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.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca
- Health Canada approves Spartan Bioscience’s previously recalled rapid COVID-19 test.
- The pros and cons of naming workplaces that have COVID-19 outbreaks.
- Israel includes teens in vaccination drive, plans to close Ben Gurion Airport to nearly all flights.
- Belgium bans foreign tourism to avoid third COVID-19 wave.
- New Zealand reports 1st community case in more than 2 months.
- Montreal woman says mother with dementia accidentally given Pfizer vaccine after receiving dose of Moderna.
- P.E.I. to ease some COVID-19 restrictions.
- Tracking the coronavirus: Where is the pandemic getting better or worse?
- Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca
An Ottawa company’s made-in-Canada rapid COVID-19 test has been approved, Health Canada confirmed on Saturday.
The test developed by Spartan Bioscience is performed by a health-care professional and provides on-site results within an hour, a spokesperson for the federal agency said.
The company originally unveiled a rapid test for COVID-19 last spring but had to voluntarily recall it and perform additional studies after Health Canada expressed some reservations about the “efficacy of the proprietary swab” for the device.
WATCH | Health Canada approves Canadian-made rapid COVID-19 testing system:
Meanwhile, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, warned that COVID-19 continues to strain the health-care system even as daily case counts decline in several long-standing hot spots.
“Stringent and consistent efforts are needed to sustain a downward trend in case counts and strongly suppress COVID-19 activity across Canada,” Tam said in a statement. “This will not only prevent more tragic outcomes but will help to ensure that new virus variants of concern do not have the opportunity to spread.”
What’s happening across Canada
As of 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 746,406 cases of COVID-19, with 63,625 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,065.
In British Columbia, 20 people in custody at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam have tested positive for COVID-19. The Fraser Health Authority announced the outbreak on Friday and said it is working to identify others who may have had contact with those who tested positive at the jail.
Alberta saw 573 new COVID-19 cases and 13 additional deaths on Saturday.
Saskatchewan recorded 274 new COVID-19 cases and three new deaths.
WATCH | CBC medical contributor answers your COVID-19 questions:
Manitoba announced 216 new cases and three more deaths. The latest update comes on the day strict restrictions for much of the province eased, following recent drops in case numbers.
Ontario reported 2,417 new COVID-19 cases and 50 more deaths on Sunday.
WATCH | Teenage long-term care worker dies of COVID-19:
Quebec on Sunday registered 1,457 new cases and 41 additional deaths, which were reported between Jan. 17 and Jan. 22.
New Brunswick reported 17 new cases on Saturday. Ten of those cases were in the Edmundston region in the northwest, which was set to go into a lockdown first thing Sunday morning.
Nova Scotia saw one new case on Sunday. On Friday, Premier Stephen McNeil said almost all of the province’s public health restrictions will remain until at least Feb. 7, but some restrictions in sports, arts and culture will be eased starting Monday.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on both Saturday and Sunday after seeing one new case on Friday; one person remains in hospital in the province due to COVID-19.
In Prince Edward Island, larger organized gatherings and later hours for bars and restaurants are now allowed as the province eases some of its COVID-19 restrictions.
Nunavut announced a second active case in the hard-hit community of Arviat. The new case comes a day after the territory confirmed its first new infection since Dec. 28.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 98.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 54.6 million of the cases considered resolved or recovered, according to the coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.
In Europe, Belgium is banning residents from taking vacations abroad until March to limit the spread of more infectious coronavirus variants and avoid a deadly third wave of COVID-19 cases. The government says travel into or out of Belgium for recreation or tourism is prohibited from Jan. 27 to March 1.
Belgium has one of the world’s highest per-capita death tolls from COVID-19. It has had nearly 700,000 cases and more than 20,000 deaths. But it now has a lower rate of infections than its neighbours and has avoided the total lockdowns of Britain, the Netherlands and Germany.
Meanwhile, in the U.K., police broke up an illegal rave in the London borough of Hackney, where about 300 people gathered under a railway arch. The BBC reports nearly 80 fines were issued for breach of lockdown restrictions.
300 people decided to put themselves, their families and the wider community at risk last night by packing into a railway arch in Hackney for an illegal rave. Officers issued more than £15,000 in fines for the blatant Covid breaches. More here > <a href=”https://t.co/J4p4PlDwWB”>https://t.co/J4p4PlDwWB</a> <a href=”https://t.co/l8Hz3XTKAh”>pic.twitter.com/l8Hz3XTKAh</a>
In the Middle East, Israel expanded its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Sunday to include 16- to 18-year-olds in what the government described as an effort to enable their attendance at school exams.
Israel, which has the world’s fastest vaccine distribution rate, is hoping to begin reopening its economy next month.
Israel will also be closing Ben Gurion Airport to nearly all flights to help bring the coronavirus outbreak under control, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
“We are closing the skies hermetically, except for really rare exceptions, to prevent the entry of virus mutations,” he said.
Israeli media said the closure of the country’s busiest international airport, 25 kilometres southeast of Tel Aviv, would begin on Tuesday and remain in effect until Jan. 31.
New Zealand has reported its first coronavirus case outside of a quarantine facility in more than two months, although there was no immediate evidence the virus was spreading in the community.
Ashley Bloomfield, the director general of health, said on Sunday that the case was a 56-year-old woman who recently returned from Europe.
Like other returning travellers, she spent 14 days in quarantine and twice tested negative before returning home on Jan. 13. She later developed symptoms and tested positive.
