The Ontario government said Monday it is developing a web portal for booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments, a sign of provinces preparing to ramp up vaccination efforts as manufacturer Pfizer-BioNTech increases deliveries.
In Quebec, Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted Monday the province expects more than 90,000 Pfizer vaccines this week, which will allow it to “increase the rhythm” of vaccination, particularly in private seniors homes.
The federal government said that after a month-long slowdown as Pfizer expanded its plant in Belgium, it expects to receive weekly shipments of more than 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine beginning this week and lasting at least until early April.
That number represents a significant jump in shipments to Canada, which has received a total of about 928,200 Pfizer doses since December.
The new schedule, published on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website, specifies that the numbers are based on the understanding that there are six shots per vial, rather than five as originally calculated.
Ontario’s proposed online booking system will be part of the province’s expanded vaccine rollout, which on Sunday was updated to identify adults aged 80 and older, seniors in congregate care and Indigenous adults among those next in line for a shot.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says a more predictable delivery schedule will make it easier for provinces to plan.
The University of Toronto expert, who sits on the province’s vaccine task force, said in an interview that while the shipment delays have given the provinces time to fine-tune their plans, it remains to be seen whether they will carry them out smoothly, especially when it comes to the more complex operation of vaccinating the general population.
“It all looks really, really good on paper, but it’s another thing to actually operationalize this,” he said.
The community phase of the rollout will include figuring out how to prioritize various groups, including different age cohorts, racialized and low-income communities, essential workers and those with underlying health conditions, he said.
The federal government on Monday updated its guidance to the provinces to specify that adults from racialized communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic should be given priority for shots in the second stage of the vaccination campaign, which comes after staff and residents of long-term care homes, adults aged 70 and older, front-line health workers and adults in Indigenous communities have received their shots.
The advice would also see all essential workers who can’t work from home moved into the second stage, instead of focusing on health workers with lower-risk jobs.
The new vaccine deliveries will be welcomed by provinces and territories, which have administered the vast majority of the vaccines received to date. They will also likely ease some of the pressure on the federal Liberal government, which has been accused of mismanaging what amounts to the largest mass-vaccination effort in Canadian history.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week acknowledged the struggle with deliveries, but said things will get better in the weeks ahead, and even better in April, when Canada is expecting as many as one million doses a week.
“We’re approaching something we’re calling the big lift,” he said Thursday in a virtual roundtable with nurses and doctors from around Canada.
The head of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer assured Trudeau on Monday that Canada could also expect to receive AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from India “in less than a month,” pending their approval by Health Canada.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, delivered the news on Twitter after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised Trudeau last week that India would “do its best” to get COVID-19 vaccines to Canada.
Health Canada is in the final stages of approving the AstraZeneca vaccine. It also received an application Jan. 23 to review the production process at the Serum Institute of India, ahead of the possibility Canada will get its doses from there.
Yet the problems aren’t entirely over. Moderna — the other company whose vaccine has been approved for use in Canada so far — has confirmed its next shipment on Feb. 22 will be only 168,000 doses, two-thirds of what had been promised.
Moderna, which delivers once every three weeks, shipped 180,000 doses last week — 80 per cent of the promised amount.
In addition, Pfizer’s deliveries will only meet the promised number of doses if medical professionals can adjust to extracting six doses from every vial.
Getting that sixth dose requires the use of a low dead-volume syringe, which traps less vaccine in the needle and syringe after an injection. Canada has now ordered 72 million of those syringes, and two million were delivered last week.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander overseeing Canada’s vaccine distribution, has said those were being shipped to the provinces to be ready for Monday, though no provinces reported receiving any as of Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2021.
Coronavirus: Canada in talks with other G7 nations about prospect of vaccine passports to travel: Hajdu – CTV News
As countries continue to vaccinate larger segments of their populations, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu says that discussions about introducing some form of vaccine passport are “very live” among the G7 countries.
“We’re certainly working on the idea of vaccine passports with our G7 partners. I was on a call with my G7 health minister counterparts just a couple of weeks ago, and that is a very live issue,” Hajdu said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.
While Hajdu wouldn’t say if it’s an idea Canada is pushing for—requiring some form of proof of vaccination to travel to Canada—she said other nations and industry groups are looking into the kind of evidence or documentation that could be requested in order to travel internationally.
“We’ll be coming back to Canadians as we understand more about the intentions of our counterparts internationally, and as we understand more about how that will unfold around the world,” she said.
