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Hospitalizations continue to spike as B.C. announces 762 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths – CBC.ca

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B.C. health officials announced another record high of 762 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 10 more deaths.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are 6,861 active cases in B.C. of people infected with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. With the latest deaths, the provincial death toll stands at 320.

There are currently 209 people in hospital, with 58 in intensive care. There are now more people in hospital with COVID-19 and more active cases than at any other point in the pandemic to date. 

Henry and Dix pleaded with British Columbians to “put the brakes on the virus” and help slow the second wave of this disease by staying local and following public health advice to prevent transmission.

“This second surge is putting a strain on our health-care system, our workplaces and us all. We need to ease this pressure so we can continue to manage the virus in our province and also continue to do the many activities that are important to us,” they said.

“While your personal efforts may seem small or having little impact, the collective benefit to every community in every region is significant. Our safety layers are there to help protect us and they work best when we are all using them, all of the time.”

Public health is now actively monitoring 9,871 people across the province who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure. To date, there have been 24,422 confirmed cases of the disease in B.C.

Wednesday’s update also includes three new outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living at Agecare Harmony Court Estates in Burnaby, Menno Home in Abbotsford and Peace Villa in Fort St. John.

The majority of the new cases announced Wednesday continue to be in the Lower Mainland, with 481 or 63 per cent in the Fraser Health region and 210 or 28 per cent in the area covered by Vancouver Coastal Health.

People who live in those regions are currently subject to strict restrictions that include a prohibition on socializing with anyone outside of their household. Henry has also advised against any non-essential travel.

On Wednesday morning, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said the idea of mandating masks within the largest city in Fraser Health is on his mind, though for now he stills prefers to emphasize personal responsibility.

“I’m very, very close to saying that we should have mandatory masks,” McCallum told CBC.

Earlier Wednesday, Premier John Horgan said he is calling on the federal government to implement a “pan-Canadian approach” to non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the travel restrictions brought in a week-and-a-half ago in B.C., which advise against non-essential travel in and out of the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, will be extended for “the next two weeks at least.”

Later in the day, the premier said he had connected with faith leaders from across the province and encouraged them to limit in-person festivities for upcoming celebrations including Gurpurab, Chanukah and Christmas.

“The actions that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains in B.C. took to avoid in-person gatherings for Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas helped save lives and protect the most vulnerable,” Horgan said in a news release.

“There will be a time when we can all come together again like we did before. Until then, thank you to everyone for doing their part. Together, we’re showing that we’re stronger when we come together in common purpose.”

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Alberta province halts AstraZeneca vaccine first shots due to supply issue

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Alberta has stopped administering first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because of limited supply, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said the change was due to supply issues rather concerns about rare side-effects.

“This decision is based on the fact that we are receiving no known future shipments of AstraZeneca at this time but are receiving large quantities of mRNA vaccines,” McMillan said in an email, referring to messenger RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech.

The shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines comes as the western oil-producing province of Alberta struggles with a surge in COVID-19 cases. Last week the provincial government introduced new restrictions to curb infections.

Alberta has administered approximately 255,000 first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The remaining supply of about 8,400 doses will be used as second doses.

Last week, Alberta reported its first case of a patient dying from a blood clot condition after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. There have been three such deaths in Canada.

Despite the deaths linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Canada‘s health regulator has continued to support the use of the vaccine and highlighted its benefits.

Dozens of countries paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine this year after reports of rare, but serious, blood clots. Several of them have now resumed use either fully or with restrictions after health regulators said the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.

The province is now receiving large and consistent shipments of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, with more than 236,000 doses arriving this week.

(Reporting by Nia WilliamsEditing by Bill Berkrot and Nick Zieminski)

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BioNTech committed to deliver 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine this year

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BioNTech SE said on Monday that its order backlog for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines this year together with partner Pfizer Inc had grown to 1.8 billion doses, underscoring its role as a major global supplier of immunization shots.

That was up from 1.4 billion doses announced in March.

Based on these delivery contracts, the company said it expects about 12.4 billion euros ($15.1 billion) in revenue from the vaccine this year, including sales, milestone payments from partners and a share of gross profit in the partners’ territories, up from a previous forecast of 9.8 billion euros.

More than 450 million doses of the two-shot vaccine known as Comirnaty were supplied globally as of May 6, 2021. By contrast, AstraZeneca, which has pledged to deliver up to 3 billion vaccine doses this year, said on April 30 it had supplied more than 300 million doses so far. That includes production from partners such as the Serum Institute of India.

BioNTech and Pfizer, which have been spared the type of production setbacks that have hobbled AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson , have repeatedly lifted projected delivery volumes amid a global scramble to speed vaccination campaigns.

Earlier on Monday, BioNTech unveiled plans to set up a new factory in Singapore to produce several hundred million doses of its mRNA vaccines per year from 2023.

BioNTech’s partner for China, Fosun Pharma , said on Sunday it would provide a factory with an annual capacity of up to 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine under a joint venture with BioNTech.

That followed a contract with the European Union for up to 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 2021-2023, to cover booster shots, donations and reselling of doses.

BioNTech reported first-quarter total revenue of 2.05 billion euros, up from 27.7 million a year earlier, driven by vaccine sales, and including an estimated 1.75 billion euros from BioNTech’s share of gross profit from sales in Pfizer’s territories.

Quarterly net profit jumped to 1.13 billion euros, compared to a 53.4-million-euro loss in the year-earlier period.

The company said there was no evidence its current vaccine will need to be adapted to fight new virus variants, but added that it had developed strategies to address such variants should the need arise.

BioNTech reiterated that output capacity for the vaccine would reach 3 billion doses by the end of 2021, and more than 3 billion doses in 2022.

Pfizer last week said the pair was targeting production of as much as 4 billion doses of the shot next year, mostly for low- and middle-income countries.

($1 = 0.8222 euros)

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Thomas Escritt, Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)

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Canada ready to discuss COVID-19 vaccine IP waiver, ‘not interfering or blocking’ -Trudeau

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covid-19 vaccines

Canada is ready to discuss an intellectual property rights (IP) waiver for COVID-19 vaccines and will not block one even though it stresses the importance of protecting patents, officials said on Friday.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind waiving IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines. Any such waiver would have to be negotiated through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“We’ve been working with partners at the WTO to find a consensus-based solution and are ready to discuss proposals, in particular for COVID-19 vaccines,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

Biden’s proposal angered pharmaceutical companies. Firms working on vaccines have reported sharp revenue and profit gains during the crisis.

Canadian International Trade Minister Mary Ng earlier said that Ottawa firmly believed in the importance of protecting IP.

“I can assure you Canada is not interfering or blocking. Canada is very much working to find a solution,” said Trudeau, who did not give details of the Canadian negotiating stance.

Ng said Ottawa recognized how much the pharmaceutical industry had done to innovate COVID-19 vaccines, adding that many barriers to access were unrelated to IP, such as supply-chain constraints.

Canada is trying to quell a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that is pushing some healthcare systems to breaking points, particularly in the western provinces of Alberta and Manitoba.

Manitoba officials said they were postponing some non-urgent surgeries to open space for COVID-19 patients and planned to announce tougher public health restrictions as daily cases soared to a near-record high.

The U.S. state of Montana will offer vaccines to around 2,000 Alberta truckers who regularly cross the border, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said.

Truckers will get vaccinated at a post being set up just south of the border, using Montana’s surplus Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The scheme mirrors an agreement that Saskatchewan and Manitoba reached with North Dakota.

 

(Additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by David Goodman/Mark Heinrich, Grant McCool and Marguerita Choy)

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