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Health officials to release new COVID-19 projections –



Despite a few recent outbreaks across the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today new federal figures show efforts to fight the novel coronavirus in Canada are working.

“After a very challenging spring, things are continuing to move in the right direction,” he said during a media briefing outside his residence at Rideau Cottage this morning.

“We still have some hot spots in some parts of the country, but nationally, the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths is declining over time.”

His comments came just before today’s semi-regular update of Canada’s virus modelling numbers.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her colleague Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, will give their updated projections of how many more Canadians are likely to get sick during their 12 p.m. ET briefing.

After months of strict travel rules and widespread business shutdowns, more provinces are easing restrictions. Later this week, the four Atlantic provinces will open their borders to each other, meaning residents in those areas can travel without having to self-isolate for 14 days.

But efforts to reopen have experienced setbacks in multiple provinces.

Hundreds of people in the Kingston, Ont., area are now being tested for possible exposure to the novel coronavirus after an outbreak at a local nail salon.

The local health unit confirmed on Monday that 25 people have tested positive for COVID-19 after working at, visiting or coming into contact with someone who was at the salon.

Of Ontario’s 257 confirmed new cases of COVID-19, reported today, 177 are from the Windsor-Essex area. The provincial caseload grew sharply following targeted testing of migrant farm workers over the weekend.

British Columbia, which has moved into Phase 3 of its reopening plan, is seeing a sustained rise in cases for the first time in months, with hospitalizations at their highest point since June 7 and the five-day rolling average of new cases the highest since May 17. 

The B.C. government is still encouraging people to travel within the province — but it’s also warning that its pandemic response is at a critical point where cases could rise significantly if people don’t take proper precautions.

“I want to stress, though, that while we’re on the right track, the fight against COVID-19 is not over yet,” said Trudeau.

“As we start to reopen parts of the economy, we must continue to follow local public health guidelines to keep each other safe.”

More than 500,000 people have died worldwide of the illness caused by the virus, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Canada has had more than 103,000 cases and more than 8,500 deaths.

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Moderna vaccine induces robust immune response against SARS-CoV-2 – News-Medical.Net



The race to develop an effective vaccine against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is on, and one of the potential candidates shows promise in inducing an immune response.

The US biotech firm Moderna announced it would enter the final stage of its human trials for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine on July 27, after revealing the promising results of its open-label phase 1 study. The vaccine, called mRNA-1273, is the firm’s candidate vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The early results of the trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), revealed that the vaccine triggered an immune response with mild side effects, including chills, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, and injection site pain. It is the first vaccine candidate of the United States to publish its results in a peer-reviewed journal.

The results from the participants in the initial dose who received both vaccinations were validated and revealed that the vaccine-induced rapid and robust immune responses against the novel coronavirus.

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

The vaccine

The vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, is an mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 encoding for a prefusion stabilized form of the spike protein. Moderna collaborated with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop the vaccine.

The first clinical batch of the vaccine was funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

The clinical trial

The first phase of the human clinical trial involved 45 healthy adults between 18 and 55 years old, who received two doses of the vaccine, ranging from 25 μg, 100 μg, or 250 μg, 28 days apart. Each of the dose group had 15 participants.

The team found that after the first vaccination, antibody responses were higher with a higher dose. The candidate vaccine induced binding antibodies to the full-length SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (S) in all participants after the first vaccination. All the participants seroconverted by the 15th day. Further, dose-dependent increases in binding titers were observed at all three dose levels.

At day 57, geometric mean titers surpassed those seen in convalescent sera extracted from 38 people who were confirmed to have COVID-19. Of these, 15 percent ha severe symptoms, 22 percent had moderate symptoms, and 63 percent had only mild symptoms.

The team analyzed the neutralizing activity in two assays, the PRNT or the SARS-CoV-2 plaque-reduction neutralization test and a pseudovirus neutralization assay or pseudotyped lentivirus reporter single-round-of-infection neutralization assay (PsVNA).

After two doses of vaccinations, the Moderna vaccine-induced potent neutralizing antibody titers and by the 43rd day, the neutralizing activity against the SARS-CoV-2 was observed in all the participants. T cell responses were also seen at the 25 µg and 100 µg doses. After the second dosage, the mRNA1273 Th1-biased CD4 T-cell responses without significant evaluation of Th2-biased CD4 T- cell responses.

“The mRNA-1273 vaccine-induced anti–SARS-CoV-2 immune responses in all participants, and no trial-limiting safety concerns were identified. These findings support further development of this vaccine,” the researchers concluded.

