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Front-line workers are feeling a surprising COVID-19 vaccine side effect – hope – The Globe and Mail

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A nurse prepares a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, on Dec. 15, 2020.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

For Sheron Grayer, the physical side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine were minimal. A few hours after she got home, the injection site on her arm grew sore, persisting for about a day and a half before resolving on its own. It was a similar feeling to when she got her flu shot last fall, she said.

But the emotional effect was profound. Ms. Grayer, a registered practical nurse in Windsor, works in a facility that has become “overrun” with COVID-19 patients during the second wave, and the fear of getting sick and infecting her family weighed heavy on her.

“It lightens my heart to know that when patients are coughing on me, despite having the [personal protective equipment] on, I’m not going to bring it home to my son,” she said.

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“Pre-shot, you’re extremely worried about it: Am I going to bring this home to my family? My elderly parents? Even though I’m not 100 per cent clear yet, because I still have to get my second shot, it’s a relief to know I’m on my way there.”

The sore arm Ms. Grayer experienced is the most common side effect of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines now being distributed across Canada. A Pfizer study found that, seven days after vaccination, 84.1 per cent of vaccine recipients reported at least one reaction at the injection site (most commonly pain or soreness). Redness and swelling were reported less frequently.

By age, 88.7 per cent of people in a younger group (aged 18 to 55) experienced at least one reaction, compared to 79.9 per cent of those over 55. The younger group reported pain more frequently than the older group: 83.1 per cent versus 71.1 per cent respectively after the first dose, and 77.8 per cent versus 66.1 per cent after the second.

The median onset of reactions was between the day of vaccination and two days after, and the reactions typically lasted between one and two days.

Matthew Miller, an associate professor at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University, said most people who receive the vaccine can expect to feel local soreness or swelling, while a smaller proportion may experience fever, chills, tiredness and headaches.

“Anything more severe than that is very rare,” he said.

Compared to other known vaccines, Dr. Miller said these common side effects fall in between what is typically seen with the flu vaccine on the lower end and the shingles vaccine on the higher end.

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Side effects tend to be more pronounced after the second dose, he added.

“The first dose is essentially an initiator dose that primes your system,” Dr. Miller said. “The second dose stimulates a much stronger immune response. A lot of the side effects that we feel after we get a vaccine, including the COVID vaccine, are a function of our immune system becoming activated. So in some ways, it’s a good sign that the immune system is recognizing the vaccine and doing what it’s supposed to be doing.”

The Pfizer study found that 26.1 per cent of recipients aged 18 to 55 reported moderate to severe headaches after the second dose, while Moderna reported that 16.5 per cent of recipients experienced adverse reactions serious enough to disrupt their daily activities.

A few cases of Bell’s palsy, a type of facial paralysis, were reported in trials for both vaccines, but they did not represent a frequency above that expected in the general population and there was insufficient evidence to determine a causal relationship with the vaccines.

Dr. Miller said while it will take time to accumulate data on the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccines, it’s expected that they will be very rare.

“When one thinks about the risk of long-term side effects of a vaccine – in the context of a pandemic, like we’re currently in – the comparison that matters is: What are the rates of any long-term side effects associated with the vaccine relative to the infection? Not relative to unvaccinated people,” he said.

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Sherri Pel, a registered nurse in Langley, B.C., said she experienced a “very tender arm” for about one day after receiving her vaccination. For her, the vaccine means less fear of risking her own health – or of those in her household – and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Every vaccine should be celebrated, because I think we are so privileged to even get this opportunity so quickly,” she said. “Science is just amazing.”

Jacqueline Solomon, a neurologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said she felt “mild arm tenderness” after receiving her first dose of the vaccine. More pronounced, she said, were the feelings of relief and hope after a trying year.

“In some ways, not to sound cheesy or anything, but it felt like I was given a gift,” Dr. Solomon said.

“The concern about side effects is a real concern from the public, and it’s understandable,” she added. “From my standpoint, I would much rather take those very small risks of the side effects with the vaccine than the risk of getting COVID, but at the same time also protecting those around me.”

Dr. Kanna Vela has been treating COVID-19 patients in emergency departments in Ajax and Scarborough, Ontario for nearly 10 months. She lived apart from her family at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Receiving her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in late December has given Dr. Vela some hope for the months ahead as hospitals struggle to care for the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

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U.S. approves Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine – CBC.ca

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The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two.

Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways.

The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

“This is really good news,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The Associated Press Saturday. “The most important thing we can do right now is to get as many shots in as many arms as we can.”

Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.

A person is administered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 17. (Nardus Engelbrecht/The Associated Press)

J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. Worldwide, the company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. On Thursday, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.

Health Canada is still reviewing the vaccine. Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.

‘We’re champing at the bit to get more supply’

On Sunday, a U.S. advisory committee will meet to recommend how to prioritize use of the single-dose vaccine. And one big challenge is what the public wants to know: Which kind of vaccine is better?

“In this environment, whatever you can get — get,” said Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan, who chaired an FDA advisory panel that unanimously voted Friday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks.

