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Federal government has plans on how to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine and who gets it first – Fort McMurray Today

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The advisory committee recommended those over 70 be first in line for the vaccine, followed by health care professionals and then essential workers

OTTAWA  – Ending COVID-19’s assault on Canada will require an effective vaccine and the government has already decided who will get it first and is looking to set up a massive logistics operation to deliver it across the country.

Earlier this week, the arm’s length National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended elderly people, specifically those over 70, be first in line for the vaccine, followed by health care professionals and then essential workers like police, firefighters and grocery store employees.

It also suggests making sure the vaccine is available early to people in close quarter facilities, like meat-packing facilities, prisons and homeless shelters where the virus has been able to spread quickly.

In a statement this week, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said she was confident that Canadians will understand that some people have to be at the front of the line.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have seen people come together to protect those most at risk,” she said. “We know Canadians will understand the need to prioritize some groups during the early weeks of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out until there is enough vaccine for everyone who wants it.”

The advisory committee also recommended the government take into account how quickly and where the virus is spreading when the vaccines become available and whether some vaccine candidates may be more effective in certain populations.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist in Hamilton, Ont., said given their mortality rates to the virus, putting the elderly first makes sense.

“If you’re gonna put bang for the buck, for the people that are gonna deal with the brunt of the disease that need an intervention now, it’s going to be that,” he said.

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He said vaccinating everyone in long-term care homes for example won’t solve the problem, but it will be a major benefit to the people living there.

“Anything is better than nothing and if you roll it out correctly, even a small supply can have very profound implications for a locked-off population,” he said.

The advisory committee also recommends considering potentially targeting people with specific conditions, like obesity and heart disease, for early vaccination, but says there is still a need for more evidence before settling on a policy like that.

Chagla said they know that older, obese people often do poorly with the virus, but it is not universal.

“We still don’t know why one 50-year-old who’s obese goes to the ICU and the other 50 year old doesn’t,” he said.

He said one thing that could be worth considering as a vaccine rolls out is targeting people that have been identified as potential superspreaders. He said early research has shown most infected people spread the virus in a limited fashion, while others spread it aggressively, so called superspreaders.

Our anticipated delivery schedules are in line with the EU, Japan, Australia, and other jurisdictions

He said prioritizing those people might do a lot to bring down overall cases.

“if you prioritize that group, even though it seems counterintuitive, because they’re the healthiest? Would you get a significant amount more of community control.”

Through one-off deals and the government involvement in the COVAX facility, an international partnership, Canada potentially has access to a dozen vaccine candidates, but no vaccine has so far cleared clinical trials.

The logistical challenge of shipping millions of doses of vaccine are also on the government’s mind and companies have until Monday to respond to a tender for the project with the government planning to award a contract before the end of the month.

Monday’s deadline is for companies to indicate how they will meet the government’s demands, with further negotiations on price to come if the firms can prove they can actually do the job.

The scale of the project is immense with more than 300 million potential vaccine doses set to be sent to the provinces and territories beginning as soon as January and running well into 2022. The rollout of the flu vaccine this month in Ontario has led to shortages as more people than normal seek a shot.

Some of the vaccines will be delivered to Canada, while others have to be picked up from pharmaceutical companies in Europe. The government wants the winning bidder to have warehouse space all over the country, enough to be able to quickly move the vaccine to places where it is needed.

The government said it is confident Canadians will be getting deliveries on the same timeline as our allies provided the vaccines meet Health Canada’s approval.

“Canada’s proactive approach to securing access to a diversity of COVID-19 vaccine candidates has put us in a strong position, with first deliveries on track to arrive during the beginning of 2021,” said Procurement Minister Anita Anand in a statement. “Our anticipated delivery schedules are in line with the EU, Japan, Australia, and other jurisdictions.”


Canada potentially has access to a dozen vaccine candidates, but no vaccine has so far cleared clinical trials.

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

All of the vaccine candidates have to be kept cold adding another layer of complexity to the process. Up to 20 million doses of one Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for example have to be kept below -80C, while the company is handling distribution of that vaccine the government is arranging regular deliveries of dry ice to keep it cold.

Another 56 million doses of vaccine will have to be kept frozen at around -20C and then an additional 200 million doses need to be kept between 2C and 8C. The government is looking for the winning bidder to be able to provide refrigerated warehouses and a detailed inventory tracking system to handle it all.

