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Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine won’t be the ‘workhorse’ in Canada’s rollout – Global News

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A policy expert says the Canada’s Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine shipment timeline is the result of naivety and a lack of ambition, while an infectious disease physician says it won’t be the country’s ‘workhorse’ vaccine.

On Monday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced that the first shipments of the single-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson would arrive at the end of April. Health Canada announced approval of the vaccine March 5.

Read more:
Johnson & Johnson vaccine to begin arriving in Canada by end of April

Dan Breznitz, Munk chair of innovation studies and co-director of the innovation policy lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto, told Global News this is the latest of various stumbles due to a late start to planning, with NACI first meeting to discuss COVID-19 in June 2020, and a lack of understanding of current world economic systems.

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“In the past, you know, you had a production facility and the R&D and the design and everything in one place,” he explained.

“What we have is a world now set into slices of activities. So that product is made in various stages, if you will, around the world… it also means you have vast supply chains. Depending on where you have and those points of a supply chain, you have less or more power.”

Read more:
Amid AstraZeneca concerns, Trudeau tells Canadians to take the ‘first vaccine’ they’re offered

While he has not seen the contract that Canada has with Johnson & Johnson, he questions what incentives were provided, adding it will take months to have enough vaccine for the world and there’s “always hiccups.”

“So countries that have don’t have more than just the ‘hey, I signed that contract and I gave you some money’ — which is basically every country on earth — would be the last in the priority unless they have some other cards up their sleeves,” he said.

“We decided, A: not to have cards under our sleeves; and B: from what I understand, again, I haven’t read the contract, we really cared more about the price of the vaccine than about anything else. And that’s to me seems a bit strange.”

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COVID-19: Canada to receive Johnson & Johnson deliveries by end of April


COVID-19: Canada to receive Johnson & Johnson deliveries by end of April

Canada has pre-ordered 10 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with options to order up to 28 million more.

On Friday, before it was announced that first shipments would arrive at the end of April, Minister Anand said that she had repeatedly stressed the importance and necessity of Canada receiving a delivery schedule from Johnson & Johnson as soon as possible.

She added at that time that “the precise delivery schedule is one that we still need to receive and, if necessary, negotiate.”

A spokesperson for Janssen Canada, Janssen being a pharmaceutical company of Johnson & Johnson, told Global News only that it anticipates fulfilling the 10 million doses by the end of the third quarter “with first delivery targeted in the next several weeks.”

Read more:
COVID-19 vaccine: Second dose delay ‘more risky’ for seniors, experts warn

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Even without the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, Canada is still on track to receive at least 44 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Pfizer by the end of June, though NACI is now recommending AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine not be administered to people under the age of 55.

Infectious disease physician and associate professor at McMaster University, Zain Chagla, says that when Johnson & Johnson shipments finally arrive, they will help speed up the country’s vaccination timeline, but “it’s not necessarily going to change the trajectory that much.”

“Even what we get in April is probably going to be a small amount relative, given that Johnson & Johnson is currently going to the United States, a small amount is going to Europe, South Africa has now signed a big contract for it too. We are part of the global demand for this vaccine in that sense and so we’ll get small amounts,” he told Global News.

“It’s not going to be the one that necessarily gets us to mass vaccination. It will certainly help, but this isn’t going to be the workhorse one.”

Read more:
Canadians’ trust in Pfizer, Moderna vaccines far outweigh AstraZeneca, poll suggests

Chagla says with a month to go until the Johnson & Johnson shipments arrive, Canada should be focusing on how to make sure it gets into the right arms.

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The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only single-dose COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada and is also significantly easier to ship and store in comparison to other vaccines, as it can be kept in a refrigerator for three months.

“To me, homeless shelters, jails, high-risk workplaces — those are the places we probably should be putting this vaccine into,” Chagla explained.

“In populations where a single dose is appropriate, where they’re so transient, bringing them into a clinic is very difficult and that you could get it all done within a day or two, or at least have some doses residual for someone that shows up a week or two later into the system.”


