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Covid vaccinations to begin this month; gov't buys 34mn doses from Pfizer – Mexico News Daily

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The federal government has struck a deal with the United States pharmaceutical company Pfizer to buy more than 34 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, the first 250,000 of which are expected to arrive in Mexico this month.

The Health Ministry announced on Twitter that Health Minister Jorge Alcocer signed an agreement with Pfizer on Wednesday for the manufacture and supply of 34.4 million doses of the vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech. The vaccine was 95% effective in phase 3 trials and caused no serious safety concerns, Pfizer said in November.

“The expectation is to receive 250,000 doses this month to protect Mexicans,” the Health Ministry said, adding that the inoculation of health workers will be a priority.

President López Obrador said earlier on Wednesday that the government had allocated 20 billion pesos (just under US $1 billion) for an initial purchase of Covid-19 vaccines, adding that Mexico has purchase agreements with companies other than Pfizer.

“The authorization process at [health regulator] Cofepris is being simplified,” he said.

Health Minister Jorge Alcocer signs agreement to purchase the coronavirus vaccine.
Health Minister Jorge Alcocer signs agreement to purchase the coronavirus vaccine.

Mexico’s agreement with Pfizer comes the same day as regulators in the United Kingdom granted emergency authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The rollout in the U.K, the first western nation to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, is scheduled to begin next week, with priority given to the elderly and their caregivers.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard acknowledged the U.K. approval in a Twitter post and said that Cofepris has already received an application for authorization here.

“The United Kingdom has authorized the vaccine developed by Pfizer. In Mexico the regulatory authority (Health Ministry-Cofepris) already has the corresponding application. What many people imagined was impossible is now a reality: vaccination is about to begin in December 2020,” he wrote.

Ebrard said last week that Pfizer would be responsible for transporting the vaccines – which have to be kept at -70 C – to the point at which they will be administered while the Health Ministry will be responsible for inoculation.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, the government’s coronavirus point man, said Tuesday that the military will assist in the vaccination process.

The vaccines ordered will be enough to inoculate 17.2 million people as each person must be given two shots 21 days apart. With only 250,000 doses expected to arrive this month, just 125,000 Mexicans – about 0.1% of the population – will be able to be vaccinated by the end of the year.

Nevertheless, the news that a vaccine is on the way is undoubtedly good news for Mexico, which has been hit harder by the pandemic than most other countries around the world.

The accumulated case tally rose to 1,122,362 on Tuesday with 8,819 new cases reported by the Health Ministry. The total is the 11th highest in the world, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

An additional 825 Covid-19 fatalities registered by health authorities lifted Mexico’s official pandemic death toll to 106,765, the fourth highest in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.

The case tally and death toll are widely believed to be much higher because Mexico has not tested widely for Covid-19.

Source: El Economista (sp), CNN (en) 

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Restaurant owners call on Alberta to release COVID-19 transmission data, ease restrictions – CTV Toronto

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CALGARY —
With personal grooming services now open in Alberta, other industries are pushing the provincial government to reopen next — and they also want the data to back up claims from officials about the source of COVID-19 transmission.

On Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the province eased restrictions based on data showing which industries would be safest to reopen without increasing the spread of the virus. But that information isn’t being shared publicly — at least not yet.

“What we’ve seen is that the number of cases attributed to those environments — restaurants, fitness being the two you specified — are higher than the activities that we have eased open this week,” Hinshaw said.

On Wednesday she said the province was working to release the data “in the coming weeks.”

calgary, alberta, restaurants, businesses, transmi

That’s not good enough, according to people operate businesses in the hospitality industry. Although bars and restaurants can offer food for take out and delivery, dine-in service is not allowed in Alberta.

“It’s an extremely frustrating situation,” said Jeff Jamieson, who is with the Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA) and owns several Calgary restaurants, including Donna Mac and Proof.

“We’ve been repeatedly asking (the province) for data and fact-based rationale,” he said.

Alberta’s contact tracing system does track COVID-19 transmission, but the information made public is limited. Nearly 43 per cent of current cases have an unknown source. The data is not broken down into detail of where specifically the virus was transmitted.

calgary, alberta, restaurants, businesses, transmi

The AHA has a plan it is submitting to the province it believes would allow restaurants and bars to reopen safely, while maintaining proper COVID-19 safety measures.

Jamieson said the province has promised to provide at least a week’s notice for when restaurants can reopen for dine-in service. So far, that hasn’t happened.

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Ottawa to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supply dwindles – CBC.ca

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The City of Ottawa says it has to delay second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for some people who have already received their first shot due to a temporary shortage of vaccines. 

Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency and protective services, said Wednesday some long-term care home and retirement home staff, residents and essential caregivers will have to wait up to 27 days, or nearly a week longer than the 21-day period that’s recommended.

For others who received their first vaccine, they may have to wait up to 42 days, he said. 