Prashant Yadav, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and an expert on health care logistics, said the challenge of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine will be unlike anything governments have had to deal with.

“It is like setting up Amazon Prime type of daily delivery capabilities nationwide, but not over a four-year planning horizon,” he said.

Proposal documents show the government is looking to have a contract with one entity to handle the full process, leaving the potential for companies to team up into consortiums.

A briefing for the project was attended by airlines like WestJet and Air Canada, shipping firms like FedEx and Purolator and pharmacies like Shoppers Drug Mart. The government wants whoever wins the bid to be ready to go by Dec. 15. and to have systems in place to track deliveries.

Yadav said it will be difficult for a single company to have the tools and expertise for the whole process and he suspects companies will work together.

“Those are the kinds of mixes and matches that need to happen and the combinations of how people will come together to offer the best solution.”

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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People to thank for Ottawa's success with curbing COVID-19: health officer – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise across Canada, the infection rate in Ottawa has been going in the other direction for weeks, putting the city on the right track to flatten the curve of the pandemic once again.

The city’s chief medical officer, Dr. Vera Etches, said much of the credit goes to the people who live here, who have been wearing masks — in some cases, such as on public transit, forced to do so earlier than others across Canada — and staying at home. 

There was a time in early October when Ottawa, despite its initial success flattening the curve in the spring, experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases that saw the city have double the number of cases seen in Toronto and Peel Region at that time. Now the number of new cases is once again much lower than in those areas.

There were 55 new COVID-19 cases in Ottawa on Friday, which represents a bigger daily jump from earlier in the week but still puts the city at 5.89 new cases per 100,000 people. Toronto, meanwhile, reported 18.08 new cases per 100,000 people on Friday and in Peel Region it was 37.42 new cases per 100,000.

“It’s really thanks to the people in Ottawa, and thanks to the employers and others who are doing their part to make it possible,” Etches told a news conference this week, adding that people increased their distance from others, wore masks and stayed home when they were sick.

“These are the things that actually can bring COVID down in a community.”

Etches said Ottawa Public Health emphasized the importance of wearing masks early on in the pandemic and in June, the city became the first in Canada to make them mandatory on public transit.

“Building a new behaviour, a new culture where you always have a mask with you when you go out, that’s been in place a little bit longer, that might have helped,” she said.

Meanwhile, employers in Ottawa, a city of just over one million people, enabled people to follow the advice of public health officials by allowing them to work from home, and stay home when they were sick, more than in other cities, she said.

Twenty-four per cent of workers in Ottawa work in public administration jobs, according to Ottawa Employment Hub, the local workplace planning board. Some 120,000 people in the National Capital Region, which includes nearby Gatineau, Que., work for the federal government, which has allowed most of its employees to work from home since March.

“The federal government is leading by example,” said Lavagnon Ika, a professor of project management at the University of Ottawa.

He said managers and directors at the government were often reluctant to allow people to work remotely before the pandemic, but that has changed. “Because of COVID-19, people have learned (how) to make it work,” he said

Ika said information technology companies in Ottawa have also been allowing their employees to work remotely because they already have the technology to do so and their employees are trained to use it.

“If you don’t have a centralized information system for all your teams, it’s not possible to work at a distance,” he said. “I’m talking about the video conferencing tools and artificial-intelligence assistance tools.”

He said some of the high-tech companies in Ottawa had employees working remotely and customers from all over the world before COVID-19, listing homegrown e-commerce giant Shopify as one of them. “They badly need remote work because of a geographical distribution of some of their team members and their clients,” Ika said.

The well-integrated health care system in eastern Ontario has also helped in responding to the pandemic efficiently, said Dr. Robert Cushman, the acting medical director of health for the Renfrew County and District Health Unit near Ottawa.

“What you’ve seen in Ottawa, for example, is there’s very close work between the hospitals, and the public health unit and the city, and this extends out into the peripheral areas,” said Cushman, who was Ottawa’s chief medical officer from 1996 to 2005.

“We’ve been working together on this since the beginning,” he said. “There’s a lot of cohesion.”

Having all the hospital labs working together through a regional association when it comes to testing COVID-19 is another factor, Cushman said, as efficient testing is key to aggressive and thorough tracing of how the novel coronavirus spreads through contacts.

“Is your lab turnaround time sufficiently short so that you can actually catch up and even get ahead of this?” he said, adding that it has been challenging to do this across Canada and even in the rest of Ontario. “If you’re waiting six days for a test, I mean, this virus can get into a second (or) a third generation.”

