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Husband regrets anti-vaxx stance as wife lies in a coma 800 km from home – CBC.ca

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UPDATE — Oct. 24, 2021: Dwayne Binette said doctors performed a C-section Saturday on his wife, Krystal, who delivered a healthy baby weighing just over three pounds. Krystal remains in an induced coma.  


EARLIER STORY:

A former self-described “anti-vaxxer” says he regrets not listening to the science as his pregnant wife lies in a medically induced coma 800 kilometres from home. 

Now he’s speaking out in the hope he can convince other vaccine-hesitant people to change their minds before it’s too late.

Dwayne Binette, 43, lives in Fort St. John, B.C., with his 39-year-old wife and two children, aged 11 and 3. There, he says, he was surrounded by people who didn’t take the risks of COVID-19 seriously.

Under 60 per cent of eligible people in northeastern British Columbia are fully vaccinated, and patients in need of critical care are being transferred to other parts of the province to reduce stress on local hospitals.

Binette says he and his wife had started talking to their doctor about vaccination when their 11-year-old came home with mild flu-like symptoms on Oct. 4. Soon after, both he and his wife tested positive for COVID-19.

His wife, a member of the Prophet River First Nation who is 27 weeks pregnant, deteriorated and by Oct. 11 had to be taken to hospital. She is now in a medically induced coma in New Westminster, roughly an 800 kilometre flight or 1,200 km drive from Fort St. John.

She is hooked up to an ECMO machine, which replaces lung function in a bid to try to save her life.

Binette says his children, 11 and 3, are having a hard time understanding why their mother isn’t home. (Dwayne Binette)

Binette says doctors are uncertain about the survival chances of his wife or their unborn baby and every day he wakes up hoping they are still alive.

“When you’re away from your wife who’s dying in the hospital and you’re under quarantine and your kids are asking where mom is, I mean, it’s pretty tough,” he said.

Binette spoke to CBC News about why he didn’t believe the science of COVID-19 vaccines and how he hopes other people can have their mind changed. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Dwayne, you said that before all this, you were a pretty open anti-vaxxer. That’s how you described yourself. Can you tell me about that?

Yes, you’re correct, I was. I was pretty much against this thing.

“Is this safe? Is this safe for my pregnant wife?” I was pretty dug in. I was going to wait and see. Obviously, I made the wrong choice.

WATCH | B.C.’s provincial health officer debunks myths about the vaccine and pregnancy:

No risk to pregnant women from COVID vaccine: Dr. Bonnie Henry

1 month ago

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is encouraging people who are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 0:58

Why is it that you didn’t believe it when the government said everybody should get vaccinated, and there were news reports saying the safest thing is to get vaccinated — why didn’t that connect with you?

I think in my area there’s a lot of distrust toward the government. We haven’t had a fair shake out here. So I think that plays a part. Also, there’s a large amount of misinformation out there, especially with social media. It seems to play off of that and instead of doing the right thing and talking to the health professionals — doctors and nurses dealing with this pandemic — people seem to want to be able to just believe what they read on the internet, which isn’t a correct way to do things.

I mean, if I could go back and change things, I definitely would. I was pretty set in my ways against getting this vaccination. I had multiple arguments with the family, with people on social media. It turns out that vaccination is a life-saving thing. 

When you talk about not getting a fair shake, what are you talking about?

There’s quite a few things in this region and the north, we seem to be left out. We’re a smaller population than bigger cities, so it doesn’t feel like our opinion counts. So when you have a lot of the decisions being made about our area from a different location, it’s sometimes hard to accept. 

As well, government doesn’t seem to consider how it affects us up here. They seem to want to make decisions without even knowing how that will affect us in this area.

So that just turns into a knee-jerk, you don’t believe anything they tell you?

Exactly.

You’ve changed your mind because of this tragic situation. But there were tragic situations you could have heard about and it didn’t change your mind. So what would have changed your mind aside from your wife getting really, really sick?

I think having so much misinformation out there is a big thing.

I think having government do things in a way that is more comforting to people, so that they can explain things, in a way, and not just come down and order it to be done or else there is going to be consequences. This would make a real big difference. 

You would know people who didn’t believe [COVID] was a problem and, unfortunately, there’s some people who might listen to your story and still not change their mind. They’ll just think it’s another bit of media hype.

