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Has Canada reached its vaccine ceiling? – TVO

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Vivian Harbers is a project manager with the COVID-19 Canadian Social Impacts Research Study at the University of Guelph; Eric B. Kennedy is an assistant professor in Disaster and Emergency Management at York University; Jean-François Daoust is an assistant professor at the University of Edinburgh.

As COVID-19 case counts continue to rise across Canada, it is clear that we’re far from out of the woods with this pandemic. While much is still unknown about the Omicron variant, it seems very likely that existing vaccines will offer protection against severe cases of COVID-19, and Canada is rapidly administering booster shots in an effort to help to bolster immunity.

While vaccination coverage against COVID-19 is relatively high (76.49 per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated at the time of writing), there remains a substantial group of Canadians who are either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.

At this point in the pandemic (more than six months after most Canadian adults became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine), should we declare this level of vaccination coverage as the “vaccine ceiling?” Our research suggests the answer is no.

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As defined by the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, the term “vaccine hesitancy” is used to describe “a delay or refusal of vaccination, despite availability of vaccination services.” The range of reasons some Canadians remain unvaccinated is wide, including (but not limited to) concerns about “personal freedom” and health and the belief that COVID-19 is not as serious a health threat as it’s made out to be.

Much of the existing research on vaccine hesitancy has focused on identifying personal or demographic factors associated with vaccine hesitancy, such as age, gender, and socio-economic status. Our research investigated the role of timing in vaccine uptake.

Given the unique nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its vaccines, not all Canadians gained access to a vaccine at the same time — and many around the world are still waiting for access. As a result, people had to start thinking about their vaccine decisions in hypothetical or future contexts. Because of this, we sought to understand how thinking about COVID-19 vaccine availability along different timelines might influence a person’s vaccine decisions.

In December 2020 (just prior to broad vaccine availability in Canada), we asked Canadian survey respondents about their impending vaccine decisions. Each participant was presented with one variation of the question:

“If a coronavirus vaccine was available to you (today, or in one month, or in six months, or in one year), would you get vaccinated, or not?”

In analyzing results from this experiment, we found that the proportion of most enthusiastic participants (those who selected “Yes, as soon as possible” as a response) increased substantially as the proposed date of vaccine availability became more distant.

Even more interesting was our finding that the proportion of hesitant people decreased as the proposed date of vaccination moved further into the future. The proportion who responded that they would “Wait some time” before vaccination and the proportion who responded, “No, I would not get a coronavirus vaccine” both decreased as vaccine availability became more distant in time.

This has important implications for Canadian policy-makers. While the swift uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine might be the ideal scenario for squashing case counts, these findings suggest that those who are hesitant aren’t necessarily going to refuse the vaccine altogether.

This finding may also be useful for countries that are much further behind on mass vaccination efforts, as it suggests a delayed vaccine rollout might encounter less hesitancy and have faster uptake.

We also asked open-ended questions about what Canadians would wait for, before getting the vaccine. What we found is that many Canadians who said they were waiting for “some time to pass” were couching their true concerns (for example, waiting for a certain number of other people to be successfully vaccinated first) within the more broad category of “timing.”

[embedded content]Agenda segment, January 18, 2022: What should we do about the unvaxxed?​​​​​​​It may be useful to remember this finding when having conversations with folks who might be vaccine hesitant. Offering space for people to elaborate on their vaccine concerns might help bypass default responses and reveal alternative reasoning that has the potential to be addressed.

In some cases, these concerns might even be addressed with empathetic listening, by input from trusted experts, or from evidence that speaks to the values and beliefs of those who have questions.

As recent Omicron surges remind us, vaccination alone is not a silver bullet in the fight against COVID-19. However, it remains an important tool in mitigating the spread and severity of the disease, and the United Nations Foundation still positions vaccine equity as our best exit strategy for the pandemic.

It seems nearly certain that there will remain a group of Canadians who choose to never receive a COVID-19 vaccine. However, our findings suggest that it is unwise to assume that all Canadians who have not yet been vaccinated will never do so. They may just be waiting.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

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U.S. CDC publishes guidelines on monkeypox vaccine – Financial Post

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday published recommendations by its group of independent experts on a smallpox vaccine that limit its use to only people who work closely with viruses such as monkeypox.

The Jynneos vaccine, made by Bavarian Nordic, will be available for certain healthcare workers and laboratory personnel at a time when monkeypox infections has spread in Europe, United States and beyond.

The vaccine was approved in the United States in 2019 to prevent smallpox and monkeypox in high risk adults aged 18 and older.

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CDC officials earlier this week said they were in the process of releasing some doses of the Jynneos vaccine for people in contact with known monkeypox patients.

Officials said there were over 100 million doses of an older smallpox vaccine called ACAM2000, made by Emergent BioSolutions , which has significant side effects.

Monkeypox is a mild viral infection that is endemic in certain parts of Africa, but the recent outbreak in countries where the virus doesn’t usually spread has raised concerns.

So far, there are about 300 confirmed or suspected cases in around 20 countries where the virus was not previously circulating. The World Health Organization has called for quick action from countries to contain the Monkeypox spread.

