Midway into November and well into the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, health experts are increasingly worried about public mistrust over vaccines, and by the lack of a clear communication strategy to address the many questions being asked by Canadians about a vaccine for COVID-19.
Karyn Methven, a cancer survivor, is terrified of contracting COVID-19. “Gosh, this is really urgent,” says Methven, of Delta, BC. “We’ve hit the 10-thousand mark now in Canada, you know. Ten thousand deaths.”
Britt Bright was sick for nearly six months during an influenza pandemic in the 1950s. It left her with permanent lung damage. “I would jump for the COVID [vaccine],” says Bright, a retired psychiatrist from Maple Ridge, B.C.
Courtney Vasquez, a mother of two, says she wants to “wait a few years, see how it plays out,” referring to the development of a vaccine for COVID-19.
These are some of the voices from a town hall recently convened for Global News: The New Reality, to gauge Canadians’ views on a potential vaccine for coronavirus.
Nine Canadians offered their views on a potential vaccine for COVID-19. They were among thousands of people who wrote to Global News about the topic. Their comments, along with new polling data, also confirm a disturbing trend emerging around COVID-19: growing hesitancy over a potential vaccine.
“We found that most people are OK with the idea of getting vaccinated,” says Steven Taylor, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, who has researched vaccine hesitancy.
“But the number of people who are becoming hesitant seems to be rising.”
It’s still likely months before scientists complete clinical trials on potential COVID-19 vaccines, and public opinion could change in the meantime.
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While Health Canada says that Canadians should have confidence in the process, the federal department is still working on a plan with the provinces to address misinformation, confusion and unanswered questions from the population.
That messaging plan hasn’t rolled out yet, says Dr. Supriya Sharma, the federal department’s chief medical advisor, “but it will be coming out fairly, fairly soon.”
It isn’t clear whether this will be soon enough.
Slim majority willing to take vaccine when available
According to a survey carried out for Global News between October 23-26 by the polling firm Ipsos, just 54 per cent of the Canadian public is willing to take a vaccine as soon as they can. Of that figure, only 22 per cent feel strongly about taking a vaccine right away.
The poll also found that just 61 per cent of respondents support mandatory vaccination for COVID-19, down from 72 per cent who supported a mandatory vaccination program just four months ago.
“This vaccine […] is going to honestly be a sign of how much we trust our doctors, how much we trust our government and our politicians, and how much we trust the media on this,” according to Serena Crowder, a mother of four who spoke at the Global’s town hall, from Georgina, Ont.
Taylor from UBC says public health authorities should have launched a communications plan about vaccines months ago.
“We knew this was going to be a problem,” he says.
Rumour cost $500 million
Heidi Larson has travelled the world, working for the United Nations, fighting rumours that vaccines are somehow harmful.
She warns that a failure to anticipate and address doubts and misinformation could have disastrous consequences.
“The most dramatic example that I saw was just a rumour in Northern Nigeria, driven by political distrust,” says Larson, the founding director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, a research group based in London, England.
She says this rumour triggered resistance to a vaccination campaign against polio in Nigeria. It allowed the disease to spread through 20 countries and “cost the global polio program $500 million to reset the clock,” she says.
‘Operation Warp Speed’
Taylor also says that public officials should be careful about how they describe or label new vaccine projects.
“If you’re going to call your vaccine development program something like ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ which is the name of the program in the United States, that implies that things have been rushed,” Taylor says.
Instead, he said governments should emphasize the safety of the process, as opposed to its speed. “Vaccination development and dissemination programs with more reassuring titles would be more likely to engage the public trust (e.g., calling the program ‘Operation Due Diligence’ instead of ‘Operation Warp Speed’),” he wrote, in a recently co-authored journal paper.
Canada has one of the strongest regulatory systems in the world for developing and approving new vaccines.
Under this system, three federal scientific teams review a vaccine prior to approving or rejecting it. Sharma, from Health Canada, says one team looks at pre-trial research on animals, a second team reviews human clinical trials, and a third team reviews the manufacturing process.
Sharma also notes that the department’s review of potential COVID-19 vaccines will be “the same as with any other vaccine.”
So if the department determines a vaccine candidate doesn’t mean the standards, Health Canada will not approve it, she explains.
“There’s a lot of information that’s not accurate,” Sharma says. “There’s just such a volume of information coming at people. I think it’s awesome and challenging to find out what’s trustworthy information, versus something that people are just sending around.”
