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In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.

Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.

Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”

Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.

Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.

“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”

Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.

‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.

Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.

“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.

Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.

Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.

The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.

Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.

“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

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Ontario reports 653 new COVID-19 cases, 6 more virus-related deaths – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Ontario is reporting another week-over-week decline in its daily COVID-19 case count with fewer than 700 new infections confirmed over the past 24 hours.

Provincial health officials logged 653 new COVID-19 cases today, up slightly from 640 on Saturday but down from 715 one week ago.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases continues to drop, hitting 620 today, down from 709 last Sunday.

Of the new cases confirmed today, 499 are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 154 are in those who are fully immunized.

With 31,063 tests processed over the past 24 hours, officials are reporting a provincewide positivity rate of two per cent, compared to 2.3 per cent seven days ago.

The province says there are now 177 people with COVID-19 receiving treatment in Ontario intensive care units, declining by five since last Sunday.

Six more virus-related deaths were reported over the past 24 hours but the province says three of those fatalities occurred last month.

Ontario’s active COVID-19 caseload now sits at 5,591, down from 6,396 last Sunday.

More than 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians have now received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In an effort to boost vaccination rates, the city is holding vaccination clinics in a variety of locations with high foot traffic, including malls across Toronto this weekend.

Dr. Omar Khan, an assistant professor with the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, said Ontario’s high vaccination rate will help keep ICUs from filling up.

“By having people vaccinated, that keeps them out of the hospital, keeps them out of the ICUs, and then lets the medical system catch up with everything that’s been piling up,” he told CP24 on Sunday morning. 

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

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COVID-19: N.B. reports person in 40s has died, as province adds 82 new cases – Globalnews.ca

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A person in their 40s is New Brunswick’s 54th COVID-related death.

The province said in a news release Sunday that the person was from Zone 1 (Moncton region).

The news marked six COVID-related deaths in the province since last Wednesday, under a week ago.

“Each life taken in New Brunswick by COVID-19 is more than a number,” said Premier Blaine Higgs in a news release.

“These are people’s parents, children, friends, neighbours and coworkers.”

The death was announced on the same day the province reported 82 new cases — 64 of which involve people who are not fully vaccinated.

Read more:
Lifting COVID-19 restrictions in New Brunswick was ‘not the right decision’: doctor

There are now 33 people in New Brunswick hospitalized due to the virus, 15 of whom are in the ICU.

With 33 recoveries reported, the number of active cases is now 628.

Public Health data shows 79.2 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 88 per cent have received their first dose of vaccine.

New cases breakdown

The new cases are:

Zone 1 (Moncton region) – 27 cases

  • 12 people 19 and under
  • one person 20-29
  • three people 30-39
  • two people 40-49
  • two people 50-59
  • two people 70-79
  • three people 80-89
  • two people 90 and over

Eighteen cases are under investigation and nine are contacts of a previously-confirmed case.

Zone 2 (Saint John region) – four cases

  • a person 20-29
  • a person 40-49
  • a person 60-69
  • a person 70-79

Three cases are contacts of previously-confirmed cases and one is under investigation.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: the upward trend in cases among children'



4:53
COVID-19: the upward trend in cases among children


COVID-19: the upward trend in cases among children

Zone 3 (Fredericton region) – 30 cases

  • 16 people 19 and under
  • six people 20-29
  • one person 40-49
  • three people 50-59
  • four people 60-69

Twenty-two cases are under investigation and eight are contacts of previously-confirmed cases.

Zone 4 (Edmundston region) – 14 cases

  • four people 19 and under
  • two people 20-29
  • six people 30-39
  • two people 80-89

Thirteen cases are under investigation and one is a contact of a previously-confirmed case.

Zone 5 (Campbellton region) – two cases

  • a person 30-39
  • a person 70-79

Both cases are contacts of previously-confirmed cases.

Zone 6 (Bathurst region) – four cases

  • three people 30-39
  • one person 40-49

Three cases are under investigation and one is a contact of a previously-confirmed case.

Zone 7 (Miramichi region) – one case

  • a person 30-39

This case is under investigation.

State of emergency reinstated

On Friday, the province reinstated a state of emergency due to the current level of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Physical distancing, indoor masking and a proof of vaccination policy for certain services and businesses are now in effect.

Anyone entering New Brunswick must also pre-register through the New Brunswick Travel Registration Program.


Click to play video: 'New Brunswickers react to reinstated state of emergency'



0:41
New Brunswickers react to reinstated state of emergency


New Brunswickers react to reinstated state of emergency

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Outbreak declared at Prince George's University Hospital of Northern BC – BC News – Castanet.net

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A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Prince George’s University Hospital of Northern BC Sunday.

Northern Health says nine patients and one staff member on the hospital’s Primary Care Medical Unit have tested positive for the virus, and more testing is currently underway.

As a result, the hospital has restricted the unit to essential visitors only.

The condition of the infected people was not disclosed.

An outbreak at the same hospital last December through January left eight people dead, after 33 people tested positive.

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