I would suggest to them this is a life-saving measure. If you see a speeding truck about to hit one of your family members, you would jump into action and save their life. This is the same thing we have. We have a chance to save our friends’ and families’ lives, and we need to take that opportunity to do that. We need to get vaccinated.

This is for real. This is a life-saving measure. They’re not guaranteeing that you won’t get COVID [after] being vaccinated, but what they’re saying is this will save your life. You won’t end up in such a serious condition as my wife is in. So, if I could go back in months, I would have our whole family vaccinated and her life would be saved right now. I am sure of it.

Listen to the interview below:

Daybreak North7:35‘I was wrong’: Former anti-vaxxer on why he and his wife didn’t believe in getting shots until it was too late

A former self-described anti-vaxxer says he regrets not listening to the science as his pregnant wife lies in a medically-induced coma 1,200 km from home. 7:35

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Tracking omicron: Canadian scientists race to understand new variant – CBC News

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Canadian scientists are racing to understand more about the threat of the omicron variant — how fast it spreads, whether it causes more or less severe illness, and if it can escape previous immunity to COVID-19 — but it could take weeks before a full picture emerges.

There have been dozens of suspected and confirmed cases of omicron reported throughout Canada in recent days, but several have no known link to international travel and have prompted concerns the variant could already be driving outbreaks here.

Health officials in London, Ont., confirmed omicron is now linked to a cluster of at least 40 COVID-19 cases in the city associated with schools, child care centres and a church, with 171 high-risk close contacts identified. 

And countries such as South Africa, Denmark and England are already reporting widespread community transmission of the variant, with growing evidence that omicron was already spreading in Europe before it was identified by researchers in southern Africa. 

Dozens of suspected and confirmed cases of omicron have been reported throughout Canada in recent days, but several have no known link to international travel and have prompted concerns the variant could already be driving outbreaks here. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Canadian labs better prepared for omicron 

But the capacity to analyze this new variant and quickly share information about it both in Canada and globally has grown dramatically from a year ago, when the alpha and beta variants of concern first emerged.

“The most important thing for Canadians to know is that we have spent more than a year building the capacity for genomic surveillance,” said Catalina Lopez-Correa, executive director of The Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN). 

“But it’s really early days for us to predict the clinical outcomes, the transmissibility, also we don’t know if this variant will be as fast taking over like delta … all this we can only see with time.”

Marc-André Langlois, a molecular virologist at the University of Ottawa who heads the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network (CoVaRR-Net), says labs across the country are working tirelessly to conduct experiments on omicron. 

“What’s changed is the fact that we’ve managed to bring our academic laboratory assets together,” Langlois said. “We have epidemiologists, we have modellers, we have immunologists, virologists and they’ve all come together.” 

Guillaume Bourque, director of bioinformatics at the McGill Genome Centre in Montreal, says Canada is also now able to act on the data more quickly.

“Now we have the system in place,” Bourque said. “We want to make it available to public health and to the scientific community as fast as possible, so that people can really start working on trying to understand the variant and then give advice to public health in terms of the best approach to try to contain it.”

Langlois says that the early data coming out of southern Africa on omicron is useful — but limited in scope.

“That snapshot is very, very different to the Canadian landscape. So the information we have now is indicative, but it’s not a true reflection of what’s going to happen when this variant spreads in Canada,” he said. “This is why we need a Canadian network to look at the Canadian situation.”

WATCH | Spike in COVID-19 levels in South Africa as omicron variant spreads:

South Africa sees spike in COVID-19 cases as omicron variant spreads

4 days ago

Duration 2:02

The omicron variant is driving a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across South Africa. Scientists believe the variant is more transmissible, and may even bypass acquired immunity in some people who have recovered from COVID-19. 2:02

Langlois said the first tests will look at whether antibodies from COVID-19 vaccines will still neutralize the virus compared to other variants, but figuring out how much of an impact omicron could have on vaccine effectiveness at a population level will take time. 

“We’re talking about maybe two, three more weeks to get some neutralizing data from the blood of Canadians,” he said. 

Not enough data to ‘speculate’ on omicron impact yet

But Canadian scientists aren’t just looking on Canadian soil for answers — they’re also poring over hints from around the world about the impact omicron could have here. 