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The CDC said its experts’ recommendations are meant for clinical laboratory personnel performing diagnostic tests for orthopoxviruses such as smallpox and monkeypox, laboratory people doing research on the viruses and healthcare workers who administer the ACAM2000 vaccine or care for patients infected with orthopoxviruses.

The publication of the vote by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which took place in November last year, formalizes the recommendations.

Both ACAM2000 and Jynneos are available for prevention of orthopoxvirus infections among at-risk people, the CDC said on Friday. (Reporting by Manas Mishra and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Shailesh Kuber)

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LGBTQ advocates fear monkeypox stigma could 'spread like a virus' – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Advocates warn that stigma could pose a public health threat as a cluster of monkeypox cases stokes concern in the queer community.

Health authorities are investigating more than two dozen confirmed monkeypox cases in Canada as part of an unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease that seldom spreads outside Africa.

Twenty-five infections have been confirmed in Quebec and one in Ontario, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Thursday, predicting the tally will rise in coming days.

While everyone is susceptible to the virus, clusters of cases have been reported among men who have sex with men, officials say.

For some LGBTQ advocates, this raises the spectre of sexual stigmatization that saw gay and bisexual men scapegoated for the spread of HIV-AIDS in the 1980s. Others say the early detection of the monkeypox cases by sexual health clinics shows how the queer community has mobilized to dismantle shame and promote safe practices.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said he’s mindful of the potential for stigma and discrimination, reiterating that the virus’s spread isn’t limited to any specific group or sexual orientation.

The disease can be contracted through close contact with a sick person, including but not limited to sexual activity, Dr. Howard Njoo told a news conference Thursday. Scientists are still working to determine what’s driving cross-border transmission of the virus.

But as early signs suggest the virus is currently circulating in certain communities, authorities are working with partners on the ground to raise awareness among those at elevated risk of exposure, Njoo said.

Quebec officials said both transparency and sensitivity are needed to contain the outbreak and provide care to those infected.

“Stigmatization is really a big challenge in controlling this disease, so we’re trying to fight it,” Montreal public health official Dr. Genevieve Bergeron told reporters Thursday. “It’s important to understand that our enemy is the virus, it’s not the people who are affected.”

Aaron Purdie, executive director of the Health Initiative for Men in B.C., said he worries that the spread of stigma could present a greater threat than the disease itself, citing the lasting legacy of the panic and prejudice around HIV-AIDS in the early years of the epidemic.

“Stigma spreads like a virus,” Purdie said. “Yes, it’s treatable. Yes, it’s containable. But it spreads nonetheless.”

Beyond its corrosive societal harms, stigma can deter people from accessing testing and treatment, as they fear how a diagnosis could jeopardize their social standing, employment and safety, Purdie said.

These concerns are particularly potent among LGBTQ people given their long history of discrimination by the health-care system, said Purdie. That’s why it’s vital that public health agencies assist queer activists, educators and clinicians in leading the monkeypox response.

“We all hold trauma from our histories, and the reality is when something like monkeypox comes in, it scares people,” he said.

“We need to decrease the stigma. Because if we don’t, people aren’t able to fully express their identities, and … (that has the) downstream effect of making the community sicker.”

Dane Griffiths, director of the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance of Ontario, said stigma thrives in silence, so one of the most effective strategies to combat it is to provide timely and accurate information without “shame or blame.”

The alliance is working to do just that by sharing the latest developments about the virus, encouraging people to pay attention to the risks and take steps to protect themselves.

Griffiths said obscuring the risk the virus poses to the queer community could prompt people to drop their guard.

“I wouldn’t want that to be an opportunity for the community to tune this out,” said Griffiths.

Instead, the queer community should be commended for helping authorities track the virus’s spread by getting tested at sexual health clinics in such high numbers, which could be a factor in why so many cases have been identified in men who have sex with men, Griffiths said.

“There are gay and bisexual men who have been showing up around the world at clinics and doctor’s offices and are being seen and therefore counted,” said Griffiths. “That’s a good thing, and it’s actually to be encouraged within our community.”

More than two years into the pandemic, University of Toronto bioethicist Kerry Bowman said he hopes people have realized infectious disease doesn’t discriminate on the basis of identity, so we don’t see a resurgence of the stigma and bigotry that pervaded our initial responses to both COVID-19 and HIV-AIDS.

“This is kind of a litmus test to see if we’ve moved on as a society, if we’re capable of looking at illness without … the cruelty of laying stigma on people,” said Bowman.

– with files from Jacob Serebrin in Montreal

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

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Canada raids emergency stockpile to send medical equipment to Ukraine

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OTTAWA — Canada has tapped into its own strategic stockpile of emergency medical supplies — stored for a national emergency — to help Ukraine.

It has donated over 375,000 items of medical equipment and medicines from Canada’s strategic stockpile since the invasion by Russia began.

This includes first aid and trauma kits, medicines and surgical instruments, as well as gloves, masks and gowns.

Canada’s health minister also helped push through an international resolution on rebuilding Ukraine’s besieged health-care system in Geneva this week.

Jean-Yves Duclos held bilateral talks to help get the votes required for the resolution, which Canada co-sponsored with Ukraine at the World Health Assembly meeting.

The Ukrainian motion, voted for by 88 countries to 12, with 43 abstentions, follows attacks on Ukraine’s health-care facilities and equipment, including ambulances, by Russian forces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

 

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