There were plenty of stories about long lineups at COVID-19 testing sites in Ottawa in September once children headed back to school, but that has also improved, including through the ability to book testing appointments online.

Cushman said he also believes people in Ottawa tend to trust the public health unit and health professionals, which leads to more people following their guidelines.

“There’s a community spirit here to do the right thing,” he said.

But Etches warned people in Ottawa not to relax too much as COVID-19 cases in the city decline. She was speaking Tuesday, when Ottawa reported 19 new cases. On Friday, there were 55 new COVID-19 cases reported.

“We think we’re on the right track, but it’s very tenuous,” said Etches, who is telling families to celebrate Christmas and other seasonal holidays with only people in their immediate households to avoid potential COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Ottawa Public Health has had the highest rate of COVID in early October and we can go back there again.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020

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Saskatchewan doctors told COVID-19 cases could double by December – Preeceville Progress

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REGINA — Health experts have warned doctors in Saskatchewan that COVID-19 cases could climb to more than 10,000 by early next month.

The Ministry of Health on Friday released a presentation delivered to physicians at a town-hall meeting the night before about the virus’s current spread and possible trajectory.

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Information updated to Nov. 20 indicates that, based on the recent average rise in positive tests, the caseload could hit 10,000 in the first week of December if there is no further intervention.

The province on Friday reported 329 new cases for a total of more than 7,600 infections since the pandemic arrived in March. There were more than 3,200 active cases — more than 1,000 of them in and around Saskatoon.

There were four new deaths of individuals 70 or older, bringing the province’s death toll from the pandemic to 44. Officials said 111 people were in hospital, with 16 of them receiving intensive care.

The data shown to doctors states that as of Monday the number of active cases and hospitalizations had gone up 400 per cent in the last 30 days.

It forecasts that in four to six months, acute care demand for COVID-19 patients could account for half of all available beds and the need for intensive care could be five times total capacity.

“These results should be interpreted with extreme caution and may point to the need to go further with public health restrictions,” Dr. Jenny Basran, senior medical information officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said in a statement.

“The SHA is currently working on updates to further validate this data and incorporate the projected impact of the latest public health measures put in place this week. We expect to be able to share more information by the end of next week.”

The health authority said modelling for the pandemic changes daily, and some of the latest shows “early positive signs” about the impact of a provincewide mask mandate and five-person limit on household gatherings.

Team sports are now banned in the province and capacity limits at public venues such as bingo halls, churches, and wedding and funeral receptions are capped at 30.

Only four people can sit together at a restaurant or bar and large retail stores have had to cut their capacity by half.

The measures are part of the Saskatchewan Party government’s latest effort to reverse the pandemic’s spread without ordering non-essential businesses closed.

Premier Scott Moe’s office also announced Friday that he had tested negative for COVID-19 after eating at a restaurant where he may have been exposed to the virus.

“The premier is fully satisfied with receiving his test result in four days. He feels that a four-day turnaround is very reasonable given that test results are prioritized for symptomatic individuals,” said spokesman Jim Billington, who added that Moe was asymptomatic.

Moe planned to stay isolated at his home in Shellbrook, Sask., until Sunday as per public health advice before returning to Regina for the reopening of the Saskatchewan legislature on Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020

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B.C. again sets record for number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations – Squamish Chief

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B.C. once again, on November 27, set a record for the number of new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period: 911.

The number had once been initially been reported to be higher – 941 on November 24 – but that figure was later revised to be only 706 because there had been a data error. The previous one-day record, after the data revisions, was 887 yesterday.

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With 14,336 people tested in the past 24 hours, the positive test rate was 6.35%.

Henry said that in future there will be more clarity over which tests are conducted by those whose tests are billed to the province’s Medical Services Plan (MSP), such as regular British Columbians who may have had some symptoms, and those whose tests are not billed to the MSP program. That latter group includes those in penitenturies, those who are tested for travel and those who are tested for work purposes. 

Including the 911 new infections, there have been 30,884 known COVID-19 cases since the first case was identified in the province on January 28.

There are also a record number of people in hospital: 301, or seven more than yesterday. Of those, 69 people – five more than yesterday – are in intensive care units.

Another 11 people in B.C. have died from COVID-19 infections, bringing the province’s death toll from the virus to 395. Eight of those people were in the Fraser Health region while three of them were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

“The vast majority of these people were people in their 70s and 80s – our seniors, our elders, grandparents, family members.”Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said. “I know there are 11 additional families out there who are grieving today.”

