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Health Canada approves extracting six doses from Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine vials – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Health Canada has issued a label change authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, allowing administrators to draw one more dose from each vial than previously advised.

That means that going forward Canadian health-care professionals who are giving the shots will be able to extract six rather than five doses per vial, an update from what was authorized when the vaccine was first given the green light in December 2020.

This comes after a scientific review done by the agency of data submitted by Pfizer, demonstrating that six doses could safely and accurately be extracted from each vial.

Health Canada’s concern, in part, was based on a requirement to have a certain amount of “overfill” in each vial to ensure that there is enough vaccine to sufficiently draw up the accurate amount to yield the expected doses. The regulator’s review found that an “acceptable” amount remains in the vials once six doses are extracted.

“In order to extract a sixth dose reliably and consistently, a specialized syringe should be used. A low dead-volume syringe is designed to have a lower volume of liquid that stays in the hub of the syringe after the vaccine is administered. This minimizes the loss of vaccine volume per vaccination,” said Health Canada Senior Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma at a briefing on Tuesday.

Low-dead volume syringes are designed to have less liquid remaining in the hub of the syringe after the vaccine is administered.

The government says that while this new guidance comes into effect immediately, this week’s shipments will remain calculated at five doses per vial, but going forward the shipment allocations across Canada will be altered to reflect that there are six doses contained within each vial sent.

“This week, tens of thousands of Pfizer vaccine doses will be delivered to Canada. This is good news for so many people who will get a dose,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his Rideau Cottage address.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is critical of the decision, saying it’s “mandating that the provinces do more with less.”

“The Liberals must also be clear with Canadians about whether Pfizer will replace any lost doses if the provinces are unable to extract the sixth dose,” he said in a statement.

Canada has a contract with Pfizer to receive 40 million doses of the vaccine, four million of which are to be delivered by the end of March. After weeks of shortages, next week’s shipment and those in the weeks ahead are set to increase considerably.

By counting the sixth dose what was set to be a shipment of approximately 335,000 doses is now being considered a shipment of around 400,000 shots. Similarly, the delivery coming in the last week of February will now include approximately 475,000 doses, rather than the 395,000 doses announced last week.

“While there is a change in doses contained in each vial, the country’s overall allotment from the manufacturer remains the same,” Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin said Tuesday.

Fortin said that there are enough low-dead volume syringes in stock to continue Canada’s vaccine rollout under this new guidance, and more have been ordered and will continue to arrive over the next few months.

The goal is that with consistent use of these kinds of syringes, the instances in which health professionals are not reliably able to draw up six full doses will be lessened.

“We will continue to monitor it,” Sharma said, noting she has “anecdotally” heard of instances in which up to seven doses are able to be extracted from Pfizer vials.

American and European health authorities have already allowed the extraction of six Pfizer doses per vial.

The pharmaceutical giant is required to assist in Canada’s rollout of this change, including informing Health Canada quarterly of any issues reported from vaccine sites having issues extracting a sixth dose.

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COVID-19 on Vancouver Island: Health officials to provide case update – CTV News VI

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VICTORIA —
Health officials have confirmed 26 more cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Friday.

The cases were among 634 found across the province over the last 24 hours, health officials said in their final COVID-19 update of the week.

There are now 305 active cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region, including 17 people in hospital and two in critical care.

Island Health has identified the locations of 256 of the active cases. There are 139 in the Central Island, 62 in the North Island and 55 in the South Island.

Four more people have died of the virus in B.C., bringing the province’s death toll to 1,380. No deaths were reported in the Island Health region, where the death toll has reached 27.

“We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost loved ones to COVID-19,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement.

The Island Health region has now confirmed 2,515 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

B.C. identified four new COVID-19 variant cases Friday. The province has now confirmed 250 variant cases, 12 of which are currently active.

Meanwhile, health-care teams have administered 12,357 more vaccine doses over the past 24 hours, for a total of 311,208 doses, including 86,865 second doses.

Health officials say the province’s vaccine rollout plan is gaining momentum, and remind British Columbians aged 90 and over that they can begin booking vaccine appointments on Monday.

Indigenous people over the age of 65 can also arrange for a vaccine appointment starting March. 8.

“In addition to our immunization program, we are regularly reviewing the public health restrictions to assess when we can safely ease them,” said Henry and Dix.

“We know many are keen to resume activities and we will open what we can when we have the confidence it is safe to do so.”

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B.C.’s rapid COVID-19 tests have produced only two positive results – Victoria News

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B.C. has completed 39 pilot projects on its available COVID-19 rapid testing technologies, including at seven outbreaks in long-term care facilities to screen employees who are not showing symptoms.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry responded this week to repeated calls for more widespread use of rapid testing, describing how nasal swabs and rapid result machines have been used in provincial prisons, workplace outbreaks and in B.C. schools where exposures have taken place. Results have not been encouraging.

