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Health Officials provide COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan for upcoming months – MY PG NOW

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BC Health officials outlined the provincial COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan for the upcoming months, which plans to make the vaccine readily available to all 4.3 million BC residents over 18 by September.

“The Government of Canada has committed that every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will have access to a vaccine before the end of September 2021,” explained BC Health Minister, Adrian Dix.

BC’s eldest citizens will be the first in line, as they are basing the rollout on 5-year-age cohorts.

“Adults older than 60 years may have at least 5 times increased odds of hospitalization and mortality from COVID-19 compared to those aged less than 45 years,” explained Dr.Bonnie Henry, “this increased risk appears to magnify at least to some degree even for those older than 60 years, with those aged over 80 years having double the mortality risk of those aged 65-69 years.”

Between April and September, Northern Health is expected to receive 28,000 doses a week, which amounts to 5,600 per day.

“In some cases, if we have a very small community that we’re going to for vaccinating the older age group- if it’s a very small community and vaccines are available it’s possible we may decide to vaccinate the whole community right then rather than coming back three or four times,” explained Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of the BC immunization rollout.

In March, the province will set up 172 vaccination clinics across the province, there will also be mobile sites set up wherever needed as well as home visits for those unable to go to clinics.

Starting in mid-to-late February, Health Authorities will be reaching out to seniors 80 years and older as well as Indigenous seniors aged 65 and up to give them more insight on how to pre-register for appointments.

Starting in mid-March and by five-year cohorts working backwards from age 75-79, citizens will be able to pre-register for a vaccine 2-4 weeks before they are eligible for their appointment.

Additionally, mobile sites will be set up wherever needed and home visits to support those who are unable to go to clinics will be available.

Health officials will begin pre-registering and setting up vaccination appointments in March, which will be available online.

FOUR PHASE PLAN:

  • More than 103,000 people in BC received a COVID-19 vaccine during the first phase of the rollout plan that ends in mid-February
  • Phase 2 expands immunizations to additional vulnerable populations, Indigenous communities and Elders, health-care staff and all seniors over the age of 80
  • In April, phase 3 begins and will expand to include people between the ages of 79 to 75 and work backwards in five-year cohorts to include anyone aged 60 and older.
  • People with certain underlying health conditions that make them clinically extremely vulnerable to the virus will be included in phase 3 as well.
  • Phase 4 is anticipated to begin in July for the rest of the eligible population, starting with people aged 59 to 55 and working backwards in five-year age groups until everyone over the age of 18 who wants a COVID-19 vaccine receives it.
  • Between July and August, anyone between the ages of 40-59 is expected to receive the vaccine
  • Anyone aged 18-39 can expect to be eligible for the vaccine between August and September

With each phase, more people will be eligible to be immunized and any extra available vaccines will be given to front-line workers between the ages of 18-64.

Additionally, BC Health officials explained that no one will lose their place in line if you cannot be immunized during your scheduled phase.

PEOPLE DEEMED EXTREMELY CLINICALLY VULNERABLE (REFERENCED IN PHASE 3)

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • With specific cancers, people with cancer that are undergoing active chemotherapy or anyone with lung cancer undergoing radical radiotherapy
  • With cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • Having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • Having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • Who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • With severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • With rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell disease)
  • On immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection (biologic modifiers, high dose steroids, AZT, cyclophosphamide)
  • Who had a splenectomy (spleen removed)
  • Adults with very significant developmental disabilities that increase risk (details to come)
  • Adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (stage 5)
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
  • Significant neuromuscular conditions requiring respiratory support

VACCINE SUPPLY:

  • Canada has secured 6 million doses of the vaccine to be distributed between January to March
  • The federal government is expecting to receive another 20 million doses between April and June, then 45 million from July to September
  • From mid-December 2020 to the end of March, BC expects to receive 792,675 doses
  • BC expects to receive approximately 2,640,000 doses from April to the end of June
  • From July to September, BC is expecting to receive nearly 6 million doses

These numbers only account for the two Health Canada approved vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech, and doesn’t account for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which health officials claim is likely to be approved before the end of March.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines require two doses administered about 35 days apart.

