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Flu season has arrived, but more people are vaccinated – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Flu season is kicking into high gear in Saskatchewan, but already 330,000 people have gotten their flu shot.


The province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab updates the flu season and releases the season’s first flu surveillance report at the T.C. Douglas Building in Regina on Thursday, December 19, 2019.


TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post

With a record number of vaccines in hand this year and flu season ramping up, Saskatchewan has seen a boost in how many people are getting their flu shot.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, said 436,000 doses were ordered this year — up from 368,000 doses in 2018 — and already 330,000 of those vaccines have been used.

“That’s 15 per cent more than last year, so the flu vaccine uptake has been great,” said Shahab.

He attributed the higher uptake to last year’s early flu season sparking more interest and the increased ease of access people now have to the vaccine, with more than 350 pharmacies across the province offering it.

“Access has really improved over the last two, three years and that may be one factor, but also I think there’s more awareness that the flu vaccine is good for you and it’s good to protect others around you,” he said.

There were concerns in October about how shipping delays of the vaccine across Canada would impact Saskatchewan residents, but Shahab said the vaccines arrived “just in time” so that no clinics had to be rescheduled.

Flu season is now getting into full swing, with 183 lab-confirmed cases in the province since Sept. 1. Shahab said this is a normal amount of cases for this time of year and that the virus will likely peak over the next two or three weeks before winding down in mid-February. There have been no deaths and only one intensive care unit admission from the flu so far.

There have also been five flu outbreaks in long-term care facilities, which Shahab said is another indicator that flu season is picking up. A typical flu season sees between 60 and 80 outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

This year, the dominant strand is the H3N2 strain, whereas last year the dominant strand was H1N1. While it is too early to judge how effective the vaccine is this year, Shahab said vaccines typically don’t work quite as good against this year’s strain.

“Generally vaccines work better against the H1N1 strain and they are less effective against the H3N2 strain, especially if you’re older than 65 or (have) underlying risk factors, but having said that, they still have some effect in preventing serious illness or hospitalization,” he said.

Shahab reminded people to stay home from school or work if they have flu symptoms to prevent the sickness from spreading. Symptoms include a fever, aches and pains, a sore throat and being tired.

lgiesbrecht@postmedia.com

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U.S. confirms it will accept Canadian travellers with mixed vaccines – CBC.ca

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Canadians with mixed vaccines and U.S. travel plans can breathe a sigh of relief tonight. 

Following weeks of speculation, the United States confirmed late Friday it will accept mixed vaccines when new rules kick in on Nov. 8 requiring that foreign travellers entering the U.S. be fully vaccinated. 

Individuals inoculated with any combination of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization will be considered fully vaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CBC News.

WHO-approved vaccines include Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and its Indian-made counterpart, Covishield. So travellers with any combination of these vaccines will be allowed to enter the U.S. 

The CDC does not recognize mixing COVID-19 vaccines but said it updated its guidance to reflect growing global acceptance of the practice. 

“While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said in an email. 

Ingrid and John Whyte of Toronto are set to fly to Florida to spend the winter at a condo they own in Naples, Fla. The snowbirds are relieved to hear the U.S. will accept their mixed vaccines. (Submitted by Ingrid Whyte)

Millions of Canadians have mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines. When the U.S. recently announced it would impose a vaccination requirement for travellers entering by both land and air, many Canadians with mixed doses worried they might soon be barred from entering the country. 

“We felt kind of blindsided,” said snowbird, Ingrid Whyte of Toronto. Following Canadian government guidance, she and her husband, John, each got one dose of Covishield and a second dose of Pfizer.

“We did everything that we were supposed to do in terms of getting vaccines,” Whyte said.

The couple had booked a flight to Florida for Nov. 17, but cancelled it due to concerns over their mixed vaccines. They’re now relieved to hear their vaccine combination won’t be an issue when entering the U.S. 

“We are thrilled,” Whyte said. “I wish it could have been a little sooner. It would have allowed people to plan a little bit more effectively. But in the long run, it’s great news.”

It’s also good news for Petar Sesar of London, Ont., who has a mix of Moderna and Pfizer.

Petar Sesar of London, Ont., was relieved to learn his vaccine mix of Moderna and Pfizer wouldn’t bar him from entering the U.S. to visit his fiancée, Mara Bakula, who lives in Cleveland. (Submitted by Petar Sesar)

Sesar’s fiancée, Mara Bakula, lives in Cleveland. Sesar welcomed news this week that the U.S. land border will reopen on Nov. 8 to non-essential travellers, as he prefers to drive instead of fly to Cleveland. 

However, he worried he might have no U.S. travel options come Nov. 8 if the country rejected his vaccine mix. 

“That was a very scary moment,” he said. “It felt like house arrest of sorts, like now I [may] have no option.”

Earlier this year, the CDC stated online that a mix of two mNRA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, would be accepted in “exceptional situations.” But Sesar didn’t rest easy until he learned that the CDC had approved his exact combination. 

“It is unbelievable,” he said. “It is such a relief. I share the relief with millions of [Canadians].”

Where does the U.S. stand now on mixed vaccines?

Canada updated its vaccination guidelines in June to recommend mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses based on emerging research that found it was both safe and effective.

Meanwhile, the CDC still maintains that “data on the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series are limited.”

But that could change. 

The U.S. recently conducted a study exploring the effectiveness of using a different COVID-19 vaccine as a booster shot. 

This week, U.S. authorities met to review the data which so far suggests mixing vaccines is safe and effective.

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U.S. FDA delays decision on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents – WSJ

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The U.S. health regulator is delaying its decision on authorizing  Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents to check if the shot could increase the risk of a rare inflammatory heart condition, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been inspecting the risk of the condition, myocarditis, among younger men vaccinated with Moderna’s shot, especially versus Pfizer’s vaccine, after certain Nordic countries limited use of the shot, the report https://on.wsj.com/3p3P5Zp said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The agency has not yet determined whether there is heightened risk, and the delay could be several weeks, though the timing was unclear, the report said.

In June, Moderna filed for U.S. authorization of its vaccine among adolescents aged 12 through 17. The FDA authorized rival Pfizer’s vaccine for use in children as young as 12 in May.

The U.S. FDA’s review of Moderna’s application is ongoing, an FDA spokesperson told Reuters, adding that while the agency cannot predict how long the process may take, it is evaluating the data as expeditiously as possible.

Europe’s drug regulator found in July that such inflammatory conditions could occur in very rare cases following vaccination with Moderna’s vaccine or Pfizer/BioNTech’s shot, more often in younger men after the second dose.

However, the regulator stressed that the benefits of the shots outweighed any risks.

Earlier this month, Finland, Sweden and Denmark paused the use of Moderna’s shot for younger males due to reports of myocarditis, though the Danish Health Agency later said the vaccine was available to under-18s.

Moderna’s two-shot vaccine has U.S. authorization for emergency use in people aged 18 and above.

The FDA in June added a warning to the literature accompanying Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 shots to indicate the rare risk of heart inflammation.

 

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Mjau Samuel)

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Bill Clinton to remain in hospital overnight, his health is improving -spokesman

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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will remain in hospital overnight, his spokesman said on Twitter, adding that Clinton’s health indicators were “trending in the right direction.”

 Clinton , 75, who left office in 2001, entered the  University of California Irvine Medical Center on Tuesday evening for a non-coronavirus infection.

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Chris Reese)

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