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Health officials update COVID-19 situation in B.C. –




Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, will provide an update on COVID-19 in British Columbia at 11:15 a.m. PT.

According to health officials there are no new cases of the illness. 


Yesterday, Henry confirmed a man in his 40s living in the Fraser Health region is B.C.’s seventh case of COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus.

The man is a close contact of a woman who was confirmed last week as the province’s sixth case. She had travelled to Vancouver from Iran before developing symptoms.

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COVID vaccination rates stall out in northern B.C. – Victoria News




Vaccinations against COVID-19 have all but stalled out, show weekly statistics released by Northern Health covering 40 areas within northern B.C.

Just four of those 40 locations showed an increase in people over the age of 12 getting their first dose for the week ending Dec. 14, a trend that has been growing since late fall.

And in each of those four locations, all in the northeast where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the north and with northern rates below those elsewhere in the province, the increase was just one per cent.


There are scatterings of second dose increases, a natural follow on from those who have received first doses, and the weekly releases are now starting to show third dose numbers.

In B.C., 88.7 per cent of people aged 12 and up have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 78 per cent in Northern Heath as of Dec. 16.

Northern Health’s chief medical officer for the northwest, Dr. Raina Fumerton, says it’s hard to pin down the reasons why vaccinations have ground to a halt in the north or even why the northern rate, as an average of the population, lags behind the rest of the province.

“It’s been a challenge,” said Fumerton last week. “We have gotten to a much better place than where we were just a couple of months ago.”

Proof of vaccination requirements for restaurants, bars, recreation and entertainment have nudged initially-resistant people to get their does as have federal vaccination requirements to get on an airplane.

“And we’ve worked hard to remove as many barriers to access as we can,” said Fumerton.

“But we know there is a certain percentage [of the population] that won’t get vaccinated.”

“We still run across people who are hesitant and we’re doing everything we can, bending over backwards,” Fumerton added.

Misinformation spread widely over social media channels is not helping and health officials spend time correcting what people are reading or watching.

Health officials will also spend time explaining the nature of each vaccine option, all but tailoring what will be offered to the vaccine hesitant.

Specific to the north, Fumerton said there could very well be an anti-government attitude at work, something rooted in the desire to be independent of authority.

“Some people just don’t like being told what to do,” she said.

But she’s at a loss to explain why rates within northern urban areas are higher than northern rural areas.

In what’s called the ‘Smithers Town Centre’, the second dose rate is 82 per cent, 10 percentage points higher than ‘Smithers Rural’, a circumstance repeated in Burns Lake when compared to both north and south of the village.

‘Terrace City Centre’ comes in at 85 per cent having a second dose but in ‘Terrace Rural’, the rate is 79 per cent.

Second dose rates in the northeast are generally lower than elsewhere in the north — 63 per cent in Chetwynd, 56 per cent in north of Peace River and 73 per cent in Dawson Creek.

“It’s just difficult to know,” said Fumerton of the disparity between elsewhere in the north. “It’s difficult to know what we don’t know. We could try surveys but I doubt that the people who don’t what vaccines would be the people who would fill them out.”

Some anti-vaccination groupings can be traced back to religious groups who have a mistrust of public health in any event, Fumerton continued.

“These people do look to faith leaders for advice,” she said.

Still, Fumerton said the COVID-19 vaccination rate among those eligible has outpaced other public health vaccination campaigns.

“Definitely higher, it’s been pretty spectacular,” she said.

This is the last week for vaccination clinics within the north with most clinics in most areas opening again the first week of January.

COVID vaccination rates aside, Fumerton did urge that people take advantage of flu shots, noting that they are free and available at pharmacies as well as public health units.

READ MORE: Early data indicating Omicron is milder, better at evading vaccines

COVID-19Northern Health

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Your questions answered by London's acting medical officer of health –




It’s been almost three weeks since the discovery of Omicron, the latest variant to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario’s science table shows Omicron has a reproduction rate roughly three times that of Delta — and a doubling time for cases of only three days. Officials around the world are now pivoting to boost protection measures. 

Dr. Alex Summers, the London region’s acting medical officer of health, took your questions Thursday on London Morning. Here’s some of what you had on your mind.


The following has been edited for clarity. 

Q: What are we seeing in the community? 

A: We’re seeing exponential growth driven by the Omicron variant in our community, and I’m saddened and disheartened. We’ve been at this for a long time. But I’m encouraged by the fact that we as a community have rallied against this before, and that we will continue to do so. I also have a lot of sympathy for everyone who’s realizing that yet again, this holiday season isn’t going to feel like it used to in the past, nor like we would want it to. 

Q: When are more vaccines expected in the region? What are the plans to ramp up the mass vaccination clinics? 

A: We’ve been ramping up operations at the mass vaccine clinic all this past week. An additional 7,000 appointments were added between last Friday and Christmas Eve. And as we announced earlier this week, we’re looking at significant additional capacity in early January. 

Our pharmacies in our region are also ramping up. We will see more and more product coming from the province to those pharmacies. So you will soon see a rapid flooding of the region with vaccine. The challenge is demand, obviously, has gone up very quickly, so it is going to be a challenge I think, particularly come Monday, when those 18 and older are eligible for people to find an appointment in the immediate future. We are continuing to add as many appointments as we can, but this is a very, very, very rapid ramp up and only so much is possible. But we’re going as hard as we can. 

Q: My child and I are in self-isolation right now. Should I be booking my third vaccine on Monday? 

