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.
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.”
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.”
COVID-19 numbers in Peel Region continue downward trend – insauga.com
Peel Region is showing its fifth straight day of declining new cases of COVID-19.
According to Government of Ontario data, Peel has 373 new cases today (Dec. 1). The daily trend downward began the day after a record 572 cases was reported on November 26.
Since then, each day has seen the number of new cases at 517, 516, 503, 390 and today’s 373.
In Peel, there are currently 4,298 active cases that are being dealt with by healthcare professionals. Since the pandemic began, 374 people have died here as a result of the virus.
Meanwhile, across Ontario there are 1,707 of new cases reported today. The most are in Toronto with 727 new cases. York Region has 168 cases. Case counts for other areas are not yet available today.
In Ontario there are 645 people hospitalized because of COVID-19, 185 are in intensive care units and 112 people are being ventilated. In the past day the virus has killed seven people in Ontario.
Numbers released by Queen’s Park differ from those given by Peel’s health department because of the way information is collected and the timeframe of the reporting period. As well, Peel’s numbers are typically two days behind Ontario’s reporting period.
British Columbia reports 656 COVID-19 cases, 16 new deaths – Global News
Another 16 people in B.C. have died from COVID-19, the province reported Tuesday.
B.C. health officials also recorded 656 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 33,894.
The number of people in hospital rose by 20 to 336, a record high. Seventy-six of those patients are in intensive care, also an all-time high.
Monday’s three-day B.C. COVID-19 numbers with shocking total of deaths
Tuesday marks the eighth straight day the province has recorded 10 or more coronavirus-related deaths. The province’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 457.
The number of active cases in the province dipped slightly to 8,796, and 10,123 people are in self-isolation due to possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.
On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a total of 2,354 new cases, including all those diagnosed between Friday and Monday and another 277 historical cases added in a data correction.
Another young B.C. COVID-19 victim warns it’s not just ‘another flu’
Henry became emotional Monday as she expressed her condolences to those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
“These people have faces, have names, have stories, have families,” Henry said.
“This tragedy is all of our tragedy and we all mourn their loss. If you are thinking it may be OK to bend the rules, please remember that this virus takes lives and it is the lives of those closest to us that are most at risk when we take risks.”
— With files from The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ontario's number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs climbs as Toronto reports a record 761 new cases – Toronto Star
The increasing number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 amid the relentless spread of the virus are signs Ontario will have to keep tightening pandemic restrictions.
That was the message from the president of the Ontario Hospital Association as admissions of COVID-19 patients to intensive care units approached 200, a level above which non-emergency surgeries are hampered.
“My sense is stronger measures are inevitable at the rate we’re going,” Anthony Dale said Tuesday as Ontario marked more than 1,700 new infections for the fifth straight day, as well as seven more deaths.
They fuelled a major jump in the closely watched seven-day average of cases, which surged by an even 100 to 1,670, an all-time high. Toronto alone reported a record 761 new cases, which medical officer Dr. Eileen de Villa called a “blunt warning” of community spread.
With hospitalizations typically lagging new cases by several weeks, hospitals are expecting their number of COVID-19 patients to keep climbing — perhaps at a faster pace.
The Ministry of Health reported Tuesday that 27 more people were admitted to hospitals, bringing the total to 645, with at least 112 patients on ventilators, up from 91 a week ago.
A separate overnight survey found 26 more critically ill patients with COVID-19 were transferred to intensive care units, raising that total to 193.
That type of increase is “no surprise,” said Dr. Irfan Dhalla, an internist and vice-president at St. Michael’s Hospital, who noted this is “definitely not the time to be musing about relaxing restrictions.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott said Scarborough General Hospital is one of several hospitals that has had to postpone procedures because ICU beds are filling up.
“We know that there are some hospitals that are in the hot zones that are already having to shut down somewhat their non-emergency procedures,” she told reporters at a news conference Premier Doug Ford missed because of what his staff called an unexpected but “non-urgent” medical appointment.
“As tragic as it is to have lost a loved one to COVID, it would be equally tragic to lose someone because of a cancer surgery or a cardiac surgery that wasn’t performed in time,” Elliott said.
Elliott said more than 3,100 hospital beds have been added since March to help cope with the second wave of the pandemic as Ontarians await a vaccine next year.
The 28-day lockdown for Toronto and Peel Region is in place until Dec. 21 when it will be reviewed, with Ontario chief medical officer Dr. David Williams looking for indications that restrictions such as a ban on indoor dining and the closures of gyms, cinemas, hair salons and non-essential retailers are working.
Health experts have cautioned that lifting those restrictions in the week before Christmas could send the wrong signals about risks from the pandemic, lead to a mad dash of holiday shopping and a further spike in cases.
“Officials will look at the situation in areas that are locked down, see if we’re flattening or reducing the rate of community growth. They’ll look at areas that are not in lockdown but are at different levels in the provincial framework,” Dale said.
“If those trends are not in the right place or heading in the wrong direction, we’re hopeful they’ll take the aggressive action that, really, has been shown worldwide to be necessary if we’re to halt the spread of COVID-19.”
Epidemiologists and doctors have said any easing of restrictions should be tied to vigorous testing and the full ability of public health units to trace the contacts of people testing positive for the virus to keep it in check.
Provincial officials keeping an eye on computer modelling have warned that Ontario could hit 400 patients in intensive care units with weeks; when that number hits 350, non-emergency surgeries become almost impossible.
Another risk factor for hospitals is the number of outbreaks that are occurring within their walls because there are so many cases in the community, said Dale.
In London, University Hospital was hit so hard recently it had to close admissions to medical wards and cancel elective surgeries, with the added complication of an outbreak in its acclaimed organ transplant unit.
“It’s very sobering,” said Dale.
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