Toronto’s top doctor warned Wednesday that Torontonians should brace for more unsettling COVID-19 numbers in 2021 as the city broke above 1,000 daily COVID-19 infections for the first time.
“It is now reasonable that we should brace for an extended period of potentially unsettling and discouraging numbers in terms of COVID-19 infections in Toronto,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said.
Toronto reported a record 1,069 new cases Wednesday, breaking a previous record of 957 cases set just a day earlier.
It marks the fourth record high this month and de Villa said the latest data indicate that the infections are spread out across the city.
“The level of infection is such that every neighborhood in Toronto meets the province’s criteria for Red Zone designation,” de Villa said.
She said while it’s too early to say for sure whether Christmas gatherings played a role in the rising number of infections, data collected in the days leading up to the holiday between Dec. 14-20 indicate that about one in five people who caught the virus had gathered in a private home with people who weren’t members of their household. And that number could be a low estimate.
“Our fear is these results in fact underestimate the degree to which people were mixing over the holidays,” de Villa said.
De Villa noted that since Nov. 8, the city has also seen a 55 per cent increase in the seven-day rolling average for hospitalizations.
She said Toronto Public Health will be introducing new measures for workplaces next week to help reduce the risk of virus spread.
“These steps by Toronto Public Health, are meant to create as much distance and safety as possible while respecting many people need to work, and many businesses are rightly permitted to continue operations in order to provide the goods and services we all need in daily life,” de Villa said.
She also urged people to do their part to stop the spread.
“For all of us, we have no choice but to resolve to keep apart as much as possible to limit further spread at these levels, or at any level,” de Villa said. “It is possible, but it requires resolve, patience and belief. We can make the virus level decline.”
The city also reported four new deaths Wednesday.
At the briefing, Mayor John Tory pointed out that 78 Torontonians have died of COVID-19 since Christmas Eve and he urged people not to gather over New Year’s.
“Imagine losing a loved one at Christmas. Seventy-eight families in Toronto had to endure that this year, and we extend condolences to all of those grieving families,” Tory said. “We are still far from gaining the upper hand with this deadly virus and we have another chance to show how much better we can do at following public health advice with the upcoming New Year’s Eve, and the weekend to follow.”
De Villa urged people not to take the vaccine rollout expected over the course of 2021 as license to stop following infection-prevention measures or to give up based on rising numbers.
“Now is the time to focus on steps for our own self-protection and the protection of others because the risks around us are escalating,” she said. “The next several months cannot be seen as just the stretch of time between vaccine trial results and needles in arms or a period just to be waited out until it’s our turn for the shot.
“We must be active, we must be vigilant, determined and patient while we wait our turn. I urge you to double down on keeping apart.”
She said staying away from others as much as possible is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus and to ultimately bring the numbers down.
“It isn’t impossible and it won’t be easy. We need to be clear on that as we enter the New Year,” de Villa said. “However, it can be done and we can do it. It isn’t a question of if we can. But we have to earn this one.”
TABIB discusses side effects of COVID-19 vaccine – MENAFN.COM
(MENAFN – AzerNews) By Trend
Each vaccine has side effects including headache, mild fever, and sometimes weakness. Initially selected inactivated COVID-19 vaccine has fewer side effects, said Chairman of the Board of the Azerbaijani Management Union of Medical Territorial Units (TABIB) Ramin Bayramli in an interview with “Khazar” TV channel, Trend reports.
Bayramli added that the vaccines used in Azerbaijan have been administered to more than one million doctors in Turkey, with no side effects found
“Each vaccine brought to our country is accepted only after laboratory tests, namely, it undergoes a two-week analysis in the laboratories of the pharmaceutical institution of the Turkish Ministry of Health. We have official information about the successful completion of all tests. As agreed, other lots of vaccine will be delivered in the same way”, he said.
According to him, each person is monitored for 30 minutes after vaccination.
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Pfizer vaccine delay expected to cause 60000-dose shortfall in B.C., but only temporarily – CTV News Vancouver
Health officials in British Columbia are expecting a shortfall of about 60,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine over the coming weeks as a result of the company’s previously announced delays.
That’s about half of the doses the province was expecting to receive over that period.
But provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed Monday that B.C. expects increased shipments in March to make up for those missed doses, and that the province is “still on track” to vaccinate its most vulnerable residents before April.
What the delay means for now is that a “higher proportion” of the province’s vaccine will be going to second doses, Henry added.
“We spent quite a lot of time over this past weekend working through how we could make it work, and then stay true to our commitment to getting those second doses into people as soon as logistically possible,” she said.
The provincial health officer also noted that B.C. was expecting potential delays, and was prepared to pivot as necessary.
