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In wake of post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge, Hinshaw pleads for Christmas sacrifice – Calgary Herald



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“It supports all the other evidence we’ve seen suggesting the school model in place is protective against in-school transmission,” she said.

“Instead, it seems it is mainly all the other in-person activities students take that is exposing them to the virus.”

Meanwhile, health-care officials are continuing to battle a COVID-19 outbreak among emergency department staff at the Peter Lougheed Hospital.

The entrance at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary is shown on Thursday, November 12, 2020. Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

So far, 18 staff members at the northeast hospital along with two patients have tested positive for the disease in an outbreak that was declared Dec. 19.

“The emergency department at the PLC remains open and continues to be a safe and appropriate place to receive urgent and emergency care,” said a statement from Alberta Health Services.

All AHS facilities, including the Peter Lougheed Centre, follow rigorous infection prevention and control standards

There are also outbreaks at the South Health Campus and Rockyview General Hospital, and all hospitals in the Calgary area are subject to surge capacity measures due to the pandemic, said AHS.

“However, the PLC emergency department outbreak has not prompted any changes related to health-care services at the site.”

Hinshaw said she’s confident the outbreak is being handled competently.

One Calgary physician said the outbreak is a concerning reminder of the challenges facing Alberta hospitals where the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise at a rapid clip — 19 more admissions in the past day.

And the doctor said he’s nervous about the province lifting restrictions too early by basing them on political rather than medical considerations.

“What kind of criteria are they going to use for the relaxation of restrictions, and if it’s too early, how long before the situation goes right back to where we started?” said the physician, who chose to remain anonymous.

But he said the exemption for singles’ visits over the holidays is low-risk compared to church attendance and restaurant and pubs offering on-site service.

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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



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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Ford speaks as Ontario reports 1,913 new COVID-19 cases –



Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration at the news that Canada will not receive any new doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, though the general overseeing Ontario’s vaccine rollout plan remains hopeful the distribution delay won’t impede plans to immunize the general population by early August.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ford called the news that Canada will receive no new Pfizer vaccines next week “troubling” and “a massive concern.”

“Until vaccines are more widely available, please stay home, stay safe and save lives,” he said. 

The news comes as the province recorded another 1,913 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with officials cautioning that Toronto Public Health — which consistently logs the most new infections each day — is “likely underreporting” its number of cases.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the artificially low total of 550 new cases reported by the city was due to a “technical issue,” but did not provide any further details.

For reference, over the three previous days, Toronto Public Health logged 815, 1035 and 903 cases, respectively.

Other public health units that saw double- or triple-digit increases were:

  • Peel Region: 346
  • York Region: 235
  • Durham Region: 82
  • Windsor-Essex: 81
  • Waterloo Region: 79
  • Middlesex-London: 73
  • Halton Region: 71
  • Hamilton: 63
  • Niagara Region: 52
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 48
  • Ottawa: 41
  • Huron-Perth: 37
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 31
  • Lambton: 28
  • Southwestern: 22
  • Eastern Ontario: 14
  • Chatham-Kent: 13

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)

Over 200,000 Ontarians vaccinated so far

At a technical briefing for media Tuesday morning, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force offered a rough breakdown of which groups of received a first dose of vaccine:

  • About 83,000 long-term care residents, staff and caregivers.
  • About 25,000 retirement home residents, staff and caregivers.
  • More than 99,000 health-care workers in other sectors.

With the more than 200,000 vaccines administered, Ontario has completed the first round of immunization at all long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex — the four regions with the highest transmission rates of the virus. The first round of immunizations has also been administered at all long-term care homes in Ottawa, Durham and Simcoe-Muskoka. 

Still, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton cautioned, “The rise of community spread during the second wave is posing a serious threat to our long-term care homes.”

The province aims to finish vaccinating those at all remaining long-term care homes by Feb. 15.

At Tuesday’s technical briefing, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force also addressed how the province is responding to Pfizer’s announcement last week that it was slowing down production of its vaccine, resulting in delivery delays for Canada.