BC’s entire vaccine rollout plan is based on the findings and predictions of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and doesn’t account for any unexpected delays in distribution.

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Moderna begins studying potential COVID-19 vaccine booster targetting variant first detected in South Africa – CBC.ca

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Drug manufacturer Moderna says it will begin testing a variant-specific version of its COVID-19 vaccine that would target the B1351 variant first detected in South Africa.  

The company has previously reported that its original two-dose vaccine — already approved for use in Canada — appears to provide protection against the B117 variant first detected in the U.K., as well as the B1351 variant, though its own research suggests it may be less effective against the latter

The company says it will study the B1351 variant-specific vaccine both as a potential booster to the original COVID-19 vaccine and as a standalone for people who have not yet received a vaccine at all. 

It will study the outcomes of three different scenarios:

  • A single shot of the B1351 variant-specific vaccine. 
  • A shot combining both the original vaccine and the B1351 variant-specific booster. 
  • A booster of the original vaccine, added to the original two-dose version. 

The B1351-specific vaccine will undergo clinical trials at the National Institutes for Health in the U.S.

“As we seek to defeat COVID-19, we must be vigilant and proactive as new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna in a statement. 

“Leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are moving quickly to test updates to the vaccines that address emerging variants of the virus in the clinic.”

Moderna reported last month that its vaccine was essentially as effective against the B117 variant as it was to prior variants.

But it found there was a reduction in its neutralizing ability against the B1351 variant. 

Neutralizing antibodies are one of the body’s immune responses to control viral infections.

South Africa paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after data from a small trial suggested the vaccine did not protect against mild to moderate illness from the B1351 variant now dominant in the country.

Johnson & Johnson, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novavax have all looked at how their vaccines perform against the B1351 variant.

WATCH | Doctor calls for aggressive action to target COVID-19 variants:

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Dr. Brooks Fallis speaks out against reopening plans in several provinces as officials study potential implications of the spread of new COVID-19 variants. 8:46

Variants confirmed around the world

The B1351 variant has been detected in at least 40 countries while the B117, first detected in the U.K., has now been identified in 80. Both have been found in Canada. 

Health Canada would need to approve any booster or new vaccine against the B1351 variant before it could be administered here.

The prime minister confirmed Wednesday that Moderna will deliver the two million doses of COVID-19 vaccine it is contracted to provide Canada by the end of March. 

Justin Trudeau said Canada expects to receive 460,000 doses the week of March 8 and 840,000 doses beginning  March 22.

That’s in addition to the 518,000 Moderna shots that have been administered in this country already and the 168,000 doses that are set to arrive this week.

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Moderna to begin trial of new COVID vaccine to address virus variant first found in South Africa – USA TODAY

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Karen Weintraub
 
| USA TODAY

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Mobile clinic helps distribute COVID-19 vaccine at DC church

In the District today, a pilot program using churches to help distribute the coronavirus vaccine was introduced.

Fox – 5 DC, Fox – 5 DC

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Moderna, which makes one of the two authorized COVID-19 vaccines, is set to launch a clinical trial of a new vaccine designed to combat a variant of the virus, the company announced Wednesday. 

The company says it has produced enough of its variant-specific candidate vaccine, called mRNA-1273.351 to begin testing it in people.

Any change to address variants, which other vaccine makers also are working on, would need to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

In a study published last week, Moderna showed that blood from people who received the current vaccine includes neutralizing antibodies against the major known variants. But only one-sixth of their antibodies were protective against the B.1.351 variant of the virus, which originated in South Africa, and which is the target of its new vaccine. 

It is not clear whether this reduced antibody level is sufficient to protect people against symptomatic or serious cases of COVID-19 from this new variant.

That’s why “out of an abundance of caution,” the company said in a news release it has begun pursuing two possible strategies against the variant: giving people a booster dose of the original vaccine to increase antibody levels, and developing two variant-specific vaccines, which could be given instead of the original one.

It will test several variations of a booster, the company said, including a single, low-dose shot of the variant-specific vaccine; a shot that includes both the original vaccine and the variant-specific one; and a third low-dose version of the original vaccine. 