“The program continues. Our focus continues to be on immunizing all people who are at the greatest risk, and that includes residents and staff who work in long-term care homes around the province,” Henry said.
As of Monday, 87,346 people have received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine across British Columbia. The province received 46,675 doses over the past week, including 28,275 Pfizer doses and 18,400 Moderna doses, but is expecting decreased shipments into February.
Henry described the Pfizer issues as a “slight delay,” but stressed that the province still intends to dramatically expand the scope of its immunization program in April to include new demographics.
In the meantime, she urged residents to do their best to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following the same precautions and rules they have been for months.
“We have the tools and it is in our control,” Henry added. “Let’s show each other that we remain committed to doing our part to protect our seniors and elders who have not yet had the vaccine.”
The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, leaving experts worried – Global News
The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge.
The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made so far to control the pandemic.
READ MORE: New coronavirus strains — here’s what you need to know
On Friday, the World Health Organization urged more effort to detect new variants. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new version first identified in the United Kingdom may become dominant in the U.S. by March. Although it doesn’t cause more severe illness, it will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths just because it spreads much more easily, said the CDC, warning of “a new phase of exponential growth.”
“We’re taking it really very seriously,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We need to do everything we can now … to get transmission as low as we possibly can,” said Harvard University’s Dr. Michael Mina. “The best way to prevent mutant strains from emerging is to slow transmission.”
So far, vaccines seem to remain effective, but there are signs that some of the new mutations may undermine tests for the virus and reduce the effectiveness of antibody drugs as treatments.
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“We’re in a race against time” because the virus “may stumble upon a mutation” that makes it more dangerous, said Dr. Pardis Sabeti, an evolutionary biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Younger people may be less willing to wear masks, shun crowds and take other steps to avoid infection because the current strain doesn’t seem to make them very sick, but “in one mutational change, it might,” she warned. Sabeti documented a change in the Ebola virus during the 2014 outbreak that made it much worse.
Mutations on the rise
It’s normal for viruses to acquire small changes or mutations in their genetic alphabet as they reproduce. Ones that help the virus flourish give it a competitive advantage and thus crowd out other versions.
In March, just a couple of months after the coronavirus was discovered in China, a mutation called D614G emerged that made it more likely to spread. It soon became the dominant version in the world.
Now, after months of relative calm, “we’ve started to see some striking evolution” of the virus, biologist Trevor Bedford of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle wrote on Twitter last week. “The fact that we’ve observed three variants of concern emerge since September suggests that there are likely more to come.”
One was first identified in the United Kingdom and quickly became dominant in parts of England. It has now been reported in at least 30 countries, including the United States.
Soon afterward, South Africa and Brazil reported new variants, and the main mutation in the version identified in Britain turned up on a different version “that’s been circulating in Ohio … at least as far back as September,” said Dr. Dan Jones, a molecular pathologist at Ohio State University who announced that finding last week.
“The important finding here is that this is unlikely to be travel-related” and instead may reflect the virus acquiring similar mutations independently as more infections occur, Jones said.
That also suggests that travel restrictions might be ineffective, Mina said. Because the United States has so many cases, “we can breed our own variants that are just as bad or worse” as those in other countries, he said.
Treatment, vaccine, reinfection risks
Some lab tests suggest the variants identified in South Africa and Brazil may be less susceptible to antibody drugs or convalescent plasma, antibody-rich blood from COVID-19 survivors — both of which help people fight off the virus.
Government scientists are “actively looking” into that possibility, Dr. Janet Woodcock of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told reporters Thursday. The government is encouraging development of multi-antibody treatments rather than single-antibody drugs to have more ways to target the virus in case one proves ineffective, she said.
U.K. goes into national lockdown, as COVID-19 variant continues spread
Current vaccines induce broad enough immune responses that they should remain effective, many scientists say. Enough genetic change eventually may require tweaking the vaccine formula, but “it’s probably going to be on the order of years if we use the vaccine well rather than months,” Dr. Andrew Pavia of the University of Utah said Thursday on a webcast hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Health officials also worry that if the virus changes enough, people might get COVID-19 a second time. Reinfection currently is rare, but Brazil already confirmed a case in someone with a new variant who had been sickened with a previous version several months earlier.
What to do
“We’re seeing a lot of variants, viral diversity, because there’s a lot of virus out there,” and reducing new infections is the best way to curb it, said Dr. Adam Lauring, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Loyce Pace, who heads the nonprofit Global Health Council and is a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, said the same precautions scientists have been advising all along “still work and they still matter.”
“We still want people to be masking up,” she said Thursday on a webcast hosted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“We still need people to limit congregating with people outside their household. We still need people to be washing their hands and really being vigilant about those public health practices, especially as these variants emerge.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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