WATCH | An exasperated Premier Ford appeals to incoming U.S. president for vaccines:

The impact in Ontario will vary week to week, officials said, with an 80 per cent reduction in the number of doses that were originally expected the week of Jan. 25; 55 per cent the week of Feb. 1; and 45 per cent the week of Feb. 8.

In turn, the province will reallocate its available doses of the Moderna vaccine to more regions, while also extending the interval between doses of the Pfizer vaccine in some situations to ensure that everyone who has had a first shot will have access to their second.

Residents and staff at long-term care and high-risk retirement homes who have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will receive a second dose in 21 to 27 days, the province says. All others who receive the Pfizer vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 42 days after the first.

For those who receive the Moderna vaccine, the 28-day schedule will remain in place. 

As for whether the province still expects to immunize the general population of Ontario by late July or early August, General Rick Hillier said that will come down to whether there are any further hiccups with vaccine availability, but that he remains optimistic. 

Toronto to halt operations at mass vaccination clinic

Following the announcement of the delay, the province asked the City of Toronto late Tuesday to immediately stop operating a “proof-of-concept” mass vaccination clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The clinic, which began operating only on Monday, had aimed to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that was entirely dependent upon vaccine supply.

People scheduled to receive the shot at the clinic over the next three days have had those appointments cancelled, Toronto Public Health said in a statement.

“The City’s Immunization Task Force is continuing to plan for city-wide immunization clinic roll-out and will continue to work with the province to determine next steps once vaccine supply is re-established,” the city said. 

Just over 34,000 new tests processed

Meanwhile, Ontario’s network of labs processed just 34,531 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 6.8 per cent. Testing levels often fall over weekends, but there is capacity in the system for more than 70,000 tests daily. 

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 2,893, the lowest it has been since Jan. 4 this year.

For the seventh time in eight days, the numbers of cases reported resolved outpaced new infections. There are currently about 27,615 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said there were 1,626 patients in hospitals with COVID-19. Of those, 400 were being treated in intensive care, the most at any point during the pandemic, and 292 required a ventilator to breathe.

Notably, a daily report generated by Critical Care Services Ontario and shared internally with hospitals puts the current number of ICU patients with COVID-19 at 418, with 303 still on ventilators.

Public health units also recorded 46 additional deaths of people with the illness, bringing the official toll to 5,479.

Twenty-nine of the further deaths were residents of long-term care. A total of 254, or just over 40 per cent, of long-term care facilities in Ontario were dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19.

The province said it administered another 14346 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, and that 224,134 people have been given a first dose. A total of 25,609 people in Ontario have gotten both shots.

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Experts temper Pfizer vaccine concerns after elderly deaths in Norway – Global News



As coronavirus vaccines make it into the arms of more Canadians every day, experts say it’s understandable that news of potential adverse reactions piques a certain amount of interest.

But there’s a difference between “adverse events following immunization” and adverse events “directly related to a vaccine,” said Alyson Kelvin, a virologist and assistant professor at Dalhousie University, who is currently working on COVID-19 vaccines with VIDO-InterVac.

Read more:
What’s in Pfizer’s vaccine? A look at the ingredients

This is an important distinction, she said, particularly as we begin to question new reports like the deaths of elderly vaccine recipients in Norway.

“I could get the vaccine and five hours later get hit by a car, and that’s going to be recorded as an adverse event,” she said.

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“Just because it’s an adverse event, doesn’t mean it’s directly related to the vaccine. It just means that it happened after someone got a vaccination… In Norway’s case, we’re talking about adverse events following immunization.”

Deaths in Norway

While it’s far from unusual that new drugs, like the COVID-19 vaccine, come with side effects and potential safety concerns, the reports of over 30 deaths among elderly people in Norway have stirred worry.

But at this point, there’s little reason to be concerned, experts agree.

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How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?

How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine? – Dec 9, 2020

Norway has prioritized the immunization of nursing-home residents, including those with serious underlying diseases. Of the about 45,000 people vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot since mid-January, 33 deaths have been reported.

Those who died were aged 75 years and older, according to Norwegian health authorities. All were described as elderly, frail, with serious diseases and nearing the end of their lives independent of the vaccine.

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“We have to look at the collective global experience,” said Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist based out of Toronto General Hospital.

