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COVID-19 shots for school? What needs to happen to get kids in Canada immunized – CBC.ca

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Parents and children wanting to know when COVID-19 vaccines could roll out to Canada’s youngest people recently got a glimpse at the answers.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said it is “likely that Pfizer, if all the data is fine, may be the first” vaccine that children and teens could receive.

Pfizer and BioNTech said in a media release on Wednesday that their COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, is safe with “demonstrated 100 per cent efficacy” in preventing the disease in those aged 12 to 15.

The data hasn’t been peer reviewed or scrutinized by regulators like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada.

In the trial of 2,260 adolescents, there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the group that got a placebo shot and none among those who received the vaccine.

Side-effects were similar to those reported in clinical trials in adults, such as pain at the injection site, headaches, fever and fatigue.

WATCH | Pfizer’s early data on vaccine for kids:

Pfizer-BioNTech says its vaccine is safe and showed 100 per cent efficacy in a clinical trial of 12- to 15-year-olds. Health officials say more data is needed, but parents are optimistic about the results. 2:03

Sharma said Health Canada will review Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine data on younger teens “in a couple of weeks.” Full data, including on children aged six to 12, is expected in months.

Any approvals will only come after the regulator checks the data for safety, efficacy and quality.

Pfizer’s vaccine has been cleared for people as young as 16 in Canada.

Dr. Noni MacDonald, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax who researches vaccine safety, said Pfizer’s research is a “bridging study.”

In a bridging study, researchers check if antibody and cell-based immune responses are equivalent to what’s seen in adults. For Pfizer, they were.

“The results are really very encouraging,” MacDonald said.

Protection for all Canadians

Moderna is also conducting a clinical trial in Canada for children aged five to 11. The results are expected early in 2022. The company also launched a trial in those aged six months to less than 12 in the U.S. in March. 

Johnson & Johnson, which recently won approval for its vaccine in adults in Canada and the U.S., expanded its Phase 2 trial for those aged 12 to 17 and plans to include younger children.

 AstraZeneca launched a similar trial in February

But it’s only when vaccines roll out in the real world to children with diabetes, heart disease and other underlying conditions that answers on effectiveness will be clearer.

“We want to protect everybody in our community, even those who cannot be immunized or will not respond to the vaccine,” MacDonald said. “To do that, we need children, we need teenagers, we need young adults, we need middle-aged adults and we need older people.”

Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie working on COVID-19 vaccines at the VIDO lab in Saskatoon, said she’s excited about how the vaccines could help children return to school and sports.

“Children can be infected with the virus and pass on the virus,” Kelvin said. “Even though we might not see clinical disease in kids or the clinical disease might not be as severe as in adults, it’s really important that children are not able to be part of the transmission chain.”

MacDonald hopes vaccines could be ready for younger teens by September, in time for mass immunization programs in school.

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Molson Coors’ JV Truss launches 6 pot-infused drinks in Canada

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(Reuters) – Miller Lite beer-maker Molson Coors Beverage Co’s cannabis joint venture Truss Beverage Co on Wednesday launched six pot-infused beverages in Canada, as it hopes that summer demand will offset recent sales hits from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Coronavirus restrictions in major provinces including Ontario have forced weed stores to shut for extended periods, and are expected to hit cannabis companies’ results for the March quarter.

The summer season, which tends to represent peak demand for beverages, will be crucial for companies to undo the damage.

Truss, jointly run by Canadian pot producer Hexo Corp, launched five CBD-infused beverage brands in August last year and claims to have already won a 43% market share in the category in Canada. (https://bit.ly/3wThh2D)

“Summer … is the biggest opportunity for the beverage category; it is the inflection point for consumers to try out our products,” Truss Beverage’s Chief Executive Scott Cooper told Reuters in an interview.

“Cannabis-infused beverages are still new and tend to be an impulsive purchase, so having the store open is important to the trial and awareness of the category,” he added.

Truss said its latest beverage line included watermelon, lemonade, sparkling tonic and honey green iced tea flavors, and are expected to be rolled out to retailers over the next few months.

 

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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Canadian retail titan W. Galen Weston dies at 80

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(Corrects April 13 story to remove references to Primark in paragraph 3 and what had been paragraph 6, to reflect that Primark is actually owned by a different Weston family)

By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) -W. Galen Weston, patriarch of one of Canada‘s wealthiest families and retail titan, has died at age 80, according to a statement by the family on Tuesday.