Data is mixed on how well all the vaccines being used around the world work, prompting reports in some countries of people refusing one kind to wait for another.

WATCH | Will Canadians be able to choose which vaccine they get?:

Doctors answer questions about the latest COVID-19 vaccine news including whether Canadians will be able to choose which one they get. 5:48

In the U.S., the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95 per cent protective against symptomatic COVID-19. J&J’s one-dose effectiveness of 85 per cent against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66 per cent when moderate cases were rolled in. But there’s no apples-to-apples comparison because of differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, with the Pfizer and Moderna research finished before concerning variants began spreading.

Collins said the evidence of effectiveness shows no reason to favour one vaccine over another.

“What people I think are mostly interested in is, is it going to keep me from getting really sick?” Collins said. “Will it keep me from dying from this terrible disease? The good news is all of these say yes to that.”

Also, J&J is testing two doses of its vaccine in a separate large study. Collins said if a second dose eventually is deemed better, people who got one earlier would be offered another.

The FDA cautioned that it’s too early to tell if someone who gets a mild or asymptomatic infection despite vaccination still could spread the virus.

There are clear advantages aside from the convenience of one shot. Local health officials are looking to use the J&J option in mobile vaccination clinics, homeless shelters, even with sailors who are spending months on fishing vessels — communities where it’s hard to be sure someone will come back in three to four weeks for a second vaccination.

WATCH | Canada’s procurement minister on Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

The CBC’s Tom Parry asks Procurement Minister Anita Anand how many doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Canada will receive after it’s approved by Health Canada. 4:56

The J&J vaccine also is easier to handle, lasting three months in the refrigerator compared to the Pfizer and Moderna options, which must be frozen.

“We’re champing at the bit to get more supply. That’s the limiting factor for us right now,” said Dr. Matt Anderson of UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, where staffers were readying electronic health records, staffing and vaccine storage in anticipation of offering J&J shots soon.

The FDA said studies detected no serious side effects. Like other COVID-19 vaccines, the main side effects of the J&J shot are pain at the injection site and flu-like fever, fatigue and headache.

The FDA said there is “a remote chance” that people may experience a severe allergic reaction to the shot, a rare risk seen with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in adults 18 and older for now. But like other vaccine makers, J&J is about to begin a study of its vaccine in teens before moving to younger children later in the year, and also plans a study in pregnant women.

All COVID-19 vaccines train the body to recognize the new coronavirus, usually by spotting the spike protein that coats it. But they’re made in very different ways.

WATCH | Provinces offer different timelines for COVID-19 vaccine rollout:

When Canadians will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine may depend on where they live. The provinces have started revealing their rollout plans, but the timing of who can get a shot varies across the country. 1:58

J&J’s shot uses a cold virus like a Trojan horse to carry the spike gene into the body, where cells make harmless copies of the protein to prime the immune system in case the real virus comes along. It’s the same technology the company used in making an Ebola vaccine, and similar to COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca and China’s CanSino Biologics.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a different technology, a piece of genetic code called messenger RNA that spurs cells to make those harmless spike copies.

The AstraZeneca vaccine — which was approved for use in Canada on Friday and is already in use in numerous other countries — is finishing a large U.S. study needed for FDA clearance. Also in the pipeline, Novavax uses a still different technology, made with lab-grown copies of the spike protein, and has reported preliminary findings from a British study suggesting strong protection.

Still other countries are using “inactivated vaccines,” made with killed coronavirus by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm.

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U.S. approves Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine – CBC.ca

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The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two.

Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways.

The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

“This is really good news,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The Associated Press Saturday. “The most important thing we can do right now is to get as many shots in as many arms as we can.”

Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.

A person is administered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 17. (Nardus Engelbrecht/The Associated Press)

J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. Worldwide, the company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. On Thursday, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.

Health Canada is still reviewing the vaccine. Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.

‘We’re champing at the bit to get more supply’

On Sunday, a U.S. advisory committee will meet to recommend how to prioritize use of the single-dose vaccine. And one big challenge is what the public wants to know: Which kind of vaccine is better?

“In this environment, whatever you can get — get,” said Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan, who chaired an FDA advisory panel that unanimously voted Friday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks.

Data is mixed on how well all the vaccines being used around the world work, prompting reports in some countries of people refusing one kind to wait for another.

WATCH | Will Canadians be able to choose which vaccine they get?:

Doctors answer questions about the latest COVID-19 vaccine news including whether Canadians will be able to choose which one they get. 5:48

In the U.S., the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95 per cent protective against symptomatic COVID-19. J&J’s one-dose effectiveness of 85 per cent against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66 per cent when moderate cases were rolled in. But there’s no apples-to-apples comparison because of differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, with the Pfizer and Moderna research finished before concerning variants began spreading.

Collins said the evidence of effectiveness shows no reason to favour one vaccine over another.

“What people I think are mostly interested in is, is it going to keep me from getting really sick?” Collins said. “Will it keep me from dying from this terrible disease? The good news is all of these say yes to that.”

Also, J&J is testing two doses of its vaccine in a separate large study. Collins said if a second dose eventually is deemed better, people who got one earlier would be offered another.