“There have been over 40 million doses administered globally, mostly to older populations, including those in long-term care. We haven’t heard those signals emerge from Canada, the United States, or the U.K. — all places that have formal mechanisms for evaluating adverse events.”

Read more:
When can we expect the coronavirus vaccine? Doctor answers COVID-19 questions

Norwegian officials say there’s no evidence of a direct link between the vaccines and the deaths, but they are still investigating. However, they did provide some context, telling reporters Monday that an average of 400 people die every week in Norway’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

“It’s grim to speak about but we are vaccinating our oldest individuals who are not only more susceptible to COVID-19, they’re more susceptible to dying of any causes on a daily or weekly basis,” Kelvin said.

“But these things still need to be followed, even if they seem completely unrelated.”

She returned to her car accident analogy.

“Maybe someone drove up and hit me while I was standing on the corner, but maybe I was feeling lightheaded after getting the vaccine and it caused me to step in traffic,” she said.

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“These are important links we need to be making.”

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Health Canada approves Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine

Health Canada approves Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine – Dec 9, 2020

Adverse reaction reporting

Different countries have different mechanisms for determining adverse effects after vaccination.

How these events are reported and reviewed — and the sharing of that data globally — is paramount, Kelvin said.

Health Canada this month launched a new website that provides weekly reports on vaccine safety. It details how many people experience non-serious events, like soreness at the injection site, and serious events, like severe allergic reactions.

The deaths in Norway were reportedly associated with fever, nausea and diarrhea. While these sit on the more serious side of the spectrum, these outcomes would be minor to most.

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Read more:
No serious side-effects from COVID-19 vaccines so far, Health Canada says

It’s the adverse events of “special interest” that deserve particular attention, said Kelvin.

“These are actually related to the vaccine,” she said.

As of Jan. 8, there have been 24 adverse events related to COVID-19 vaccination in Canada, but zero adverse events of special interest.

“Meaning that even though 24 adverse events have been reported, none of them have been directly linked to a life-threatening adverse event following immunization, that’s related to the vaccine,” Kelvin said.

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Can the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines safely be delayed?

Can the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines safely be delayed?

So far, there have been zero reported adverse events among Canada’s oldest demographic, categorized as 65-plus.

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Since the vast majority of Canada’s first batch of vaccines are being doled out to long-term care facilities, Kelvin said this indicates no sign of an increased risk of adverse events in that age group.

“We’re not getting any type of safety signals here in Canada,” she said.

Of all the doses administered as of Jan. 8, a mere 0.007 per cent resulted in an adverse event. It’s a minuscule number, Kelvin said, “even though some of those might be completely unrelated to the vaccine.”

“It seems that we’re continuing a very strong safety profile,” she added.

Read more:
Delaying second dose of coronavirus vaccines is ‘risky gamble,’ experts say

Learning from Norway

Norway has no intention to change its recommendations on using the vaccine on the terminally ill. It will continue to vaccinate residents of care homes, including the frailest.

Pfizer told CNN on Saturday that it is working with the Norwegian Medicines Agency (NOMA) to gather all the relevant information, adding that NOMA has said that “the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada did not respond to a request for comment on Norway’s reports by time of publication, however, there is no reason to believe Canada would consider changing its recommendation either, Kelvin said, pointing to the data.

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However, Kelvin believes there’s value in investigating whether possible vaccine side effects could aggravate or exacerbate underlying illnesses, which was echoed by Steinar Madsen, the medical director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Click to play video 'Provinces grapple with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine production reduction'

Provinces grapple with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine production reduction

Provinces grapple with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine production reduction

He told Bloomberg this week that the side effects of immunization can, in some cases, “tip the patients into a more serious course of the underlying disease,” but emphasized that “COVID-19 is far more dangerous to most patients than vaccination.”

In the meantime, “emotion needs to be tempered with data and time,” said Bogoch.

“Do we see a signal amongst the noise of the millions and millions of doses administered? No, not really,” he said.

“Does that mean we don’t see that signal or that we aren’t looking for it? Of course not. We have to be open-minded about data that emerges but look at that data in an objective manner.”

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— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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

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