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Drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open at Canada's Wonderland – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Officials north of Toronto said Sunday they are planning to open a vaccination clinic at Canada’s Wonderland.

In an e-mail sent to CTV News, York Region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji, confirmed that they are eyeing to set up drive-through vaccination clinics at the Vaughan amusement park and the Markham Fairgrounds.

Kurji said details are currently being worked out. Canada’s Wonderland is closed but has announced plans to reopen in May if the province gives the green light.

In addition to the two sites, the doctor noted that the region is planning multiple fixed vaccination clinics and mobile clinics as well as an outreach program for areas disproportionally affected by COVID-19.

“Details are currently being finalized for five static vaccination clinic locations to be located in the Town of Newmarket, Town of Georgina, City of Richmond Hill, City of Markham and City of Vaughan,” Kurji said.

“Sites are being chosen based on accessibility criteria, population distribution and vulnerability.”

The doctor noted that the sites are subject to change based on capacity and operational needs.

“The supply of COVID-19 vaccines is not arriving all at once, so distribution is happening in stages,” Kurji said. “When more supplies become available, vaccines will be offered to everyone who wants one in the priority order.”

Other municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area have recently announced their plans to open more clinics as they get ready for mass vaccination once supply improves.

Last week, Toronto officials released the locations of nine clinics that will be used to inoculate residents. Peel Public Health also announced additional vaccination sites in the region as they ramp up preparations for the vaccine rollout.

So far, Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for use. Inoculations in the province have hit a speed bump due to delivery delays and reduction of doses shipped. However, officials said they are expecting thousands of doses to be delivered this week. On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Pfizer will ship four million doses to Canada by the end of March.

The federal government also announced that it ordered four million more doses of the Moderna vaccine, and Pfizer will deliver 10.8 million vaccine doses between April and June.

More than 467,000 doses have been administered in Ontario, and 174,643 people are now fully vaccinated.

– with files from the Canadian Press

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COVID-19 warning: BC called 'the Florida of Canada' by epidemiologist – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
A Harvard-educated epidemiologist with a massive social media following is getting a fresh wave of attention for calling B.C. “the Florida of Canada.”

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding made the comparison in a tweet Wednesday about mask mandates for elementary school students. He’s in favour of them.

B.C. health officials are not, despite several recent exposures to the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus that originated in the U.K. in Lower Mainland schools.

Feigl-Ding was one of the first to warn about COVID-19 and its potential to become a global pandemic. His “Holy Mother of God” tweet in January 2020 was seen as alarmism by many, but he says it was intended as a call for vigilance.

He says his “Florida of Canada” tweet is meant to serve a similar purpose.

“I’m trying to warn people to be vigilant, not trying to mock any location,” Feigl-Ding told CTV News Vancouver in a Zoom interview.

“I want people to be recognizing that there is a concern of rising cases,” he said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry dismissed the comparison during her news conference on the coronavirus Thursday.

“I think in some ways we’re the Florida of Canada in that we have milder winters, but I don’t think in terms of the pandemic that we have many comparisons,” Henry said.

The reaction to the tweet has mostly followed that humorous tone, something Feigl-Ding said he enjoys.

The epidemiologist said he doesn’t regret making the comparison, but is frustrated by what he sees as the misinterpretation of his warning.

“The implication is, how aggressively are we moving?” Feigl-Ding said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Bhinder Sajan 

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Coronavirus: Health Canada approves two AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Health Canada has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and a related shot by the Serum Institute of India for use in this country with the first doses expected to arrive soon.

Canada joins more than a dozen other countries that have given the green light to ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the shot from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which was among the first buzzed-about vaccine candidates in 2020.

A version of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the Indian pharmaceutical company Serum Institute of India and sponsored by Verity Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Canada has also been approved for use and is considered a separate vaccine by Health Canada.

The two-dose vaccines have been approved for use in people 18 years of age and older, including seniors, with the recommendation that the second dose be administered between four and 12 weeks after the first, officials said Friday.

“This is very encouraging news. It means more people vaccinated and sooner,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a press conference on Friday.

“We’re ready to get doses rolling… With Pfizer, Moderna and now AstraZeneca, Canada will get to more than 6.5 million doses by the end of March.”​

AstraZeneca has promised 20 million doses to Canada, with the federal government saying it’s been in talks with AstraZeneca about locking in shipments as soon as the regulatory green light was given.

As well, up to 500,000 doses could be sent to Canada by the end of March as part of the global vaccine-sharing program known as COVAX.

