OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by phone Thursday, the same day the company informed Canada delays to its shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are going to be even worse than previously thought.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last week a factory expansion at Pfizer’s Belgium plant was going to slow production, cutting Canada’s deliveries over four weeks in half.
In exchange, Pfizer expects to be able to ship hundreds of millions more doses worldwide over the rest of 2021.
Tuesday, Fortin said Canada would receive 80 per cent of the previously expected doses this week, nothing at all next week, and about half the promised deliveries in the first two weeks of February.
Thursday, he said the doses delivered in the first week of February will only be 79,000, one one-fifth of what was once expected. Fortin doesn’t know yet what will come the week after, but overall, Canada’s doses over three weeks are going to be just one-third of what had been planned.
Trudeau has been under pressure to call Bourla, as the delayed doses force provinces to cancel vaccination appointments and reconsider timing for second doses.
Fortin said some provinces may be hit even harder than others because of limits on the way the Pfizer doses can be split up for shipping. The vaccine is delicate and must be kept ultra frozen until shortly before injecting it. The company packs and ships specialized coolers, with GPS thermal trackers, directly to provincial vaccine sites.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week he doesn’t blame the federal government for the dose delays but wanted Trudeau to do more to push back about it.
“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives.
Trudeau informed Ford and other premiers of the call with Bourla during a regular teleconference to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Thursday, all calls between the federal cabinet and Pfizer had been handled by Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Ford also spoke to Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow Wednesday.
Trudeau didn’t suggest the call with Bourla made any difference to the delays, and noted Canada is not the only country affected.
Europe, which on the weekend thought its delayed doses would only be for one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to Bourla, now seems poised to be affected longer. Italy is so angry it is threatening to sue the U.S.-based drugmaker for the delays.
Mexico said this week it is only getting half its expected shipment this week and nothing at all for the next three weeks. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also reported delays getting doses. Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said more countries were affected but wouldn’t say which ones.
Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March and that is not going to change with the delay. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over 7 1/2 weeks to meet that commitment.
Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.
Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.
Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.
Indonesia approves free COVID-19 vaccine drive by private companies – Arab News
JAKARTA: The Indonesian government on Friday said it would allow private companies to run coronavirus vaccination programs for workers and families alongside a nationwide drive to expedite efforts in achieving herd immunity.
The country is aiming to inoculate 181.5 million people out of the total 270 million population by year-end.
“The companies will provide the vaccines for free for workers,” Siti Nadia Tarmizi, health ministry spokesperson for the vaccination program, said during a press conference.
Tarmizi added that the ministry’s revised regulation, which serves as the main reference for the vaccination program, was issued on Wednesday to include articles regulating the private sector’s involvement in the vaccination drive.
“The number of vaccines distributed in the private-run program will match the number that the companies requested, and the inoculations will be conducted at private healthcare facilities or the companies’ own facilities,” Tarmizi said.
Additionally, the vaccines used in the program will be different from the free CoronaVac, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Pfizer vaccines that the government has distributed since mid-January.
While initial population targets included health workers, senior citizens, frontline public workers, teachers and lecturers, athletes, journalists, and lawmakers, the general population or those in their productive age will receive their first vaccine jab in April.
The private scheme, which the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) proposed, will require companies to purchase the vaccine from Bio Farma, a state-owned vaccine manufacturer appointed as the sole importer for all jabs that Indonesia procures.
Bio Farma spokesperson Bambang Heriyanto said the company is in discussions with Moderna and Sinopharm to procure vaccines for the private scheme, which has been dubbed “Gotong Royong,” an Indonesian term for mutual cooperation.
“In accordance with its name, this is a mutual cooperation initiative. The government will provide a space for any members of society that will want to assist the government in the vaccination program,” Arya Sinulingga, a spokesperson for the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, said on Friday.
He added that the private drive will run in parallel with the government’s program and will not alter the existing schedule or priority groups being targeted.
Kadin said that about 7,000 companies had already registered for the vaccination drive as of Saturday.
“The enthusiasm is really high to take part in this program because it is quite costly for the companies to swab test regularly. It is better for the companies to allocate the cost to vaccinate their workers,” Shinta Kamdani Widjaja, Kadin deputy chairwoman, said at a press conference earlier this week.
She dismissed concerns that the program will commercialize vaccines, saying the government would closely monitor the program to avoid any violations of terms and conditions.
“There are also companies that are willing to vaccinate not only their workers, but also their families. It would be difficult for the economy to recover if we don’t achieve the herd immunity target. The business community is ready to support the government in the vaccination drive and economic recovery program,” Widjaja said.
However, opponents of the scheme said the private vaccination drive will “only enable queue jumpers who don’t really need the vaccine compared with the more vulnerable groups, and disregard the principle of equity for all citizens in a vaccination program.”
Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist, said in an online discussion: “There is also no guarantee that we will achieve herd immunity by inoculating 181.5 million people. This could be misleading the public and making them have the wrong expectation.
“This is also prone to make the government, the companies, and the public relax its compliance to the health protocols, testing, tracing and treatment,” Budiman added.
He said that achieving herd immunity is a long-term goal and that the vaccination drive could not stand alone in battling the pandemic without a comprehensive public health approach.
Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, agreed and said that the private vaccination program focused mainly on economic recovery targets instead of controlling the pandemic.
“It is clear from the start that the government does not view the vaccine as one of the ways to handle the pandemic, but it has been more about economic recovery,” Riono said.
Trivia night that led to Burnaby daycare outbreak linked to 300 COVID-19 cases: Dr. Henry – Vancouver Is Awesome
A pub trivia night that led to an outbreak at Burnaby’s largest daycare has resulted in more than 300 COVID-19 cases, Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news conference Thursday.
B.C.’s provincial health officer provided the number as she described the complex series of factors she is monitoring before she can decide whether to loosen or tighten restrictions in the coming days.
Among the issues she is watching is the recent “uptick” in the reproductive rate of COVID-19 transmission, which she said has been above one in Fraser Health and the Vancouver Coastal health region, as well the percentage of test positive cases, which is 8% in Fraser Health compared to 6.7% in the rest of B.C.
“It’s like a tree that keeps growing and spreading, but we need to keep cases low and slow so we can control that. We are continuing to watch these indicators and when we have confidence that they are slowing in a sustained way, that is when we will be able to ease restrictions,” Henry said.
The exposure at St. James’s Well in Port Moody was flagged by Fraser Health, which resulted in the pub being closed for several days and WorkSafeBC conducting an investigation requiring the pub to update its COVID-19 safety plan by adding supervised daily health checks for its 28 workers. The pub also implemented a policy requiring patrons to wear masks in any space shared with workers or other members of the public.
That exposure was linked to an outbreak at the SFU Childcare Society on Burnaby Mountain, with at least 28 cases in staff and children.
A representative from B.C.’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees told The Tri-City News the transmission at the Newport Village pub occurred when an asymptomatic patron left their table and interacted with another group.
Health officials have never named the pub, but St. James’s Well was identified on the Fraser Health website when it listed the exposure notification and asked people to self-monitor for symptoms.
The exposure event remains on the website.
While not naming the Port Moody pub, Henry said a pub she talked about before was responsible for hundreds of COVID-19 cases.
“We talked last week about the event of a pub. That led to over 300 people being affected, including transmission in a day care, transmission in a school, transmission in a number of other workplaces and in families.
“These are the chains of transmission we need to stop as soon as we can and that’s why we pay attention to not only the overall numbers and how they’re moving, but numbers in different communities and where those transmission events are happening,” Henry said.
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine reduces transmission after one dose – UK study – Reuters
LONDON (Reuters) – A single dose of Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine cuts the number of asymptomatic infections and could significantly reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, results of a UK study found on Friday.
Researchers analysed results from thousands of COVID-19 tests carried out each week as part of hospital screenings of healthcare staff in Cambridge, eastern England.
“Our findings show a dramatic reduction in the rate of positive screening tests among asymptomatic healthcare workers after a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” said Nick Jones, an infectious diseases specialist at Cambridge University Hospital, who co-led the study.
After separating the test results from unvaccinated and vaccinated staff, Jones’ team found that 0.80% tests from unvaccinated healthcare workers were positive.
This compared with 0.37% of tests from staff less than 12 days post-vaccination – when the vaccine’s protective effect is not yet fully established – and 0.20% of tests from staff at 12 days or more post-vaccination.
The study and its results have yet to be independently peer-reviewed by other scientists, but were published online as a preprint on Friday.
This suggests a four-fold decrease in the risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 infection amongst healthcare workers who have been vaccinated for more than 12 days, and 75% protection, said Mike Weekes, an infectious disease specialist at Cambridge University’s department of medicine, who co-led the study.
The level of asymptomatic infection was also halved in those vaccinated for less than 12 days, he said.
Britain has been rolling out vaccinations with both the Pfizer COVID-19 shot and one from AstraZeneca since late December 2020.
“This is great news – the Pfizer vaccine not only provides protection against becoming ill from SARS-CoV-2, but also helps prevent infection, reducing the potential for the virus to be passed on to others,” Weeks said. “But we have to remember that the vaccine doesn’t give complete protection for everyone.”
Key real-world data published on Wednesday from Israel, which has conducted one of the world’s fastest rollouts of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, showed that two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.
Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by David Goodman and Jane Merriman
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