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan, says epidemiologic data from documented omicron cases in Canada and globally will be key.

“We’re looking at the number of breakthrough infections that occur, looking at the number of people who’ve been vaccinated, who end up not only with infection with the omicron variant but also in the hospital,” she said. 

“We are reliant on these studies to determine really whether the vaccines will remain effective — including protecting against severe disease caused by omicron.” 

Another way scientists are understanding more about how omicron spreads is by experimenting with the virus in other species using challenge studies, where animal models are vaccinated and then infected with the variant to determine how severe their illness is. 

“We’re looking to see what type of clinical manifestations this variant causes in laboratory animals and if in laboratory animals this particular variant can transmit easily,” said Alyson Kelvin, a virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology and VIDO in Saskatoon.

“Those are key evaluations that need to occur before we can really speculate anything about this variant.” 

People travel at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Friday. New travel testing and restrictions have been put in place due to the omicron variant. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Could omicron overtake delta in Canada?  

Delta remains the dominant variant in Canada, but if early speculation about omicron being more transmissible and causing less severe disease holds true, experts say we could be looking at a very different epidemic picture in Canada in the coming weeks and months. 

“To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does take off because if it’s like delta, the main thing we can do is slow down progression,” said Bourque. 

“We need to learn as much as we can from experiments that we’ll be doing here on those samples, but also from other colleagues from all over the world.” 

Bourque says Canadian scientists can piece together a better picture of omicron in the coming days, which will help  “buy ourselves a few weeks” to make the most educated decision possible going forward on how best to mitigate potential spread.

“What concerns I think a lot of scientists, including myself, is that we’re seeing omicron slowly overtaking delta in southern parts of Africa. So at least over there, it looks like it is more transmissible than delta,” Langlois said. 

“Will that hold true for Canada and the northern hemisphere? We don’t know. But it is likely to be more transmissible.” 

Delta remains the dominant variant in Canada, but if premature speculation about omicron being more transmissible and causing less severe disease holds true, experts say we could be looking at a very different epidemic picture in Canada soon. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

‘Concerning’ mutations don’t tell whole story

Omicron contains more than 30 mutations in the spike protein alone, the part of the coronavirus which helps it enter human cells, some of which are associated with resistance to neutralization from antibodies. 

But scientists are urging caution before drawing too much from the limited data on the real world impact of omicron to date.

“Those mutations are concerning, but we had several different variants across this pandemic that had mutations in very concerning sites and they didn’t end up being highly transmissible or more pathogenic,” said Lopez-Correa. 

Kelvin says just because a variant has concerning mutations, does not mean it will necessarily take off — especially in the face of other variants like delta.

“The beta variant, which was first identified in South Africa, had probably the lowest amount of neutralization from either vaccine antibodies or antibodies from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19,” she said. 

“But that’s not the variant that we saw that spread around the world.” 

Until we know more from laboratory tests and real world data in highly vaccinated populations, speculation about the impact omicron could have in Canada and around the world should be weighed carefully. 

“Yes, this variant is concerning. Yes it will likely be more resistant to neutralization. But is this variant a monster? Probably not. ​​The vaccines will work against this variant,” said Langlois. 

“To what extent? That’s the question.” 

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Could surge in COVID-19 cases mean more restrictions? – CTV News

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BARRIE —
As Canada’s two most populous provinces grapple with a surge in COVID-19 cases, concerns are swirling over whether new restrictions could be imposed before the holidays.

On Saturday, 1,512 new COVID-19 cases were detected in Quebec, marking the highest single-day tally in the province since April.

A total of 1,234 new cases were reportedin the provinceon Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, 1,184 new cases were detected on Sunday, marking the province’s highest daily increase in six months.

On Tuesday, Ont.officials said 928 more people had tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Doug Manuel is a senior scientist in the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute’s clinical epidemiology program.

He told CTV’s Your Morning that in some places, the increase in case counts has already resulted in additional restrictions.

“You’re already seeing it in say Windsor-Essex – they’ve reduced their capacity in restaurants by 50 per cent,” Manuel said Tuesday.

He said in Ontario, a lot of the places hardest-hit are rural communities outside of the greater Toronto area.