“Of the thousands of tests that have been done, two of them have been positive, and both of those cases were in facilities that were having an outbreak,” Henry said at a COVID-19 briefing March 4. “So if our community transmission rates are low, screening with these less sensitive tests is not very effective. It doesn’t help us because the yield is so low and they have a very much higher false-negative rate. In those areas where we have an outbreak or where community transmission rates are higher, that’s when they might have more utility and those are the areas that we are looking at more closely.”

RELATED: COVID-19 Rapid tests not effective, use restricted, Dix says

RELATED: Rapid tests deployed for B.C. homeless shelter outbreaks

B.C. started receiving Health Canada-approved rapid tests in late October, but each batch required validation by a B.C. Centre for Disease Control lab, before pilot projects could be done. The first school test was at Garibaldi secondary in Maple Ridge, where a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus turned up in the more accurate genetic testing used for diagnosis.

“There are two situations that we use them in,” Henry said. “One is for testing of people with symptoms to determine whether they might have COVID or something else. This has been very helpful in situations where people have had a test three days before they go for surgery and the day of their surgery they have a bit of a cough or runny nose.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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Dentists, teachers, bus drivers want Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in B.C. – National Post

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VANCOUVER — Dentists, teachers and bus drivers are among the essential workers who hope to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in British Columbia, as a provincial committee decides who should be prioritized for the shot.

BC Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring said her members should be included in the plan expected to be released by the B.C. Immunization Committee around March 18.

Education staff have had the second-highest number of COVID-19 claims accepted by WorkSafeBC, behind only health-care workers, and teachers have faced challenging conditions, Mooring said.

“It’s been a very difficult and stressful environment for teachers in B.C.,” she said Friday.

“Teachers have not, from the very start, been satisfied with the preventative measures that have been in place in classrooms. What we see is one of the most lax mask policies in all of Canada.”

The province does not require elementary students to wear masks, unlike in Ontario and high-risk areas of Quebec. B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said young children don’t get as sick from COVID-19 or pass it on as well as others.

Henry has said the immunization committee will use public health principles, vaccine science and an ethical framework to reach its decision on which essential workers and first responders should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Once the plan is finalized, the vaccine will be administered in a parallel program to the province’s age-based strategy for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement Friday that the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will become another tool in its program to accelerate the protection of more people in the province.

The officials reported 634 new cases and four more fatalities, pushing the death toll to 1,380 in B.C. Four new cases were confirmed to be variants of concern, bringing the total to 250.

The BC Dental Association said in a statement it would be “extremely pleased” if its members were included in the group to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot. Dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely, work in very close proximity to the mouth and often use aerosol-generating procedures, it said.

The association also pointed out that dentists, dental hygienists and certified dental assistants are included in Henry’s recent order to help administer the vaccines.

“We would expect that any dentist choosing to participate in mass vaccination clinics would be required to have been vaccinated themselves prior to providing them,” it said.

Balbir Mann, president of Unifor Local 111, which represents Metro Vancouver bus drivers, said his members should receive the vaccine because they have been at risk throughout the pandemic.

“When people get on the bus to pay their bus fare, they’re literally a couple feet away. Our members, day to day, they’re scared of the sneezes and coughs they have to deal with on a daily basis.”

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Henry has suggested that workers in food processing plants will be prioritized because there have been a number of outbreaks in the facilities that have led to broader community transmission.

James Donaldson, CEO of BC Food and Beverage, said his organization has been advocating for food production workers to receive priority access to vaccines since they became available.

“Our industry is essential as it ensures the continuity of the food supply for people in B.C. and around the world,” he said.

Kim Novak, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Local 1518, represents food plant workers including those at Grand River Foods in Abbotsford who recently grappled with a COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s because of the nature of the work. People are working in close proximity. Even with enhanced (personal protective equipment), staggering breaks and other health and safety protocols that have been implemented, there is still a high level of exposure,” she said.

Novak’s union also represents grocery store workers and she hopes they will be included in the plan for the vaccine.

“In grocery stores in particular, there is a lot of exposure to different people in the public,” she said. “That exposure not only is a risk for our members … but also the public who interact with them.”

BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle, meanwhile, said his group represents both long-haul truckers and local drivers who return home every night. He wants to hear from the province about where the COVID-19 hot spots are in the transportation system.

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For example, in B.C., there are 300,000 people with a Class 1 licence allowing them to operate a semi-trailer truck, Earle said.

“Not everybody with a Class 1 licence operates a heavy truck at the moment and many of those who do don’t do it in an environment where they’re at any greater risk than you and I just going about our daily lives,” he said.

In some European countries, people have been hesitant to receive the AstraZeneca shot because of fears it is less effective than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization has also not recommended AstraZeneca for people over 65, while Health Canada has approved it for all adults.

Henry sought on Thursday to assure essential workers that the AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely effective. The clinical trials for all three vaccines were done under different conditions and cannot be fairly compared, she said.

The groups representing essential workers said Friday they hadn’t heard any concerns about the AstraZeneca shot from members.

Earle said his association takes guidance from public health officials and they’ve been abundantly clear.

“Whatever you’re offered, take it. Let’s get out of this.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021.

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