According to FDA guidance, the company plans to evaluate the safety and immune effects of these approaches in people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and in those who received the original vaccine, mRNA-1273.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease will help lead the clinical studies to see if mRNA-1273.351 can boost immunity against the variant. In its announcement Wednesday, the company said it already has shipped sufficient doses of this variant-specific vaccine needed for testing. 

“As we seek to defeat COVID-19, we must be vigilant and proactive as new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge,” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, said in a prepared statement, referring to the virus that causes COVID-19. “We are moving quickly to test updates to the vaccines that address emerging variants of the virus in the clinic.”

The lower doses hopefully will work for the booster, Bancel said, allowing the company to stretch its limited vaccine supply.

Other leaders in the COVID-19 vaccine effort – Pfizer-BioNTech, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca-Oxford University – also have said they are working on new versions of their vaccines or boosters to increase their protection.

A third vaccine on the way: One-dose J&J COVID-19 vaccine meets criteria as safe and effective, FDA report finds

It’s not yet clear whether a booster shot, which amps up the immune system, will be enough to protect against a new variant, or if an entirely new vaccine is needed.

Moderna is the first to release details about its effort. 

In a Congressional subcommittee meeting Tuesday, Pfizer’s chief business officer, John Young, said his company is “preparing to respond quickly to initiate a study to investigate the effectiveness of a third booster of our vaccine in trial participants who have already received two doses.”

He said Pfizer is discussing trial designs with the FDA. “We will fight every step of the way until a devastating pandemic is under control,” he said.

The Moderna vaccine, like the Pfizer-BioNTech one, is based on mRNA technology in which a simple change to the code will enable the recipient to make a slightly different protein. That’s why they were both made so quickly last year, once it became clear which protein on the SARS-CoV-2 virus they should target. By getting the body to produce a protein from the virus, the vaccine trains the immune system to recognize that protein and immediately attack if the recipient is exposed to the virus.

On Monday, the FDA laid out guidelines for companies that want to change their vaccines to adapt to new variants. They will not be required to start from scratch, running gigantic clinical trials over many months as they have to win FDA authorization.

Instead, as with the flu vaccine, which is altered every year to cope with changing strains, COVID-19 vaccine versions will be tested in smaller groups to confirm safety and to examine immune responses for effectiveness.

Lab studies and some real-world evidence suggests that current vaccines will remain effective against a variant called B.1.1.7, which originated in the United Kingdom.

Lessons from the UK: COVID-19 variant found in UK spreads ‘like wildfire.’ British experts fear what will happen if US won’t lock down

But they may not all work against B.1.351. Studies of AstraZeneca-Oxford University’s collaborative vaccine showed it was barely protective at all against B.1.351 in South Africa, and that country has passed on using doses of the vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine does seem to provide some protection there, and lab studies suggest that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, like Moderna’s, would continue to provide some protection against that variant, though it’s not clear how much.

Even if it proves unnecessary to reconfigure vaccines to fight the B.1.351 variant, there may be another that comes along that will require a new vaccine, public health officials have said.

New variants of the virus will continue to emerge as COVID-19 continues to infect people across the globe. The only way to stop these variants is to reduce the spread of the virus, public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease doctor, have said.

“It really is the time to study effects of booster doses to new, emerging viral variants,” Dr. Jesse Goodman, a professor of Medicine at Georgetown University and former chief scientist with the FDA, said in a Wednesday call with media.

Studies are needed to show whether people respond as expected to booster doses, and whether they cause any concerning safety problems. 

And even if the virus doesn’t escape protection from current vaccines, people might need boosters eventually, Goodman said.

“We don’t know,” he said, “how long immunity will last from these vaccines.” 

Contact Karen Weintraub at kweintraub@usatoday.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

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Advocacy groups call for COVID-19 vaccine plan for migrants, undocumented workers – Yahoo News Canada

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Health care workers wait for patients at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal's Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Advocates say migrants and undocumented workers shouldn't be required to provide identification, addresses or information about their immigration status in order to receive a vaccine.

Health care workers wait for patients at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Advocates say migrants and undocumented workers shouldn’t be required to provide identification, addresses or information about their immigration status in order to receive a vaccine.

(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press – image credit)

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout needs to guarantee equal access for migrants and undocumented workers, advocates for migrant rights say.

