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Kids COVID vaccine campaign ramps up in the capital amid concerns over new variant – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children ramped up on Saturday as thousands of kids between 5 and 11-years-old rolled up their sleeves for their first shot.

All seven of Ottawa’s community vaccination clinics are now offering paediatric doses this weekend.

The push to immunize as many as possible has been amplified by concerns over a new variant emerging from southern Africa.

Ottawa’s clinics were running full speed Saturday; there were lineups outside some sites.

“A lot of relief that we’re finally able to get the shots in the kiddos and excited about the next one,” said Toufic Zayoun, after their kids received the first shot.

More than 1,400 doses were administered Friday to kids between 5 and 11 in the capital. As of Friday afternoon, Ottawa Public Health said nearly 5,000 appointments had been booked for the first weekend.

This comes though as concerns of a new COVID variant emerge. The Omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa, appears to be more transmissible.

“I think it’s too early to panic,” said Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an Ottawa critical care physician.

“We haven’t had any solid data to show it could evade the vaccine, it’s hard to gauge how it would respond in our setting where we have extremely good vaccination rates.”

For now, Dr. Kyeremanteng is pushing for continued caution and encourages immunization.

“To me the message that’s loud and clear right now is we need to think about global vaccinations very seriously,” he said.

The new variant of concern is already on the minds of parents too.

“Any new variant that comes up is always concerning and it’s just nice to have that extra layer of protection for the kids now too,” said Christie Cowan, after her two kids got their first shot Saturday.

She’s hopeful increased immunization will mean a more normal heart ahead for kids in the capital.

“If this means schools stay open, especially after Christmas, this means everything to them,” said Cowan.

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P.E.I. reports one additional death related to COVID-19 Sunday, nine people in hospital – CTV News Atlantic

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Prince Edward Island reported an additional death related to COVID-19 Sunday. Health officials said the individual was over 80 years old.

“It saddens me to report that another person in PEI has passed away related to COVID-19,” said P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison in a news release.

“I send along my sincere sympathy to this individual’s loved ones at this difficult time.”

HOSPITALIZATIONS

Public health said Sunday there are currently nine people in hospital being treated for COVID-19, including one person in the intensive care unit.

Officials said there are four others in hospital who are positive for COVID-19 but are being treated for illnesses other than COVID-19 (COVID-19 was not the reason for admission).

209 NEW COVID-19 CASES REPORTED

P.E.I. reported 209 new cases of COVID-19 and 214 recoveries Sunday.

The province said the new cases are still under investigation.

There are currently 2,484 active cases of COVID-19 and there have been 6,125 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

OUTBREAKS REPORTED

Here is an update from public health officials on the locations of current outbreaks in high-risk settings:

Long Term Care Facilities (six facilities with outbreaks):

  • Andrews of Park West
  • Atlantic Baptist
  • Beach Grove Home
  • Clinton View Lodge
  • Garden Home
  • Summerset Manor (New Outbreak)

Community Care Facilities (two facilities with outbreaks):

  • Bevan Lodge
  • Miscouche Villa

Early Learning and Child Care Centres:

  • 19 centres with cases of COVID-19
  • Five centres open
  • Six centres closed
  • Eight centres operating at a reduced capacity

Other congregate settings:

Population that accesses shelter and outreach services in Charlottetown

  • Prince County Correctional Centre
  • Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility
  • Provincial Correctional Centre
  • St. Eleanor’s House

VACCINATION DATA

As of Wednesday, Jan. 19, 96.1 per cent of Island residents over the age of 12 years received at least one dose of vaccine and 92.9 per cent were fully vaccinated.

61 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 have had one dose and 43,863 individuals have their booster dose.

Public health said approximately 23,800 people are eligible to receive the booster dose but have not yet done so.

COVID-19 TESTING

In order to preserve the capacity of Health PEI testing clinics, until further notice, public health said testing will continue to be limited to the following:

  • Symptomatic individuals
  • Close contacts of positive cases
  • Confirmatory tests for individuals who test preliminary positive at a point-of-entry
  • Confirmatory tests for individuals who test preliminary positive with a rapid antigen test

Officials said individuals who do not have symptoms do not require testing (unless in one of the above categories).

Those who are presenting for testing related to travel (for example: day 4 tests) will be provided with at home rapid antigen tests, two tests to be taken 48 hours apart.

