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COVID-19 in B.C.: Update on child cases; new measures in Fraser Health; booster shots for longterm care; and more – The Georgia Straight

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Today, active cases decreased while hospitalized cases increased—the opposite of what happened over the weekend.

Active cases decreased in Fraser Health and Northern Health while increasing in Vancouver Coastal Health, Interior Health and Island Health—also the inverse of the weekend.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix held an in-person briefing today (September 28) to provide updates about several issues, including booster shots for seniors, cases among children and youth, and new health orders due to rising case numbers in Fraser Health.

Despite vaccinations of residents in all longterm care facilities in the province, outbreaks and deaths have continued to occur in those healthcare settings.

That’s because, as Henry has explained at previous briefings, older people can have lower immune system responses to vaccinations compared to those who are younger.

Today, she said that a “significant number” of longterm care residents are continuing to have “breakthrough infections” (COVID-19 cases among those who are vaccinated), which she added can be lethal in an elderly population.

Accordingly, Henry announced today that residents in longterm care facilities will also now receive a third dose.

She said that these doses will begin being administered next week, and will be given in addition to the influenza vaccine.

Previously, Henry had announced that “clinically extremely vulnerable individuals with certain immune compromising conditions” will receive a third dose, and those immunizations are now underway.

Henry said that there has been an increase in child cases in the past week compared to what has been observed over the course of the pandemic.

She stated that the numbers of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population are increasing “quite dramatically” among younger school-aged children who aren’t vaccinated, including those who are 5 to 11 years old. She said there were increases in cases among those 12 to 17 years old but that has leveled off.

As she has explained in the past, what is happening in schools reflects what is occurring in communities.

Henry said that the most of the school-aged children who are testing positive are in the Fraser East region, which is an area of Fraser Health that has the lowest rates of immunization and where cases are rising among adults, as well as one part of Island Health.

In addition, she pointed out that parts of the B.C. Interior with lower immunization rates are where children are being affected.

Meanwhile, she said that Vancouver Coastal Health and most of Island Health have had low cases rates among children, where there are high vaccination rates.

Thus far during the pandemic, there have only been two deaths among children: an infant and toddler in the 0 to 4 age group, who both died last year. There haven’t been any deaths among school-aged children.

She said that they aren’t seeing any increases in hospitalizations or deaths among children—but she added “we need to make sure that doesn’t happen”.

Accordingly, she emphasized the need for vaccinations among all those who are eligible to do so, in order to prevent transmission to children.

As of today, regional health authorities will begin posting potential exposure events at schools on their websites, as was done last year.

What will be different this year is that the health authorities won’t be sending out letters to all schools if there is a potential exposure event, which she said was not effective in decreasing transmission in schools.

Previously, the Central Okanagan and Northern B.C. were identified as hotspots of concern where cases were rapidly rising.

Now a new region has been identified, and new health measures are being introduced there.

Due to an increase in cases in the Eastern Fraser Valley, Henry announced a new regional public health order for the area, effective today, and includes Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, and Aggasiz-Harrison.

The new health measures include:

  • private gatherings are now limited to five additional people or one additional household;
  • a maximum of 10 people outdoors unless all participants are fully vaccinated;
  • organized events limited to 10 people inside or 50 people outside, unless all participants are vaccinated;
  • all outdoor adult sports will be limited to 50 participants, unless all are vaccinated.

Consequently, the B.C. Vaccine Card requirement for two doses by October 26 has been advanced to today in the Fraser East region.

Also, all event organizers must keep a contact list of guests.

Henry added that as increased transmission has been occurring in workplaces in the region, masks must be worn in all indoor workplaces and the need for safety plans will be emphasized.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
Province of British Columbia

As on previous days, the B.C. Health Ministry stated that today’s numbers of total and new cases are provisional due to a delayed data refresh.

Today, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 652 new COVID-19 cases.

Currently, there are 5,992 active cases, which is a drop of 106 cases since yesterday.

The new and active cases include:

  • 219 new cases in Fraser Health, with 2,249 total active cases (31 fewer cases than yesterday);
  • 162 new cases in Interior Health, with 1,176 total active cases (17 more cases than yesterday);
  • 117 new cases in Northern Health, with 929 total active cases (235 fewer cases);
  • 82 new cases in Island Health, with 677 total active cases (20 more cases);
  • 70 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 903 total active cases (60 more cases);
  • two new cases of people who reside outside of Canada, with 58 total active cases (two more cases).

With 13 more cases than yesterday, there are 316 individuals in hospital today, and 141 of those patients are in intensive care units (one fewer than yesterday—yesterday’s ICU number was updated to 142).

Sadly, two new deaths (both in Island Health) have been reported, which brings the overall total fatalities to 1,942 people who have died of COVID-19-related reasons.

With 759 recoveries since yesterday, an overall total of 177,113 people who tested positive have recovered.

