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Here’s what the provinces, territories have said about AstraZeneca’s vaccine and seniors – Global News

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As the country prepares to accept half a million COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca-Oxford, provinces and territories are working to determine who exactly should receive them.

Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in adults 18 and older on Friday. However, on Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued new guidance, recommending the shot not be administered to people over the age of 65.

In the new guidelines, NACI cited “limited information” about its effectiveness in older people as the reason it’s not recommending the shot be used in seniors.

However, it is ultimately up to the provinces and territories to decide how to dole out the vaccines.

Who will be the recipient of those AstraZeneca shots? Here’s a closer look at what each region has said.

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Read more:
Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Nova Scotia

A spokesperson for the department of health and wellness in Nova Scotia told Global News the province is “actively looking at what the next use of this vaccine is for Nova Scotia.”

“No decisions have been made,” an emailed statement read.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said the province has been offered an initial shipment of 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that will expire in a month.

“Therefore, we would need to have a plan to use them immediately,” he said. “So we’re actively looking at what is the best use of this AstraZeneca vaccine at this time for Nova Scotia.”

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials are still reviewing evidence regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“As this approval is still recent, we are reviewing the evidence from a provincial perspective to determine where the vaccine will fit in our strategy,” the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald told a press conference on Monday.

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Coronavirus: Canada to receive 945,000 vaccine doses this week, procurement minister says

As of Monday, Fitzgerald said they had not yet received a definitive date as to when the AstraZeneca vaccines could land in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“My understanding is we’re still waiting on information at the national level there,” she said.

Read more:
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine not recommended for people in Canada over age 65: NACI

Prince Edward Island

At a press conference on Tuesday, Prince Edward Island’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said when the province confirms how many of the AstraZeneca vaccines it will receive, they will be targeting the shots to “healthy, younger individuals” who are working in “certain front line, essential services.”

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“And that would be our plan and offering it to them and knowing that people will have a choice,” she said. “But AstraZeneca is showing good evidence around decreasing severe illness and hospitalization.”

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B.C. health officials considering vaccinating essential workers

Morrison said once they know how many doses the province will receive, they will know exactly which groups to target.

“But that certainly is our current thinking,” she said.

New Brunswick

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Department of Health said the province expects to receive 10,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month.

“We are examining Health Canada’s approval and the recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to decide how best to employ this vaccine once it does arrive in New Brunswick,” the statement read.

Read more:
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine won’t be administered to seniors, Ontario health minister says

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Quebec

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services said the province is expecting to receive guidance from its immunization committee very soon.

“This notice will specify the target groups for this vaccine,” the email read in French. “We will adapt our vaccination strategy in the light of this advice.”


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Confusion arises in Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine recommendations for seniors


Confusion arises in Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine recommendations for seniors

Ontario

Ontario, meanwhile, has decided it will not administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to seniors.

Health Minister Christine Elliott told The Canadian Press that the province plans to follow the advice of NACI.

She said, though, that it is a “very versatile” vaccine because it does not need to be stored at freezing temperatures.

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For that reason, Elliot said the shots could be used elsewhere, like at correctional facilities.


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AstraZeneca vaccine won’t be administered to Ontarians aged 65+: health minister

Elliott said an updated vaccination plan that factors in expected AstraZeneca supply will be shared soon.

“There’s a lot that is in the mix right now, but we expect that to be finalized very shortly and we will be making a public announcement of the plan very soon,” she said.

Manitoba

Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, told reporters on Tuesday the AstraZeneca vaccine is a “welcome addition to the vaccine repertoire that we have.”

“You know, our goal is to protect as many Manitobans as quickly as possible,” he said. “And right now the rate limiting step is just access to vaccine doses, and for the specific cell that the vaccine task force discussed that, but it’s a welcome addition for sure.”

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Read more:
If AstraZeneca isn’t widely recommended for seniors, who should get the vaccine?

Global News sent a request for comment to Manitoba to clarify whether the province plans to deliver the AstraZeneca to its senior population, but was not answered by time of publication.

Saskatchewan

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saquib Shahab said he anticipates the province will receive “very limited amounts of AstraZeneca next week,” around 15,000 doses.

“And (we) will probably use it for specific age groups up to age 64,” he said. “And we will clarify which specific age groups in a few days.”

Shahab said as the province receives more vaccines from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson, the shots will need to be incorporated into the vaccination schedule “depending on NACI recommendations.”

“And we have to remember, by the time AstraZeneca and Johnson supplies pick up, we hopefully will already have done everyone 65 and older anyway with Pfizer and Moderna,” he said.

Alberta

On Monday, Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province will not be providing the AstraZeneca vaccine to those over the age of 65.


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Doctor weighs in on AstraZeneca vaccine approval

Shandro said how that will impact the administration for those who are in phase two is “still yet to be determined.”

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“We will be making those decisions and announcing them fairly soon,” he said. “But you’re right that it has been recommended for the AstraZeneca vaccine to not be provided for those who are 65 and older.”