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PEI has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases amongst Canadian provinces – SaltWire Network

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As of Jan. 21, P.E.I. had the highest reported rate of COVID-19 cases, with 1,050 per 100,000 people, of any province in Canada over the last seven days.

Only one jurisdiction, the Northwest Territories, surpassed the province’s rate of cases over the last week, with 2,024 cases per 100,000 people. The next closest province to P.E.I. was Alberta with 759 cases per 100,000.

But Susan Kirkland, head of Dalhousie University’s department of community health and epidemiology, said daily case counts and case rates do not capture the whole story.


“There does become a point where following cases – it collapses.”

Susan Kirkland, Dalhousie University Department of community health and epidemiology 


Kirkland says it is now clear that community spread of COVID-19 is widespread in Atlantic Canada, including in provinces like P.E.I., where testing of incoming travellers had previously helped contain spread of the virus.

Kirkland said differences in testing criteria, as well as differing reporting details mean comparing case rates between provinces is becoming less and less useful.

Dr. Susan Kirkland, head of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University, says that even after people are vaccinated for COVID-19, a strange new world awaits us. – SaltWire Network

While P.E.I. still allows PCR-RT testing for anyone with symptoms, Nova Scotia has limited PCR testing to specific vulnerable populations that are symptomatic. Rapid antigen tests are provided to the general population that is symptomatic.

In many provinces, daily positive case counts are not capturing the full number of people who have contracted the virus. New Brunswick has also stopped reporting daily case counts in COVID-19 briefings because of this, although the information is still available on the province’s website.

Kirkland said other indicators like hospitalization rates and test positivity are better indicators of how well a province like P.E.I. is faring amid the Omicron wave.

“Ultimately, what we are trying to do is stop the health-care system from (collapsing),” Kirkland said.

P.E.I.’s most recent test positivity rate was 20.7 per cent – significantly higher than all three other Atlantic provinces. There have been 19 hospitalizations since the first Omicron case was announced on Dec. 14.

After weeks of escalating case counts, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King imposed tighter public health restrictions on Jan. 19, closing gyms and in-room dining in restaurants.

Reporting varies

Since Jan. 18, the P.E.I. government has stopped recording daily counts of outbreaks associated with long-term care homes, shelters, the provincial correctional centre and other congregate settings.

While the lack of daily reporting has occurred in conjunction with continuing escalating case counts, P.E.I. may not be the only province to have made a decision to report less information about outbreaks.

Nova Scotia is continuing to report daily positive cases associated with long-term care outbreaks, but the province has recently decided to not report school outbreak numbers.

As an epidemiologist, Kirkland said she was not sure what she thought of public health offices restricting reporting on outbreak case counts.

She said Atlantic Canadians have become used to COVID-19 being contained. This has made it difficult for public health offices to communicate that overall containment of the virus is less feasible, due to the higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

“I think that what public health is now doing is trying to turn the corner to say, ‘we have to start to learn how to live with COVID,’ ” Kirkland said.

“We have to deal with the things that we know will reduce risks – we have to wear masks. We have to improve ventilation where we can. We have to limit social contacts in areas where we can,” she said.

But Kirkland also believes governments are faced with the challenges of prioritizing a safe reopening of schools.

“Very often people will say, ‘why is it safe for kids to be in school but we need to close restaurants,’ ” she said.

“That’s not the point. The point is that the priority is to keep kids in school. So, we have to do these other things in the community so that kids can stay in school. Because that’s what we think is the most important.”

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Now is not the time for vaccine mandates, even as vaccinations among children remain low: experts – CBC.ca

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Less than half of Canadian children ages five to 11 have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, but Canadian experts say now may not be the time to start mandating them for students attending school in person.

In December, Windsor’s city council endorsed a recommendation from its health unit that all elementary school students be vaccinated before returning to school. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, New York City now requires students to be vaccinated before taking part in extracurricular activities. California, which already has strict vaccine requirements for students, is mulling the addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to that list.

“For provinces that don’t have vaccine mandate policies, to start a conversation about vaccine mandates at a time where emotions are very heightened around vaccination is a risky endeavour,” said public health researcher Devon Greyson.

Greyson, an assistant professor of health communication at the University of British Columbia, has studied the efficacy of childhood vaccine mandates. They found that while uptake does increase, the boost can’t be solely attributed to mandates. Better communication, access and reporting systems also played a role.

