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COVID-19: Alberta telephone town hall to address vaccine questions around fertility and pregnancy –



A telephone town hall will be held next week to answer questions from and provide information to anyone who is pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant and is hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

During Thursday’s COVID-19 update, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said she is still hearing questions about whether vaccines impact fertility or are safe for pregnant women.

“As I’ve said before, there is no evidence suggesting that these vaccines impact fertility in any way,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw stressed. “Studies done on both male and female fertility outcomes after vaccine have shown no negative consequences.

“Vaccines are also recommended for anyone who is pregnant or nursing, as the risk of severe outcomes of COVID infection in pregnant women has increased with variants of concern.”

Read more:
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Hinshaw said data from thousands of pregnant women who have received the COVID-19 vaccine has not shown any increased risk in pregnancy.

The province’s top doctor also said there continues to be misinformation about vaccines spreading on social media that they’re working hard to address.

In hopes of quashing some of the misinformation, Hinshaw and Dr. Eliana Castillo, clinical associate professor with the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary will hold a telephone town hall this Wednesday to answer questions on vaccines, fertility and maternal health.

“This town hall will be open to anyone who is interested in this topic,” she said. “It’s free for anyone who wants to call in and ask a question about the issue.”

Read more:
‘This situation is urgent.’ Why pregnant women are flooding Canadian ICUs

During the fourth wave of COVID-19, Alberta has seen an increase in the number of pregnant people ending up in ICU. Since mid-July, there have been more pregnant people admitted to intensive care than in the entire first year of the pandemic, according to Alberta Health.

Both the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization have said that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for those who are pregnant and those who are breastfeeding. Both bodies recommend COVID-19 vaccine for all pregnant, breastfeeding and planning-to-become pregnant women.

Read more:
COVID-19 vaccines safe while pregnant, breastfeeding or immunosuppressed: NACI

Cassandra Hirt-Walsh is an OB/GYN at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton. She is currently on maternity leave, and was working while pregnant during the beginning of the pandemic, before vaccines were available.

“It’s terrifying. We’ve all seen patients who have gotten COVID and they’ve gotten really sick really quickly. And these are young, healthy people who should not be unwell like that and it’s terrifying,” Hirt-Walsh said Friday.

She was breastfeeding her now one-year-old daughter when she became eligible for vaccination and said she rolled up her sleeve as soon as she was able.

“I wanted to try to give antibodies to my baby because she wasn’t eligible for the vaccine yet,” Hirt-Walsh said, adding she will get her daughter vaccinated as soon as she is eligible.

The biggest concern she hears from patients is the fear of the unknown, and empathizes with them. The most important thing to do is listen to those concerns and not dismiss them, she explained.

“Patients always want to do the best for their baby and the best for future babies, in the case of infertility, and so that’s why I think that fuels a lot of the hesitancy that we see in patients for deciding to get vaccinated,” Hirt-Walsh said.

“I think it’s a legitimate concern patients have and it is a new vaccine, which can be scary. But thankfully, a lot of the studies involving the COVID vaccine in pregnancy and the safety of it, as well as the impact on fertility has been — a lot of the scientists involved in that have been very proactive in trying to study this as an important kind of concern.”

Read more:
Mothers turning to breast milk to protect children too young for COVID-19 vaccines

She urges everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I have seen people get COVID and get really, really unwell. I have known people who have died. This is a real serious concern and as a health-care provider, it’s heartbreaking when you see this happen and it’s now so much less likely if you’re able to get vaccinated.”

This isn’t the first time medical professionals have stressed that vaccines are safe for pregnant women.

Two weeks ago, Global News spoke with an obstetrician who said a growing number of unvaccinated pregnant woman are ending up in hospital with severe cases of COVID-19.

“I have had talks with my patients and say: ‘You’re getting sicker, if you go to ICU and on a ventilator, you will be asleep and while you sleep, we may have to deliver the baby and we will take videos and photos and do all we can but when you wake up you may not be able to see your baby,” Calgary obstetrician Dr. Stephanie Cooper said at the time.

“Having that conversation with a woman while she’s gasping for breath is awful and they are terrified.

“This is unprecedented, alarming and frightening, especially for the mom alone without support of family members around.”

Read more:
Alberta obstetricians worried about babies being born to unconscious unvaccinated moms

When speaking to Global News on Oct. 8, obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Colin Birch said since August, there have been 16 pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. Every pregnant patient admitted to ICU in Calgary was unvaccinated, Birch said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta babies being born to unconscious unvaccinated moms worrying Calgary obstetricians'

Alberta babies being born to unconscious unvaccinated moms worrying Calgary obstetricians

Alberta babies being born to unconscious unvaccinated moms worrying Calgary obstetricians – Oct 8, 2021

Alberta Health has more information on its website about vaccination during pregnancy.

Vaccine appointments can be made online.

The telephone town hall runs from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 27. More information on how to pre-register can be found on the province’s website.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Islander living with HIV for 3 decades reflects on World AIDS Day –



Troy Perrot-Sanderson has lived with human immunodeficiency virus for almost 30 years, but he’s only recently started talking about how he became infected. 

“It’s a very difficult thing for me to talk about,” said Perrot-Sanderson, in an interview tied to Dec. 1, which is World AIDS Day. “I’ve only really started dealing with it.” 

He said he was 21 years old when he was sexually assaulted, while he was living in Alberta. 

After the rape, Perrot-Sanderson said his life “spiralled” as he used drugs and alcohol to cope. 

