from the 94% efficacy reported in its original clinical trial.

It expects, however, a COVID-19 booster to be necessary prior to the winter season.

AstraZeneca said it was looking into how long the vaccine’s protection lasts and if a booster dose would be needed.

 

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris, Michael Erman in New York, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, John Miller in Zurich, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt, Miyoung Kim in Singapore, Alistair Smout in London, Essi Lehto in Helsinki, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Dagmarah Mackos, Pawel Goraj, Veronica Snoj in Gdansk; Editing by Josephine Mason, Barbara Lewis and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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Trudeau warns Canadians against splitting vote in dead heat federal election – Global News

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With the Canadian election in a dead heat two days before the Sept. 20 vote, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his Conservative rival implored supporters to stay the course and avoid vote splitting that could hand their opponent victory.

Both men campaigned in the same seat-rich Toronto region on Saturday as they tried to fend off voter defections to the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) and the populist People’s Party of Canada (PPC), both of which are rising in polls.

The latest Sondage Leger poll conducted for the Journal de Montreal and the National Post newspapers put the Conservatives one percentage point ahead of Trudeau’s Liberals, with 33 per cent over 32 per cent. The NDP was at 19 per cent while the PPC was at 6 per cent.

Read more:
Trudeau open to electoral reform, says he is a fan of ranked ballots

Trudeau, 49, called an early election, seeking to convert approval for his government’s handling of the pandemic into a parliamentary majority. But he is now scrambling to save his job, with Canadians questioning the need for an early election amid a fourth pandemic wave.

“Despite what the NDP likes to say, the choice is between a Conservative or a Liberal government right now,” Trudeau said in Aurora, Ontario. “And it does make a difference to Canadians whether we have or not a progressive government.”

Trudeau has spent two of the final three days of his campaign in Ontario where polls show the NDP could gain seats, or split the progressive vote.

A tight race could result in another minority government, with the NDP, led by Jagmeet Singh, playing kingmaker. It has also put a focus on turnout, with low turnout historically favouring the Conservatives.


Click to play video: 'Liberals trying to get supporters to vote'



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Liberals trying to get supporters to vote


Liberals trying to get supporters to vote

With polls suggesting a Liberal minority may be the most likely result on Monday, Trudeau was pressed on whether this could be his last election. He responded: “There is lots of work still to do, and I’m nowhere near done yet.”

If voters give Trudeau a third term, everything they dislike about him “will only get worse,” Conservative leader Erin O’Toole told supporters on Saturday, saying his party was the only option for anyone dissatisfied with the Liberals, in a dig at the PPC.

The PPC, which has channeled anger against mandatory vaccines into surprising support, could draw votes away from the Conservatives in close district races, helping the Liberals eke out a win.

On Saturday, the Liberals announced they would drop a candidate over a 2019 sexual assault charge that the party said was not disclosed to them. Kevin Vuong, a naval reservist running in an open Liberal seat in downtown Toronto, denied the allegations on Friday, noting the charge was withdrawn.

Read more:
Canada Election: Black, Indigenous voters lament leaders shying away from race-based issues

“Mr. Vuong will no longer be a Liberal candidate, and should he be elected, he will not be a member of the Liberal caucus,” the party said in a statement on Saturday.

Earlier this month, Liberal member of parliament Raj Saini ended his re-election campaign amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards female staffers.

O’Toole, 48, campaigned in Saini’s district on Saturday, one of three Liberal ridings he is hoping to swing his way. Earlier, he appeared in a Conservative-held riding west of Toronto that was closely fought during the 2019 election.

The area’s member of Parliament, who is not running again, came under fire last spring for saying COVID-19 lockdowns were the “single greatest breach of our civil liberties since the internment camps during WW2.”

O’Toole, who said he wants to get 90 per cent of Canadians vaccinated, has refused to say who among Conservative Party candidates were.

© 2021 Reuters

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'Really frustrating': Racialized people feel ignored in federal election campaign – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Given recent racist attacks in the country and racism hurled at campaigning candidates, racialized people living in Canada say they’re concerned that systemic racism hasn’t been at the forefront of any of the party leaders’ messages.

Some almost 8 million Indigenous, Black and people of colour living in Canada, making up 22 per cent of Canada’s population, are wondering why there hasn’t been more focus on racism and issues of race during the election campaign.

“I’m a woman of colour every day of my life, I don’t get to turn that off,” Samanta Krishnapillai, founder, executive director and editor-in-chief of On Canada Project, an Instagram account that shares information targeted towards Canada’s millennial and Generation Z populations, told CTV News.

She said she had hoped that systemic racism in Canada would be more central to all of the candidates’ campaigns.

“I think that is really frustrating to see,” she said.

For Krishnapillai, she feels as though the issues that impact people of colour haven’t been seen as crucial during the election campaign.

“The fact that there are party leaders that are able to just move on from this subject and not constantly have it as part of what they’re talking about kind of sucks … It’s not like our experiences aren’t as important,” she said.

Not only is Krishnapillai not seeing these important conversations about race, she’s also not seeing the issues of young Canadians reflected in the election campaigns.

“People keep saying, ‘young people don’t vote.’ What are you doing to get me to come vote? What are you talking about to get me to care, to get people like me to care?” she said. “It’s just been a really lackluster election.”

And she’s not willing to accept the answer that it’s “just politics.”

“Why is that what we accept as politics, if you know that you can do better, why aren’t you? You shouldn’t have to wait until someone dies or bodies are recovered to do it,” Krishnapillai said.

When Justin Trudeau was elected prime minister in 2015, Krishnapillai said she was excited. She saw a feminist leader who was going to make change, but she sees things differently now.