Biolyse Pharma in St. Catharines, Ont., is hoping to obtain a compulsory licence.


supplied by Biolyse Pharma

Meanwhile, a company based out of St. Catharines, Ont., is hoping that it can add to the world’s vaccine supply through the use of a little-used mechanism that would allow it to override Johnson & Johnson’s patent and produce a generic version of the vaccine.

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Biolyse Pharma, which currently produces cancer medicines, is hoping to obtain a compulsory licence through Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, which is Canada’s legislation that reflects the World Trade Organization’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Biolyse spokesperson John Fulton says the company could potentially produce up to 20-million doses per year.

“About four years ago we started purchasing equipment and building out a facility to produce biologic drugs. And, of course, we’re dealing with a pandemic so they decided, ‘Well, let’s get involved with this war effort and pivot to producing vaccines,’ because it’s all the same equipment.”


Specialized equipment at Biolyse Pharma.


supplied by Biolyse Pharma

He says over the last several months, Biolyse reached out to companies to see if they could work together to help produce vaccines, but didn’t get any takers. That’s when he reached out to Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) for assistance pursuing a compulsory licence.

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Biolyse managed to use Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime in 2006 amid a global peak of H5N1 to get a generic of Tamiflu added to a list of drugs covered under Canada’s patent act, which is among Canada’s requirements to obtain a compulsory licence.

In that case, it took roughly eight months before the patent act was amended to include oseltamivir phosphate.

Biolyse has a meeting scheduled with Health Canada in early April to discuss the application, but a researcher with KEI told Global News it’s unlikely any decision will be made at that time and it’s unclear how long the entire process will take.

Read more:
Over a dozen U.S. states to open up vaccines to all adults amid new COVID-19 surge

It’s worth the effort, Chagla suggested, because the threat of variants and the potential need for repeat vaccinations makes for a long-term need for COVID-19 vaccine on a global scale.

“Obviously, more production, more vaccines is better. And again, Johnson & Johnson has the potential to be the global vaccine in that sense because of the one dose nature and because of the the issues of refrigeration stability. Adding to that benefit to the world is only helpful.”

Outside of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Breznitz is hoping that Canada will start preparing for the future now.

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“We are, as always, too naive and not ambitious enough,” he said.

“Are we going to up our ante and ensure that we are — and we can be — global leaders in the production of those kinds of vaccines in this country?”

— with files from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore.

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

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Will Doug Ford’s opposition to vaccine passports survive the fall? – TVO

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The Ontario COVID-19 Science Table issued a brief earlier this week laying out the arguments in favour of some kind of “vaccine certificate” system for domestic use in Ontario: a more rigorous kind of proof of vaccination than the receipts people are currently issued that could be used to exclude the unvaccinated from the highest-risk non-essential places, such as bars, restaurants, gyms, and theatres.

There is one problem — one expressly conceded in the document: the authors note that they can’t say with scientific confidence that such certificates would reduce COVID-19 transmission or increase vaccination uptake. It’s still a novel pandemic, after all.

“You also have to remember this is a new virus, and population-wide coverage of these vaccines is also new,” says co-author Karen Born, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. She acknowledges that the case for certificates — more commonly known as vaccine passports — can’t cite peer-reviewed literature to make the case yet, because it doesn’t exist. But, she says, “just because there’s no evidence to date doesn’t mean we can’t make that pragmatic case.”

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In the absence of iron-clad, gold-standard evidence, we can look to other provinces, such as Quebec and Manitoba, and to other countries — both Italy and France have announced they intend to implement a vaccine-certificate system.

But the most compelling case might be Israel, where the government relied on a form of vaccine certificate, the “Green Pass,” earlier this year to control access to some non-essential places while implementing a comprehensive vaccination of its population. The Green Pass was suspended on June 1. But on Thursday, in the face of a higher rate of new cases, the government announced it would return, terming it a policy of “soft suppression.”

(For those people who insist that we need to “learn to live with the virus”: that’s exactly what Israel says such measures are in service of: we’re allowed to choose how we live, intelligently, with a new endemic virus.)