The inoculants, which are the third and fourth approved COVID-19 vaccines in Canada, is considered to be relatively cheap and easy-to-store, a factor that sets it apart from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines already in circulation. AstraZeneca has reached agreements with international health bodies and governments to price each dose at about US$2.50. Doses of the AstraZeneca shot can be stored at temperatures between 2 C to 8 C, while the other two require ultra-cold freezers.

“The big, big thing that makes this different than other vaccines, which is a huge, huge advantage, is that it can be stored at refrigeration temperature,” Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at McMaster University, told CTV News Channel on Friday. 

“For a vaccine rollout to go to remote areas, to go to homeless shelters, to go to places that can’t tolerate even a -20 C fridge, this is going to be an incredible tool.”

The newly approved vaccines are the first “viral vector-based vaccines” for COVID-19 to be approved in Canada. This type of vaccine, which uses a modified cold virus commonly found in chimpanzees, has been in use for decades, said Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, on Friday.

Viral vector vaccines use a “harmless modified version of a different virus — the vector — to deliver instructions to our cells,” she said. “The cells begin to mark proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19, which then prompts the body to develop an immune response.”

The Pfizer and Moderna shots are both messenger RNA technology, which provide a kind of “instruction booklet” for cells to make antigens.

EFFICACY CONCERNS

The AstraZeneca vaccine has already faced efficacy concerns as variants of the novel coronavirus pop up around the world. In South Africa, officials suspended plans to use the shot on health-care workers after a clinical trial indicated it is less effective against the B.1.351 variant predominant in that country.

In France, the vaccine is only being administered to people under the age of 65, as officials cited a lack of data about its efficacy for older people. While Health Canada acknowledged Friday that the clinical trial data was limited for seniors, officials said blood tests showed people over 65 still produced COVID-19 antibodies after vaccination. Plus, the “real world evidence and post-market experience” in countries that have been using the AstraZeneca vaccine showed “a potential benefit and no safety concerns” in seniors.

CTV News Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said people concerned about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccines should look to a regular flu season for some “perspective.”

“A great match between a circulating flu strain and the vaccine in a given year might not exceed 60 per cent. If the flu vaccine is delivered widely in the community, we see dramatic reduction in every bad outcome,” he told CTV News Channel on Friday.

“This [AstraZeneca trial] was a multinational trial in five countries and there wasn’t a single death or a single episode of really severe disease really attributable to the vaccine, [which] did a great job in reducing both of those very important metrics. 

While federal health regulators received the application for authorization from Verity and Serum Institute on Jan. 23, they were reviewing the AstraZeneca vaccine for nearly five months in collaboration with the European Medicines Agency. In early February, health officials said they were going back and forth with AstraZeneca about what information the vaccine label will include and cited ongoing trials in the U.S. as one of the reasons the review process for the jab had been “complicated.”

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV’s Rachel Aiello 

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Health Canada approves use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine – CBC.ca

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Health Canada has approved use of the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, clearing the way for millions of more inoculations in Canada.

Canada’s regulatory experts had been assessing the submission from AstraZeneca and Oxford University for safety and efficacy since October, and announced their approval Friday morning.

“AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine is indicated for active immunization of individuals 18 years of age and older for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019,” reads their website.

“The efficacy of the vaccine was estimated to be 62.1 per cent. Overall, there are no important safety concerns and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants.”

Canada has secured access to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Some jurisdictions, notably France, have restricted the vaccine to people under the age of 65 despite the World Health Organization’s insistence that the product is safe and effective for all age groups. Health Canada said it has no immediate safety concerns for those 65 and older.

‘Potential benefit’

The regulator said the clinical trial results “were too limited to allow a reliable estimate of vaccine efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older.”

“Efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older is supported by immunogenicity data, emerging real world evidence and post-market experience in regions where the vaccine has been deployed, which suggest at this point in time a potential benefit and no safety concerns,” said the approval.

“Efficacy in this age group will be updated as additional data becomes available from currently ongoing trials.”

Health officials are expected to give a technical briefing on the approval at 10 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, members of his cabinet along with Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy Dr. Howard Njoo will give an update at 11:30 a.m. ET. CBC News will carry it live.

Regulator still reviewing 2 other vaccine candidates 

Earlier this week, Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, told the House of Commons health committee that the regulator has received all the necessary scientific information from the company but was still looking into questions about labelling and the product monograph — the information disseminated by Health Canada to medical professionals about how and when a vaccine should be administered and in what groups.

Health Canada has approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are already being rolled out in Canada.

Unlike those two shots, which are based on mRNA technology, the AstraZeneca uses more conventional viral vector technology.

Health Canada is reviewing two other vaccines: one from Johnson & Johnson and another from Novavax.

Other countries — notably Australia, the European Union and the United Kingdom —  have already authorized AstraZeneca for use in their jurisdictions.

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