The FDA cautioned that it’s too early to tell if someone who gets a mild or asymptomatic infection despite vaccination still could spread the virus.

There are clear advantages aside from the convenience of one shot. Local health officials are looking to use the J&J option in mobile vaccination clinics, homeless shelters, even with sailors who are spending months on fishing vessels — communities where it’s hard to be sure someone will come back in three to four weeks for a second vaccination.

WATCH | Canada’s procurement minister on Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

The CBC’s Tom Parry asks Procurement Minister Anita Anand how many doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Canada will receive after it’s approved by Health Canada. 4:56

The J&J vaccine also is easier to handle, lasting three months in the refrigerator compared to the Pfizer and Moderna options, which must be frozen.

“We’re champing at the bit to get more supply. That’s the limiting factor for us right now,” said Dr. Matt Anderson of UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, where staffers were readying electronic health records, staffing and vaccine storage in anticipation of offering J&J shots soon.

The FDA said studies detected no serious side effects. Like other COVID-19 vaccines, the main side effects of the J&J shot are pain at the injection site and flu-like fever, fatigue and headache.

The FDA said there is “a remote chance” that people may experience a severe allergic reaction to the shot, a rare risk seen with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in adults 18 and older for now. But like other vaccine makers, J&J is about to begin a study of its vaccine in teens before moving to younger children later in the year, and also plans a study in pregnant women.

All COVID-19 vaccines train the body to recognize the new coronavirus, usually by spotting the spike protein that coats it. But they’re made in very different ways.

WATCH | Provinces offer different timelines for COVID-19 vaccine rollout:

When Canadians will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine may depend on where they live. The provinces have started revealing their rollout plans, but the timing of who can get a shot varies across the country. 1:58

J&J’s shot uses a cold virus like a Trojan horse to carry the spike gene into the body, where cells make harmless copies of the protein to prime the immune system in case the real virus comes along. It’s the same technology the company used in making an Ebola vaccine, and similar to COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca and China’s CanSino Biologics.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a different technology, a piece of genetic code called messenger RNA that spurs cells to make those harmless spike copies.

The AstraZeneca vaccine — which was approved for use in Canada on Friday and is already in use in numerous other countries — is finishing a large U.S. study needed for FDA clearance. Also in the pipeline, Novavax uses a still different technology, made with lab-grown copies of the spike protein, and has reported preliminary findings from a British study suggesting strong protection.

Still other countries are using “inactivated vaccines,” made with killed coronavirus by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm.

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Nova Scotia Health advises of potential COVID-19 exposure at 7 locations, flight – HalifaxToday.ca

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NEWS RELEASE
NOVA SCOTIA HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH
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Nova Scotia Health Public Health is advising of potential exposure to COVID-19 at 7 locations in the Central Zone as well as an Air Canada flight. In addition to media releases, all potential exposure notifications are listed here: http://www.nshealth.ca/covid-exposures.

Anyone who worked at or visited the following locations on the specified dates and times should immediately visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

For the following locations, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate while you wait for your test result. If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result.

  • Head Shoppe Mic Mac Mall (21 Micmac Blvd, Dartmouth) on Feb. 17 between 9:15 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 3.
  • Lawton’s Drugs Westphal (90 Main St. Dartmouth) on Feb. 18 between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 4.
  • NSHA Blood Collection Clinic (5110 St. Margaret’s Bay Rd, Tantallon) on Feb. 18 between 12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Feb. 22 between 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 8. (Testing recommended for anyone that visited the clinic on the above dates and times who have not already been contacted by Public Health).
  • Winners Mic Mac Mall (21 Micmac Blvd, Dartmouth) on Feb. 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
  • Chapters Mic Mac Mall (21 Micmac Blvd, Dartmouth) on Feb. 19 between 12:00 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
  • Walmart Bedford Commons (141 Damascus Road, Bedford) on Feb. 23 between 11:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 9.
  • Dollarama Dartmouth Crossing (100 Gale Terrace, Dartmouth) on Feb. 24 between 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 10.

Anyone who was on the following flight in the specified rows and seats should visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

  • Air Canada flight 614 departing from Toronto on Feb. 24 (2:18 p.m.) and arriving in Halifax (5:05 p.m.). Passengers in rows 12-18, seats A, B, C and D are asked to immediately visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 10.

Please remember:

Do not go directly to a COVID-19 assessment centre without being directed to do so. Please book an appointment online and do not go to a pop-up rapid testing location.

Currently, anyone who traveled outside Nova Scotia or PEI is expected to self-isolate alone for 14 days after arriving. If a person returning from non-essential travel outside Nova Scotia or PEI is unable to isolate alone, then everyone in the home where they are self-isolating will have to self-isolate as well.

When Nova Scotia Health Public Health makes a public notification it is not in any way a reflection on the behaviour or activities of those named in the notification.

All Nova Scotians are advised to continue monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and are urged to follow Public Health guidelines on how to access care. Up to date information about COVID-19 is available at novascotia.ca/coronavirus

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