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How should provinces handle the rollout of two-dose vaccines? – CTV News

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TORONTO —
When a vaccine requires two doses, how should provinces handle their shipments of vaccines — set aside the second dose and commit to a slower rollout, or deliver shots to as many people as possible and risk a delay in shipments of the second dose?

It’s a question that is preoccupying officials and the public.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 83 thousand vaccine doses had been administered in Canada, roughly 0.2 per cent of the population.

With the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was the first to be approved in Canada, the second dose is taken 21 days after the first. Since vaccine doses started to be given out in mid-December, the soonest that those people would start receiving their second shots is early next week.

The first shipments of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Canada last Thursday. Those who receive this vaccine will get their second dose around a month after the first.

SHOULD PROVINCES HOLD ONTO THE SECOND DOSE?

Both Moderna and Pfizer require two doses of the vaccine to ensure immunity, a system which has spurred two different strategies for the vaccine rollout.

Some provinces, such as British Columbia and Manitoba, have chosen to give as many people their first shot as possible — using up their first shipments of vaccines to give a greater number of people partial protection and relying on further shipments coming within the waiting period to make up the second shots those people will require.

Other provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, have chosen to do the math to set aside the second dose for each person that they vaccinate, in order to ensure that those people will get that second dose even in the event of a delay in further shipments of the vaccine.

Alberta is one province that held back doses at first, but pledged this week to reverse the policy after falling far short of their goal to deliver 29,000 shots by the end of the year.

Federal officials were asked in Ottawa today if they intend to publish guidelines on how provinces should handle the vaccine rollouts. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc emphasized that “provinces have the responsibility of vaccinating their own populations, and as soon as possible.”

Major General Dany Fortin, who is overseeing the process of delivering vaccines to jurisdictions across the country, said Wednesday that “vaccine producers do recommend that we keep a second dose,” adding that this was the advice given when the additional shipments coming in January had not been confirmed.

“Now, things are confirmed, we will be receiving our shipments,” he said.

However, he pointed out that “provinces and territories do have to manage possible risks” regarding the timing of shipments.

“When it comes to our level of confidence in shipments, well, we have a lot of remote regions, there could be issues with winter weather and other logistical challenges,” Fortin said. “A given province or territory might decide to vaccinate a higher number of people now and then use a future shipment as second doses for those same people. We respect provincial and territorial responsibilities, and that is a provincial and territorial responsibility.”

WHICH STRATEGY IS BEST?

Opinions vary, even among experts.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist with McMaster University, explained the thinking behind each strategy to CTVNews.ca last week, saying B.C.’s strategy of not holding back the second dose is based on a trust in the supply chain.

“[B.C.’s thinking is] we’re fine. We’ll get the doses,” he said. “Let’s just get more people vaccinated to provide some safety. In the worst case scenario, we can delay it by a couple of weeks. It’s not the end of the world.”

Ontario’s approach of holding back the second dose is more “careful,” he said, especially in anticipation of possible manufacturing delays. He also notes this approach could be more prudent in the long run.

“In the grand context, this is a marathon and not a sprint,” Chagla said. “We should probably be focusing on making sure that the people who are vaccinated have the most robust vaccine series rather than just saying let’s spray it out as much as possible and hope that we get the second dose.”

However, some experts point out that the partial protection offered by even one dose of these vaccines could make a serious difference in slowing down the transmission of the virus if more people are given their first shot quickly.

“Many of us believe that we should be giving one dose to everyone rather than keeping a second dose behind,” Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist, told CTV News Channel on Monday. “That’s how we’re going to get this under control.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine efficacy is 52 per cent after just one shot, with protective effects kicking in around 12 days after receiving the shot. That efficacy rose to 95 per cent seven days after the second dose.

This means that those who have received only one shot can still feasibly get COVID-19 — but that the likelihood has significantly decreased.