“I think he’s capable of greatness, but I also feel like, it just feels so performative and it doesn’t feel genuine,” she said.

That’s especially true, she said, after the death of George Floyd in the U.S. kicked off protests across Canada last year in response to police violence against Black and Indigenous people here. This year, meanwhile, thousands of unmarked graves at former residential schools were brought to light, and a family in London, Ont. was killed because – according to police – they were walking while Muslim.

“It really could have been, it could have been my mother,” Sarah Barzak, executive director of the London School of Racialized Leaders, told CTV News.

Barzak said that she experienced racism in Canada since she was a child, with other kids telling her: “‘go back to your country,’ – like, I heard that a lot as a child.”

She said she is disappointed that while politicians turned out to a memorial for the family killed in London in June, they have since gone silent on Islamophobia in the country, and systemic racism in general.

“They came, they took the mic, they took all their photo ops, and then they left,” she said.

The candidates have spoken about diversity in Canada, but Barzak said just talking about it isn’t enough.

“I don’t think it’s enough to just say things like ‘diversity is our strength’, when hate crimes are clearly on the rise and there just isn’t enough funding and enough push back,” she said.

And some forms of racism she says have gone unmentioned by the candidates on the campaign trail.

“I haven’t heard any of the leaders discuss anti-Asian racism, and that has also been on the rise in relation to COVID and xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment,” Barzak said.

After a tumultuous 18 months in which marginalized and racialized communities were hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic, Barzak said it is time for the candidates to address these issues.

“Every marginalized community has really gone through the gutters, especially under this pandemic and I don’t think there are excuses anymore,” she said. “I think even just acknowledging it is the bare minimum.”

Barzak said she is disappointed that issues of race haven’t been central to the candidates’ election campaigns, and she doesn’t think she’s alone in this feeling.

“I look at leadership and I’m just shaking my head,” said Barzak. “This isn’t leadership, this is failure to me, and I think this is failure to a lot of people across the country.”

“This is systemic neglect,” she added.

Some voters were hoping for more, especially after politicians took a knee with protestors last summer.

“I definitely wish that after the year and a half that we all witnessed, you know, Black issues would be centred a little bit more anti-Blackness and issues particular to the Black community would have been discussed a little bit more,” Danièle-Jocelyne Otou, director of communication and strategic engagement of Apathy is Boring, an organization that aims to get younger Canadians involved in politics and Canadian and global issues told CTV News.

At the English-language leaders debate, where not a single Black person was invited to ask the candidates a question, issues that impact Black Canadians were left unaddressed. The anti-Asian hate that has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began was also not a topic of discussion.

“I wish that Black voices would have been amplified and highlighted throughout the debate as well. I would have loved to hear from some Asian folks about the last year that they’ve had and the issues that they would like to see moving forward,” she added.

Sometimes leaders do the bare minimum to engage voters, especially younger ones, and Otou says that’s not enough.

“There’s this assumption that all you have to do is one little TikTok meme and you’ll get the youth vote without taking into account, again, youth interests over the last year and a half have drastically changed and they’re paying more attention than ever to Canadian politics,” she said.

Indigenous voters are also feeling left behind, as the federal party leaders have largely ignored the continuing discoveries of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools.

The chief of Serpent River First Nation in Ontario had hoped to see the candidates present real solutions to healing these historical wounds.

“Canada needs to have truth before we can have reconciliation,” said Chief Brent Bissaillion. “We still haven’t gotten to that truth.”

Bissaillion said he feels that issues impacting First Nations, Metis and Inuit in Canada haven’t been central to the parties’ campaigns.

“So it does get swept under the rug, and I feel that a lot of the issues that pertain to indigenous people pertain to a lot of other minorities and marginalized folks, and it is kind of disappointing that it’s gone to the wayside during this campaign,” he said.

With more and more unmarked graves being discovered in the country, Bissaillion reflects on other moments that seemed like a reckoning in Canada.

“We’ve had several reckonings this country continually has reckonings every few years. And we continue to be in the same spot. Everything is symbolic,” he said.

Bissaillion said he would like to hear more about what steps the parties will take to follow through on various promises, and issues that impact First Nations, Metis and Inuit in Canada.

“I’d really like to hear from all parties on how we’re going to start returning land back to our community so that we can take stewardship,” he said.

Krishnapillai, Barzak, Otou and Bissaillion will participate in CTV’s Voters’ Viewpoint panel with CTV’s Your Morning host Anne Marie Mediwake as part of CTV News’ special election coverage. Join the Voters’ Viewpoint conversation online on CTVNews.ca, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

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U.S. lawmakers push Biden to lift Canadian travel restrictions

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Four U.S. senators on Friday asked President Joe Biden to lift restrictions that have barred travel by Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020.

Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana and independent Angus King of Maine asked Biden to allow Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States before October. The border state senators said in a letter the restrictions have led to “economic and emotional strain in our communities.”

The senators added: “A plan with some indication of when your administration would feel comfortable lifting border restrictions based on public health data would provide clarity to businesses and families along the northern border.”

They also noted that Canadians can fly to the United States. “We struggle to understand the public health rationale for the disparate treatment in modes of travel,” the senators wrote.

The White House did not immediately comment on Friday, but White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday that given the Delta variant of the coronavirus, “we will maintain the existing travel restrictions at this point.”

U.S. officials and travel industry executives say the White House is set to renew the restrictions before the latest extension expires on Sept. 21.

In August, the United States again extended restrictions closing its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel such as tourism despite Ottawa’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans.

Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for nonessential travel.

The United States has continued to extend the extraordinary restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020, when they were imposed to address the spread of COVID-19.

The U.S. land border restrictions do not bar U.S. citizens from returning home.

The United States separately bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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