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Feds ‘in discussions’ to secure COVID-19 booster, variant shots: Health Canada – Global News



As health officals race to vaccinate the population against COVID-19, experts have warned that the virus could become endemic, meaning Canadians could need booster shots to ensure they are protected in the years ahead.

How does the government plan to secure and provide booster shots to Canadians?

Here’s a closer look.

Read more:
COVID-19 vaccine tracker: How many Canadians are vaccinated?

In a statement emailed to Global News, Health Canada said the expected future trajectory of the novel coronavirus and pandemic “is not yet clear, nor is the future evolution of virus variants and their severity.”

The agency says there aren’t currently any vaccines on the market that have been developed specifically as booster shots, or that specifically target the new, more transmissible variants.

Click to play video: 'Moderna says its vaccine appears effective against variants'

Moderna says its vaccine appears effective against variants

Moderna says its vaccine appears effective against variants – Jan 25, 2021

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However, Health Canada says there are some shots that are “in early development.”

“Work is underway to define our future booster needs, both in terms of quantities and the vaccine technologies on which to focus,” the statement read. “Canada is in discussions with vaccine developers regarding plans for early and secure access to booster and variant vaccines when they become available.”

The agency said the federal government will “continue to take an evidence-based approach to its vaccine procurement decisions” and is “following the advice of experts in terms of planning for what Canada’s potential future vaccine needs will be, and how those needs can be best addressed.”

Click to play video: 'Fauci discusses potential COVID-19 pandemic trajectory in U.S.'

Fauci discusses potential COVID-19 pandemic trajectory in U.S.

Fauci discusses potential COVID-19 pandemic trajectory in U.S.

Currently, Canada is receiving all of its COVID-19 vaccines from overseas.

This has proved difficult for the country’s mass vaccination plan, as several delays from the manufacturers have stalled rollout.

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Canada has fallen significantly behind its closest allies when it comes to vaccination.

As of Sunday afternoon, just over five million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered across the country, meaning approximately 6.47 per cent of the Canadian population has been vaccinated.

In comparison, 140 million doses have been given in the United States. That means 14.42 per cent of the American population has been inoculated against the virus so far.

Read more:
Where is Canada now in its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Canada’s lack of domestic vaccine manufacturing capability has been “highlighted as a health security threat,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases faculty member at the University of Toronto said.

“And it is,” he continued. “But I don’t think that’s lost on the Canadian government and the local governments.”

In a statement emailed to Global News, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) said the federal government is “investing in made-in-Canada projects to protect Canadians from COVID-19” and “ensure our country is well-positioned to fight future pandemics here at home.”

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The agency said Canada is “developing domestic biomanufacturing capacity,” and by doing so, the government will “be able to ensure that both the quality and the availability of vaccines and therapeutic drugs is secure going forward.”

Read more:
30 travellers entering Canada caught with suspected fake COVID-19 test results: CBSA

According to ISED, since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has allocated $792 million under the new Strategic Innovation Fund COVID-19 stream in order to deliver “direct support to Canadian companies; in particular, helping develop domestic COVID-19 vaccines, therapies and bio-manufacturing opportunities, while also building future capability.”

The agency said this is in addition to supports provided to the National Research Council, for the facilities at Royalmount, and VIDO-Intervac, and through other government funding programs.

Bogoch said there has been a “tremendous investment” to produce vaccines at home, pointing to the government’s deal to manufacture shots at a facility in Montreal.

The federal government announced last month it had struck a deal with Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Canada at a new Montreal facility that is under construction.

However, doses are not expected to be manufactured in the country until at least the fall.

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Click to play video: 'Americans race to get vaccinated as COVID-19 surges'

Americans race to get vaccinated as COVID-19 surges

Americans race to get vaccinated as COVID-19 surges

“Is that enough? No, but it’s a really good start in the local production of vaccine,” Bogoch said.

He also said there are a number of companies within Canada that are “innovating and creating homegrown COVID-19 vaccines as well.”

“I don’t think you’re going to flip a switch overnight and all of a sudden re-create your vaccine creation and manufacturing capability,” he said. “It’s obvious you need to require a sustained investment over time, not just at the manufacturing level, but also at the innovation level and the basic science level.”

Read more:
Path out of COVID-19 pandemic isn’t easy, but there’s hope: experts

ISED said the federal government has “worked with Canadian and international companies to explore opportunities to bring elements of the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing supply chain to Canada, and will continue to do whatever it can to assist interested firms in finding partners to that end.”

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According to the agency, consultations have also been launched to ensure Canada is “prepared and ready for future pandemics, including through vaccine and therapeutics manufacturing.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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With average prices up another 14%, Swiss bank UBS warns of housing bubbles in Canada –



Average house prices rose 14 per cent in the past year, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Friday, adding to concerns that Canada’s most expensive real estate markets are dangerously overvalued.

