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High-risk seniors to get COVID-19 vaccine first in B.C.: provincial health officer – Times Colonist

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VICTORIA — Seniors in British Columbia’s long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized against COVID-19 starting in the first week of January with two vaccines, the province’s top doctor says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna will be the first to be rolled out after approval by Health Canada.

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However, Henry said only about six million doses are expected to be available across Canada until March.

“So we won’t be able to broadly achieve what we call community immunity or herd immunity, but that will come,” she said

At least two other companies, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are in the process of submitting data to Health Canada and regulatory agencies around the world in hopes of getting approval for their vaccines.

“Those ones we hope will be available sometime in the second quarter of 2021,” Henry said.

“We hope to have everybody done by September of next year,” she said of the province’s efforts through “Operation Immunize.”

“By the end of the year, anybody who wants vaccine in B.C. and in Canada should have it available to them and should be immunized.”

Henry said B.C. health officials worked with their federal counterparts Thursday on ways to facilitate the delivery of vaccines as they anticipated various challenges that could come up in the immunization process.

More details will be provided about the province’s vaccine plan next week, Henry said.

She reported 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, for a total of 35,422 infections in the province.

There have been 12 more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in B.C. to 481.

Henry noted health-care workers are tired from the pandemic as everyone deals with an “anxiety-provoking time,” but that it’s important to stay “100 per cent committed” to getting through the next few months before vaccines are available.

“We know that our long-term care homes in particular are most vulnerable and we know right now it’s the biggest challenge that we are facing,” she said.

Henry has banned all indoor and outdoor sports teams for adults, saying a team in the province’s Interior recently tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from Alberta.

“What we have seen in the past few weeks to months is that 10 to 15 per cent of cases have been related to physical fitness and sports activities,” she said, an estimate based on cases that have been linked.

Most transmissions of COVID-19 among adult involved in sports have been through social activities related to the gatherings, Henry said.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.

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Health unit probing second possible UK variant outbreak in region – OrilliaMatters

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NEWS RELEASE
SIMCOE MUSKOKA DISTRICT HEALTH UNIT
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The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) was informed late yesterday by Public Health Ontario Laboratory of an additional individual with the United Kingdom (UK) variant of COVID-19 within the region.

This individual had close contact with a person who is also part of a COVID-19 outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home (LTCH) in Bradford West Gwillimbury. As such, SMDHU is currently investigating if this outbreak is also due to the UK variant of COVID-19.

“Given this situation, we are working together in partnership with the residence to implement additional measures to contain the spread while pursuing the necessary tests to determine if it is the UK variant of COVID-19 that is the cause of this outbreak,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s Medical Officer of Health.

SMDHU is investigating all other connections to the individual who tested positive for the UK variant, including a curbside-only retail setting.

The COVID-19 outbreak was declared at Bradford Valley Care Community on Jan. 14. As of Jan. 23, four residents out of 230, and three staff out of 260, have tested positive for COVID-19; further testing will be done to determine if this is the UK variant. While the outbreak is well under control at this time with a relatively low case count, the possibility of this being due to the UK variant needs to be assessed and managed, given its increased transmissibility.

“We are being extremely vigilant in our monitoring for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and are taking all of the necessary steps to protect the safety of our residents and team members, said Dr. Andrea Moser, Sienna Senior Living’s Chief Medical Officer. “We are working proactively with Public Health and community partners as fighting the virus will require everyone’s expertise and teamwork.”

The intensified case and contact measures being taken include extending the isolation duration for cases and close contacts, more readily identifying close contacts, and quarantining all household contacts of confirmed or probable cases as quickly as possible.

On Jan. 15, most of the residents in Bradford Valley Care Community were provided with vaccination by SMDHU staff as a protective measure against COVID-19.  As of Jan. 16, the residents of all the LTCHs in Simcoe Muskoka have been offered their first dose of immunization against COVID-19. Although many of the staff have received their first vaccination, steps are being taken to ensure that all of them will have access to the vaccine at this time.

“Approximately 60 per cent of team members and 96 per cent of residents at Bradford Valley have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine,” said Dr. Moser. “We appreciate all the efforts from our partners in the community with the rollout of the vaccine and will continue working closely with them as additional doses are available for deployment.”

