The two largest hospitals in the Interior Health region are feeling the effects of the continuing spread of COVID-19.
In Kelowna, three operating rooms have been closed at Kelowna General Hospital, Health Minister Adrian Dix said at a news conference today, Nov. 9.
“Last week, Kelowna General Hospital had reduced two operating rooms to compensate for staff who did not meet vaccination requirements,” Dix said. “This week, only one operating room had to be reduced for this reason. To support critical care, though, Kelowna General Hospital has reduced an additional two operating rooms.”
He did not mention how many surgeries will need to be cancelled at the hospital because to the reduction in operating room space.
At Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, there have been two COVID outbreaks.
The first one started awhile ago and affected two or three staff members on one ward, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said today. The other impacted patients in another ward who were in hospital for reasons other than COVID.
A news release from Interior Health today provided more details. It says that Unit 7N has four patients infected with COVID-19 while Unit 5S has 27 cases, including 20 patients and seven staff or others. There has been one death connected to the outbreak.
“They’re doing a detailed investigation to try and figure out where was the introduction and how it got transmitted between people,” Dr. Henry said. “But we are seeing that these outbreaks are not to the same degree as we saw a few months ago when we didn’t have this much vaccination.”
During the week of Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, there were 58 non-urgent scheduled surgeries cancelled in the Interior Health region out of 288 for the province as a whole, Dix said. He did not break out how many were at Kelowna General Hospital due to the operating room closures.
On Nov. 1, Dix reported that five per cent of workers in Interior Health facilities were unvaccinated.
That percentage remained the same today even though 1,548 vaccinated workers have been added to the health care system, he said.
What may make a difference to the number of workers who have refused to get vaccinated is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that’s expected to arrive in B.C., in limited amounts, late this week or early next week.
“We know that some health-care workers have said this is the only option they would consider right now,” Dr. Henry said.
That’s because it’s a single dose vaccine that is as effective as the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It’s also a “viral vector” vaccine, which is different than the other two mNRA vaccines.
Dr. Henry did caution that the manufacturer has been approved to provide a second dose after six months in the U.S.
Dix stressed there is not going to be any relief in the mandatory vaccine mandate for health-care workers when he responded to a media question about a Port Alberni pediatrician who cannot work because he’s unvaccinated and thousands have signed a petition urging an exemption to the vaccine mandate.
“Other than medical exemptions, and there is a process for that, there are no exemptions,” Dix said. “The decision has been taken. It’s something that will be applied across the board. It’s obviously not desirable to lose anybody in any position in health care, least of which somebody who clearly has a lot of support locally. But the rules are going to apply to everybody and it’s going to apply here and I encourage everybody to get vaccinated because there is, of course, a much simpler answer to that.”
— This story was updated at 5:06 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 to include more details about the outbreaks at Royal Inland Hospital.
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'I was shocked': Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Vancouver Is Awesome
WINNIPEG — A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family.
The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.
Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.
Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.
She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”
Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.
Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five.
Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.
Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.
“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.
“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”
Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced.
Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor.
For Bardarson, that’s not enough.
“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”
Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations.
She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.
Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.
Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.
The story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
Vaccine makers could make Omicron-specific booster, says Fauci
COVID-19 vaccine makers have contingency plans to deal with the Omicron variant that include a combination vaccine against the original version and the variant as well as a variant-specific booster dose, a top U.S. health official said on Friday.
The U.S. government is working with Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J on multiple contingency plans, infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci told reporters at a White House briefing.
“One is to rev up the production of the vaccines that they already have. The next is to make, for example, a bivalent, where you have the vaccine against both the ancestral strain and the new variant, and the other is to make a variant-specific boost,” said Fauci.
“They are now assuming they may have to do that and are being prepared for that,” he added.
Data from a National Institutes of Health study strongly suggest that existing boosters provide cross protection against a number of variants, including Omicron, Fauci said.
“Although we haven’t proven it yet, there’s every reason to believe that if you get vaccinated and boosted that you would have at least some degree of cross protection, very likely against severe disease, even against the Omicron variant.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with local authorities to investigate suspect cases of the Omicron variant in states other than those where cases have already been reported, Director Rochelle Walensky said at the briefing.
There have been cases of Omicron detected in about 40 countries, she said, but the Delta variant remains the dominant strain in the United States.
“I know that the news is focused on Omicron. But we should remember that 99.9% of cases in the country right now are from the Delta variant. Delta continues to drive cases across the country, especially in those who are unvaccinated,” she said.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Dan Grebler)
FDA adds strict safety warnings on arthritis drugs from Pfizer, AbbVie and Lilly
The U.S. health regulator has added its strictest warning to the labels of drugs from Pfizer, Eli Lilly and AbbVie belonging to a class of anti-inflammatory treatments called JAK inhibitors, citing risk of serious health issues and death in patients 50 and over, the drugmakers said on Friday.
The addition of the warning on the labels follows the agency’s review of Pfizer’s Xeljanz after initial results from a February trial showed an increased risk of serious heart-related problems and cancer in some patients being treated with the drug.
Xeljanz, which brought in worldwide sales of $2.44 billion for Pfizer in 2020, is approved in the United States for the treatment of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease.
AbbVie’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Rinvoq and Pfizer’s Xeljanz are now recommended for use only in patients, who have had inadequate response or intolerance to one or more TNF blockers, which are another class of drugs used against inflammatory conditions.
The Food and Drug Administration’s boxed warnings on the labels of Rinvoq , Xeljanz and Lilly’s Olumiant flags the risk of cardiovascular death and stroke in high-risk patients who are aged 50 and above, and are current or past smokers.
Additional information about the risk of some types of cancer and death was also added to their labels.
The marketing applications for Rinvoq’s expanded use in atopic dermatitis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and ulcerative colitis remain under review by the FDA, AbbVie said.
(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Krishna Chandra Eluri)
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