The researchers added that safety and immunogenicity findings suggest that the vaccine should advance to later-stage human trials.

Currently, the phase 2 trial of mRNA-1273 in 600 healthy adults, which evaluates the doses of 50 μg and 100 μg, is ongoing. The company also announced that after the phase 2 trial ends, it plans to conduct the phase 3 trial that will commence this summer.  

“These positive Phase 1 data are encouraging and represent an important step forward in the clinical development of mRNA-1273, our vaccine candidate against COVID-19, and we thank the NIH for their ongoing collaboration. The Moderna team continues to focus on starting our Phase 3 study this month and, if successful, filing a BLA,” Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said in a news release.

“We are committed to advancing the clinical development of mRNA-1273 as quickly and safely as possible while investing to scale up manufacturing so that we can help address this global health emergency,” she added.

Meanwhile, Moderna’s stock skyrocketed by 17 percent on July 14 after the firm announced its candidate vaccine against COVID-19 produced robust immune system response.

The coronavirus pandemic is still actively spreading across the globe, with the infection toll now reaching more than 13.49 million. With the increasing number of confirmed cases and deaths, finding an effective vaccine is a race against time.

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Quebec company begins human trials of coronavirus vaccine –



Medicago said on Tuesday it has begun testing its plant-based coronavirus vaccine in an early-stage clinical trial as the Canadian company, backed by tobacco company Phillip Morris, races against larger drugmakers to develop a treatment option to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medicago said it dosed the first healthy volunteers on Monday in a 180-person study, making it the first vaccine from Canada among the more than 20 experimental coronavirus vaccines being tested in humans.

Read more:
Canadian company to collaborate on potential coronavirus vaccine with GSK

Experts have cautioned that more than one vaccine may be necessary to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, with drugmakers such as AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc ahead in the race and gearing up to test their vaccine candidates in large trials.

Countries have spent billions to aid the development of safe and effective vaccines and to secure access to them.

Initial doses of Medicago’s vaccine could go to the United States and Canada, Chief Executive Officer Bruce Clark told Reuters.

“Our research base is in Canada and we have commercialization in the U.S., so it seems to be most likely the first countries will be in North America.”

Medicago’s vaccine is being tested with adjuvants, or vaccine boosters, from GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s largest vaccine-maker, and Dynavax Technologies Corp.

Medicago’s potential vaccine uses the leaves of a plant from the tobacco family to produce the S-spike protein, one of the three spike proteins of the novel coronavirus.

The company has already used this approach in a flu vaccine that is awaiting Canadian approval.

Read more:
Quebec biopharmaceutical company sees encouraging early COVID-19 vaccine tests

Medicago, which expects to make about 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021, is also building a facility in Quebec City, Canada. The facility is expected to be ready by 2023 and make a billion units a year.

The company, headquartered in Quebec City, is privately owned. Philip Morris owns 33% of Medicago and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma the remaining stake.

© 2020 Reuters

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21 new cases of COVID-19 detected in BC Wednesday, no new deaths –



Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said they were “concerned” about the recent growth in COVID-19 case numbers, as they provided an update on B.C.’s caseload Wednesday.

In a written statement, the health officials reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 but no new deaths related to the disease. 

it follows the announcement Monday of 62 new cases over the weekend and 13 new cases Tuesday.

Henry and Dix say community transmission is becoming a problem in the province and urged people to obey advice to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check.

“We are concerned about the increase in new cases in recent days, as COVID-19 continues to silently circulate in our communities,” they said in their statement. “While early on, many of our long-term care and assisted living facilities were impacted, most of the new cases are in the broader community.

“As we spend more time with others, we need to find our balance with COVID-19. We need to minimize the number of cases, manage new cases as they emerge and modify our activities accordingly.”

With Wednesday’s case numbers included, the province has had a total of 3,149 novel coronavirus cases to date and 189 deaths have been connected to COVID-19, while 2,753 people have recovered.

Two of Wednesday’s cases were epidemiologically linked cases, meaning they were never tested but are presumed to have the disease as they are showing symptoms and were in close contact with someone who tested positive for the disease.

No new outbreaks

The province also put the number of known cases that are still active at 207.

Fourteen people are in hospital, including five in intensive care. The rest are recovering at home in self-isolation, the officials said.

No new outbreaks were reported in either health-care settings or the community Wednesday. That leaves B.C. with two long-term care or assisted-living facilities with active outbreaks and one acute-care setting with an active outbreak.

There remains one active outbreak in the community, the statement said, “in addition to several community exposure events.”

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