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.”
Confusion remains in B.C. on who can gather in restaurants under COVID-19 restrictions – Global News
The B.C. Restaurant and Food Association says a new set of COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the provincial government has customers struggling to understand who they are allowed to dine with.
The association’s president Ian Tostenson says restaurants are trying to tell customers to use common sense and follow advice from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, but he says that advice has been unclear.
“There is a lot of confusion as to who can dine out as a result of the last couple of weeks with Dr. Henry,” Tostenson said Monday.
“The spirit of what Dr. Henry is saying is eat with people you trust, eat with people in your bubble. But if you try to define that too much it gets too hard.”
The provincial orders issued last week require diners to only eat with someone from their own household. If someone is single, they can eat with one or two other people who make up their pandemic bubble.
For example, three friends who are also married cannot all eat together at a restaurant. Another common mistake is parents cannot take their adult child and spouse for a meal at a restaurant if they live in separate households.
“For these two weeks we’re saying stick with your household bubble, and for some people that may mean one or two people who they have close contact with their pandemic bubble,” Henry said Monday.
The biggest challenge to uphold the order is enforcement.
Restaurants are being told not to ask diners whether they are following the rules. Instead, Henry is asking diners to know the rules themselves.
Christmas events put ‘on hold’ by pandemic
“It is not the restaurant’s responsibility to ask people who they live with, or where they are from,” Tostenson said.
“The more that we increase confusion and uncertainty in the marketplace the harder it is.”
There is growing concern from the province that British Columbians are trying to exploit loopholes in the order. The priority for the government is to crack down of social gatherings if that is in someone’s home or in a restaurant.
One thing enforcement can do is crack down on organized events in a restaurant like live music.
“There is a tendency to … see these like a speed limit and it says 80 (km/h), and maybe I can go 86. That’s not what these are,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday.
“These are provincial health orders to help us stop the spread of a virus that is harming our loved ones in long-term care and causing great disruption in our society, and these are the things we’re doing together to stop that.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
'We are on the verge of significant bankruptcies': Restaurants and pubs struggle under B.C.'s new restrictions – CTV News Vancouver
New measures introduced last Thursday by Dr. Bonnie Henry meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 by limiting social interactions appear to be having the desired effect, to the detriment of businesses.
At a news conference on Nov. 19, Henry ordered B.C. residents to limit social gatherings to their immediate household, or a small pandemic bubble for those living alone.
“This applies in our homes, vacation rentals and in the community and in public venues, including those with less than 50 people in controlled settings,” Henry said.
She made no specific mention of restaurants or pubs, and Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association said there has been confusion about who can dine out.
“We haven’t seen the latest health order, it hasn’t been written from last week, so as far as we’re concerned, we’re telling people go to a restaurant but go to a restaurant in the spirit of hanging with people you trust in a small bubble,” Tostenson said.
Tostenson estimates over the last 10 days, restaurants have lost about 30-40 per cent of their pandemic sales as those who were confused by the orders chose to stay home.
Henry’s order was an expansion of a previous regional order that only applied in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. During prior news conferences, Henry made clear that while dining out was encouraged, people should only do it with their households.
On Monday, Henry clarified again that she wants British Columbians to spend the next two weeks only socializing in person with others from their household, or a bubble of one or two designated people for those who live alone. That applies to going to restaurants.
The restrictions are also hitting bars and pubs hard. Jeff Guignard with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees estimated business dropped by 50 per cent of pandemic levels.
“So you have people who are down to 25 per cent of where they were in 2019 and that’s just not sustainable. We’re on the verge of significant bankruptcies right now,” he said.
Restrictions are scheduled tin place until Dec. 7.
Here are all the events that are affected by the new COVID-19 orders in B.C. – BC News – Castanet.net
Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a host of new restrictions in the wake of surging cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the province.
B.C.’s top doctor stated that all British Columbians are ordered to stop any non-essential travel outside of their respective health regions until Dec. 7. Several other indoor activities will be put on hold, as well as all community-based gatherings.
Today, Henry clarified what events and gatherings must be postponed under the new order during the daily COVID-19 news briefing. She underscored that all events are postponed, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor. That said, these events aren’t cancelled, but “on pause.”
She added that many of the province’s beloved Christmas and holiday events will be postponed, too.
“If we are able to get into a place of control, then some of these lower-risk events may happen again,” said Henry. “But right now, we need to stop all of those opportunities for us to congregate, to go out and do things socially.”
Movie theatres have also been suspended, as well as events at bars and restaurants. However, bars and restaurants will remain open because they offer important ways to ensure that people get meals, explained Henry.
Art galleries are permitted to have people browsing their collections on a daily basis as long as they have strict COVID-19 safety plans in place. But exhibition openings, larger gatherings and events at galleries must also be postponed.
What is considered an event?
In the updated public health order, “event” refers to anything which gathers people together whether on a one-time, regular or irregular basis. All events and community-based gatherings as defined in the PHO order are temporarily suspended.
The following events are not permitted under the new health order:
- a gathering in vacation accommodation
- a private residence
- banquet hall or another place
- a party
- worship service
- ceremony or celebration of any type
- wedding (unless fewer than 10 people)
- funeral (unless fewer than 10 people)
- celebration of life (unless fewer than 10 people)
- musical, theatrical or dance entertainment or performance
- live band performance, disc jockey performance
- strip dancing
- comedic act
- art show
- magic show
- puppet show
- fashion show
- book signing
- educational presentation (except in a school or post-secondary educational institution)
- fundraising benefit
- sporting or other physical activity
- market or fair, including a trade fair, agricultural fair, seasonal fair or episodic indoor event that has as its primary purpose the sale of merchandise or services e.g. Christmas craft markets, home shows, antique fairs and the like and for certainty includes a gathering preceding or following another event.
Social gatherings and events
No social gatherings of any size at your residence with anyone other than your household or core bubble. For example:
- Do not invite friends or extended family to your household
- Do not host gathering outdoors
- Do not gather in your backyard
- Do not have playdates for children
All events and community-based gatherings as defined in the PHO order – Gatherings and Events (PDF) are suspended. For example:
- Musical or theatre performances
- Seasonal activities
- Silent auctions
The order is in effect from Nov. 19 at midnight to Dec. 7 at midnight.
Earlier today, Henry announced 1,933 new cases of COVID-19 in the province over three days, as well as 17 fatalities.
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