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Exclusive: New global lab network will compare COVID-19 vaccines head-to-head – The Journal Pioneer

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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – A major non-profit health emergencies group has set up a global laboratory network to assess data from potential COVID-19 vaccines, allowing scientists and drugmakers to compare them and speed up selection of the most effective shots.

Speaking to Reuters ahead of announcing the labs involved, Melanie Saville, director of vaccine R&D at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said the idea was to “compare apples with apples” as drugmakers race to develop an effective shot to help control the COVID-19 pandemic.

The centralised network is the first of its kind to be set up in response to a pandemic.

In a network spanning Europe, Asia and North America, the labs will centralise analysis of samples from trials of COVID-19 candidates “as though vaccines are all being tested under one roof”, Saville said, aiming to minimise the risk of variation in results.

“When you start off (with developing potential new vaccines) especially with a new disease, everyone develops their own assays, they all use different protocols and different reagents – so while you get a readout, the ability to compare between different candidates is very difficult,” she told Reuters.

“By taking the centralised lab approach … it will give us a chance to really make sure we are comparing apples with apples.”

The CEPI network will initially involve six labs, one each in Canada, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and India, Saville said.

Hundreds of potential COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of development around the world, with shots developed in Russia and China already being deployed before full efficacy trials have been done, and front-runners from Pfizer , Moderna and AstraZeneca likely to have final-stage trial results before year-end.

Typically, the immunogenicity of potential vaccines is assessed in individual lab analyses, which aim to see whether biomarkers of immune response – such as antibodies and T-cell responses – are produced after clinical trial volunteers receive a dose, or doses, of the vaccine candidate.

But with more than 320 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the works, Saville said, the many differences in data collection and evaluation methods are an issue.

As well as potential variations in markers of immunity, there are differences in how and where samples are collected, transported and stored – all of which can impact the quality and usefulness of the data produced, and make comparisons tricky.

And with a range of different vaccine technologies being explored – from viral vector vaccines to ones based on messenger RNA – standard evaluation of their true potential “becomes very complex”, she said.

“With hundreds of COVID-19 vaccines in development … it’s essential that we have a system that can reliably evaluate and compare the immune response of candidates currently undergoing testing,” she said.

By centralising the analysis in a lab network, much of what Saville called the “inter-laboratory variability” can be removed, allowing for head-to-head comparisons.

CEPI says all developers of potential COVID-19 vaccines can use the centralised lab network for free to assess their candidates against a common protocol. For now, the network will assess samples from early-stage vaccine candidate testing and first and second stage human trials, but CEPI said it hoped to expand its capacity to late stage (Phase III) trial data in the coming months.

Results produced by the network will be sent back to the developer, with neither CEPI nor the network owning the data.

CEPI itself is co-funding nine of the potential COVID-19 vaccines in development, including candidates from Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax and CureVac.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Mark Potter)

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Two more Toronto hospitals declare COVID-19 outbreaks – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
More Toronto hospitals have declared outbreaks of COVID-19.

The Scarborough Health Network says six patients are infected in one unit at its general hospital in the city’s east end.

A spokeswoman for the health network says the unit has been closed to admissions in order to protect patients and staff.

Leigh Duncan says enhanced infection prevention and control measures are in place in the affected unit.

Meanwhile, the University Health Network is declaring an outbreak at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s University Centre site, with four patients infected at one unit.

Both hospitals join a growing list of Toronto hospitals that have declared an official outbreak, defined as two health-care-related cases of COVID-19 within 14 days.

St. Michael’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health have also declared outbreaks among staff or patients.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2020.

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Ontario reports 841 new coronavirus cases, 9 more deaths – Global News

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Ontario reported 841 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 67,527.

Thursday’s case count is an increase from Wednesday which saw 790 new cases and Tuesday’s at 821. It also marks the second-highest case count ever recorded. Active cases in Ontario now stand at 6,390.

According to Thursday’s provincial report, 335 new cases were recorded in Toronto, 162 in Peel Region, 106 in York Region, 72 in Ottawa and 29 each in Durham and Halton regions.

All other public health units in Ontario reported under 35 new cases.

Read more:
Ontario drivers face higher auto insurance premiums, even in a pandemic

The death toll in the province has risen to 3,071 as nine more deaths were reported. Nine deaths were also reported on Wednesday.

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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said more than 38,900 tests were processed in the last 24 hours. The government has said it hoped to increase testing capacity to 50,000 per day by mid-October.

The per cent positivity for processed tests and positive cases in Thursday’s report was 2.2 per cent, down from yesterday’s at 2.4 and Tuesday’s at 3.4.

However, there is currently a backlog of 34,784 tests that need results. A total of 4,785,832 tests have been completed since the pandemic began.