People are reminded to continue to strictly follow public health measures to reduce and prevent transmission of the virus: wear a mask, physically distance from those outside your household, wash your hands frequently, leave your home only for essential reasons (in keeping with the provincial Stay at Home Order), and if you have symptoms self-isolate at home and get tested for COVID-19.”

For more information, visit SMDHU’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Immunization web page or call Health Connection to speak with a public health professional weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520). More information about the vaccine and immunization can also be found at ontario.ca.

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'Do not make plans,' warns Henry in plea to stem Family Day travel – Richmond News

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“We won’t be at a place where we can travel.”

That was Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s message Friday, Jan. 22, responding to questions over whether the province’s plan to vaccinate 4.3 million people by October would open up non-essential travel to British Columbians over the next several months.

“We know there are a lot of celebratory events coming up like Chinese New Year. We need those to remain low-key, virtual events this year,” she said.

Until at least the summer, Henry said travel should remain essential with a focus on staying local and “looking at experiencing what we have in B.C. for people in B.C.”

But on Thursday, Premier John Horgan rejected calls for a ban on interprovincial travel, after seeking a legal review on a potential border lockdown to stem the transmission of COVID-19.

Finding that much of the current interprovincial travel is work-related, and therefore essential, it cannot be restricted, Horgan stated in a written statement.

Current public health orders require masks in public indoor spaces and limit social gatherings to a single household or “core bubble” until at least Feb. 5 at midnight. They do not, however, restrict movement across the province.

“Public health officials tell us what is most important is for everyone to obey health orders, wherever they are, rather than imposing mobility rules,” he said. “Therefore, we will not be imposing travel restrictions at this time.”

On Friday, Horgan said his government would “be guided by the science.”

Pointing to his own affinity for attending lacrosse games as well as B.C.’s 150th anniversary since Confederation this summer, Horgan said, “We’re not making plans right now, and British Columbians shouldn’t be making plans right now.” 

“As we get more information, as the vaccination plan rolls out and we see the impact on case counts… we’ll be in a better position to make those decisions.” 

Horgan also said Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Herman is working on a plan to open up campgrounds across the province for the summer season.

As Henry put it: “Once we get to the summer, we’re probably going to be in a different position. Whether we’ll have access to international travel? That is not as sure.”

She added: “We know that there are billions of people who do not have access to vaccinations and that this virus is still creating great risks in many communities around the world.” 

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Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: BC lawyer – Comox Valley Record – Comox Valley Record

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With COVID-19 vaccines expected to reach the masses in July, questions are being raised as to whether employers in B.C. will take a step further and require worker immunization.

Kelowna-based lawyer David Mardiros, with Kent Employment Law, said the issue isn’t a new one – it’s come up in B.C. arbitrations at least twice.

In 2006, arbitrators upheld a hospital’s policy, forcing a union nurse to either immunize from influenza during an outbreak or take an unpaid leave of absence at work.

So far, in B.C. “most cases have been within the healthcare sector,” Mardiros said.

Another was settled with the employee consenting to wearing a mask to work during an influenza outbreak in 2013.

“It was an option the employee found reasonable.”

RELATED: B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

The COVID-19 pandemic is new and uncharted territory for employers and employees across the province, with every workplace impacted by its spread.

Though enforcing work policies is legal, whether a wide-reaching vaccination mandate would hold up in court is another matter, Mardiros said.

Ultimately, an employer must make the case – using expert science – that requiring their staff to be vaccinated from COVID-19 is necessary.

Especially when “an accommodation can be made where worker can work from home or use personal protective equipment to prevent transmission of the disease.”

In bustling restaurants, where employees are frequently interacting with the public, such a case might prove more reasonable, said the lawyer.

“However, if their case can’t be proven, an employee fired for not vaccinating could sue for wrongful dismissal.”

READ MORE: B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Some halthcare workers and those in longterm care homes in B.C. were the first to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in December.

Currently, the province has not made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for nurses, doctors, and other frontline staff in hospitals. Employees are instead “encouraged” to get it, according to a Jan. 9 statement from the province.

On Friday, B.C. health authorities rolled out a four-phased plan that begins with seniors older than 80 receiving immunizations this February.

By September, members of the general public, as young as 18, are expected to be able to receive their dose.

“We’re all going to have to make the decision: to vaccinate or not,” Mardiros said.


@sarahgrowch
sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

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