The likelihood of contracting COVID-19 is even smaller after one dose of the Moderna vaccine. The vaccine demonstrated an 80 per cent efficacy after just one dose in Moderna’s clinical trials — but as all of the participants received a second shot a month after the first, at which point the efficacy rose to 94 per cent, there is no data on whether or not receiving one shot by itself provides immunity that lasts past 28 days.

NARROWING THE VACCINE TO ONE DOSE ALONE?

The increased efficacy of Moderna’s vaccine based on a single shot has prompted some to suggest we simply forget about the second shot.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of Canada’s vaccination program, asked this week if Health Canada could look into the possibility of the Moderna vaccine being delivered in only one dose — something that health officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) rejected Wednesday.

“From a scientific, public health, medical perspective, it’s all with a two-dose regime, and that’s what Health Canada has approved,” Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer at PHAC, said Wednesday. “There’s no data there to look at in terms of if there was a one-dose regime, what that would have in terms of an impact on either the duration of immunity or the efficacy over the long-term.”

Dr. Ronald St. John, former and first Director General of the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response at PHAC, told CTV News Channel on Wednesday that we need to “trust the science.”

The vaccines currently being approved have gone through the standard three phase process to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, he said, and the results show that it takes two doses to achieve a 94-95 per cent effectiveness.

“One dose might give you 50 per cent, but the person who is vaccinated doesn’t know whether they’re going to be in the 50 per cent protected or 50 per cent unprotected,” he said. “So you may have somebody who feels ‘oh, I’ve been vaccinated, and I’m fine,” but they may still be totally susceptible to the virus.” 

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Wattpad to be sold to South Korean internet giant for $600M US – CBC.ca

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One of Canada’s most prominent technology darlings is being sold to a South Korean internet conglomerate in a $600 million US deal.

Toronto-based online storytelling company Wattpad said its board of directors unanimously approved a cash and stock transaction Tuesday that will see it acquired by Naver later this year. The company will retain its Canadian headquarters.

“This is the most important day in the history of the company and an incredible milestone,” said Allen Lau, one of Wattpad’s co-founders, in an interview.

“It is the beginning of a new chapter and using TV show terminology, this is episode one of season two, so I’m absolutely looking forward to this.”

Lau and Ivan Yuen, who will continue to lead Wattpad following the sale, started the self-publishing platform after the pair dreamed up the idea on a napkin while waiting for a flight at the Vancouver airport food court in 2006.

Wattpad quickly became home to stories from dozens of genres because it allows anyone to share their writing for free and is accessible on phones and tablets.

It became a household name around 2013 when Anna Todd, a Texas woman, started writing After, a fanfiction series on the platform about One Direction singer Harry Styles.

Her stories were eventually made into books and a film series, which encouraged Wattpad to start book publishing and studio entertainment divisions.

However, Lau admitted a sale wasn’t always his plan.

“We weren’t actively looking for sellers, but we have been talking to investors along the way … to accelerate our growth,” he said.

“We knew Naver for quite some time and we realized after some conversations we have a shared vision.”

Opportunity to grow, get into animation, co-founder says

Naver, which bills itself as “South Korea’s largest web search engine,” was an ideal partner because it owns digital comics platform Webtoon, he said.

Webtoon is behind some of the biggest names in webcomics, including Lore Olympus, and has worked with the Jim Henson Company and producers behind hit films like The Lego Movie, the It franchise and Snowpiercer.

Lau said Naver will offer Wattpad a chance to get into animation and to grow beyond the 90 million users — including more than five million writers — that Wattpad has. Webtoon said it has more than 72 million monthly active users.

“Wattpad’s vision to entertain and connect the world through stories fits perfectly with our vision for Webtoon and Naver’s content brand and we’re thrilled to have them join the Naver family,” Seong-sook Han, chief executive, said in a statement.

The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of Wattpad’s fiscal year and is subject to regulatory approvals.

It is the latest in a string of sales that have seen once-promising Canadian tech companies snatched up by foreign owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Element AI, a Montreal-based firm that creates artificial intelligence solutions for large organizations, signed a deal in November to be purchased by ServiceNow, a Santa Clara, Calif., company that offers a cloud-based workflow technology.