Saad Omer, director of Yale University’s Institute for Global Health, warns that governments should not assume people will take the vaccine.
“There was this naïve belief in the spring that all of a sudden people will start accepting this vaccine because everyone is talking about [COVID-19],” says Omer, the director of Yale University’s Institute for Global Health.
Whether dealing with vaccine hesitancy or climate change skepticism, the challenge for communicators is to reinforce the message that the science is sound, but also to meet people where they are at in terms of their values, Omer explains.
“You can’t change people’s values, and you shouldn’t try to change people’s values. But you can speak to people’s values,” Omer said.
The difficult fight of dispelling myths about vaccines
The pharmaceutical industry is also taking steps to boost public confidence in their efforts. In September, the CEOs of nine pharmaceutical companies signed a pledge to adhere to accepted scientific standards in the hunt for the vaccine.
“We’re not cutting corners at all. We’re taking our time, and that’s why the vaccine is not available right now, because it takes time,” Jean-Pierre Baylet, general manager of Sanofi Pasteur Canada, told Global News’ The New Reality.
Whatever findings the pharmaceutical companies come up with in clinical trials will ultimately need to be shared with Health Canada for scrutiny and review.
“I understand why there’s some hesitation,” says Dr. Sharma, the medical advisor at Health Canada. But, she adds, “we have a very strong system of review […] no vaccine will be sent out for the Canadian public unless it gets authorized by Health Canada, and they should have confidence in the system.”
Shifting the focus
At the moment, billions are being invested in developing a vaccine. But, says Yale’s Saad Omer, a coordinated public education campaign is falling by the wayside.
“This is a substantial public health catastrophe,” he says. “And the moment should be matched by the size and the reach of a systematic public health campaign that clarifies the vaccine development and approval process, that talks about what is known and what is unknown.”
COVID-19 vaccine in development showing promise in adults
Populist politicians around the world, alongside a few celebrities, are filling the void with misleading information alongside all sorts of conspiracy theories.
It isn’t just the public at large, either, that is vaccine-hesitant. Mistrust over a coronavirus vaccine also runs through the health care community, amplifying the communication challenge even more.
“Health care providers,” says Omer, “need information and training in communicating around this vaccine. That’s not being done in most countries in the world, and that’s one of the things that keeps me up at night.”
Both Omer and Heidi Larson, of the Vaccine Confidence Project, agree that the way to instill confidence is through engagement at the community level, with voices that people can trust.
“It’s about caring about people,” Larson says. “It’s about caring about their emotions and feelings, and why they feel like they’re hesitant, because that’s a big problem right now.”
At the same time, she says it’s a “huge opportunity” to set the record straight on vaccines and to instill confidence.
“If we get this wrong, that will not be forgotten.”
See this and other original stories about our world on The New Reality airing Saturday nights on Global TV, and online.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada adds 62000 jobs in November; unemployment rate falls to 8.5 per cent – The Globe and Mail
The Canadian labour market continues to defy expectations – at least for now.
Employment rose by 62,100 in November and the unemployment rate declined to 8.5 per cent from October’s 8.9 per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday. The gain was propelled by full-time work, which saw an increase of nearly 100,000 positions. All told, the labour market has recovered about 80 per cent of the three-million jobs that were lost in March and April.
November’s job gain was the weakest since the recovery began in May. However, it was also better than expected. The median estimate from economists was for a gain of 20,000 positions, with several calling for a decline due to tighter COVID-19 restrictions.
A decline may simply be postponed. Statscan’s report pertained to work conditions between Nov. 8 and 14, thereby missing further tightening of restrictions in some parts of the country, such as Toronto and nearby Peel Region.
“As a result, it’s likely that Covid will catch up with the Canadian economy in the December data, with a decline expected in both employment and overall economic activity,” said Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, in a note to clients.
The November report showed various cracks in the labour market. For one, Manitoba lost around 18,000 jobs. Before Statscan’s survey period, the province had imposed tighter public-health measures – including a ban on in-person shopping of non-essential goods – in a bid to curb rapidly worsening infections. Most of those affected last month were working part-time hours, Statscan noted.
At a national level, the information, culture and recreation industry lost 26,000 positions. Accommodation and food services fell by 24,000 jobs for its second consecutive monthly decline. About one-quarter of people on temporary layoff last month were in the hospitality industry. It’s almost assured that more pain is coming as restaurants are targeted by restrictions and bookings fall dramatically.
