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How safe is it for fully vaccinated people to return to in-person work? One expert weighs in – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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(CNN) — The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its guidance to once again recommend that even vaccinated people start masking indoors in areas of the country with high and substantial coronavirus spread. Key to their decision was a study that shows that fully vaccinated people can still transmit the Delta variant.

At the same time, Disney, Netflix, Google, Walmart and the federal government announced plans to implement some type of vaccine requirement for employees returning to in-person work.

Is it safe for vaccinated people to return to work if vaccine mandates are in place? What if they are not — is masking enough, and what if others around you are unvaccinated and not wearing masks? What about workers who have children too young to be vaccinated?

To help us navigate these uncertain times, we turned to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Wen is an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She’s also author of a new book, “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.”

CNN: We know that breakthrough infections can happen. How does it help to have vaccine mandates at work if the vaccinated can also spread Covid-19?

Dr. Leana Wen: Vaccine requirements will help make workplaces much safer for everyone. Here’s why. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what the CDC’s new data is showing. The agency found that vaccinated people infected with Covid-19 may carry just as much virus as those who are unvaccinated and have Covid-19.

However, the chance of actually contracting Covid-19 is greatly reduced if you’re vaccinated. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, you have an estimated eight-fold reduction in risk of having coronavirus if you’re vaccinated compared to if you’re not — and an estimated 25-fold reduction in risk of having severe enough disease to cause hospitalization and death, which is truly remarkable.

Put a different way, if I have to spend time in an enclosed, indoor space with someone, the chance of that person having coronavirus and potentially being able to infect me is an estimated eight times less if they are vaccinated. That’s why vaccine requirements at work make sense. It dramatically reduces the chance that your coworkers could be infected. And because you are vaccinated, too, your chance of getting Covid-19 from them is also reduced an estimated eight-fold from if you were not vaccinated.

Could it be possible that someone has coronavirus, and you still contract it from them? Yes. The higher the coronavirus transmission rate in your community, the more likely someone has Covid-19, even if they are vaccinated. However, it is much safer to share space with people when everyone is fully vaccinated.

CNN: What if the workplace allows people to opt out of vaccination through testing?

Wen: It depends on how frequent the testing is. Testing is not a strategy that prevents someone from contracting Covid-19. However, if there is frequent testing, it could pick up on infections quickly and prevent that person from spreading it. I’d feel more comfortable with twice-weekly testing than weekly testing. Either the antigen test or PCR test should be fine, as long as it’s authorized by the FDA.

Test less frequently and I think you get into a situation of false reassurance. Just because someone tested negative a week ago doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have contracted coronavirus in the meantime. And if they are unvaccinated, they have a higher chance of getting Covid-19 and therefore of passing it on to you.

CNN: Should workplaces require both vaccinations and masking?

Wen: This is an interesting question, and one that the CDC has not really weighed in on. Right now, the CDC is saying that indoor masking should occur in areas of high or substantial Covid-19 transmission, and they are not saying that if everyone is vaccinated, masks are no longer needed.

I think this is a mistake. The risk of vaccinated people transmitting to other vaccinated people is low. At some point, we have to accept that we’re not going to get zero risk. Workplaces need to protect their employees, and a vaccine requirement is a very good level of protection. If a workplace truly has an enforced vaccine mandate with proof of vaccination, I think they could make masking optional instead of required.

That said, some individuals may choose to be more careful at work. That’s also completely understandable. I hope that workplaces allow accommodations to be made. For example, there may be some people who are immunocompromised. They may not want to sit in a crowded conference room with maskless — but vaccinated — peers, because even a small risk to them is too much. I hope employers will allow such employees to work from home, or to be in a separate physical space and to call in to virtual meetings. Of course, not all workplaces can reasonably make these accommodations, and this is once again why vaccine requirements are so important. They reduces risk substantially.

CNN: What if a workplace doesn’t require vaccines? Is masking enough? Or what about places that don’t require either?

Wen: A workplace that doesn’t require vaccines but continues to abide by strict masking and distancing, and has good ventilation, is also pretty safe. Adding testing on top of that will be a helpful additional layer of protection. The quality of the mask matters — in these situations, people should at least wear a three-ply surgical mask. And it’s important that everyone consistently wears their mask — not dangling around the necks, but fully covering their nose and mouth.

If the workplace doesn’t require vaccines or masks, and you know that you are surrounded by maskless people who are probably unvaccinated, that’s a much riskier situation for you. Know that you are still well-protected from severe illness; but depending on the infection rate in the community around you, you could be at risk of a breakthrough infection.

