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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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Chinese company says coronavirus vaccine ready by early 2021 – WellandTribune.ca

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BEIJING – A Chinese pharmaceutical company said Thursday the coronavirus vaccine it is developing should be ready by early 2021 for distribution worldwide, including the United States.

Yin Weidong, the CEO of SinoVac, vowed to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell CoronaVac in the United States if it passes its third and final round of testing in humans. Yin said he personally has been given the experimental vaccine.

“At the very beginning, our strategy was designed for China and for Wuhan. Soon after that in June and July we adjusted our strategy, that is to face the world,” Yin said, referring to the Chinese city were the virus first emerged.

“Our goal is to provide the vaccine to the world including the U.S., EU and others,” Yin said.

Stringent regulations in the U.S., European Union, Japan and Australia have historically blocked the sale of Chinese vaccines. But Yin said that could change.

SinoVac is developing one of China’s top four vaccine candidates along with state-owned SinoPharm, which has two in development, and military-affiliated private firm CanSino.

More than 24,000 people are participating in clinical trials of CoronaVac in Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia, with additional trials scheduled for Bangladesh and possibly Chile, Yin said. SinoVac chose those countries because they all had serious outbreaks, large populations and limited research and development capacity, he said.

He spoke to reporters during a tour of a SinoVac plant south of Beijing. Built in a few months from scratch, the plant is designed to enable SinoVac to produce half a million vaccine doses a year. The bio-secure facility was already busy on Thursday filling tiny bottles with the vaccine and boxing them. The company projects it will be able to produce a few hundred million doses of the vaccine by February or March of next year.

SinoVac is also starting to test small doses of CoronaVac on children and the elderly in China after noticing rising numbers of cases globally among those two groups.

Yin said the company would prioritize distribution of the vaccine to countries hosting human trials of CoronaVac.

While the vaccine has not yet passed the phase 3 clinical trials, a globally accepted standard, SinoVac has already injected thousands of people in China under an emergency use provision.

Yin said he was one of the first to receive the experimental vaccine months ago along with researchers after phase one and two of human trials showed no serious adverse effects. He said that self-injecting showed his support for CoronaVac.

“This is kind of a tradition of our company,” Yin said, adding that he had done the same with a hepatitis vaccine under development.

Earlier this year, China permitted “emergency use” of vaccine candidates for at-risk populations like border personnel and medical workers if companies could show “good safety and good antibodies” from tests of about 1,000 people, Yin said.

SinoVac received that approval in June along with SinoPharm and CanSino, and was able to provide tens of thousands of doses of CoronaVac to Beijing’s municipal government, Yin said.

SinoVac employees qualified for emergency use of the vaccine because an outbreak inside the company would cripple its ability to develop a vaccine, he said. About 90% of the company’s staff have received it.

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“We are confident that our research of the COVI-19 vaccines can meet the standards of the U.S. and EU countries,” Yin said.

___ Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang contributed to this report.

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After long-term care, Quebec private seniors residences a growing COVID-19 concern – Pipeline News

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MONTREAL — A slow but steady rise of COVID-19 cases in Quebec’s private seniors residences in recent weeks is causing concern among experts and authorities, who want to avoid the disaster that befell long-term care homes during the first wave of the novel coronavirus.

As of Wednesday evening, there were 39 private residences in Quebec with 180 COVID-19 cases between them listed on the government’s website. Four among them were described as “critical” because more than 25 per cent of their residents were infected.

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In comparison, only 20 long-term care homes were listed as having cases. One facility was listed as critical.

Yves Desjardins, the head of a group representing hundreds of seniors residences, says the number of facilities affected and the total number of COVID-19 cases in the network remains low. He said, however, managers are watching the trend carefully.

Unlike the first wave of the virus, which was concentrated in long-term care, the second has the virus spreading throughout the community, according to health officials. Desjardins says community spread poses a risk for people living in seniors residences because they are generally more active than are residents of long-term care homes.

“We have a clientele that is much more autonomous, that move around, families coming to visit, workers coming to the residence,” Desjardins said in a recent interview. “The virus is circulating in the community, and we’re in the community.”

Health Minister Christian Dube has expressed concern about cases appearing in private seniors homes, known as RPAs. On Sept. 15, he tightened health directives in those facilities, mandating that masks be worn in common areas such as hallways and elevators.

“The RPAs, for me, that’s our next problem if we’re not careful,” he said on Sept. 15.

Seniors residences must record the names of guests, who are required to wear masks. Despite the rules, there have been some outbreaks.

The four seniors residences listed as critical are located in the Quebec City area and in the region to its south, called Chaudiere-Appalaches. The RPA called Villa Ste-Rose in Laval, north of Montreal, has seen cases jump from four to 18 in recent days.

Dube said this week that while some cases in seniors residences are unavoidable, public health is contacting each place to ensure infection-control measures are being followed.

Louis Demers, a professor at Quebec’s public administration school, known as Ecole nationale d’administration publique, says the province should be concerned.

By raising the salaries of orderlies in long-term care homes, he said the government may have lured people away from the public sector. That attempt to reverse critical staff shortages in long-term care has the potential to increase seniors residences’ dependence on employment agencies.

“If your personnel is insufficient, and you have to choose between not giving a woman a bath, or giving one by someone who might have the virus, what do you do?” he said in a recent interview.

A major issue that contributed to hundreds of deaths in long-term care homes in the spring was the fact employees worked in more than one facility, often carrying the virus with them to vulnerable and captive populations.

Desjardins said it’s nearly impossible to “100 per cent” ensure staff only work at one residence, especially when some health professionals come in and out to provide services.

He said, however, that owners of residences generally ask staffing agencies to ensure personnel don’t rotate between facilities. When it comes to professionals providing medical services, they are asked not to visit multiple places in the same day, he explained.

Both Demers and Desjardins said private seniors residences are better prepared to face a second wave than long-term care homes were prepared to face the first wave of the novel coronavirus last spring.

Owners have a set of clear guidelines explaining which measures to impose based on the alert levels in their regions, covering everything from visitors to cafeteria dining. Infection-control measures are now known and understood, and personal protective equipment such as masks are available, Desjardins said.

Demers said the population in seniors residences are healthier than in long-term care homes and generally live in their own small apartments, which makes distancing easier. They’re also less likely to suffer from cognitive problems such as dementia.

He believes the government’s biggest challenge when it comes to private seniors homes is to find the right balance of measures that will protect people from the virus while allowing them the social contact that’s essential to their mental health.

After witnessing the hardships caused by the restrictive measures placed on seniors homes last spring — such as including banning all visitors and limiting movement — there’s little appetite for another lockdown, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

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Montreal reports 229 new cases of COVID-19, one more death – CTV News Montreal

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MONTREAL —
Montreal public health reported 229 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of cases in the city since the start of the pandemic to 32,292. 

One more person has died due to the disease in the city, for a total of 3,478. Quebec health officials announced that the death took place sometime between Sept. 18 and 23. Montreal’s data shows it was a person aged 80 and over. 

Montreal North remains the area most impacted by COVID-19, accounting for 2,808 of the city’s cases. Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension and Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace are the runners up with 2,634 cases, 2,589 cases and 2,564 cases respectively. 

As of Friday, there are 26 long-term care homes and public retirement homes with at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. 

Montreal remains “orange” or at the “level 3 warning” stage on Quebec’s regional COVID-19 alert map

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