He has just started to see a counsellor to help him deal with the trauma.

Perrot-Sanderson was a volunteer and later a staff member for AIDS P.E.I. He said his outlook on the disease has changed over the years and he feels much more optimistic now compared to when he was first diagnosed. (Submitted Troy Perrot-Sanderson)

HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.  

Perrot-Sanderson remembers that when he was first diagnosed, he thought his life was over. It took two decades after AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s to find an effective combination of drugs to treat it. In Canada alone, a 2017 report estimated, nearly 25,000 people had died of the disease by the end of 2016. 

“I just slowly prepared myself to die for a few years,” Perrot-Sanderson said. 

Advocate for others

He said he got more optimistic after he starting taking drugs to fight HIV. He volunteered and worked at AIDS PEI (later renamed PEERS Alliance) and was even acting executive director for a time. 

“We can take medication and live a pretty normal life,” he said.

PEERS Alliance recently relocated its office to downtown Charlottetown, and is planning an open house at 250 B Queen Street from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Of today’s PEERS leader, he added: “I can’t thank them enough. They’re doing all kinds of amazing work in the community.” 

PEERS Alliance runs a number of education and outreach programs, working with a wide variety of people including gay and lesbian youth and adults; the trans community; and people who use drugs, who are susceptible to getting infected due to shared needles.

Still, as Perrot-Sanderson marks this World AIDS Day, he said it’s important to remember the people who have not survived, noting: “I have lost a lot of friends over the years.”

He worries there’s apathy around AIDS and HIV in 2021. 

“A lot of people just don’t talk about it or think about it any more,” he said. “We know how to protect ourselves now — we certainly know so much more, we know how to prevent this disease.”

Hopes for the future

Josie Baker is the executive director of PEERS Alliance, and hopes people will take part in an open house set up to mark World AIDS Day.

Baker noted that there is better access to testing now, with at-home kits available for use “in the comfort of someone’s own home.” 

Josie Baker of PEERS Alliance says she is looking forward to a day when there is no more stigma around HIV/AIDS. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Baker said non-nominal testing is also available, where each test is assigned a number instead of a name before going to the lab for analysis. That means people can be assured nobody at the lab will know who tested positive.   

There are still pressing issues that require lobbying, though, 40 years after the HIV crisis began. Baker said having an HIV care specialist on P.E.I. would help, since many have to go off-Island for specialized care. 

She also said being HIV-positive still carries a stigma on P.E.I. and elsewhere, and people should be able to access care and live in their communities free of judgment. 

“That would be my hope: to end the stigma,” said Baker. 

Perrot-Sanderson agrees, saying stigma often prevents people from seeking medical help. 

“People ignore it and don’t protect themselves,” he said.

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Singapore tests out ‘smart bandage’ for remote recovery



Researchers in Singapore have developed a smart bandage to enable patients to have chronic wounds monitored remotely via an app on a mobile device, potentially saving them visits to the doctor.

A research team at the National University of Singapore has created a wearable sensor attached to a transparent bandage to track progress in healing, using information like temperature, bacteria type, and levels of pH and inflammation.

“Traditionally when someone has a wound or ulcer, if it’s infected, the only way to examine it is through looking at the wound itself, through visual inspection,” said Chwee Teck Lim, lead researcher at the university’s department of biomedical engineering.

“If the clinician wants to have further information then they will obtain the wound fluid and send to the lab for further testing,” he said.

“So what we’re trying to do is use our smart bandage to cut the number of hours or days to just a few minutes.”

The “VeCare” technology will enable patients to convalesce more at home and visit a doctor only if necessary.

The bandage is being tested on patients with chronic venous ulcers, or leg ulcers caused by circulation problems in veins.

Data collection by researchers on the wounds has so far been effective, according to Lim, who said the smart bandage could potentially be used for other wounds, like diabetic foot ulcers.

(This story refiles to correct to cut extraneous word in the first paragraph)


(Reporting by Ying Shan Lee; Writing by Masako Iijima; Editing by Martin Petty, William Maclean)

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Courts block two Biden administration COVID vaccine mandates



The Biden administration was blocked on Tuesday from enforcing two mandates requiring millions of American workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a key part of its strategy for controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, temporarily blocked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers until the court can resolve legal challenges.

Doughty’s ruling applied nationwide, except in 10 states where the CMS was already prevented from enforcing the rule due to a prior order from a federal judge in St. Louis.

Doughty said the CMS lacked the authority to issue a vaccine mandate that would require more than 2 million unvaccinated healthcare workers to get a coronavirus shot.

“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” wrote Doughty.

Separately, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove in Frankfort, Kentucky, blocked the administration from enforcing a regulation that new government contracts must include clauses requiring that contractors’ employees get vaccinated.

The contractor ruling applied in the three states that had filed the lawsuit, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, one of at least 13 legal challenges nationwide against the regulation. It appears to be the first ruling against the contractor vaccine mandate.

The White House declined to comment.

The legal setbacks for President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy come as concerns that the Omicron coronavirus variant could trigger a new wave of infections and curtail travel and economic activity across the globe.

Biden unveiled regulations in September to increase the U.S. adult vaccination rate beyond the current 71% as a way of fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 750,000 Americans and weighed on the economy.

Republican state attorneys general, conservative groups and trade organizations have sued to stop the regulations.

Tuesday’s rulings add to a string of court losses for the Biden administration over its COVID-19 policies.

The most sweeping regulation, a workplace vaccine-or-testing mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court in early November.

In August, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the administration’s pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

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