B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 185,432 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

Since December, B.C. has administered 7,812,228 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

As of today, 87.8 percent (4,068,060) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 80.6 percent (3,736,540) have received their second dose.

In addition, 88.3 percent (3,818,166) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 81.4 percent (3,521,271) have received their second dose.

According to the B.C. Health Ministry, people not vaccinated are 26.7 times more likely to be hospitalized than those fully vaccinated (after factoring for age).

From September 20 to 26, people who aren’t fully vaccinated accounted for 72.2 percent of COVID-19 cases. From September 13 to 26, they accounted for 82.5 percent of hospitalizations.

Fraser Health declared an outbreak at Willingdon Care Centre in Burnaby, where one resident has tested positive.

Northern Health declared an outbreak at Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton, where four patients have tested positive.

The B.C. Health Ministry also stated that an outbreak has been declared at Village by the Station and the outbreak at Fort St. John Hospital has been declared over.

Currently, there are 22 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control added the following 19 flights to its lists of potential public exposures:

  • September 1: WestJet 3294, Kelowna to Calgary;
  • September 15: WestJet 718, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • September 19: Air Canada/Jazz 8218, Vancouver to Cranbrook;
  • September 19: Air Canada/Jazz 8219, Cranbrook to Vancouver;
  • September 19: Air Canada/Jazz 8408, Vancouver to Kelowna;
  • September 19: Air Canada/Jazz 8415, Kelowna to Vancouver;
  • September 20: Air Canada 251, Edmonton to Vancouver;
  • September 20: Air Canada 1055, Phoenix to Vancouver;
  • September 20: Air Canada 8293, Castlegar to Vancouver;
  • September 20: WestJet 689, Saskatoon to Vancouver;
  • September 22: Air Canada 245, Edmonton to Vancouver;
  • September 22: Air Canada/Jazz 8234, Vancouver to Terrace;
  • September 22: WestJet 175, Edmonton to Vancouver;
  • September 22: WestJet 3153, Calgary to Nanaimo;
  • September 23: Air Canada 997, Mexico City to Vancouver;
  • September 23: Flair Air 153, Toronto to Abbotsford;
  • September 23: WestJet 615, Ottawa to Vancouver;
  • September 23: WestJet 1697, Los Angeles to Vancouver;
  • September 24: WestJet 701, Toronto to Vancouver. 

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Toronto police officers who ignore COVID-19 vaccinate mandate policy will be put on unpaid leave – CBC.ca

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Toronto police officers who aren’t fully vaccinated or haven’t disclosed their COVID-19 vaccination status by Nov. 30 will be put on indefinite unpaid leave, the service says.

Any such member, uniformed or not, will not be allowed to enter buildings until they comply with the mandatory vaccine and disclosure policy.

Those members will also not be eligible for promotions to supervisory or management positions, the service said in a news release Thursday.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 protects the health and safety of each of our members, our workplaces and the public we serve,” said Chief James Ramer.

So far, 90 per cent of the service’s members have disclosed their status, with 97 per cent of those having received one dose and 94 per cent fully vaccinated. 

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Consistent communication needed for kids COVID-19 vaccine rollout: experts – Delta-Optimist

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Kelly Grindrod remembers the confusion pharmacists felt last spring as Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine policy changed rapidly throughout the rollout, sometimes with little warning.

Shifting eligibility requirements differed across the country, booking sites were harder to navigate in some regions, and one vaccine product came to be seen as inferior to the rest, infuriating the public and vaccinators alike.

Grindrod, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and the pharmacy lead for Waterloo Region’s vaccine rollout, hopes provinces learned lessons from Canada’s first vaccination campaign for adults.

And if a COVID-19 vaccine is soon approved for children, she said a kid’s rollout needs consistent and clear messaging.

“Communication was a real challenge,” Grindrod recalled. “(Policy) would be announced nationally and everybody on the ground had to scramble because we were all hearing it at the same time.

“Immediately the phones would go crazy in pharmacies because people were trying to make sense of it…. We need a bit more lead-in, a bit more clarity, so (vaccinators) have answers before people start calling.”

Pfizer-BioNTech asked Health Canada to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged five-to-11 this week. The regulator is reviewing data before making a decision.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Pfizer is ready to ship millions of child doses in the event of authorization, while Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand added that Canada has already procured syringes and other supplies needed to speed up the rollout.

In the United States,an advisory group with the Food and Drug Administration, which received an approval request from Pfizer earlier this month, is scheduled to meet next week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is then set to discuss authorization in early November.

Grindrod said U.S. regulators, which sometimes stream meetings online, have shown “more transparency around the (decision-making) process.”

Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization supply “fairly comprehensive” documents after they’ve made decisions, she said, but vaccinators could use a heads up “to facilitate planning.”

Logistics of the kids rollout — where children get a vaccine, how they book appointments and whether certain kids will be prioritized — are still to be determined. Ontario said Tuesday it was open to running mass vaccine clinics at schools after school hours.