There are a record 8,472 people actively fighting infections in B.C., and 10,430 people who health officials are monitoring for symptoms because they have had known exposure to identified cases. Of those infected, 21,304 have recovered.

The breakdown of where the new infections are located is as follows:
• 153 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 649 in Fraser Health;
• 27 in Island Health;
• 47 in Interior Health; and
• 35 in Northern Health.

Henry said that she is confident that Canada has contracts in place to ensure delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccines, when available and proven to be safe. 

“The importance of safety of these vaccine is is just paramount,” Henry said. “I know we have a very robust system, here in Canada, for ensuring that safety, and every lot has to be approved. So there are delays that can happen at many different levels, and we see this every year with our immunization programs.”

Henry said on November 25 that she hoped that there could be a roll-out of vaccines in B.C. in January.

There are a total of 59 outbreaks at healthcare facilities or seniors’ homes, which combine to involve 1,162 people: 719 residents and 434 staff.

New outbreaks at three seniors’ care homes have been identified, at:
• German Canadian Care Home in Vancouver;
• Villa Cathay Care Home in Vancouver; and
• Morgan Place Care Society in Surrey. 

The five ongoing active outbreaks at acute-care facilities, or hospitals, are at:
• Burnaby Hospital in Burnaby;
• Langley Memorial Hospital in Langley;
• Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver;
• Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge; and
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey.

There are 15 active outbreaks at seniors’ facilities in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, and they include:
• Arbutus Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Banfield Pavilion, in Vancouver;
• Revera Capilano Care Centre in West Vancouver;
• Columbus Residence in Vancouver;
• German Canadian Care Home in Vancouver;
• Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver;
• Little Mountain Place in Vancouver;
• Louis Brier Home & Hospital in Vancouver;
• Renfrew Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Royal Ascot Care Centre in Vancouver;
• Royal Arch Masonic Home long-term care facility in Vancouver;
• Three Links Care Centre long-term care facility in Vancouver;
• Villa Cathay Care Home in Vancouver;
• Windermere Care Centre in Vancouver; and
• Youville Residence in Vancouver.

The 33 outbreaks at seniors’ facilities in the ​Fraser Health region include:
• Agassiz Seniors Community in Agassiz;
• Agecare Harmony Court Estates in Burnaby;
• Agecare Court Estates in Burnaby;
• Al Hogg Pavilion in White Rock;
• Amenida Seniors Community in Surrey;
• Amica White Rock in White Rock
• Belvedere Care Centre in Coquitlam;
• Carelife Fleetwood in Surrey;
• Chartwell Langley Gardens in Langley;
• Cottage-Worthington Pavilion in Abbotsford;
• Fellburn Care Centre long-term care facility in Burnaby;
• Finnish Manor in Burnaby;
• Fort Langley Seniors Community in Fort Langley;
• George Derby Centre in Burnaby;
• Good Samaritan Delta View Care Center 2 long-term care facility in Delta;
• Harrison Pointe retirement home in Langley;
• Hawthorne Seniors Care Community long-term care in Port Coquitlam;
• Hawthorne Seniors Care Community assisted living in Port Coquitlam;
• Hollyrood Manor long-term care home in Maple Ridge;
• Jackman Manor in Langley Township;
• Kiwanis Care Centre in New Westminster;
• Laurel Place long-term care facility in Surrey;
• Menno Home in Abbotsford;
• Morgan Place Care Society in Surrey;
• Northcrest Care Centre in Delta;
• PICS Assisted Living in Surrey;
• Queen’s Park Care Centre in New Westminster;
• Sunset Manor in Chilliwack;
• Tabor Home in Abbotsford;
• The Residence at Clayton Heights in Surrey;
• The Residence in Mission;
• Valley Haven Care Home in Chilliwack; and
• White Rock Senior Village in White Rock.

There are two outbreaks at seniors’ homes in Northern Health: North Peace Seniors Housing Society buildings in Fort St. John, and Rotary Manor Dawson Creek in Dawson Creek.

Two outbreaks are at seniors’ living facilities in the Island Health region: Tsawaayuss-Rainbow Gardens in Port Alberni, and Discovery Care Centre in Campbell River.

The Interior Health region has two seniors’ facility outbreaks, at Orchard Manor in Kelowna and Sun Pointe Village in Kelowna.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom 

 

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