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Hillier says all Ontarians could get vaccine by June 20 if supply allows – Toronto Star

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TORONTO – The recent approval of new vaccines will accelerate Ontario’s immunization plan, the province said Friday as the man in charge of the rollout expressed optimism all adults could receive the first dose by June 20.

The government said under the current plan, seniors aged 75 and older will start getting the shot in April, while everyone 60 and older will receive the first dose by the end of May or early June, if not earlier.

Officials made the announcement after Health Canada approved a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’ve had a seismic shift in our vaccination opportunities and the program to roll it out,” said retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine task force.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the timelines would depend on supply.

“If we receive more vaccines than currently planned for — as will likely be the case with today’s approval of Johnson & Johnson and increased shipments of Pfizer — we will be able to further accelerate these timelines,” Alexandra Hilkene said in an email.

She said Hillier’s comments about the June 20 timeline were a goal based on the Johnson & Johnson approval.

Hillier said the approval of two more vaccines, expected increases in supply and the extension of the interval between first and second doses will allow the province to “crush those timelines really tightly.”

“… our aim would be to allow the province of Ontario to have a first needle in the arm of every eligible person who wants it by the first day of summer,” Hillier said. “Please be patient a little while longer.”

The province says 113 mass vaccination clinics will start operating this month, with maximum capacity of four million doses per day across public health units, though officials administration will vary based on supply and local considerations.

The vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 in Ontario, and across the country, have been among people aged 60 and older.

Other risk factors including neighbourhood, existing health conditions and inability to work from home will be prioritized in the second phase of the rollout.

A recent report from experts advising Ontario on COVID-19 said a vaccination plan based on age and neighbourhoods hit hardest by the virus could reduce cases by the thousands and prevent deaths.

Thirteen public health units will receive additional doses for virus hot spot neighbourhoods during Phase 2. Those health units include Durham; Halton; Hamilton; Niagara; Ottawa; Peel Region; Simcoe Muskoka; Waterloo; Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph; Windsor Essex; York Region; Southwestern and Toronto.

Doses will also be offered starting in April to people with specific health conditions like transplant recipients, and to residents and staff in congregate care settings including correctional facilities, shelters and developmental facilities.

People with other high-risk conditions including obesity, treatment that suppresses the immune system, and intellectual disabilities will follow the first group, and then people considered at greater risk that include dementia, cancer and diabetes.

Essential workers who can’t work from home will be offered doses at the end of the second phase, though the timeline is subject to change.

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The province laid out more details on which essential workers will be eligible to receive their shots first. Vaccinations among that group will start with school staff, first responders, childcare workers, food manufacturing workers and agriculture workers.

Then shots will go to workers in retail, manufacturing, social workers, the justice system, financial services, waste management, mining, oil and gas, warehousing and distribution.

The union representing correctional workers applauded the news on that members would be included in the second phase of vaccinations.

“This is absolutely the right thing to do, and the government deserves credit for ensuring our Corrections members get vaccinated,” Ontario Public Service Employees Union President Warren Thomas said in a statement. “This will go a long way to making our correctional facilities safe, protecting both staff and inmates.“

Hillier said the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be useful in getting shots to people who are difficult to reach, such as migrant farm workers and homeless individuals.

Ontario is expecting 194,500 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine next week. Those shots will be administered to residents between the ages of 60 and 64 starting with a pilot project in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex pharmacies.

Officials said the timeline for younger individuals may speed up based on supply of that vaccine.

Others criticized the timeline for the rollout as still too slow.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said an April start date for at-risk residents prioritized in the second phase of the rollout is too late.

“Where’s the urgency? These folks are at grave risk right now, and getting them their shots is critical to stopping the spread,”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021.

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Sanofi-GSK report positive interim results for their COVID-19 shot

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An experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline showed a robust immune response in early-stage clinical trial results, enabling them to move to a late-stage study, the French drugmaker said on Monday.

Sanofi and Britain’s GSK said a global Phase III trial would start in the coming weeks and involve more than 35,000 adults, with the hope of seeing the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year before a setback.

Sanofi and GSK last December were forced to restart their trial when the vaccine showed a low immune response in older adults as a result of a weak antigen formulation.

Sanofi and GSK shares were little changed in early trading.

“The Phase II interim results showed 95% to 100% seroconversion following a second injection in all age groups and across all doses, with acceptable tolerability and no safety concerns,” Sanofi said.

Seroconversion refers to the vaccine’s ability to prompt the body to produce antibodies against the coronavirus, as measured by blood readings. Later mass trials will be based on real infections.

“Interestingly, we also observed that our vaccine generated a higher antibody response in those with previous COVID-19 infection, we are analysing this further as it may suggest our vaccine could serve as a potential booster, regardless of what vaccine someone may have received (beforehand),” Su-Peing Ng, Sanofi’s global head of medical for vaccines, told reporters.

Ng said the vaccine had not been tested against so-called variants in the Phase II trial but that the Phase III study would be assessing it against various strains including a virus lineage known as B.1.351 first detected in South Africa.

But Sanofi, Ng said, has conducted parallel studies evaluating its vaccines against variants, with results expected to be published soon.

GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.

‘QUITE A POTENTIAL’

Some 162.75 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019, while economies have taken a hit and restrictions have turned daily life upside down.

The United States and Europe have embarked on mass vaccinations programmes in the past months, raising hopes of a gradual reopening, although the virus is still in circulation in many regions, with variants causing concern.

Last month, the European Union executive’s President Ursula von der Leyen said protein-based COVID-19 vaccines such as the one developed by Sanofi and GSK offered “quite a potential”, a positive signal as the bloc develops its purchasing strategy for the next two years.

Sanofi’s shot, however, even if approved, will come long after ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which have produced efficacy results of more than 90%.

So far, Sanofi has purchasing agreements with the United States, the EU, Britain and Canada, as well as with the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility.

The company has pledged to help other drugmakers this year, striking “fill and finish” deals for vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

In addition to its vaccine project in collaboration with GSK, Sanofi is working on a mRNA candidate with U.S. company Translate Bio for which it has started clinical trials.

 

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; editing by Louise Heavens and Jason Neely)

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Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 161.42 million, death toll at 3,488,751

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More than 161.42 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 3,488,751​ have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open https://tmsnrt.rs/2FThSv7 in an external browser.

Eikon users can click  for a case tracker.

The following table lists the top 50 countries by the number of reported cases. A complete list is available with the above links.

COUNTRIES AND TOTAL DEATHS CONFIRMED DEATHS PER

TERRITORIES CASES 10,000

INHABITANTS

United States 584,768 32,926,288 17.9

India 262,317 24,046,809 1.94

Brazil 430,417 15,433,989 20.55

France 107,423 5,848,154 16.04

Turkey 44,301 5,095,390 5.38

Russia 254,590 4,922,901 17.62

United Kingdom 127,668 4,446,824 19.21

Italy 123,927 4,146,722 20.51

Spain 79,339 3,604,799 16.95

Germany 85,903 3,579,871 10.36

Argentina 69,254 3,242,103 15.56

Colombia 79,760 3,067,879 16.06

Poland 71,311 2,849,014 18.78

Iran 76,433 2,732,152 9.34

Mexico 219,901 2,375,115 17.43

Ukraine 47,620 2,143,448 10.67

Peru 65,316 1,873,316 20.02

Indonesia 47,823 1,734,285 1.79

Czech Republic 29,857 1,651,178 28.09

South Africa 55,012 1,605,252 9.52

Netherlands 17,423 1,589,282 10.11

Canada 24,825 1,312,408 6.7

Chile 27,520 1,266,601 14.69

Iraq 15,910 1,134,859 4.14

Philippines 18,958 1,131,467 1.78

Romania 29,413 1,070,605 15.11

Sweden 14,275 1,037,126 14.03

Belgium 24,645 1,026,473 21.56

Pakistan 19,384 873,220 0.91

Portugal 16,999 841,379 16.53

Israel 6,379 839,076 7.18

Hungary 29,041 796,390 29.71

Bangladesh 12,102 779,535 0.75

Jordan 9,203 722,754 9.24

Serbia 6,646 705,185 9.52

Switzerland 10,179 679,510 11.96

Japan 11,396 673,821 0.9

Austria 10,455 635,780 11.83

United Arab Emirates 1,626 543,610 1.69

Lebanon 7,569 534,968 11.05

Morocco 9,091 514,670 2.52

Malaysia 1,822 462,190 0.58

Nepal 4,669 439,658 1.66

Saudi Arabia 7,134 431,432 2.12

Bulgaria 17,194 413,320 24.48

Ecuador 19,442 405,783 11.38

Slovakia 12,168 387,162 22.34

Greece 11,322 373,881 10.55

Belarus 2,681 373,351 2.83

Panama 6,288 369,455 15.05

Source: Reuters tally based on statements from health ministries and government officials

Generated at 10:00 GMT.

 

(Editing by David Clarke)

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Canada plots course to fully vaccinated return to gatherings in fall

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Canada on Friday said there would be a gradual return to a world with indoor sports and family gatherings as more people get vaccinated, but it did not go as far as the United States in telling people they could eventually ditch their masks.

Canada has administered one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to just over half its adult population, and the country may be over the worst of its current third wave of infections, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.

On Friday, Canada‘s public health agency offered guidelines to the 10 provinces, which are responsible for public health restrictions.

The agency says once 75% of Canadians have had a single dose and 20% are fully vaccinated, some restrictions can be relaxed to allow small, outdoor gatherings with family and friends, camping, and picnics.

Once 75% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in the fall, indoor sports and family gatherings can be allowed again.

“I think masks might be the last layer of that multi-layer protection that we’ll advise people to remove,” Tam told reporters, noting that in Canada colder temperatures meant people would start spending more time indoors in the fall.

“We are taking a bit of a different approach to the United States,” she added. While in most of Canada masks are not required outdoors, they are mandatory indoors.

Less than 4% of Canada‘s adult population has been fully vaccinated compared to more than 36% of Americans.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has promised that everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by September, this week spoke of a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall” without explaining what that might look like.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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