Omar Khan, an immunology and infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, said school clinics are a great way to reach more kids. Pharmacies and family doctors can also help, but proper scheduling — which includes flexibility around parents’ work hours — is needed to ensure half-empty vaccine vials aren’t tossed at the end of the day.

“Anything that reduces accessibility barriers will help distribute (vaccines) to the queue of people waiting to get vaccinated across multiple sites,” he said.

Most logistics can be ironed out once supply is determined, Grindrod said.

Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine involves a different formulation, but Grindrod said some pharmacists have asked whether they must wait for kid-specific shipments or if a diluted adult dose could serve if supply was scarce. She urged clear information as soon as possible.

Messaging around the kids vaccine in general has to be handled with more care, she said,starting with whatever NACI and Health Canada recommend after reviewing its safety and efficacy.

“We need very careful communication … because we haven’t seen the data,” she said. “There are questions that need to be answered very clearly — what is the risk of COVID to kids at the point at which vaccines become available? What are the known side effects we expect to see based on data from trials?

“And then separately, what are the unknowns?”

Science communicator Samantha Yammine noted the difficulty in maintaining consistent vaccine advice when the science on COVID-19 evolved quickly throughout the pandemic.

Policies introduced midway through the adult rollout, such as NACI’s recommendation against using AstraZeneca for second doses, seemed to contradict earlier advice. But public health messaging constantly adapts to new data, she said.

While communication was confusing at times, the country still vaccinated nearly 82 per cent of its eligible population to date.

Since parents are likely more concerned about vaccinating children than getting the jab themselves, fears should be addressed honestly and parents made to feel part of the plan, Yammine said.

That includes equipping parents with child-friendly information they may need to field youngsters’ questions about the vaccine, she added.

And kids’ comprehension level shouldn’t be underestimated.

“I’m advising people to acknowledge how great a job kids have done,” Yammine said. “Wearing masks, understanding why they have to play with friends outside, it’s been really hard on kids.

“But they’ve shown us they can be involved and they can understand complex things.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

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Get the flu shot: Public Health – Quinte News

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Local public health officials says getting the flu shot this year is especially important to reduce the risk of illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since many people are vulnerable to serious risks related to the flu, officials say everyone can help reduce the spread by getting vaccinated.

In a release, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health points out that it’s safe to get the flu vaccine at the same time as, or any time before or after the COVID-19 vaccine.

They point out influenza can be a serious disease and can lead to pneumonia or organ failure.

Statement from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health:

Getting the flu vaccine is especially important this year, to reduce your risk of illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many people are vulnerable to serious risks related to the flu, everyone can help reduce the spread by getting vaccinated. Your choice to get vaccinated will also help ensure critical health care resources are available to those who need them most. It’s safe to get the flu vaccine at the same time as, or any time before or after the COVID-19 vaccine, so do not delay – protect yourself with these important vaccines today!

Influenza is not caused by the viruses that cause COVID-19 or a cold. It can be a serious disease that causes some individuals to be in bed for a week or longer. It can also lead to complications such as pneumonia or organ failure. Vaccinated individuals are less likely to have severe complications and end up in the hospital – which will help ensure health care resources are available to those who need them most.

This year, residents are encouraged to seek their flu vaccination as soon as possible through their health care provider or a pharmacy. As public health resources continue to be redeployed to the COVID-19 pandemic, HPEPH is not able to offer community flu clinics to the general public this year. However, flu vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and those you love from serious illness and complications. Getting your flu vaccine early is the best way to protect yourself from the flu, as it can take up to two weeks to build immunity. The vaccine is available to individuals over 2 years of age at local pharmacies, and everyone over 6 months of age can receive the flu vaccination from their health care provider. HPEPH is considering the feasibility of offering small flu vaccination clinics to populations who are unable to receive the vaccine through these avenues, but any such clinics are dependant on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination and local case rates, as resources continue to be required for COVID-19 case and contact management.

“You got your COVID-19 vaccine – now it’s time to protect yourself, and those you love, from the flu,” says Dr. Ethan Toumishey, Acting Medical Officer of Health at HPEPH. “The COVID-19 vaccine has shown us how important and effective vaccines can be at reducing the severity of illness. While the COVID-19 vaccine reduces your risk of complications from COVID-19, it won’t protect you from the flu.”

To reduce the spread of illness in the community, all residents should continue public health precautions. The same measures that are helping control the spread of COVID-19 will help reduce the spread of seasonal influenza. If you have symptoms of the flu, stay home and follow testing guidance for COVID-19. Even if you are vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19, you can still get a mild case of these illnesses and spread them to others. The same public health precautions that prevent the spread of COVID-19, will prevent the spread of the flu.

  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Get tested for COVID-19 (if advised by screening)
  • Wash your hands often
  • Cover your cough and sneeze
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces often
  • Get vaccinated.

For more information, visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/flu-facts

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