Weston was the third generation of his family to lead George Weston Limited, an already-prosperous retail empire founded by his grandfather, which he expanded significantly.

The family company, now run by his son, Galen Weston, owns Selfridges in the United Kingdom, as well as the Canadian grocery chain Loblaw Co Ltd, pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart, and real estate company Choice Properties.

Weston passed away peacefully at home after a long illness, the statement said.

He was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and moved to Dublin at 21 to escape a domineering father, the Irish Times reported in 2014, where he met his wife, Irish model Hilary Frayne. They married in 1966.

In the 1970s Weston returned to his family’s base of operations, Canada, to revive the family’s struggling Loblaws supermarket chain, and helped turn it into one of the largest food distributors in the country.

“In our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy,” Galen Weston, chairman and CEO of George Weston Ltd, said in a statement.

“The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary,” Alannah Weston, Weston Sr.’s daughter and chairman of Selfridges Group, said.

The Weston family is among the wealthiest in Canada, with Forbes estimating their total wealth at $8.7 billion.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in VancouverEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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Canada’s migrant farmworkers remain at risk a year into pandemic

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Pedro, a Mexican migrant worker, knew he had to leave the Ontario cannabis operation where he worked when so many of his coworkers caught COVID-19 that his employer began to house them in a 16-person bunk house alongside the uninfected.

Pedro moved in with friends in the nearby farming town of Leamington, Ontario, at the end of October. He asked to be identified under a pseudonym because he fears that speaking out will affect his chances of employment.

“I didn’t know where to go, where to get help. So I was left behind, hopeless,” he said, speaking through a translator. About a week later, Pedro landed another job, working with peppers in a greenhouse. Conditions are better, he said.

But he added: “To be honest, I don’t think all employers are taking precautions.”

Pedro is one of about 60,000 migrant farmworkers – many from Central America and the Caribbean – who come to Canada as part of an annual migration of people that ramps up in spring. They grow and harvest the country’s food supply and have continued to work in the midst of a pandemic.

They feed the country and are a crucial part of a C$68.8 billion ($54.8 billion) sector, making up about one-fifth of the country’s agricultural workforce, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

As the pandemic crippled travel last year, agricultural employers were unable to fill one-fifth of the temporary foreign worker positions they needed, costing Canadian farmers C$2.9 billion due to labour shortages, according to research commissioned by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

These workers are also uniquely at risk. They live and work in crowded settings, and language barriers coupled with precarious immigration status tied to their employment prevent them from speaking out about unsafe conditions.

Last year they were hit hard by COVID-19, with 8.7% of migrants in Ontario testing positive. This year they are returning as Canada is in the grip of a third wave. While governments and employers say they are taking steps to keep these workers safe, advocates and workers contacted by Reuters say the dangers remain – except that now, those dangers are known.

Graphic on COVID-19 global tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/

SAME CRISIS

Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, argues the same factors that made workers more vulnerable to COVID-19 last year – crowded workplaces, congregate living, visas that tie them to an employer and make them fearful of speaking out – still exist.

“We are walking into the same crisis yet again, the only difference being that we already know how bad it is.”

Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said employers are doing their best, but some transmission of the virus will occur.

“Because they’re living on the farm, they’re in contact with each other when they’re working … despite all our efforts, it spreads. Just like it does elsewhere in society.”

Some 760 farmworkers have been infected so far this year in Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, according to provincial data. Ontario put agriculture workers in Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccinations, which begins this month, and has set up a clinic at Toronto’s airport offering vaccines to migrants on arrival.

But advocates worry migrant workers might lack requisite identification, especially if they are undocumented.

Advocates argue not enough is being done to keep these workers safe from the pandemic. They say rules such as the requirement to get – and pay for – a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of coming to Canada place an undue logistical and financial burden on migrants.

Last month the federal government announced new measures meant to protect migrant agricultural workers, including beefed-up inspections.

But the migrants interviewed by Reuters argued what will protect them is more stable status that does not tie them to an employer.

“Hopefully this year, the government of Canada gives us status,” said Teresa, a migrant worker from Baja California.

($1 = 1.2559 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis)

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