San Francisco-based “buy now, pay later” company Affirm reached a deal to buy Toronto rival PayBright for $340 million in early December.

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Wattpad to be sold to South Korean internet giant for $600M US – CBC.ca

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One of Canada’s most prominent technology darlings is being sold to a South Korean internet conglomerate in a $600 million US deal.

Toronto-based online storytelling company Wattpad said its board of directors unanimously approved a cash and stock transaction Tuesday that will see it acquired by Naver later this year. The company will retain its Canadian headquarters.

“This is the most important day in the history of the company and an incredible milestone,” said Allen Lau, one of Wattpad’s co-founders, in an interview.

“It is the beginning of a new chapter and using TV show terminology, this is episode one of season two, so I’m absolutely looking forward to this.”

Lau and Ivan Yuen, who will continue to lead Wattpad following the sale, started the self-publishing platform after the pair dreamed up the idea on a napkin while waiting for a flight at the Vancouver airport food court in 2006.

Wattpad quickly became home to stories from dozens of genres because it allows anyone to share their writing for free and is accessible on phones and tablets.

It became a household name around 2013 when Anna Todd, a Texas woman, started writing After, a fanfiction series on the platform about One Direction singer Harry Styles.

Her stories were eventually made into books and a film series, which encouraged Wattpad to start book publishing and studio entertainment divisions.

However, Lau admitted a sale wasn’t always his plan.

“We weren’t actively looking for sellers, but we have been talking to investors along the way … to accelerate our growth,” he said.

“We knew Naver for quite some time and we realized after some conversations we have a shared vision.”

Opportunity to grow, get into animation, co-founder says

Naver, which bills itself as “South Korea’s largest web search engine,” was an ideal partner because it owns digital comics platform Webtoon, he said.

Webtoon is behind some of the biggest names in webcomics, including Lore Olympus, and has worked with the Jim Henson Company and producers behind hit films like The Lego Movie, the It franchise and Snowpiercer.

Lau said Naver will offer Wattpad a chance to get into animation and to grow beyond the 90 million users — including more than five million writers — that Wattpad has. Webtoon said it has more than 72 million monthly active users.

“Wattpad’s vision to entertain and connect the world through stories fits perfectly with our vision for Webtoon and Naver’s content brand and we’re thrilled to have them join the Naver family,” Seong-sook Han, chief executive, said in a statement.

The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of Wattpad’s fiscal year and is subject to regulatory approvals.

It is the latest in a string of sales that have seen once-promising Canadian tech companies snatched up by foreign owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Element AI, a Montreal-based firm that creates artificial intelligence solutions for large organizations, signed a deal in November to be purchased by ServiceNow, a Santa Clara, Calif., company that offers a cloud-based workflow technology.

San Francisco-based “buy now, pay later” company Affirm reached a deal to buy Toronto rival PayBright for $340 million in early December.

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Ontario faces weeks of major coronavirus vaccination delays due to Pfizer cutbacks – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The provincial government is expecting no shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine next week amid a delay in deliveries due to production issues.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 task force, said today that the federal government confirmed Ontario will receive zero shipments of the vaccine next week as Pfizer is dealing with delays in shipments due to production issues in Belgium.

“What Pfizer and I believe the federal government have said to us is that yes we have had some short-term shortages, some short-term disruptions to the allocations but we will make up in late Februrary/March what we missed. And therefore, in the first quarter- our Phase one- we will have the same number of vaccines allocated to us that we expected all along and that we’ve been planning to use,” Hillier said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

The Canadian government announced on Tuesday morning that the country is not going to get any shipments of Pfizer vaccines next week.

Canada’s coordinator of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, said Canada’s shipments of the vaccine will be cut by nearly one-fifth this week and drop to zero next week during a press conference.

On Friday, the Canadian government said that nearly half of the doses expected by Pfizer-BioNTech are delayed and will arrive in the next month.