The group that represents realtors across the country says the average price of a Canadian home sold on its MLS system was $686,650, almost 14 per cent higher than it was in the same month a year ago.

Canada’s inflation rate hit four per cent in August, the fastest increase in the cost of living in almost 20 years. The new data on house prices Friday means that house prices are going up at more than three times that record pace.

CREA says the average price can be misleading, since it is heavily skewed by sales in the most expensive markets of Toronto and Vancouver. It trumpets another number, known as the MLS House Price Index (HPI), as a more accurate gauge of the overall market, because it strips out some of the volatility.

But the HPI is rising by even more than the average is right now — up 21.5 per cent in the past 12 months. In the Greater Toronto area, the average price of a home that sold was $1,136,280 in September, up 18 per cent in a year, according to the local real estate board. In Vancouver, the average is 1,186,100 — up by more than 13 per cent in the past year.

“There is still a lot of demand chasing an increasingly scarce number of listings, so this market remains very challenging,” CREA chair Cliff Stevenson said.

The pandemic has had an unexpected impact on house prices in that instead of causing people to be more conservative because of the economic uncertainty, buyers have been eager to shell out for more space.

Canada’s central bank slashed its benchmark rate to help stimulate the economy through the pandemic, and when lenders passed those rates on to consumers in the form of record low mortgage rates that had the effect of pouring gasoline on the fire of housing demand, making it more affordable to borrow more and more money to buy a home.

UBS warns of bubble

The fresh numbers on prices come as a major Swiss bank was already warning that Toronto and Vancouver are home to two of the worst housing bubbles in the entire world.

In an annual ranking, UBS examines the housing markets in 24 major world cities in Europe, North America and Asia to assess them based on how expensive housing is compared to local income levels and other factors.

It then puts all the cities into one of five categories: 

  • Depressed housing market (a score of -1.5 or lower).
  • Undervalued (-0.5 to -1.5).
  • Fairly valued (-0.5 to +0.5).
  • Overvalued (+0.5 to +1.5).
  • Bubble (1.5 and up).

Six cities were deemed to have housing bubbles. Two of them are in Canada. 

Toronto got a score of 2.02. That was higher than every other city except Frankfurt, Germany, which scored a 2.16.

Vancouver scored a 1.66, just behind Hong Kong (1.90), Munich (1.84) and Zurich (1.83).

Realtors say a lack of homes is the problem and are urging the construction of new ones. But one expert says supply and demand imbalances are nowhere near able to explain the current price increases. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The bank says house prices in Toronto have effectively doubled in the past decade. Government interventions through things like foreign buyers taxes and rent controls caused the market to take a breather in 2018 and 2019, but things have only accelerated since, the bank said.

“Real prices increased by almost eight per cent from mid-2020 to mid-2021,” the bank said.

The bank says price gains are being fuelled by record-low mortgage rates, which are not expected to last much longer once the Bank of Canada inevitably has to raise its rate.

That “could lead to an abrupt end to the current housing frenzy,” the bank said.

Isabel Serrano, a prospective homebuyer in Toronto, is well aware of how frothy things have gotten in the city. She and her husband have been renting for the past 15 years, and are finally ready to buy. But despite having more than $200,000 a year in combined income, the pair can’t find anything in their price range — and they keep getting outbid when they try.

In an interview with CBC News, she said she has looked at between 40 or 50 houses in the past few months, and placed offers on four. In some cases, the house sold for six figures more than the asking price.

“I never thought it was going to be this hard. I really didn’t,” she said. “It blows my mind that there are no homes to buy. It blows my mind that we cannot find a house to buy for $800,000.”

WATCH | Isabel Serrano says house prices are out of reach for people like her

House prices out of reach

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Prospective home buyer Isabel Serrano says even though she and her husband have steady incomes, there’s only so high they can go in terms of buying a home to live in. (Credit: Mark Boschler/CBC) 0:53

‘A fast rebound’

Things don’t look much better in Vancouver. Taxes on vacant homes and foreign buyers in 2016 cooled what was then a red-hot market, as prices rose by more than 20 per cent that year. Those moves seemed to relieve some of the pressure, as prices declined by 10 per cent between 2018 and 2019.

“Since then, however, lower prices, falling mortgage rates and looser stress test rules have enticed households to buy properties again, leading to a fast rebound,” UBS said. “From mid-2020 to mid-2021, property prices increased by 11 per cent, offsetting past losses.”

High prices aren’t just bad for would-be buyers like Serrano, who plan to live in them — they don’t augur well for investors hoping to pay them off by renting them out either.