The federal government announced on Friday Canada would be getting fewer COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech over the next few weeks because the company has to make changes to a production line in Belgium to grow its manufacturing capacity.

In Ottawa, that means the city will be getting no new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines next week, said Di Monte. The supply the city does have will be focused on ensuring that those who are due for a booster will get their second shot as soon as possible.

The first dose of vaccines have already been administered to more than 92 per cent of long-term care home residents in Ottawa at all 28 facilities. Residents at one at-risk retirement home and one congregant living setting have also been vaccinated, said Di Monte.

“Our next step is to administer the second dose to those individuals who have already received their first dose of the vaccine. Depending on the vaccine supply we receive from the province, which we know will be minimal in the next few weeks, we will then shift our focus to the high-risk retirement homes,” said Di Monte.

Ottawa has 36 high-risk retirement homes and so far, only the one has received doses of the vaccine. 

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, said delays beyond 21-day gap are permitted under guidelines established by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

“The recommendation is of course to follow the dosing schedule as much as we can,” she said. “But in the context of limited supply … jurisdictions can maximize the number of individuals that are getting the benefit from the vaccine by going ahead with the first dose and delaying the second dose.”

While there isn’t data to show what effects waiting up to 42 days may have on the COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, typically delays in booster shots do not affect the durability of vaccines, she said.

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Declining case numbers show Alberta restrictions working, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says – CBC.ca

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Declining numbers of cases and positive tests for COVID-19 in Alberta show that restrictions put in place last year have been effective, the province’s top doctor says.

Alberta reported 21 more COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday and 669 new cases of the illness.

Laboratories conducted about 14,900 tests over the past 24 hours putting the positivity rate at about 4.5 per cent.

“It’s very encouraging to see our positivity rate steadily declining since the peak in December,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday at a news conference. 

“And I would say that the data that we have indicates that the restrictions put in place in November and December have achieved, so far, their intended outcome.”

It’s critical that the province maintain enough restrictions to continue to drive those numbers down, Hinshaw said, given the high number of people still being treated in hospitals.

“We need to build on our collective success by going slowly toward allowing some additional activities and not experiencing a rebound if we open too quickly,” she said.

Hospitalizations remain high

Hospitals in the province are treating 744 patients for the disease, including 124 in ICU beds.

“It is important to remember that it is the number of people currently in hospital that I am providing, not all those who have ever needed hospital care since the spring,” Hinshaw said.

“To put this into context, over the last 10 years, we have had an average of just over 1,500 total hospital admissions for influenza annually. For COVID-19, the comparable number comes from less than a year of data. More than 5,000 people have needed hospital care since the pandemic began for COVID-19 in Alberta.”

A total of 5,086 people with COVID-19 have been treated in hospitals since the pandemic began last March.

That represents about 4.3 per cent of the total cases, which now sits at 118,436.

Of those, 106,387 were listed as recovered and 10,565 were active. 

Of the patients hospitalized with the illness so far, 816 have ended up in ICU beds.

Far greater toll on older people

Slightly more than one per cent of all people infected have died.

Alberta Health data shows the illness has taken a far greater toll on older people. To date, 1,265 of the 1,484 reported deaths (85 per cent) have been people aged 70 and older.

A total of 109,089 people under the age of 70 have contracted the illness. In all, 218 of them have died, a rate of .0.19 per cent.

To date, 9,347 people aged 70 or older have become sick. In all, 1,265 of them have died, a rate of 13.5 per cent.

Older people also have a much higher chance of ending up in hospital. Those in their 20s who contract the illness have about a one in 100 chance of being hospitalized. Those aged 60 and older have about one in six chance.

Here’s a breakdown by age of those who have been infected, and those who had symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization.

  • Under one, 644 cases, 34 hospitalized, 10 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 5.3 per cent)
  • one to four, 3,671 cases, 14 hospitalized, two in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 0.4 per cent)
  • five to nine, 5,094 cases, eight hospitalized, two in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 0.2 per cent)
  • 10 to 19, 13,606 cases, 68 hospitalized, nine in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 0.5 per cent)
  • 20 to 29, 22,025 cases, 241 hospitalized, 25 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 1.1 per cent)
  • 30 to 39, 22,470 cases, 388 hospitalized, 40 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 1.7 per cent)
  • 40 to 49, 18,678 cases, 489 hospitalized, 92 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 2.6 per cent)
  • 50 to 59, 14,075 cases, 721 hospitalized, 164 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 5.1 per cent)
  • 60 to 69, 8,788 cases, 879 hospitalized, 239 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 10.0 per cent)
  • 70 to 79, 4,370 cases, 952 hospitalized, 172 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 21.8 per cent)
  • 80+, 4,977 cases, 1,291 hospitalized, 60 in ICU. (Hospitalization rate, 25.9 per cent)

A total of 95,243 doses of vaccine have been administered in the province.

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