Some European countries have begun to signal they’ll be requesting proof of immunization against COVID-19 to allow foreign travellers to enter, in a similar way to how nations like Canada are requiring non-essential visitors to show a pre-departure negative test.
Canada is currently not allowing people to show a proof of vaccination as a way to be permitted entry under the pandemic restrictions.
“At this time, proof of having a vaccine does not replace a valid test result,” reads the federal government’s international travel information page.
U.K.’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi told CTV’s Question Period in a separate interview that the British government is working on the logistics of these requirements so that its citizens will have the ability to resume travel for work or leisure abroad
Canadian health ethicists have cautioned against rushing to adopt forms of vaccine passports to permit citizens to attend large events or resume other pre-pandemic norms, but when it comes to travel it may become “almost inevitable,” as University of Toronto bio-ethicist Kerry Bowman recently said on CTV News Channel.
Hajdu said that Canada is concerned about equity and doesn’t want to see a two-tiered system given the limited number of people who are able to access COVID-19 vaccines so far, but noted “there are requirements to travel internationally around disease prevention already.”
The federal government continues to strongly advise against international travel, as the threat of variant spread continues to be a pressing concern.
Nearly a year into the global pandemic Canada’s border strategy continues to shift, including most recently the rocky and contentious introduction of mandatory quarantine in hotels.
As of late February the federal government has required all travellers who have returned to Canada from travel abroad to stay in a designated hotel for at least three days, at their own expense, while they await a PCR test taken upon arrival. The system’s faced criticisms from travellers raising issues with the service, as well as serious concerns over the safety of these sites.
In the interview, Hajdu said she “wasn’t exactly thrilled” in the early days with how the program unfolded, but isn’t heeding calls from the Conservatives to pull the plug on the facilities altogether.
She said the issues experienced by some travelers are being worked out and as the virus evolves, Canadians should expect border measures to as well. Vaccine or not, people should continue to avoid any non-essential travel outside of Canada, she said.
Asked whether the conversation around proof of vaccination could play a role when it comes to domestic travel, Hajdu said it hasn’t come up yet in talks she’s had with her provincial and territorial health counterparts.
“We know that different provinces and territories have taken different stances around domestic travel, and of course, while COVID-19 is raging in parts of the country, often we will hear the requests by different parts of the country to just stay put to resist the urge to travel even domestically. But what I can say is that the health ministers are always reviewing their own stances on interprovincial travel,” she said.
In a recent interview with CTVNews.ca, University of Toronto public health ethicist Alison Thompson spoke about the need to balance incentivizing people to get vaccinated while ensuring any requirements to prove vaccination before being able to travel or attend larger events doesn’t become coercive.
Thompson said that it’s a conversation the general public should be having and not just among policymakers because it will impact everyone.
“This is maybe one of those times because it has implications for people’s freedom of movement and for immigration and those types of things that I would hope that the federal government would want to lead that conversation and have an eye on the kinds of inequities across provinces that could arise,” she said.
With files from CTV News’ Sarah Turnbull
Canada adds 21 new COVID-19 deaths as total cases near 850K – Global News
Canada added another 2,325 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, pushing the country’s total caseload past 844,000.
Another 21 deaths linked to the virus were reported as well, with the country’s death toll from COVID-19 standing at 22,213. A total of 831.901 patients have since recovered from contracting the virus, however, while over 25.57 million tests and 2.32 million vaccine doses have since been administered.
The new data comes amid new updates from the country’s top doctor, who said that there have been no unexpected safety issues with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine across the country.
In a statement Saturday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that there have been a total 1,591 reports of adverse reactions following immunizations as of Feb. 26, but specified that these reactions occur after getting vaccinated and are “not necessarily related to the vaccine or the immunization process.”
According to Tam, severe outcomes linked to contracting COVID-19 continue to decline nationally, though infection rates have either leveled off or increased. Tam also said that the spread of several variants of the virus was a continuing concern in Canada’s fight against the pandemic.
“Until vaccine access fully expands and sufficient levels of population immunity are achieved, and with the continued increase of cases and outbreaks associated with more contagious variants, we must all remain vigilant with public health measures and individual precautions to prevent a rapid shift in trajectory of the epidemic,” read Tam’s statement.
Ontario reported another 990 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, as well as six new deaths. In Quebec, another 749 infections were reported alongside 10 fatalities.
Alberta’s infection count reached 135,537 on Saturday after another 341 new cases were announced. One more death was announced there on Saturday, as well.
Manitoba added 71 more cases and one new fatality, while Saskatchewan reported 163 new infections and three more deaths.