In fact, in some jurisdictions, mandates did more harm than good by pushing some people away from vaccination, Greyson says.

“I recommend first really trying to build confidence in the population and make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated before considering a policy that has potentially negative consequences on children or parents,” they said.

A children’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic is set up at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, on Dec. 21, 2021. About five per cent of five- to 11-year-old children in Canada have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

No provincial or territorial governments have announced plans for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools, but jurisdictions such as Ontario and New Brunswick already require vaccinations for certain preventable diseases in students entering the public school system. 

Legislation to strengthen mandatory-vaccination rules for N.B. schoolchildren was proposed in 2020, but was defeated. “There are varied opinions, and very strong opinions,” Premier Blaine Higgs, who voted in favour of the change, said earlier this month on CBC’s Power & Politics.

Dr. Cora Constantinescu, a pediatric infectious diseases expert who counsels vaccine-hesitant parents, says that with lower vaccine uptake among five- to 11-year-olds — and children returning to classrooms — there’s an urgency get them vaccinated as soon as possible. But she stopped short of calling for a mandate.

While Constantinescu believes that a vaccine mandate could be effective she pointed out some children risk being kept out of the classroom as a result of such a policy.

Only about five per cent of children ages five to 11 have been fully vaccinated, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern over the low vaccination rate on Wednesday, saying that it puts society’s most vulnerable people at greater risk.

WATCH | Experts weigh in on hesitation around vaccinations for kids:

Experts explain slower vaccine uptake among children

2 days ago

Duration 1:44

Ève Dubé, a INSPQ medical anthropologist, and Dr Fatima Kakkar, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, weigh in on why some parents are still hesitant to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. 1:44

Access remains a key issue

In October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the COVID-19 vaccine would be added to the list of vaccinations required for students to attend school in-person. The policy will be enforced after the federal government approves the vaccines, and the state will grant exemptions for medical reasons, plus religious and personal beliefs. 

Some school districts have already enacted mandates in the state.

Young children are particularly good at spreading respiratory illnesses — and that’s likely the case for COVID-19 as well, according to Annette Reagan, adjunct assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in California. 

People wait to get their children vaccinated at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal. Dr. Cora Constantinescu says that providing greater access to vaccines could help improve the vaccination rate among five- to 11-year-olds. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

She says that justifies the addition of COVID-19 vaccines to existing mandates.

“Increasing vaccination rates and stopping transmission in younger children is a good thing for our community, but it comes with the mandates,” said Reagan, noting that such policies limit parental autonomy.

The reasons behind low uptake among the pediatric group in Canada are varied, according to Greyson, but might be explained by timing and limited access to clinics.

Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine was approved by Health Canada for the five to 11 cohort in late November — just weeks before the holidays when non-emergency medical appointments tend to slow down. 

Pediatric vaccine doses may also be less widely accessible compared to adult doses, said Constantinescu, making it more difficult for parents to get their kids immunized.

“The low-hanging fruit of vaccine uptake is always access,” said Constantinescu. “We have not made this as easily accessible as we could have.”

Constantinescu believes, however, that the narrative children experience more “mild” illness when they contract COVID-19 is a key factor behind the low vaccination rate — a message that parents should reconsider.

“We pray and hope that it’s just going to be a mild illness in most kids. That would be fantastic and I sure hope that, but we don’t know,” she said. 

“What we do know is that the vaccine is safe and we have enough supply.”

‘It’s in the best interest of your child’

Perhaps the most significant risk that comes with vaccine mandates, however, is the potential for children with vaccine-hesitant parents to miss out on in-person learning. 

Constantinescu argues that some children may not get the protection provided by vaccination or the benefits of learning in person.

With new evidence that negative side effects, such as myocarditis, are rare in the five to 11 bracket, she says now is the time to “shout from the rooftops” that vaccinating against COVID-19 is safe.

“This is the top vaccine-preventable threat to our children and we have a safe vaccine,” she said.

“We need to tell parents this is about protecting your child, first and foremost. It’s not about saving the pandemic, it’s not about saving the world.”

“This is because it’s in the best interest of your child.”


Written by Jason Vermes with files from Ashley Fraser, CBC News and The Associated Press.

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