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COVID-19: Medical equipment in care homes at risk of contamination: VCH study – The Province



Six of 89 samples from medical equipment at long-term care facilities tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19.

The COVID-19 virus may be spreading at long-term care homes through shared medical equipment.

A Vancouver Coastal Health Authority-led study, released Friday, has found shared equipment such as blood pressure cuffs is at risk of contamination.

Vancouver Coastal Health said once it learned this information, shared blood pressure cuffs and other medical equipment at the sites were replaced with either disposable cuffs or dedicated equipment that is not shared between patients.

VCH collected samples at three long-term care homes during outbreaks of COVID-19 to better understand the extent to which environmental contamination occurs in long-term care settings.

Eighty-nine surfaces were swabbed, including entrances, kitchens, staff communal areas, nursing stations and care areas.

Six of the 89 samples tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19, VCH said in a news release Friday.

In all three facilities, the virus was detected on standard reusable blood pressure cuffs, for a total of four contaminated blood pressure cuffs of nine that were tested.

The virus was also detected on the handle of a mobile linen cart and on the touch display of an electronic tablet used for electronic medication records.

Lead author Atiba Nelson, a public health and preventive medicine resident physician who led the environmental swabbing with a VCH team, said the study was done in sites with known outbreaks and where enhanced cleaning protocols were in place.

“Although more research is needed to determine if this kind of contamination could contribute to transmission of the virus, it did highlight areas of concern,” Nelson said in a statement.

Health officials say while person-to-person transmission is believed to be the primary driver of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, the findings, published this month in the American Journal of Infection Control, suggest medical equipment is a potential route for transmission of the virus.

The authors of the paper recommend enhanced environmental cleaning for all medical equipment or prohibiting communal use of the equipment.

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Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot, 500,000 doses to arrive next week



By Julie Gordon and Allison Martell

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada on Friday approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, including the version produced by the Serum Institute of India, and 500,000 doses are due to arrive next week.

The vaccine is the third to be approved by Health Canada following the December approval of vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc.

“With Pfizer, Moderna, and now AstraZeneca, Canada will get more than 6.5 million doses before the end of March,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters. “And there will be tens of millions more doses to come between April and June.”

Canada has ordered 20 million doses of the vaccine from AstraZeneca, and is due to receive 1.9 million through COVAX – the international initiative set up to provide equitable access to vaccines – in the first half of the year.

On Friday, Canada said it had secured an additional 2 million doses through its agreement with Verity Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc and the Serum Institute of India.

The initial 500,000 doses would arrive in coming weeks and be ready to distribute to provinces and territories, Procurement Canada said. The remaining 1.5 million doses would arrive by mid-May.

Verity Pharmaceuticals Chief Executive Howard Glase said 500,000 doses would arrive in Canada on Wednesday.

While Canada has ordered more COVID-19 vaccine doses per capita any other country, its initial roll-out has been slow in part because of temporary disruptions in deliveries from manufacturers. None of the approved vaccines are made in Canada.

The added doses from the Serum Institute of India are meant to accelerate the inoculation drive and could safeguard against future delays from other manufacturers.

AstraZeneca has told the European Union it expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 doses it was contracted to supply in the second quarter, an EU official said.

Canada has reported 858,217 coronavirus infections and 21,865 deaths since the start of the pandemic about a year ago.

Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults under Health Canada‘s accelerated approval system, saying its efficacy in those over age 65 was supported in part by evidence gathered outside of clinical trials. It said the efficacy of the vaccine was 62.1%.

The United States has not yet approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the European Union has. Germany is only using the product on people under 65.

Trudeau has said repeatedly that every willing resident will be able to get inoculated by the end of September.

“But of course we have seen there can be bumps in the road – things can happen on the manufacturing side,” said Health Minister Patty Hajdu on Friday.

The timing of Health Canada‘s decisions on two other vaccines, produced by Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc, is likely to be “in line with the other major regulators,” said Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at the regulator.

The J&J review is pretty much complete, with some manufacturing information expected on Friday, Sharma said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s expert advisory panel is expected to recommend authorization for J&J’s one-shot vaccine on Friday.


(Reporting by Allison Martell and Julie Gordon, additional reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

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Health Canada approves AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine – Kamloops This Week



OTTAWA — Health Canada decided Friday to authorize the AstraZeneca vaccine and the first half million doses of it will be shipped to Canada next week.

The regulatory team reviewing COVID-19 vaccines said the one by AstraZeneca is both safe and effective and can be used immediately on people over the age of 18.

