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Half of local high school students need updated shots, says health unit – Windsor Star

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An estimated 13,710 secondary school students across the region do not have up-to-date immunization records for Hepatitis B, HPV, and Meningococcal disease, says the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

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Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai disclosed the daunting figure — representing more than half of all high school students in Windsor-Essex — on Thursday.

“Some of those individuals may have received their vaccines, but have not forwarded their documents,” Nesathurai said. “Another group have not received their vaccines at all.”

“It’s a very high number,” said health unit CEO Nicole Dupuis.

The health unit is emphasizing that Ontario legislation requires all students to be up-to-date on immunizations — or face suspension from school for up to 20 days.

Households with students whose records show they have missed shots were receiving notices in the mail from the health unit this week, specifying what shots they require and how they can update their information to avoid suspension.

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  1. Windsor-Essex vaccination efforts shift to ‘catch-up’ student immunizations

  2. Windsor-Essex County Health Unit acting medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai. Handout photo.

    Nesathurai: HPV vaccines critical to protect youth from cancer in their future

  3. The Windsor Regional Hospital Met Campus is shown on Wednesday, December 29, 2021.

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Without up-to-date immunizations, students will receive suspension notices in September at the start of the 2022/2023 school year, local public health officials warn.

However, Nesathurai said he does not anticipate there will be a need for mass suspensions, as past experience shows widespread compliance before the deadline.

“The public health service is extremely reluctant to interrupt the school lives of children,” Nesathurai said.

Vaccinations against Hepatits B, HPV, and Meningococcal disease are normally administered to students at their schools. But the disruption of in-person learning over the past two years due to COVID-19 precautions has resulted in more students than ever before not receiving their shots.

The Immunization of School Pupils Act has been part of Ontario law for more than three decades.

Since early March, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has been organizing immunization opportunities for school-age citizens, via public clinics and appointments at the health unit offices.

Students seeking vaccination for Hepatitis B, HPV, and Meningococcal disease can book an appointment at 1005 Ouellette Ave. via the website www.wechu.org/getimmunized or by calling 519-258-2146 ext. 4500.

Updated immunization records can be reported to the health unit via immune.wechu.org, or by calling 519-960-0231.

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Nesathurai said the historical adherence rate to the vaccinations covered in the Immunization of School Pupils Act has been around 90 per cent. “It’s actually pretty good in previous years.”

“I think that when people are provided the opportunity to vaccinate their children, the vast majority of people do so. The vaccines we have for children — for measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough — have been given for decades.”

Meanwhile, the region’s COVID-19 vaccination rate has been at a standstill for months — with 88.7 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents ages 12 and older having received at least two doses, but only 11 per cent of residents in the 12 to 17 age group having received a third dose/booster shot.

Asked if he has any concern that public health measures instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic have had a galvanizing effect on anti-vaccine sentiment among a portion of the population, Nesathurai replied that there has always been “a subset of people,” in the community who are reluctant to accept any medical treatment or intervention.

Nesathurai said the role of public health remains to provide guidance and education, and while the pandemic may have led to “a greater coarseness of the dialogue” in the community, the local health unit will continue to have the dialogue.

“Vaccinations are probably one of the most effective public health interventions that we have,” Nesathurai said.

dchen@postmedia.com

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COVID-19 boosters recommended for the fall, Canada's vaccine advisory body says – CBC News

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People at high risk of severe disease from COVID-19 infection should be offered a booster shot this fall, regardless of how many boosters they’ve previously received, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said on Wednesday. 

That group includes everyone age 65 and older, NACI’s updated guidance said

Everyone else — age 12 to 64 — “may be offered” the additional doses in the fall, NACI said. 

NACI said it will provide recommendations on the type of booster to be given when evidence about multivalent vaccines — which prime the body’s defences against multiple variants, including Omicron and its subvariants — becomes available.

“Manufacturers are working on new COVID-19 vaccines, including multivalent vaccines and vaccines specifically targeting VOCs [variants of concern], although their exact characteristics and timing of availability in Canada are not yet known,” NACI said. 

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Wednesday that Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have caused COVID-19 case numbers to rise in 110 countries, “causing overall global cases to increase by 20 per cent.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has also said those Omicron subvariants appear to be on the rise in this country. 

On Tuesday, advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that the next wave in COVID-19 booster shots should include a component that targets Omicron to combat the more recently circulating subvariants.

NACI recommended that booster shots happen in the fall because, as with other respiratory viruses, “incidence of COVID-19 may increase in the later fall and winter seasons,” and new variants of concern could emerge. 

In addition to those 65 years and older,  NACI strongly recommends a fall booster for:

  • Long-term care residents.
  • People with underlying medical conditions, including cardiac disease, diabetes, cancer and kidney disease.
  • People who are immunocompromised. 
  • People who are pregnant.
  • Adults who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 (including racialized communities).
  • Adults who are marginalized (including people with disabilities).
  • Adults from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. 
  • Residents of congregate living settings, including group homes, shelters, correctional facilities and quarters for migrant workers.