British Columbia

Meanwhile, the British Columbia Ministry of Health told Global News that once the province knows how many doses of the AstraZeneca shots it will be receiving and when, it will be able to further expand who is receiving the vaccine, including to essential workers, many of whom are under the age of 65.

The ministry said due to the clinical testing of AstraZeneca limited to those under the age of 65, the province will need to adjust its plan to include these vaccines, adding that the province’s immunization committee will be looking at how best to do that based on science, data and ethical analysis.

The Territories

Neither the Northwest Territories or the Yukon are anticipating receiving any AstraZeneca vaccines.

Instead, they will be vaccinating their populations with the vaccine from Moderna.

Read more:
mRNA vaccine technology could be used to protect against other deadly diseases: experts

Global News reached out to Nunavut to determine whether the territory expects to receive an allotment of AstraZeneca vaccines and if they will be administered to those over 65, but did not hear back by time of publication.

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— With files from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry

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LONDON —
British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.

Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”

Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.

The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”

Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.

The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.

While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.

“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.

“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”

Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.

“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.

The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.

French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.

But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.

“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”

Source: – CTV News

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Facebook downplays ‘old’ breach exposing info on 533 million users

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Facebook is downplaying the significance of a data breach that saw the personal information of 533 million of its users accessed online, saying the information is old and the vulnerability that was exploited was closed almost two years ago.

Over the weekend, Business Insider reported that personal information of Facebook users in 106 countries was found on a low-level hacking forum, free of charge. Cybercrime intelligence firm Hudson Rock calculated that almost 3.5 million Canadians were included.

Information included names, phone numbers, locations, birth dates, email addresses and other identifying details. No financial or payment information was accessed, Facebook said.

In a statement on its website Tuesday the social media giant said the information was gathered via a vulnerability the company fixed almost two years ago, and disputed that it was a hack.

Data scraped, not hacked: Facebook

“It is important to understand that malicious actors obtained this data not through hacking our systems but by scraping it from our platform prior to September 2019,” said product management director Mike Clark.

Scraping refers to the act of gathering information that is already out there but somewhat hidden on public databases.

The company said whoever collected and assembled the data did so by abusing the contact importing service, which allows users to find other people in their network on Facebook.

Facebook said whoever did it seems to have uploaded a large set of phone numbers to see which ones matched Facebook users.

David Masson, director of enterprise security at cybersecurity firm Darktrace, says the information has likely been out there and spread widely for a while, before being outed recently.

“It’s been on the Web for quite a while, probably for sale to people,” he said. “But now somebody’s just offered it up for free.”

Building a profile

Greg Wolfond, CEO of data security firm SecureKey, said that in a vacuum, much of the information taken can seem innocuous and harmless, but when taken together can be very dangerous.

“What the hackers do is they try and get little bits of data about you in this case something like your phone number,” he told CBC News in an interview. They can then combine that with other bits of information — an address, a full name — and start building a profile.

What’s most dangerous is once they have gathered enough to attempt to gain access to a cellphone account. With the right combination of information, a telecom company may allow someone walking in to port the account number to a new phone.

 

Cybersecurity expert David Masson with Darktrace says Facebook users shouldn’t assume the company’s size and scope make them better at fending off attacks. (Darktrace)

 

“They take over your phone, and within minutes of taking over your phone, they’re trying to get into your bank account, to get into your Facebook account, your Google account, whatever you use that phone as your recovery for,” he said.

Typically, consumers are urged to fight data theft by doing things like changing passwords frequently, and making the complex. But those things are of little use when companies claim the right to reams of data about their users, and promise to keep it safe.

“Empowering individuals to share their data and putting a responsibility on parties that have the data to keep it secure,
is super important,” he said.

Not Facebook’s first user-info incident

Although the company is downplayed in the incident, it is far from the company’s first misstep with user info.

In 2018, the social media giant disabled a feature that allowed users to search for one another via phone number following revelations that the political firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed information on up to 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.

In December 2019, a Ukrainian security researcher reported finding a database with the names, phone numbers and unique user IDs of more than 267 million Facebook users — nearly all U.S.-based — on the open internet.

Spark15:32Digital security expert shares tips on how to protect your data while working remotely 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are spending more of our time at home online than ever before – and according to Citizen Lab’s John Scott-Railton, this makes us vulnerable to privacy and security threats. 15:32

Facebook says it will “continue aggressively go after malicious actors who misuse our tools,” and touted its dedicated team focused on this work” but  Masson says users shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that the company’s size and scope somehow make them better equipped to keep user data safe.

“It doesn’t matter how big or sophisticated you are, they can be attacked,” he said.

Like many breaches, this one was only discovered long after the fact, and that’s because the technology company’s use isn’t keeping up with the ones the hackers are using.

“There are better technologies that actually work on what happens once the bad guys get inside your network rather than when they’re banging on the door outside. So people [have] got to realize this will happen again.

Source: – CBC.ca

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