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Here is a breakdown of the total cases in Ontario by gender and age:

  • 32,426 people are male — an increase of 429 cases.
  • 34,687 people are female — an increase of 417 cases.
  • 6,627 people are 19 and under — an increase of 123 cases.
  • 24,356 people are 20 to 39 — an increase of 318 cases.
  • 19,277 people are 40 to 59 — an increase of 259 cases.
  • 10,281 people are 60 to 79 — an increase of 110 cases.
  • 6,975 people are 80 and over — an increase of 33 cases.

The province notes that not all cases have a reported age or gender.

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The province also notes that the number of cases publicly reported each day may not align with case counts reported by the local public health unit on a given day. Local public health units report when they were first notified of a case, which can be updated and changed as information becomes available.

Meanwhile, 58,066 Ontarians have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, which is 86 per cent of known cases. Resolved cases increased by 741 from the previous day.

Ontario has 270 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 (up by 10 from the previous day), with 74 patients in an intensive care unit (up by three) and 48 patients in ICUs on a ventilator (down by one). All hospitalizations have, overall, increased over the last several weeks.

The newly reported numbers for Thursday’s report are valid as of 2 p.m. Wednesday for Toronto, Ottawa and Middlesex-London public health units, and 4 p.m. Wednesday for the rest of the province.

Read more:
Coronavirus can live on skin for 9 hours, study shows. But experts say not to panic

Ontario child care centres and schools

Meanwhile, government figures show there have been a total of 1,641 school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario — 920 among students and 241 among staff (480 individuals were not identified). This is an increase of 74 more cases from the previous day.

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In the last 14 days, the province indicates there are 444 cases reported among students and 101 cases among staff (250 individuals were not identified) — totaling 795 cases.

The COVID-19 cases are currently from 501 out of 4,828 schools in the province.

Five schools in Ontario are currently closed as a result of positive cases, the government indicated.

There have been a total of 349 confirmed cases within child care centres and homes — an increase of seven (three new child cases and four new staff cases).

Numbers for cases in schools and child care centres is updated weekdays only, at 10:30 a.m.

Ontario long-term care homes

According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there have been 1,910 deaths reported among residents and patients in long-term care homes across Ontario, which is an increase of two since the previous day. Eight health-care workers and staff in long-term care homes have died.

There are 80 current outbreaks in homes, an decrease of six.

The ministry also indicated there are currently 203 active cases among long-term care residents and 243 active cases among staff — down by 13 and up by 17 cases respectively in the last day.

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Kelowna school at centre of COVID-19 outbreak may have to close due to staff shortage, says superintendent – CBC.ca

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The superintendent of the school district at the centre of B.C.’s first COVID-19 school outbreak says the school may have to close while many of its students and staff self-isolate.

About 160 students and staff are staying home after B.C. health officials declared an outbreak Wednesday at Kelowna’s École de l’Anse-au-sable.

Five cases have been confirmed at the school as of Thursday. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said both students and staff have tested positive. 

Interior Health has shut down all classes between pre-kindergarten and Grade 3 at the school, and ordered students and some staff to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Michel St-Amant, the superintendent of School District 93, which oversees all of B.C.’s French-language schools, said the school had to quickly enlist extra staff the day after the outbreak was declared, and that decisions will be made day to day.

“I’m expecting that at one point we’re going to have to make the choice to close the school just because we don’t have enough staff,” he said.

Investigation underway

Henry said health officials are containing the spread to the involved cohort. The timing of the first exposure isn’t known, but the investigation started on Sunday, she said.

Health officials determined someone brought the virus in from outside, and it spread within the school.

Interior Health said students and staff were exposed Oct.13, 14 and 15.

“While it is obviously not what any of us want to see, it is not unexpected as we know COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities,” Henry said. 

Public health teams are on site and piecing together how students and staff were infected, Henry said.

If their investigation finds other exposures, it may mean another cohort might isolate or the school will close, but Henry said those options are unlikely. 

She said the school is working with families to make sure they can continue with lessons. 

‘Best to stay positive’

Brigitte Diemand, who has two kids in grades 2 and 8 at the school, said some parents are surprised that not all students have been asked to stay home, given there are siblings in different grades. 

But she said she’s happy overall with how the school responded.

Brigitte Diemand and her son Joseph, who’s a Grade 8 student at École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Submitted by Brigitte Diemand)

“The school did everything it could to keep our kids safe,” she said.

“And unfortunately, we just happened to get the first case in Kelowna at a school.” 

Her son Joseph, a Grade 8 student, said he’s still waiting on school work, and is filling his time with video games, books and board games. 

“There’s really nothing else we can do, so it’s best to stay positive about it,” he said.

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