Health officials emphasize that three doses of the current approved vaccines continue to provide good protection against severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death. 

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Quebec COVID-19 hospitalizations rising as new variants gaining ground

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MONTREAL — Quebec is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by new Omicron subvariants that account for about 75 per cent of infections, the province’s public health director said Wednesday.

Dr. Luc Boileau said the subvariants, such as BA2.12.1, BA.5 and BA.4, appear to be more transmissible than previous strains but not necessarily more severe. The rise in cases was “expected,” though it came earlier than authorities had thought, he said, adding that the number of new infections should continue to rise in the coming days or weeks before declining.

Boileau said the province doesn’t plan on reimposing any broad-level public health restrictions, but he recommended that people who are over 65 or medically vulnerable take precautions such as wearing a mask. He was firm in his advice against a new provincewide masking order, insisting that such a measure was not “realistic” or necessary at this point.

“We’re not at all on a path to reimpose population-level measures such as mask-wearing, or other measures that needed to be taken in the last two years,” he said.

“We’re not there, and we’re not heading in that direction with the current variants.”

He said people who are over the age of 60, who are immunocompromised or who have chronic illnesses should seek a second booster shot if they haven’t had one or if their last shot was more than three months ago. As well, he said those who want to wear masks should be “encouraged” to do so, especially in crowded places.

His update came as COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by 34 in the previous 24 hours, after a 113-patient rise the day before. There were 1,260 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Quebec, including 35 in intensive care. Health officials also reported four more deaths associated with the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Don Vinh of the McGill University Health Centre says Quebec is facing a “perfect storm” of factors that include the emergence of new variants, waning immunity from vaccination or previous infection, and the removal of public health restrictions.

The new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, he said in an interview Tuesday, appear to be gaining ground and finding vulnerable people to infect, especially since the mutations seem to be better able to evade immunity compared with previous strains.

“You put the two together, the new variants and waning immunity from either infection, immunization or a hybrid, and what happens is you have a renewed pool of susceptible people with an emerging variant,” he said.

The rise in hospitalizations, he added, comes at a time when the health system is least prepared to handle it.

Hospital workers at “all levels” are overwhelmed, he said, from paramedics and ambulance drivers to ER staff and the community and home care workers who need to be present to care for frail people leaving hospital.

COVID-19 is also putting increased pressure on the system by forcing sick health-care workers to stay home at a time when they’re most needed, he said. “This a catastrophic, systemic failure being unmasked and perhaps even exacerbated by unmitigated community transmission.”

On Wednesday, Boileau said he was concerned with the impact the increase in cases will have on the system, adding that authorities were working with hospitals to readjust services when necessary. He said, however, that he didn’t expect the new rise in cases to get “very, very high” and that the numbers should begin to decline in the next few weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

 

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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Canada extends COVID-19 border measures until Sept. 30, including ArriveCan app

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OTTAWA — The federal government will extend current COVID-19 public health measures for travellers entering Canada, including the use of the ArriveCan app, until at least Sept. 30.

In a release Wednesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada also said it will continue the pause of mandatory random testing for fully vaccinated travellers at all airports until mid-July.

It first announced the pause on June 11 and said in the release that it’s allowing airports to focus on streamlining their operations.

The public health agency said it’s moving forward with plans to relocate COVID-19 testing for air travellers outside of airports to select test provider stores, pharmacies or by virtual appointment.

Mandatory random testing is to continue at land border points of entry with no changes.

The release added that travellers who are not fully vaccinated and don’t have a valid exemption must continue to test on Day 1 and Day 8 of their 14-day quarantine.

“As we move into the next phase of our COVID-19 response, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over. We must continue to do all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe from the virus,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a statement.

He also urged people to remain up to date with the recommended vaccinations to ensure they are adequately protected against infection, transmission and severe complications.

“As we have said all along, Canada’s border measures will remain flexible and adaptable, guided by science and prudence.”

All travellers will have to continue to use the ArriveCan app or website to provide their travel information within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada or before boarding a cruise ship destined for the country. The government said 95 per cent of land and air travellers are using the app and it’s taking steps to enhance compliance.

The government also said moving testing outside of airports will allow Canada to adjust to increased traveller volumes while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern or changes to the epidemiological situation.

It said border testing has been essential in helping Canada slow the spread of the virus, as data from the tests are used to understand the current level and trends of importation of COVID-19 into the country.

The testing program also allows for detection and identification of new COVID-19 variants of concern, it said.

Tourism groups and border-community mayors and MPs have called on the government to ease restrictions and scrap the ArriveCan app, saying the measures are limiting cross-border travel.

Transport Minister Randy Boissonnault said the government is deeply invested in growing Canada’s visitor economy.

“From our reputation as a safe travel destination to our world-class attractions and wide-open spaces, Canada has it all and we are ready to welcome back domestic and international tourists, while prioritizing their safety and well-being.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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