There were, however, several encouraging signs in November’s report. With its latest gain, the finance, insurance and real-estate industry is back to prepandemic levels of employment. Construction had a banner month, adding 26,000 positions – the first increase since July, driven largely by Ontario.
Furthermore, all Atlantic provinces enjoyed job growth. New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia are all back to pre-crisis levels of employment.
The second wave of COVID-19 continues to disrupt work. There were 4.6 million Canadians who worked from home in November, among those who worked at least half their usual hours. That was an increase of roughly 250,000 from October.
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Canada added 62,000 jobs in November, slowest month of recovery since COVID-19 – CBC.ca
Canada’s economy added 62,000 jobs last month, which is better than economists had been expecting, but it’s also the lowest total since the labour market recovery from COVID-19 began in May.
Statistics Canada reported Friday that the jobless rate ticked down four basis points to 8.5 per cent. That’s down from a peak of 13.7 per cent in May, but still well above the 5.6 per cent rate seen in February, before the pandemic.
Canada lost more than a million jobs in March and another two million in April, before the job market started to recover in May. According to Statscan, more than 19.1 million Canadians aged 15 or over had some sort of job in February. Last month, that figure stood at just over 18.6 million.
There are currently 1.7 million people in Canada officially categorized as unemployed, which means they would like to work but can’t find any. Roughly one quarter of them — 443,000 people — have been out of work for more than half a year.
Manitoba lost 18,000 jobs last month, while Ontario added 36,000 and Quebec 15,000. British Columbia added 23,000 and the Atlantic provinces added a total of 17,000.
Mostly full time
While the overall rate of job gains is undeniably slowing, economist Royce Mendes with CIBC did see some reason for optimism in the numbers, specifically the fact that most of the new jobs were full time, which boosted the total number of hours worked by 1.2 per cent — faster than the increase seen a month earlier.
But with cases spiking across Canada and more regions locking down more parts of the economy, he thinks the streak of job gains will come to an end this month.
“It’s likely that COVID will catch up with the Canadian economy in the December data, with a decline expected in both employment and overall economic activity,” Mendes said.
Leah Nord with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the job slowdown shows that the government needs to do a better jobs of testing for COVID-19 and tracing contacts, and making much broader use of rapid testing to ensure businesses stay open for the long Canadian winter ahead.
“The short-lived partial rebound in jobs is turning an unfortunate corner heading into a potentially protracted second wave,” she said. “As we look forward, we believe there is increasing risk for a steady decline in employment over the coming months as governments and health authorities grapple with transmission mitigation.”
Canadian economy added 62,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate fell to 8.5% – CityNews Toronto
The rate of job growth continued to slow in November with the economy adding 62,000 jobs, down from 84,000 in October.
The gains were mostly focused in full-time work with a gain of 99,000 jobs, offset somewhat by a decline in part-time work of 37,000 positions, Statistics Canada reported Friday.
The average economist estimate had been for a gain of 20,000 jobs and an unchanged unemployment rate, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.
The gains in November left the country 574,000 jobs short of recouping the approximately three million jobs lost from lockdowns in March and April that sent the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 13.7 per cent in May.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.5 per cent compared with 8.9 per cent in October.
The unemployment rate would have been 10.9 per cent in November, StatCan said, had it included in calculations Canadians who wanted to work last month but didn’t search for a job.
The agency said 1.5 million people searched for jobs in November, a small drop of 39,000 from October, but still more than 448,000 or so who were looking for work in February, pre-pandemic.
The report noted that job searchers made up an increasing share of the total number of unemployed.
The youth unemployment rate fell 1.4 per cent to 17.4 per cent with a gain of about 20,000 jobs for the age group, mostly concentrated among young men with little change to the employment situation for women age 15 to 24.
Similarly, employment among women 25 to 54 years old didn’t change much in November after six straight months of seeing their numbers rise.
Positions in the hard-hit accommodation and food services sector declined for the second consecutive month, shedding 24,000 jobs in November.
That figure doesn’t take into account renewed restrictions in areas like Toronto that kicked in later in the month.
“As a result, it’s likely that COVID will catch up with the Canadian economy in the December data, with a decline expected in both employment and overall economic activity,” notes CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes.
Overall, the pace of job gains has slowed, with employment rising by 0.3 per cent in November compared to an average of 2.7 per cent per month between May and September.
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