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“This is very encouraging news,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It means more people vaccinated, and sooner.”

AstraZeneca joins the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines on the list of those authorized in Canada. Clinical trials showed it to be less effective at preventing infection than the first two, but it is still keeping people from getting very sick or dying, said Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada.

Pfizer and Moderna both reported being 95 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 infections in patients who received the vaccine, compared to those who received a placebo. AstraZeneca was 62 per cent effective.

But Sharma said the “key numbers” to examine when looking at all the vaccines Canada has approved or is reviewing is whether they prevented serious illness and death.

“If you look across all the clinical trials of the tens of thousands of people that were involved, the number of cases of people that died from COVID-19, that got vaccine was zero,” she said. “The number of people that were hospitalized because their COVID-19 disease was so severe was zero. The number of people that died because of an adverse event or an effect of the vaccine was zero.”

It’s not entirely clear yet how provinces and territories will incorporate the AstraZeneca vaccine into their vaccination programs, but because it is can be shipped and stored in refrigerators instead of freezers, it is a more flexible option.

Sharma said AstraZeneca’s review process included not only the clinical trial data submitted by the company but also evidence of how the vaccine has been working in the real world. Millions of people in more than 50 countries have now received the vaccine since it was first approved at the end of December.

Canada anticipated getting enough vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to vaccinate three million people by the end of March, 14.5 million people by the end of June, and all 38 million Canadians by the end of September.

The addition of AstraZeneca should quicken that pace.

Canada is getting 24 million doses by September, and as many as one million by the end of March. That includes 20 million directly from AstraZeneca, and made in the United States, between April and September. Another 1.9 million doses made in South Korea and delivered via the vaccine sharing initiative known as COVAX are to come by the end of June, and the first 500,000 of those could be delivered in the next month.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand also said a deal to get another two million doses from the Serum Institute of India was finalized Thursday. Verity Pharmaceuticals, which is facilitating the Serum Institute’s application in Canada, said Friday the first 500,000 will come next week, followed by one million in mid-April, and the rest in early May.

AstraZeneca vaccines are to be given in two doses between four and 12 weeks apart. Sharma said there is some indication that waiting longer provokes a better response, but that data is not yet complete.

There have been some concerns raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent weeks, including how well it works against variants and whether there is enough data to show it works on older individuals.

Several European countries, including Germany and France, limited AstraZeneca to people under the age of 65. Sharma said there were a limited number of people over 65 involved in the clinical trials, but that data, coupled with the real-world experience in the United Kingdom, shows strong evidence seniors are protected.

“When we do the authorization, the question is, for somebody 65 years of age and older, with the benefits of getting the vaccine versus not getting the vaccine, would the benefits outweigh the risk,” she said. “And the answer to that was yes based on all the information that we have.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization will issue guidance for how best to use the vaccine in the next few days, said Sharma. Provinces can then determine how they will incorporate it into their planning.

Canada’s vaccine program is shifting into a higher gear after a month-long slowdown in deliveries due to production issues for Pfizer and Moderna. More than 300,000 people were vaccinated in the last week, almost one-fifth of the total doses injected since the first vaccinations began Dec. 14.

As of Friday afternoon about 700,000 people have received one dose and more than 500,000 are now fully vaccinated with two doses.

The AstraZeneca vaccine works differently than the other two already in use in Canada.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use messenger RNA technology, using RNA encoded with the piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the spike protein. The mRNA trains the body to fight off a COVID-19 infection.

AstraZeneca is a viral vector vaccine, which takes a cold virus, modifies it so it can’t reproduce itself, and adds the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. When injected, it too provokes the body to develop infection-fighting antibodies and cells to fight the virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was meeting Friday to decide whether to authorize the vaccine from Johnson and Johnson, and Sharma said Health Canada was expecting some final data on manufacturing from that company Friday.

An approval for it could soon follow.

A fifth vaccine from Novavax expects to report clinical trial data in April, paving the way for Health Canada to make a decision about it this spring.

Those two vaccines would add another 62 million doses to Canada’s supply.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

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Outbreak over at St. Martin School –



THUNDER BAY — A COVID-19 outbreak at St. Martin School has been declared to be over.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit on Friday said no additional cases have been detected at the school since cases were announced on Feb. 10, Feb. 11 and Feb.22. There has also been no evidence of additional spread at the school.

An outbreak was declared when it was determined cases had been acquired at the Mary Street school.

St. Martin, along with all schools in Thunder Bay, on Monday will pivot to online learning only for a period of two weeks, based on a recommendation issued by the health unit.

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