The Migrant Rights Network says it fears that countless migrant and undocumented workers won’t get vaccinated because of their immigration status — either because they lack access to health coverage or they worry about their personal information being shared with immigration enforcement authorities.

“While federal and provincial governments have made promises and assurances that vaccine access will be universal, policies and practices have not changed,” said Syed Hussan, a member of the Migrant Rights Network secretariat, at a virtual press conference today.

“Concrete action is urgently necessary to ensure life-saving public health measures are accessible to all migrant and undocumented people.”

WATCH: Advocates call for equal access to vaccines for migrants and undocumented workers

The group laid out a list of demands in an open letter signed by 270 civil society organizations and addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial and territorial leaders.

Their goals include: making sure vaccines are free for everyone in Canada, regardless of immigration status; ensuring that getting a vaccine doesn’t require a health card; and directing vaccine providers to not demand personal information in exchange for receiving a vaccine dose.

The group also said that vaccines shouldn’t be mandatory and that health care providers should be trained not to turn people away if they don’t have a health card or access to health insurance.

The letter comes as provinces and territories make plans for a country-wide mass vaccination campaign. The quantity of vaccine doses being delivered to Canada is expected to ramp up substantially in the coming weeks and months.

Many lack health cards

The Migrant Rights Network estimates that over 1.6 million people in Canada don’t have permanent resident status and says that many of them work in essential jobs in such sectors as health care, cleaning, construction, delivery and agriculture. The group says many migrants and undocumented workers are being denied vaccination because they don’t have health cards — which in many cases are tied to work or study permits.

The group was joined at the press conference by an undocumented worker at a long-term care home in Toronto who came to Canada in 2014. The woman — identified only as “Lily” during the press conference — said her immigration status expired in Jan. 2020, leaving her undocumented and without an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card.

Lily said she has been denied the COVID-19 vaccine, while all the residents and staff in the home where she works have received two shots already.

“I am on the front line every day, just like everyone else who lives and works in the home. But while they are better protected from the virus’s spread, I am not,” said Lily.

“Undocumented workers are already denied access to health care, housing, social services and legal rights. Now we are being denied access to COVID vaccinations because it is tied to an OHIP card, which we do not have.”

The Ontario Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Dr. Danyaal Raza, board chair of the physicians’ advocacy group Canadian Doctors for Medicare, said he was part of an outreach team that went into a Toronto homeless shelter last week to vaccinate residents there.

Raza said the team offers residents vaccinations without asking to see their health cards. They were also given the option of providing an alias.

Raza, who is also a family doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said this model should be in place across the country — especially as provinces and territories prepare to conduct mass vaccination campaigns in the coming months.

“We need to make sure that this is the case at every single vaccine clinic because we’re hearing now that it’s not, and that’s not acceptable, especially if we’re going to hit that target for herd immunity,” said Raza.

Vaccines will be free and accessible: PHAC

Vancouver MP Jenny Kwan, the federal NDP’s critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship, backed the call for vaccine access for migrants and undocumented workers.

“Migrant workers and undocumented workers do critical work in Canada and we have to ensure that we do our part in protecting them from COVID outbreaks without any fear of reprisals,” said Kwan.

“Not only is including migrant workers and undocumented workers in the vaccination process the right thing to do, if we aren’t targeting hotspots for transmission and protecting the most vulnerable to infection, then we are only prolonging the pandemic for everyone and adding additional strain to our hospitals.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed that the two COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for use in Canada — from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — are free and will be accessible to everyone in Canada.

“While they’re available to priority populations first, they’ll be available to everyone in Canada who is recommended to get the vaccine by federal, provincial and territorial public health authorities,” Anna Maddison said by email. “This applies to everyone in Canada, including those who aren’t citizens (and who are over the age of 16 for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or over the age of 18 for the Moderna vaccine).”

But Maddison pointed out that provincial and territorial governments are responsible for administering the vaccine.

Each province and territory has its own separate immunization plan laying out who can get a vaccine and when, along with the location of vaccination sites.

Over 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed by the federal government since immunization began in December, and over 1.6 million doses have been administered, according to the COVID-19 Tracker project.

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