Try to take steps to protect yourself. Wear an N95 or KN95 mask when in close proximity indoors with these maskless people of unknown vaccination status. Try to stay distanced from them, and if possible, ask for accommodations to sit in a separate space. Open the window and door to increase air flow. Stay out of crowded gathering areas like breakrooms and cafeterias. Know that risk is cumulative. The more people you are exposed to, the higher your risk.

You could also see whether other employees feel as you do. More and more workplaces are implementing vaccine requirements — or at least a testing requirement. It’s possible at your workplace that those who want these mandates are in the majority. Your voices need to be heard, and they could make a difference.

CNN: What’s your advice for parents of young kids or people living at home with immunocompromised family members? Should they try to keep working from home?

Wen: This is really tough. Many people are in this situation where we may not be so concerned about a breakthrough infection to us, because chances are it will be mild, but we are very concerned about potentially being a carrier who could infect those we live with.

Taking precautions at work is important. Vaccine requirements would make me feel much safer. I’d be comfortable going to work, and not wearing a mask, if everyone around me is guaranteed to be fully vaccinated. I’d probably still try to stay out of the highest risk settings, like cramped, poorly ventilated conference rooms where dozens are sitting shoulder-to-shoulder for hours at a time.

If I’m not certain that the others around me are vaccinated, I would make sure to wear a high-quality mask when around them indoors. Other people will be even more cautious. Someone who lives at home with an elderly parent on immunosuppressant medications may want to follow the CDC guidelines to the letter and wear a mask even if everyone around them is known to be vaccinated. Still others may choose to work at home if that’s an option available to them. We all have different tolerance of risk, and I hope companies will try to make reasonable accommodations for people’s living situations.

This is a very confusing time for everyone. It feels like the US has taken a step backward in our fight against the pandemic, and we have. The Delta variant has changed things again. We need to keep being vigilant, reassess our own risk and our family’s, and keep in mind that vaccination remains key to protecting ourselves and our loved ones.

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More than half of Manitoba's 64 new COVID-19 cases unvaccinated – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG –

While more than half of Manitoba’s new COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated, the province reported 20 breakthrough infections.

On Thursday, Manitoba public health officials reported 64 new COVID-19 cases – including 36 unvaccinated cases and eight partially vaccinated cases. Twenty of the cases were among people who had been fully vaccinated.

“No vaccine is 100 per cent effective. However, people who are fully vaccinated typically have a better outcome than individuals who are not vaccinated,” a spokesperson told CTV News in an emailed statement.

“Public health continues to recommend that the best defence against COVID-19 is to get immunized.”

As of Thursday, 84 per cent of eligible Manitobans have rolled up their sleeve for at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Seventy-nine per cent of eligible Manitobans are vaccinated with two doses.

The spokesperson said while breakthrough cases can occur, the outcomes are typically not as severe as they are for non-vaccinated individuals. They said fully vaccinated people who get infected typically do not need to go to ICU.

As of Thursday, 62 people in Manitoba are in hospital with COVID-19, including 26 people who have active cases. Of those active cases, 20 are not vaccinated, four are partially vaccinated and two are fully vaccinated.

There are five people in the intensive care unit with active cases of COVID-19, all of whom are unvaccinated.

Data from the province obtained by CTV News shows there have been 728 infections and 16 deaths among the 915,200 people fully immunized in the province.

Of the 986,054 people who have been partially immunized in Manitoba, the data shows there have been 2,215 infections and 45 deaths.

The Southern Health region saw the most cases in the province on Thursday, with 23 new cases reported.

The Northern and Winnipeg health regions both reported 15 new cases. Winnipeg is sitting with a 1.2 per cent five-day test positivity rate.

The Prairie Mountain Health Region reported six new cases and the Interlake-Eastern health region reported five new cases.

The new cases bring Manitoba’s total to 59,526, including 599 active cases and 57,724 recoveries. Seven cases were removed from the total due to data corrections.

The provincial five-day test positivity rate is now 2.5 per cent.

The province also released some details of two deaths that were announced on Wednesday – both of which were linked to variants of concern. The deaths include a woman in her 70s from the Interlake-Eastern health region, linked to the Delta variant, and a man in his 80s from Winnipeg linked to an unspecified variant.

The total number of people who have died with COVID-19 sits at 1,203, including 201 deaths that have been linked to variants of concern.

