As the cross-Canada roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines continues this week, it’s still unclear whether the injections can actually prevent the spread of the virus.
While both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products have been shown to be about 95 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 illness, there is not much evidence they can protect those around the person who got the shots.
“Yes, you are still contagious,” Dr. Hana El Sahly told Global News.
El Sahly was one of the lead investigators for Moderna’s late-stage COVID-19 vaccine trial. She says the novel coronavirus can live in the nasal passage for weeks, meaning a vaccinated person could still infect others, even if they don’t get sick. But there was one promising result in the study.
“We did find, in the short term, that those who got the vaccine were less likely to carry [the virus], but the numbers were really small,” El Sahly said.
Both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines require people to get two doses, about a month apart, to be effective.
Twenty-nine days after their first dose of Moderna, 14 study participants were found to be carrying the virus — versus the 38 people who received a placebo.
“It’s a signal in the right direction, but nonetheless it cannot be interpreted that the vaccine prevents transmission.”
Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout rate and the plan to ramp it up
Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, Canada Research Chair in Emerging Viruses, explains the mRNA-based vaccine teaches our immune system to fight the virus, but it doesn’t block it from entering our body.
“People may be able to still get infected even though they’re vaccinated, but it’s a sub-clinical infection — so they don’t feel sick, they don’t have any symptoms, but they may still be able to transmit,” said Kindrachuk.
Ongoing research will determine if any COVID vaccine can actually prevent transmission. That will require “collecting a lot of nose swabs on a lot of people,” according to El Sahly.
While asymptomatic carriers are less likely to spread the virus than someone who is coughing and sneezing, masks, distancing and hand-washing will still be critical in 2021 until most Canadians can be vaccinated.
“As we build up that immunity in the public, there is lower and lower… ability for the virus to be able to leap from one person to another,” Kindrachuk said.
Some experts suggest at least 70 to 75 per cent of a population will have to be immunized to control the spread of the virus.
That said, the percentage of the Canadian population that needs to be vaccinated in order to reach confidently herd immunity is unknown, according to Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
“We have an assumption that you will probably need 60 to 70 per cent of people to be vaccinated. But we don’t know that for sure … that’s modelling,” Tam told a media conference on December 4.
How Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan is unfolding
Still, the vaccines are providing some comfort for stressed health-care workers. Pediatric emergency physician Samina Ali received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Jan. 2.
“It was just so much overwhelming relief… it felt like… as a community, as a world, this was a sign that we were on the way to healing,” Dr. Ali said.
How Pfizer’s and Moderna’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines work
A vaccine is generally made up of a weakened or a dead virus, which, once injected, prompts the body to fight off the invader and build immunity.
Instead of injecting a deactivated form of the virus, the mRNA vaccine uses a component of the virus DNA called messenger RNA that basically contains the genetic instructions for the human body to make the specific spike protein of the coronavirus.
By doing this, the immune system learns to recognize and respond to that specific protein, meaning it can more quickly mount a response if the virus enters the body. The mRNA, however, does not modify a person’s DNA or genetic makeup.
“When your body actually sees the real virus, then you have the weapons already in place — the antibodies and the cells that know this virus that can recognize it — and can kill it faster,” Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and a medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Center, told Global News.
According to the data from the clinical trials, Pfizer’s vaccine, which is 95 per cent effective, can offer partial protection as early as 12 days after the first dose.
That protection can last for at least two months, according to Vinh. A second dose is then required to achieve the vaccine’s full potential.
The Moderna vaccine, which also requires a second shot, has shown to be 94 per cent effective.
Health Canada approves Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine
— With files from Saba Aziz, Global News
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Trudeau speaks to Pfizer CEO as delays to vaccine shipments get worse – BNN
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by phone Thursday, the same day the company informed Canada delays to its shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are going to be even worse than previously thought.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last week a factory expansion at Pfizer’s Belgium plant was going to slow production, cutting Canada’s deliveries over four weeks in half.
In exchange, Pfizer expects to be able to ship hundreds of millions more doses worldwide over the rest of 2021.
Tuesday, Fortin said Canada would receive 80 per cent of the previously expected doses this week, nothing at all next week, and about half the promised deliveries in the first two weeks of February.
Today, I spoke with the CEO of Pfizer Global, Dr. Bourla, about the timely delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada. He assured me that we’ll receive 4 million doses by the end of March. We’ll keep working together to ensure Canadians can get a vaccine as soon as possible.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 22, 2021
Thursday, he said the doses delivered in the first week of February will only be 79,000, one one-fifth of what was once expected. Fortin doesn’t know yet what will come the week after, but overall, Canada’s doses over three weeks are going to be just one-third of what had been planned.
Trudeau has been under pressure to call Bourla, as the delayed doses force provinces to cancel vaccination appointments and reconsider timing for second doses.
Fortin said some provinces may be hit even harder than others because of limits on the way the Pfizer doses can be split up for shipping. The vaccine is delicate and must be kept ultra frozen until shortly before injecting it. The company packs and ships specialized coolers, with GPS thermal trackers, directly to provincial vaccine sites.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week he doesn’t blame the federal government for the dose delays but wanted Trudeau to do more to push back about it.
“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives.
Trudeau informed Ford and other premiers of the call with Bourla during a regular teleconference to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Thursday, all calls between the federal cabinet and Pfizer had been handled by Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Ford also spoke to Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow Wednesday.
Trudeau didn’t suggest the call with Bourla made any difference to the delays, and noted Canada is not the only country affected.
Europe, which on the weekend thought its delayed doses would only be for one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to Bourla, now seems poised to be affected longer. Italy is so angry it is threatening to sue the U.S.-based drugmaker for the delays.
Mexico said this week it is only getting half its expected shipment this week and nothing at all for the next three weeks. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also reported delays getting doses. Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said more countries were affected but wouldn’t say which ones.
Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March and that is not going to change with the delay. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over 7 1/2 weeks to meet that commitment.
Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.
Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.
Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.
Godiva closing 128 stores in North America, including all 11 in Canada – CBC.ca
COVID-19 has been far from sweet for Godiva, which has decided to sell or close its stores across North America.
The luxury chocolatier says 128 brick and mortar locations, including 11 in Canada, will shut by the end of March.
The chain has 4 locations in Toronto, one in nearby Mississauga, and two in Ottawa. It also has two in the Vancouver area, one in Winnipeg, and one near Montreal.
The company declined to say how many jobs will be affected by the decision.
Godiva will maintain retail operations across Europe, the Middle East and China.
The closures mark a reversal from its strategy announced in 2019 to open 2,000 cafe locations worldwide, including more than 400 in North America.
It says a key part of its moves has been to focus on retail food and pharmacy locations as well as online.
It noted that in-person shopping at its own stores has waned because of the pandemic and changes in consumer shopping behaviour.
“Godiva is already available in many retailers in North America and we will continue to increase our presence there while always upholding the premium quality, taste, and innovation that we have been renowned for since we were founded in Brussels in 1926,” stated CEO Nurtac Afridi.
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