Several provinces in Atlantic Canada reported new cases as well.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases while both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick added six. P.E.I. did not report any new cases on Saturday.
Nunavut was the only territory to report new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, with four new infections.
Vaccines, Vaccines, Vaccines!
To date, over 116,468,100 COVID-19 infections have been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 2,587,683 patients have since succumbed to the virus, with the U.S., India, Brazil and Mexico leading in either cases or deaths.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus vaccine: Health Canada approves Johnson and Johnson vaccine as Pfizer bumps up deliveries – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Mia Rabson and Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, March 5, 2021 9:38AM EST
Last Updated Friday, March 5, 2021 7:39PM EST
OTTAWA – The approval of a fourth COVID-19 vaccine and news of accelerated deliveries for another had government officials taking an optimistic tone Friday about the path of the pandemic in Canada.
“We can be really increasingly optimistic in our outlook and that is really great,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, at a news conference in Ottawa.
Her excitement grew out of news that Health Canada has now authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use here. It joins vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca among the offerings now available to Canadians.
It is the first and only vaccine Canada is buying that is a single dose, and is deemed safe and effective for all adults.
“Assessing all the data, we concluded that there was strong evidence that showed that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said Pfizer will ship 1.5 million more doses of its vaccine to Canada this month, and two million more in the spring. That means instead of getting 12.5 million doses from Pfizer between now and the end of June, Canada will get 15.5 million doses.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in total Canada now has confirmed deliveries of 36.5 million doses of vaccines by Canada Day, which would be more than enough to get a single dose to each adult Canadian by then.
That doesn’t include any of the 10 million doses purchased from Johnson & Johnson, and includes none of the 20 million doses coming directly from AstraZeneca. Anand says some of those are to be delivered in the spring, and all of them by the end of September, but specific delivery dates aren’t yet firm.
After being burned by production and delivery delays last month that saw Canada’s vaccine rollout performance pale in comparison to most of its allies, the Liberals are reluctant to adjust their formal timeline of getting every Canadian the chance to be inoculated by the end of September.
“What we are hearing today is important news, but we need to ensure that those delivery schedules are firm before we can discuss changing that timeline,” said Anand.
Still Tam said with most Canadians now likely to be vaccinated earlier than expected, at least with first doses, this winter should be the end of the worst the pandemic will offer.
“I think my optimism is that this following fall is going to look quite different to the preceding one,” said Tam.
While every vaccine except Johnson & Johnson’s is given in two doses, every province is moving to implement new guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that those doses should be spaced out up to four months, rather than three or four weeks.
That is being done to get more people vaccinated with a first dose, after real-world evidence showed strong data that one dose is highly effective on its own.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified common-cold virus to carry a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 to convince the body to mount an immune response to prevent future COVID-19 infections.
Clinical trials found it to be 66 per cent effective against moderate illness from COVID-19, 85 per cent effective against severe illness, and 100 per cent effective against death.
Sharma stressed that all vaccines authorized in Canada will protect Canadians from severe illness and death, and won’t be effective at all if Canadians don’t get them.
“Our advice to Canadians is to get whichever vaccine is available to you,” she said. “It’s that simple. The longer you wait to get vaccinated, the longer the time goes by that you are not protected.”
Dr. Ebele Ola, vice-president of medical affairs for Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm, Janssen, said data showed the vaccine to be effective against the viral variants of concern that appear to be more contagious.
Ola said the vaccine was tested in the United States, South America and South Africa, and it was extremely effective at preventing severe illness in places the variants were common.
She echoed Sharma’s call for Canadians not to hold out for a specific vaccine, but rather to marvel in the “remarkable” achievement of so many effective vaccines being available.
“The best vaccine is the one that is offered,” said Ola.
Nearly 1.7 million Canadians have now been vaccinated with at least one dose, and the pace of vaccinations has quickened in the last two weeks. In the last seven days, more than 457,000 people were vaccinated, 2 1/2 times as many as in a similar period two weeks before.
While all Canadian adults can now expect their turns to get vaccines will come in the next few months, children are going to wait a lot longer.
Sharma said clinical trials are underway to see if any or all of the approved vaccines are safe and effective for children. Data for teenagers is going to come first, followed by that for children under 12.
“Potentially, by the end of the calendar year, we might have some answers for children,” she said.
There remains only one more vaccine currently under review by Health Canada, called Novavax, but it is still completing its clinical trials, and doesn’t expect data any earlier than late March.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021.
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