“In many places across Canada, we’re getting cases above 100 cases per million per day,” Manuel said. “That’s often when public health can’t keep up anymore with contact tracing and starts to think about more restrictions.”

To date, 76 per cent of the Canadian population are vaccinated against the virus.

Asked whether the vaccination rate means Canada could see less extreme measures, should they be reintroduced, Manuel said it “helps tremendously.”

 

Dr. Doug Manuel on restrictions amid case surge

“We’re following Europe,” he said. “Europe has about the same vaccination rate as us and many countries, they opened up quite quickly later in the summer or in the fall, and their cases went up quickly, and now they’re imposing restrictions and some of those countries are imposing more severe restrictions than we have in Canada.”

Manuel said he “hasn’t seen” a country or jurisdiction “successfully make that transition with current vaccination rates.”

“But that doesn’t mean that we have to have full restriction like we’ve seen in the past,” he said.

Ultimately, Manuel said things are dependent on what happens with the Omicron variant.

The variant — first detected in South Africa — has caused global panic. Several countries, including Canada, have imposed more stringent travel restrictions in a bid to keep the disease outside of their borders.

However, by Monday, at least 23 cases of the Omicron variant had already been detected in Canada.

Manuel said he expects Omicron will “take over as the dominant strain worldwide, sooner than later.”

He said researchers are waiting for more data from South Africa, to determine whether those who have been infected with the Omicron variant experience more severe symptoms.

“The hospitalization rates are starting to go up there quite quickly,” he said. “But we’re still hearing that people in hospital are less severe than they’ve seen in the past.”

He said “for sure it’s more transmissible.”

“It will likely take over very quickly, and the only question is as it comes in quickly, will that result in increase hospitalizations and deaths?” he continued. “That will dictate what we do moving forward.”

WHAT HAVE PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES SAID?

Health officials in both Ontario and Quebec have suggested new restrictions are not in the immediate plans.

Last week, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said he doesn’t expect the province will re-impose restrictions due to the Omicron variant.

“If we see widespread presence of Omicron across Ontario, which is not the case at present, then we could review any measures that we need to take at a provincial level.”

He said, though that he doesn’t have a “crystal ball.”

Moore said if it’s a “less lethal virus,” has less impact on the province’s hospital sector and vaccines continue to work against it, “we will continue our current strategy and not have to have any further public health restrictions.”

However, on Tuesday, officials in Ontario did announce the pause on moving to the next step of reopening plans would continue indefinitely.

Next week, capacity limits were supposed to be lifted in some high-risk settings where proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required.

However, that was delayed last month due to a surge in cases. 

In new modelling released by the Science Table COVID-19 advisory for Ontario on Tuesday, researchers said cases are rising in “most public health units” across the province due to the Delta variant.

“Testing has not increased, but positivity is rising,” the updated projection document reads. “This is a real rise in cases.”

The scientists said modelling shows that, even without the Omicron variant, occupancy in intensive care units at hospitals in Ontario is expected to climb to between 250 and 400 by January, putting hospitals under strain once again.

“We can’t predict Omicron precisely, but it will almost certainly hit us hard and fast,” the scientists said in a series of tweets on Tuesday. “Cases are rising, even without much Omicron yet. Our hospitals and ICUs are feeling pressure again. We need to increase vaccination and we can’t let up on public health measures.”

Meanwhile in Quebec, officials announced Tuesday that gatherings of up to 20 vaccinated people will be allowed in private homes beginning on Dec. 23.

Currently only 10 people from no more than three households are allowed to gather in homes.

Premier Francois Legault said last week that the province was not planning to add additional public health measures.

“I know Quebecers well enough to know that there are many people fed up with the current measures,” he said. “We don’t like the trend, but it’s under control.”

Legault said as long as hospitalizations “stay at low levels, it remains under control.”

With files from CTV’s Katharine DeClerq and Sean Davidson, and The Canadian Press 

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Canada's first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine shows high efficacy – CBC.ca

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Canada’s first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine has shown high efficacy against infection during Phase 3 clinical trials, the drugmakers behind the plant-based shot reported Tuesday, fuelling hopes it could soon get a stamp of approval for use.