According to UBS, anyone buying an investment property with the intent to rent it out would need to rent it for 31 years in Vancouver to cover the price of buying it. In Toronto, it would take 28 years. In cities like Miami and Dubai, it’s half that.

It’s a big reason why the bank suspects both Toronto and Vancouver are in bubble territory, which UBS defines as “a substantial and sustained mispricing of an asset, the existence of which cannot be proved unless it bursts.”

UBS has no qualms calling what’s happening in Canada’s two biggest housing markets a bubble, and they aren’t the only ones.

Prof. George Fallis, who teaches economics at York University in Toronto, says the city’s housing market shows all the signs of being detached from fundamentals.

Supply and demand

“A bubble exists if you can’t explain price increases by using the normal variables we look at,” he said in an interview. “Whenever you see that kind of thing, that should be a warning light.”

Fallis says he worries some people buying today are doing so based solely on the expectation that gains in the future will be the same as those of the past, and it’s always dangerous when that happens.

“Economists are not psychologists and the psychology of frothy expectations is poorly understood. But it’s clear that it’s [caused by] something arising which sort of shocks you,” he said. The most likely trigger could be a rapid rise in interest rates, something that experts have already warned is inevitable.

“You only know a bubble exists when it bursts,” Fallis said. “It just keeps going and going and going until it doesn’t.”

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Two B.C. women file constitutional challenge of vaccine card – CHEK



VANCOUVER — Two British Columbia women who say doctors advised them against getting COVID-19 vaccines have filed a constitutional challenge of the province’s vaccine passport.

A petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court says 39-year-old Sarah Webb, who lives in Alberta and B.C., developed an adverse reaction from her first dose of a vaccine in May and ended up in the emergency department of a Calgary hospital six days later.

The court document says Webb’s symptoms included fatigue, heart arrhythmias, severe pain and a rash on her arm.

It says she received antibiotics but developed further complications the next day and went to another hospital, where a doctor told her she should not get a second vaccine shot.

The petition filed against the attorney general and the Ministry of Health says Leigh Anne Eliason of Maple Ridge, B.C., was told by her doctor that she should not get a COVID-19 vaccine because of the risk of side effects due to her medical history.

READ MORE: A look at COVID-19 vaccine certificate programs across Canada

Neither the Attorney General’s Ministry nor the Health Ministry could immediately provide a response to the court challenge.

The petition says both women’s physicians have written exemption letters citing their physical disabilities.

However, the petition says each of the doctors raised concerns that neither the government nor any provincial medical associations had provided guidelines on how to write such a letter or what information should be included.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the attorney general of British Columbia or the (Health Ministry) have considered individuals like the petitioners in making the vaccine card announcement or in crafting the vaccine card orders,” says the petition, which was filed on Sept. 23.

B.C. residents without proof of vaccination are prohibited from certain activities like dining in restaurants, entering movie theatres and gyms. That deprives the petitioners of their charter rights, the petition says.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said anyone who chooses not to be vaccinated has options including ordering takeout from restaurants and watching movies and sports at home because her order is aimed at reducing transmission of the virus from anyone who may be infected.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021.

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Stellantis cutting 1800 jobs at Windsor Assembly Plant – CTV News Windsor



Windsor, Ont. –

Stellantis says it is cutting its Windsor Assembly Plant down to one shift next spring in a move that will mean about 1,800 lost jobs.

The company, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, says the move comes as the automotive industry faces significant headwinds including the semiconductor shortage and the effects of COVID-19.

The cut from two shifts comes after Stellantis cut the third shift at the minivan plant in 2020 at a loss of about 1,500 jobs.

Stellantis says it will cut the second shift beginning in the spring, but reaffirmed it’s commitment in the 2020 collective agreement with the local Unifor union to spend upwards of $1.5 billion at the plant.

The auto industry has been grappling with a significant shortage of computer chips, pushing auto companies to prioritize high-margin vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs and cutting back production of sedans and minivans.

The Windsor plant produces the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and Chrysler Grand Caravan.

Official statement from UNIFOR Local 444

“The company served the union official notice late this afternoon that they we will be moving to a one-shift operation at the Windsor assembly plant on April 17, 2022. We will be meeting with the company in the coming days to explore ALL other options, however official notice has been given. The company reiterated its commitment to the bargained investment and the three-shift operation in the future. We will be getting more specifics over the course of the weekend and the upcoming days.”

Official statement from Stellantis

“The global automotive industry continues to face significant headwinds such as the persisting semiconductor shortage and the extended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to these factors, Stellantis will adjust production operations at its Windsor Assembly Plant (WAP) in Canada. Beginning in the spring of 2022, WAP will transition to a one-shift operation. The company reaffirms its WAP investment commitment outlined in the 2020 Collective Agreement of up to $1.5B CAD.”

—With files from CTV Windsor’s Angelo Aversa

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