Pfizer’s facility is undergoing modifications in the coming weeks to increase the number of doses it can ship, according to Pfizer Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has insisted that most Canadians will still be vaccinated by the fall if they want the vaccine.

Before the federal government’s announcement on Tuesday, provincial health officials said the province was only expecting an 80% cut in next week’s shipment, which would result in 15 trays of the Pfizer vaccine compared to a promised 83 trays.

Each tray contains approximately 975 doses.

The provincial government already faced a five per cent cut in vaccines from 83 to 80 trays this week due to the delay.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said today that he’s “angry at the situation” that other countries seem to be getting more shipments of the vaccine compared to Canada. 

“We got to be on these guys [Pfizer] like a blanket. I’d be outside that guy’s house. Every time he moved I’d be saying where’s our vaccines? Other people are getting them, the European Union’s getting them, why not Canada? That’s my question to Pfizer. We need your support,” Ford said during the press conference.

Pfizer said many countries will be affected by the delay but did not say which ones. Europe’s shipments are expected to be cut back this week but its dose deliveries are set to return to normal next week.

Ahead of inauguration day tomorrow in the U.S., Ford went on to ask President-elect Joe Biden for help securing more vaccines from a Pfizer plant in Michigan.

“I can’t help but ask the president, we’re the third largest trading partner in the world, Ontario just alone… The least thing you could do in Kalamazoo where the Pfizer plant is- great relationship building- give us a million vaccines. You have 100 million down there, give your great neighbour that stand shoulder-to-shouler with you a million vaccines to keep us going,” Ford said.

In the first two weeks of February, provincial health officials said they are expecting a 55 per cent cut and 45 per cent cut in doses during the weeks of Feb. 1 and Feb.8, respectively.

The government said the allocation of doses remains the same with the priority to inoculate long-term care and high-risk retirement homes and northern, fly-in First Nation communities first.

Health officials added that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be reallocated during this delay to more areas to reserve Pfizer for sites that need to provide second doses.

Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines are the only shots that have been approved by Health Canada so far. Two doses of the same vaccine are required for full immunization.

Last week, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams updated the guidance on the interval between the two doses.

Those who received the Pfizer vaccine inside long-term care and high-risk retirement homes will receive the second dose in 21 to 27 days. Meanwhile, all other people who have received the first dose will now receive their second dose between 21 and 42 days later. This approach aligns with guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the World Health Organization.

People who received the Moderna vaccine will receive their second dose after 28 days.

As a result of the Pfizer delay, a pilot COVID-19 vaccination clinic that opened up on Monday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre will have to pause vaccinations on Friday.

The proof-of-concept clinic is supposed to serve as a guideline for how shots should be administered in non-medical settings starting this spring.

The site had been expected to run for at least six weeks with an initial target of 250 doses per day.

Today provincial health officials said the clinic will resume vaccinations once more doses arrive possibly by mid- February or March.

First round of vaccinations complete at LTC homes in hot spots

Provincial health officials also announced today that the first round of vaccinations has been completed at all long-term care homes in the hot spots of Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex ahead of the Jan. 21 target.

All long-term care homes in Ottawa, Durham Region and Simcoe Muskoka have also received the first dose.

Last week, the government said that they hope to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all residents and staff in all long-term care homes across the province by Feb. 15.

Health officials said the vaccine shortage will not affect this target.

The government also said there have been very few reports of serious events related to the vaccine, and that most have been because patients were allergic.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Chief Coroner said it is investigating after a resident of a Windsor retirement home died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. It is unknown if there is any link between the death and the vaccine.

More than 224,000 doses administered

As of 8 p.m. on Monday, more than 224,000 doses of vaccines have been administered across the province since the first doses were administered in mid-December.

According to public health officials, more than 83,000 of those doses were administered to long-term care home residents and staff, over 25,000 to retirement home residents and staff and more than 99,000 to health-care workers in other sectors.

To date, more than 25,000 Ontarians have been fully vaccinated after receiving both doses of the vaccine.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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