Medicago, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Quebec City, and British-American vaccine giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are now gearing up for their final regulatory submission to Health Canada.

The vaccine’s overall efficacy rate against all virus variants studied was 71 per cent, with a higher efficacy rate of 75 per cent against COVID-19 infections of any severity from the dominant delta variant, the companies said in a news release.

  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: covid@cbc.ca or join us live in the comments now.

The results followed a global, Phase 3, placebo-controlled study of the two-dose vaccine that was launched last March. The newly discovered omicron variant — recently confirmed in various countries around the world, including Canada — was not circulating during the trial period.

If licensed in this country, the shot would be the first COVID-19 vaccine using virus-like particle technology and the first plant-based vaccine ever approved for human use, Brian Ward, medical officer for Medicago, said during a recent interview with CBC News.

“This would be a first for the world,” he added, “not just for Quebec and Canada.”

The shots use Medicago’s plant-derived, virus-like particles — which resemble the coronavirus behind COVID-19 but don’t contain its genetic material — and also contain an adjuvant from GSK to help boost the immune response.

In the vaccine’s Phase 3 trial, no severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in the vaccinated group, the release notes. No related serious adverse events were reported either, and reactions to the shots were “generally mild to moderate and transient,” with symptoms lasting, on average, only one to three days.

“I think there will be an important need for our vaccine, both to increase the number of doses available for those who haven’t had any vaccines yet, but also possibly for those who need a booster dose,” Ward said.

Canada’s first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine has shown high efficacy against infection during Phase 3 clinical trials, the drugmakers behind the plant-based shot reported Tuesday. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

Results are promising, immunologist says

National Advisory Committee on Immunization working group member Matthew Miller, an immunologist at McMaster University in Hamilton who is working on developing a different type of vaccine for COVID-19, said the Medicago trial results are promising on both efficacy and safety.

He noted that the public information was so far limited to a news release, much like previous announcements from other vaccine manufacturers.

The trial itself was also hindered by time constraints and didn’t specifically break down the level of protection against severe illness. That’s because there were too few serious COVID-19 cases in the placebo arm and none in the vaccine arm, limiting the ability to draw strong conclusions, Miller said.

“Nevertheless, I think we can expect that with 75 per cent protection against any infection, you would expect even stronger protection against severe illness; that’s been universally true of every single other vaccine,” he added.

“The durability of that response, I think, is still a question that we’d have to wait and see.”

WATCH | Canada’s long-term plan for homegrown vaccines: 

Canada’s long-term strategy to make vaccines for COVID-19 and beyond

11 months ago

Duration 8:15

Canada may not have a vaccine in production yet but it does have a long-term strategy in the works — to develop a made-in-Canada vaccine and the vaccine independence that comes with it. 8:15

The Phase 2 portion of the trial at multiple sites in Canada and the United States involved a mix of healthy adults, those with comorbidities and seniors over the age of 65, while the Phase 3 portion expanded to more than 24,000 participants in various countries.

If approved for use, the shot may help jump-start Canada’s sluggish vaccine production sector, said Miller, who has no current affiliation with Medicago but previously sat on a panel advising the company on influenza vaccines.

Canada lost its vaccine manufacturing capacity over time, but that could change with several Canadian COVID-19 vaccines currently in development, said Lakshmi Krishnan, director general of human health therapeutics at the National Research Council of Canada.

“We hope that in due time, all of that will align and we will be able to produce vaccines in Canada,” she said.

Trial looked at range of variants

Medicago is now one of the first to share trial results on how well its vaccine works against a range of variants, Ward said, unlike those earlier in the pandemic, which focused on the earliest strain of SARS-CoV-2.

The trial showed nearly 89 per cent efficacy against the gamma variant, with no cases of alpha, lambda or mu variants observed in the vaccinated group, while 12 cases were observed in the placebo arm.

While there’s concern over the omicron variant and whether it may evade some level of vaccine- or infection-based immunity, Ward said the company plans to get that data for its vaccine as soon as possible.

“The goalposts have moved,” Ward said.

Full results of the Phase 3 study will be released in a peer-reviewed publication, Medicago’s release noted.

If Health Canada gives the green light to the vaccine, it would be the fifth COVID-19 shot approved for use in Canada, alongside those from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.


Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.


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