Bloomfield said health officials are investigating to see whether its possible she caught the disease from another returning traveler who was staying in the same quarantine facility.
WestJet Boeing 737 MAX Grounded After “Potential Fault” – Simple Flying
A WestJet Boeing 737 MAX was heading out of Calgary yesterday when it returned to its gate after push back due to a potential fault. The aircraft had 35 passengers on board, who then had to transfer to another flight to head to their destination of Toronto.
Verification was needed
The crew members on the 737 MAX were planning to fly out from Calgary International Airport to travel to Toronto Pearson International Airport. They were ready to perform flight WS658, which had a local departure time of 08:00. However, this service had to be canceled during the push back process.
Simple Flying reached out to WestJet for comment on what occurred in Calgary on January 21st. A WestJet representative confirmed that a potential fault needed to be looked at. Altogether, the airline could not make these checks while customers were on board the plane.
“After a normal engine start, a standard function of the health monitoring system indicated a potential fault that needed to be verified and reset. This process takes time and requires a subsequent engine run, which we do not perform with guests on board,” the spokesperson for the airline told Simple Flying.
“In the interest of our guests’ time, we cancelled flight 658 and its return 665 (Toronto/Calgary) and we rebooked them on the next available flight to ensure a timely arrival in Toronto. The aircraft was cleared by maintenance yesterday morning and will return to service tomorrow Sunday, January 24 as planned.”
All of the passengers that were on board the 737 MAX instead departed for Toronto on WestJet’s Boeing 787 that was planned to perform flight WS662. Ultimately, the carrier apologizes for the inconvenience and appreciates the patience of its customers.
Back in action
This event occurred just a day after WestJet flew its first commercial flight with the MAX after nearly two years. The Canadian outfit was also only the fifth airline around the world to resume operations with the type. Therefore, there was already plenty of attention on the return of the previously grounded aircraft.
Nonetheless, The WestJet spokesperson emphasizes that yesterday’s flight was canceled only because the airline moved its passengers to the Dreamliner flight instead of having to wait for the maintenance team to clear the initial plane. The company would have operated the flight yesterday. However, the customers were already on their way to their destination.
Altogether, WestJet took the most efficient approach following the initial concerns that were raised. The plane is ready to fly out from Calgary again tomorrow at 08:00. So, the potential issues raised have been addressed by those on the ground at the airport.
What are your thoughts about this WestJet Boeing 737 returning to its gate at Calgary Airport? Were you on board this aircraft yesterday? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.
Canada reports 146 more COVID-19 deaths as feds approve rapid PCR test – Global News
Another 5,124 cases of COVID-19 were identified in Canada Saturday as the federal government approved its first domestically produced rapid PCR coronavirus test.
Saturday’s data pushed the national caseload to 742,531, of which over 658,000 patients have since recovered. Another 146 deaths were reported by provincial health jurisdictions as well, with the country’s death toll standing at 18,974.
The new cases paint a limited snapshot of the virus’ spread across the country however, as provinces like B.C. and P.E.I., as well as all the territories do not report new COVID-19 data on the weekend.
The rapid test, according to its developer Spartan Bioscience, is an on-site “point-of-care” kit made to be administered by health-care professionals.
A press release Saturday from the company said that it was the first “truly mobile, rapid PCR test for COVID-19 for the Canadian market.”
Health Canada’s approval of the test also comes amid further warnings from the country’s top doctor, who said that the virus continued to strain health-care systems despite a decline in average daily case counts from several hard-hit areas.
“As severe outcomes lag behind increased disease activity, we can expect to see ongoing heavy impacts on our healthcare system and health workforce for weeks to come,” said Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam in her Saturday statement.
“This situation continues to burden local healthcare resources, particularly in areas where infection rates are highest.”
Coronavirus: Toronto police make arrest at ‘large gathering’ downtown despite COVID-19 measures
Tam also made a plea to Canadians to continue to follow more stringent and consistent efforts to “sustain a downward trend” in new case counts, as well as to potentially prevent the creation of new virus variants.
“Unless we continue the hard work to suppress COVID-19 activity across Canada, there is a risk that more transmissible virus variants could take hold or even replace less transmissible variants, which could result in a significant and difficult to control acceleration of spread,” wrote Tam.
Canadian couple accused of vaccine queue jumping in Yukon
Tam’s warning comes as health officials in Ontario confirmed Saturday that the new U.K. coronavirus variant, which is believed to be more contagious, was found at an outbreak in a long-term care home in Barrie.
Ontario registered another 2,359 coronavirus infections on Saturday, as well as 52 more deaths. The province has now overtaken Quebec with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a total caseload of 252,585.
Quebec reported another 1,685 cases on Saturday, raising its total caseload to 252,176. The province, which announced another 76 fatalities, still maintains the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths with a total of 9,437.
Alberta added another 573 cases on Saturday, pushing its total infections to 120,330. Another 13 deaths were recorded in the province.
Saskatchewan added another 274 cases and three more deaths, while Manitoba recorded 216 more cases and three deaths as well.
In Atlantic Canada, only New Brunswick reported new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with an additional 17.
Worldwide, cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise with a total of 98,529,000 infections so far, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 2,115,124 people have since died after contracting the virus, with the U.S., Brazil and India continuing to lead in both cases and deaths.
— With files from Global News’ Hannah Jackson
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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