In total, Manitoba has linked 18,065 cases to variants. 370 variant cases are active, and 17,494 have recovered.

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Goodbye Pfizer, hello Comirnaty: top COVID-19 vaccines renamed in Canada – KitchenerToday.com

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It’s pronounced koh-MIHR’-nuh-tee. Never heard of it? Well, get used to it. It’s what Canada will be calling the Pfizer vaccine from now on, at least officially.

Health Canada has approved new monikers for Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines and announced the change on social media today.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has now been dubbed Comirnaty, which the company says represents a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity.

The Moderna vaccine will go by SpikeVax and the AstraZeneca vaccine will be named Vaxzevria.

Pfizer and Moderna say the change marks the full approval of the vaccines by Health Canada, which were previously approved under an interim order that was set to expire today.

During the interim order, the vaccines didn’t go by their brand names, but now that new and more long-term data has been submitted and approved they will go by their permanent name.

“Health Canada’s approval of COMIRNATY for individuals ages 12 and older affirms the vaccine’s safety and efficacy shown in longer term data submitted to Health Canada — and hopefully that licensure may improve vaccine confidence among Canadians,” Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou wrote in a statement.

It’s the first time SpikeVax, until now known as the Moderna vaccine, has been fully approved anywhere in the world, Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, said in a press release Thursday.

Health Canada points out the vaccines themselves are not changing — only the names are.

Although the name change has been approved, Canada will still receive vials labelled Pfizier-BioNTech for the next several months.

The FDA approved new names in the United States earlier this summer, and the vaccines have been going by their brand names in the EU since the spring.

Story by Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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How concerning is the latest COVID-19 Mu variant in B.C.? – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A new strain of the COVID-19 virus is now in the province, and it is leading to questions around potential risk.

The B.1.621 — or Mu — variant was first discovered in Colombia in January and has been found in more than 40 people in B.C. since June. The World Health Organization has now classified the strain as a “Variant of Interest.”

The case numbers are minimal compared to the highly transmissive Delta variant, which has exploded across the country, leading to more COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

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In B.C. alone, nearly all the new cases of COVID-19 are linked to the Delta variant.

Still, there was a time when the impact of that strain was not known, prompting many to worry that the new Mu variant could be just as dangerous as Delta.

Sally Otto, a UBC zoology professor and modelling researcher, says right now, that’s not the case and there is no need to panic.

“Mu hasn’t actually been rising in frequency, it’s been kind of hovering under about two per cent frequency, relative to what we saw with Delta, which was once it got established, [there was] really rapid exponential growth,” Otto said.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to it, we absolutely should keep an eye on it. But it’s not taking off. Right now, Delta is the main player, the main variant that is the most transmissible and the most worrisome in this country,” Otto said.

Dr. Birinder Narang, co-founder of This is Our Shot campaign, agrees. “It is not showing a significant impact in B.C., we need to watch,” he wrote on social media.

The bigger concern than the variant itself, Otto says, is how slow Canada is at sharing data from mapping virus sequences to discover variants of interest present in the population.

A new report found Canada among the worst for sharing data on genome sequencing.

Canada takes three months to present collected data to the global database, compared to the United Kingdom which is able to do it in just two weeks.

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The data is then studied by public health officials, scientists, and other experts around the world to examine what variants are present, and how fast they are spreading.

“There could absolutely be more variants. Now to be honest, Canada doesn’t have as much cases as there are globally so the chances are the variant of concern is going to arise somewhere else. But if a variant of concern arises in Canada, we can’t tell.”

She says the delay in information impacts making real-time decisions on public policy surrounding the virus.

“We can’t tell within Canada if there are subtypes of the Delta that are spreading faster than others, and that’s something we need to know,” she said about the mutations and which ones to pay attention to.

Otto says the disconnect of information sharing is even happening in Canada between provinces and territories.

“Here in British Columbia we are sequencing almost every single case of COVID to try and identify what exactly the genetic changes are inside the genome of the virus. But unfortunately that is not then being shared globally, and it’s not even being shared across Canada. And that means that scientists like me who aren’t inside the public health office, we can’t use our skills to look for the changes that are happening in these genomes,” she said, adding the last time B.C. updated their data was two months ago.

Despite fears, the BC Centre of Disease Control says the current vaccines protect against all variants of concern, including Delta, and because variants spread more easily, it is even more important for the majority of the population to be vaccinated.

“This helps protect people who cannot get vaccinated, including children under 12,” the BCCDC explained.

With files from Nikitha Martin

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