While Israel has a higher share of its population fully vaccinated than Canada or Ontario, it’s still vulnerable to new pandemic waves. Although Ontario is currently seeing low numbers of cases and falling hospitalizations, it’s not hard to sketch out how a resurgence of COVID-19 could happen here in the next few months: the province will likely enter whatever comes after Step 3 in August, and both public schools and post-secondary education will resume in September. Many employers will start calling their workers back to offices in the fall, and all of these things will lead to increased spread of the disease.

Kieran Moore, the chief medical officer of health, has said he expects a new wave of infections in the fall. That’s in part why he repeatedly urges people to get their shots — to try to minimize the severity of a potential fourth wave.

True, the vaccines mean that cases are far less likely to turn into hospitalizations and deaths. But they haven’t changed one crucial thing: it takes only 300 or so people in Ontario’s intensive-care units to start delaying hospital procedures, and we’ve barely started to dig out from the procedure backlog that built up over the past 18 months. There are more than 4.5 million people currently unvaccinated in Ontario as of today; nearly 275,000 of those are over the age of the 60, according to the province’s daily data release. COVID-19 could still throw a wrench into our hospital system if spread isn’t controlled.

And what would the government do if ICU cases were to start creeping north of 200 again in the fall and show no sign of slowing? (Friday’s number is 136.) Another round of broad-spectrum lockdowns would overwhelmingly punish the large majority of people who’ve done the right thing and gotten their shots. It would also rightly enrage businesses that are just starting to get their customers back after a brutal year. Born cites gyms as an example of the kind of business that could be saved by a vaccine certificate in the event of a fourth wave. Movie theatres, already chafing under what they call “arbitrary and unreasonable” restrictions, are another example.

“This could allow for a faster reopening and also allow for increased capacity in those settings,” Born says. “We’re looking at places where certificates should be used and also where they shouldn’t — lower-risk settings and essential settings.”

It doesn’t make sense to let needed medical care be postponed once again in this pandemic because we didn’t maximize our vaccination coverage, especially given that a vaccine certificate could be implemented relatively quickly — we know that the province did the work to develop a digital pass before deciding to abandon the idea.

“It’s either, let’s do a shutdown, let’s close businesses and schools, or let’s lean into this kind of framework,” says Born. “The alternative is closures that we’re all familiar with at this point.”

Not only has the government failed to implement any kind of rigorous proof-of-vaccination policy; it also hasn’t clarified the legal rights of businesses or employers with respect to unvaccinated customers and employees, creating a fog of confusion that helps nobody (except anti-vaxxers).

Vaccine passes raise legitimate civil-rights concerns, and they should obviously be implemented carefully and thoughtfully; the science table’s brief has important advice on how to do that. When Premier Doug Ford says that it’s a constitutional right to take the vaccine or not, he’s not wrong. But the freedom not to be vaccinated should not require the rest of us — or the province’s hospital system — to be held hostage to people’s refusals. And it’s difficult to believe that a government that has compelled the speech of businesses to attack the federal Liberals and prohibited the speech of unions for its own electoral advantage is making a sincere defence of Ontarian’s Charter rights here. In any event, a vaccine certificate is arguably a less intrusive public-health measure than broader lockdowns.

That, then, is the logic behind calls for a vaccine passport: the government shouldn’t let a fourth wave delay needed medical care in our hospitals, and it shouldn’t use the blunt instrument of new lockdowns again. A vaccine certificate would give the Tories a smarter, more targeted alternative — if they’re willing to use it.

So far, Ford has made his position clear: he isn’t considering a vaccine passport. But events could very well press the issue by October, and then he and his cabinet would have a choice. Since I think they’ll end up flip-flopping on this issue out of simple necessity, it would be best if they’d do that sooner rather than later.

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96% of COVID-19 cases are among those not fully vaccinated, B.C. health officials say – Global News

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Ninety-six per cent of the COVID-19 cases recorded from June 15 to July 15 were among people who were either only partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, B.C.’s health minister says.