A: The most important thing right now for you is to remain in self-isolation. Once you’re out of that self-isolation period, which is 10 days, then it would be appropriate to book a dose as soon as possible for your booster dose. The challenge is that the booster dose will still take five to seven days to get a robust response and so on. If you’ve been exposed before that, the booster dose unfortunately isn’t going to make an impact at this point in time. But if you again stay in safe self-isolation and once you’re out of that, immediately try and book an appointment as soon as possible.

Q: I received the AstraZeneca and Pfizer. What should I expect for a booster? 

A:  You and many others are in a position where you may have received different doses for your first and second. It doesn’t matter which type of vaccine, whether it’s Moderna or Pfizer, you receive for your third dose. Certainly, the difference in the effectiveness and the boost that you will get is marginal to the point that it does not matter. So you can get either Pfizer or Moderna for your third dose. Both will be effective at giving you that boost. 

Q: How long will it take for the booster to be effective? 

A: With all vaccines, we always give the immune system a two-week window to maximize the effectiveness. We do estimate that with this booster dose, early effectiveness is likely at the five to seven day mark after you receive the vaccine, with full protection again at that two week mark. 

Q: My child tested positive in October. Will he test positive on a take-home test now? 

A: We have seen people continue to test positive after having COVID 90 days or more after they had it. So if your child tested positive back in October, I would avoid using those tests right now. He may come back positive and it might just be the residual virus that’s no longer replicating from when he was sick the first time. So I would hold off until after that 90 day mark from when he was diagnosed with COVID. 

Q: What settings have the majority of cases been coming from in recent days in London? Schools, workplaces, private gatherings? 

A: Three weeks ago, we were seeing a majority of our cases from Delta and they were happening in unvaccinated areas and in close social private gatherings. That is now changing. We are seeing cases and we are seeing so many cases that sometimes it’s hard for us to pinpoint exactly where they’re coming from. At this point, we are seeing cases from all walks, schools, workplaces, larger public gatherings that are indoors. 

Certainly any social environment where people are spending a lot of time indoors and potentially without a mask are at high risk. We’ve also seen significant transmission among amateur sports. The hockey tournament world is a blast because of the way that people get to spend time with each other, but it’s also therefore an opportunity for Omicron to spread. So we are going to be again providing additional messages to folks: It’s time to cancel those plans. It’s time to take a pause on certain amateur sports. 

Q: When can we anticipate more rapid tests being offered free here in London?

I don’t have a definitive answer. Speaking to the province yesterday, asking when those rapid tests might be arriving in our region, I don’t have clarity on that timeline yet. Apologies. But we continue to advocate to the province for access to those tests in our region. 

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Britain banking on COVID antivirals to get through Omicron winter



Britain expects to have antiviral COVID-19 pills produced by Merck & Co Inc and Pfizer available over the winter, its Antiviral Taskforce Chair said on Thursday, as Omicron continues its lightning advance through the country.

Eddie Gray told reporters he expected both Merck’s molnupiravir and Pfizer’s paxlovid treatments to be available throughout the winter period, which he defined as between now and the end of March. Britain has yet to approve paxlovid.

“If there’s a successful approval of paxlovid we’ll want to fold that into the PANORAMIC process,” Gray said, referring to a U.K. clinical trial examining the real-world efficacy of antiviral treatments against Omicron within a highly-vaccinated population.

Britain last month became the first country to approve monulpiravir, jointly developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and for which Merck says it has signed deals totalling more than 7 million courses.


PANORAMIC is currently underway, trialling Merck’s pill in COVID-19 patients at risk of serious illness in a bid to avoid hospitals overloading. It has enlisted more than 250 people out of a target of 10,000 subjects, Gray said.

“Early treatment in the community could have the furthest reach and impact here,” chief investigator Professor Chris Butler told reporters. “Diminishing the burden on hospitals and getting people recovering quicker is the next phase in this area of research.”

Recent data from separate trials, however, showed the drug only reduced hospitalisations and deaths among high-risk patients by around 30% – compared with 89% for rival Pfizer’s paxlovid. Britain has purchased 500,000 monulpiravir doses.

Asked why PANORAMIC did not simply pivot to testing paxlovid’s efficacy, professor Butler told reporters: “It’s not yet approved and not yet available – evidence emerging for paxlovid has been subsequent to monulpiravir, hence the lag between the two.”

“It’s a question of getting on with what’s available.”


The hope is that PANORAMIC will shed light on which COVID-19 palliatives reduce hospitalisation rates, prevent severe cases, sidestep immune resistance, and prove cost-effective.

Whether such drugs could be used to protect people from becoming ill after being exposed to a positive case – known as post-exposure prophylaxis – is another possibility scientists and regulators are keen to explore.

“Antivirals will be a way of dealing with COVID-19 over the winter and in the long run, as well as answering questions like efficacy as a post-exposure prophylaxis,” said Professor Phil Evans of the National Institute of Health Research.

The monulpiravir treatment is still under review by the European Medicines Agency, but the EU drug regulator issued advice in November on using it for older adults ahead of providing any wider recommendation.

The EMA said on Thursday European Union countries can use paxlovid early after diagnosis of an infection even though its full review for regulatory approval has not been completed.

Both paxlovid and monulpiravir work by impairing the coronavirus’s replication, sparking hope that such a mechanism could prove effective against other mRNA viruses like SARS and MERS according to NHSE (National Health Service England) Dr David Lowe.

(Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Alison Williams and Philippa Fletcher)

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