“If you take all the cases from June 15 to July 15, 78 per cent of those cases are among those who are unvaccinated,” Adrian Dix said.

“I think the evidence will encourage more people to get vaccinated. That tells you people should need to get vaccinated. We are seeing new cases and they are largely in unvaccinated people.”

Read more:
B.C. reports over 100 new COVID-19 cases for first time in five weeks

The B.C. government will not require people to get the vaccine, but will not stop private businesses from doing so.

The seven-day rolling average for new cases rose from 42 new cases a day one week ago, to 73 new cases a day on Friday.

Most of the new cases are linked to indoor social gatherings at people’s homes, Dix said.


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COVID-19: B.C. reports 89 new cases of virus, highest daily total in more than a month


COVID-19: B.C. reports 89 new cases of virus, highest daily total in more than a month

“We are not going to deny access to services. Based on your vaccinated. That is our position. It will not be mandatory in that sense. There will be requirements in certain sense if people are not vaccinated,” Dix said.

“I think if you are going to have someone over to your house for dinner, you should ask them if they have been vaccinated, and it’s ok to tell them not to come if they haven’t been.”


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: B.C. government provides $36.5M to 83 anchor tourist attractions, higher vaccination rates mean lower cases'



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COVID-19: B.C. government provides $36.5M to 83 anchor tourist attractions, higher vaccination rates mean lower cases


COVID-19: B.C. government provides $36.5M to 83 anchor tourist attractions, higher vaccination rates mean lower cases

As of Friday, 80.3 per cent of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received at least one vaccine.

The province is hoping to hit 85 per cent immunization.

All five health authorities have been adopting additional strategies to supplement the mass immunization clinics, including pop-up clinics for first doses at parks, amusement parks, and beaches.

Read more:
COVID-19: B.C. reports no deaths but 89 new cases, highest daily total in over a month

Dr. Navdeep Grewal of the South Asian COVID-19 Task Force said the province or private businesses should consider vouchers for food or sports tickets to encourage immunization.

“I think it is that final 10 per cent (of the population) we need to get vaccinated, so we can avoid the fourth wave in the fall and winter,” Grewal said.

“We need to find out where they are gathering, give them the information they need, and then give them that first dose that is so needed.”

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

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Run, don't walk, to the nearest clinic to get vaccinated before September, families told – CBC.ca

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Kids who are going back to local elementary and high schools in September must get their first COVID-19 shot by Saturday to ensure they’re eligible for their second dose and be fully vaccinated by Labour Day, according to the health unit. 

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says 73 per cent of those aged 12 to 17 in Middlesex-London already have their first shot, and just over a quarter have two doses. 

 “The uptake among this age group has been tremendous, right on board with some of our older population who was really eager to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Alex Summers, the associate medical officer of health for the MLHU. 

“We see eagerness for people to get vaccinated and we’re just delighted by that. 12 to 17-year-olds will be back in in-person activities, and that’s where they flourish, that’s where they want to be, and we want to be able to support them to do so in a way that COVID isn’t transmitting.” 

Vaccination is the “key ingredient” to maximizing the coming school year and making sure there are few disruptions. 

With school eight weeks away, Ontario health officials examine what the upcoming school year will look like. Overall, vaccine numbers are good but the data shows a lag in vaccination rates among eligible younger Canadians. If vaccine pickup does not improve before the beginning of the school year, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore is concerned about rising infections. 4:06

COVID-19 vaccines have yet to be approved for those under 12. 

“That’s why it’s really important to be gathering outdoors and making sure that everybody who is older than the age of 12 who is interacting with kids is vaccinated,” Summers said. “We can limit transmission among those who just can’t get the vaccine because they’re not old enough as we approach the school year.”

What exactly school will look like in September isn’t quite clear, but screening for symptoms, staying home when exhibiting symptoms, and wearing masks in classrooms are likely.

No appointments are required for COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone 12 or older for first or second doses at walk-in and mass vaccination sites. For more information on vaccinations and locations, visit the health unit’s website here.

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