When Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala was shot while responding to a call Tuesday afternoon he became the sixth Canadian police officer to die since September, but an expert is warning the numbers do not represent a trend.
Michael Arntfield, a criminologist and professor at Western University, said the recent deaths are concerning and are an indication of how dangerous policing has become, given the growing responsibilities police are taking on.
“The takeaway is that as police are involved in more situations that would not traditionally be a police officer’s job, they’re going to be subjected to a broader cross-section of risks that historically they’ve not necessarily been trained to deal with,” he said.
A former officer himself, Arntfield said police deaths are still rare in Canada.
Pierzchala, 28, was shot while responding to a vehicle in a ditch just west of Hagersville, Ont., about 45 kilometres southwest of Hamilton. A 25-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman have been charged with first-degree murder.
On Oct. 18, RCMP Const. Shaelyn Yang was fatally stabbed in Burnaby while trying to issue an eviction notice to a man who had been living in a tent at a local park.
Just a week earlier, on Oct. 11, two officers were shot while responding to a disturbance in Innisfil, Ont. South Simcoe police constables Devon Northrup and Morgan Russell both died in the hospital.
On Sept. 14, York Regional Police Const. Travis Gillespie was killed in a car crash on his way to work in Markham Ont. Gillespie was off-duty at the time and the other driver in the crash has been charged with impaired driving.
His death was two days after Toronto Police Const. Andrew Hong was shot at a Mississauga Tim Hortons while on his lunch break, in what police have called an ambush.
“Each of these circumstances is demonstrably different, each representing its own incident with learning moments and training potential, and not necessarily a part of a of a consistent pattern,” said Arntfield.
Still, the number of deaths raises a red flag for some police associations.
Mark Baxter, president of the Police Association of Ontario, called the recent deaths heartbreaking, saying that in his 18 years of policing he’s “never seen anything like this.”
He said OPP officers receive extensive training at the Ontario Police College to prepare them for what they may deal with in the field and have lots of oversight.
But when it comes to the recent deaths, he said, “no amount of training could have prepared (them) for what they encountered.”
“It really speaks to some greater societal challenges that we have,” said Baxter, challenges that include access to help for mental health, addiction and homelessness.
“Without proper supports, without people checking on them … all of these have cascading effects,” said Baxter. “We’re seeing a rise in violence across the country.”
“We’re seeing a rise in police officers use-of-force incidents with members of the public.”
According to analysis by The Canadian Press, police shot at 87 people across Canada between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30. Of those shootings, 46 people died.
That’s a nearly 25 per cent increase from 2021, when officers shot at 70 people, killing 37.
Baxter said he plans to work with the Canadian Police Association and all levels of government to figure out how to curb the violence.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 28, 2022.
More than 1,000 New Brunswickers report adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines – CBC.ca
More than 1,000 New Brunswickers have had an adverse reaction after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than a quarter of them were considered “serious,” according to the Department of Health.
A total of more than two million vaccines have been administered in the province, putting the incidence at roughly 0.06 per cent.
Spokesperson Adam Bowie did not provide any information about the nature of the reactions, but the Public Health Agency of Canada defines an adverse event as “any untoward medical occurrence which follows immunization.” It isn’t necessarily causally related to the vaccine.
The adverse event may be any:
- Unfavourable or unintended sign (for example: skin rash).
- Abnormal laboratory finding.
An event is considered serious if it:
- Results in death.
- Is life-threatening, such as anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
- Requires in-patient hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization.
- Results in persistent or significant disability/incapacity.
- Results in a congenital anomaly/birth defect.
Bowie did not provide a breakdown of reactions by type of vaccine or by ages, either.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported a possible link between ischemic strokes in people aged 65 and older and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 bivalent vaccine, which is designed to target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
An ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or reduced by a blockage or clot. This prevents the brain tissue from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive.
“Although the totality of the data currently suggests that it is very unlikely that the signal in VSD [vaccine safety datalink] represents a true clinical risk, we believe it is important to share this information with the public,” the U.S. health officials had said.
Monitoring the situation closely
New Brunswick Public Health, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada are all aware of the U.S. report, issued on Jan. 13, based on their vaccine adverse event reporting surveillance system, said Bowie.
“So far, these safety concerns have not been raised through other vaccine safety monitoring systems in the United States, or in other countries — including Canada,” he said in an emailed statement.
“It should be noted the CDC did not recommend any changes to vaccination practices at this time, and that these adverse events have not yet been confirmed to have been caused by the vaccines administered.
If New Brunswick Public Health’s recommendations regarding the safety or suitability of this vaccine were to change, that information would be communicated to the public.– Adam Bowie, Department of Health spokesperson
“Additional analysis and reviews must be completed to further explore the causes of these reactions and that data is used as part of the continuous monitoring of the safety of these vaccines.”
Still, New Brunswick and federal health officials are “monitoring this situation closely,” said Bowie.
“If New Brunswick Public Health’s recommendations regarding the safety or suitability of this vaccine were to change, that information would be communicated to the public,” he said.
‘Less than five’ strokes after bivalent reported in Canada
As of Jan. 1, more than seven million doses of mRNA bivalent vaccines have been administered in Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada say they’ve not observed any elevated risks or safety signals for thromboembolic or vascular events following the administration of these vaccines, noted Bowie.
“Less than five” reports of ischemic stroke following the administration of an mRNA bivalent vaccine have been submitted to the federal bodies to date, he said. Only one of these involved a Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine for a person aged 65 years or older.
In New Brunswick, 1,148 adverse events related to COVID-19 vaccines have been reported to the Department of Health, from the 2,028,684 total doses administered between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 14, 2023, said Bowie.
“Of those, 313 events were labelled serious in nature,” he said.
Benefits continue to outweigh risks
“Evidence indicates that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks of the disease,” the federal website states.
Across Canada, of the 96,432,067 COVID-19 vaccines administered to date, adverse events have been reported by 53,611 people. That’s about six people out of every 10,000 people vaccinated who have reported one or more adverse events.
Of those, 10,565 adverse events were considered serious in nature, an incidence of 0.01 per cent.
“Citizens should be aware that vaccine providers are legally required to report any adverse events in New Brunswick under the Public Health Act, and immunization data is regularly monitored to ensure that any unusual safety trends would be identified quickly,” said Bowie.
Federal health officials also review data from provinces and territories across the country to identify any new or emerging trends, he said.
WHO decision on COVID-19 emergency won't effect Canada's response: Tam – CP24
OTTAWA – On Monday, exactly three years from the day he declared COVID-19 to be a global public health emergency, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will decide whether to call it off.
But declaring an end to the “public health emergency of international concern” would not mean COVID-19 is no longer a threat. It will also not do much to change Canada’s approach.
“In Canada, we’re already doing what we need to do,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in her most recent COVID-19 update.
She said the WHO discussion is important but COVID-19 monitoring and public health responses are not going to end. That includes continued surveillance of cases, particularly severe illness and death, and vaccination campaigns.
The WHO’s emergency committee, which was struck in 2020 when COVID-19 first emerged as a global health threat, voted Friday on whether to maintain the formal designation of a public health emergency.
Tedros will make the final call Monday based on the advice the committee gives him.
He warned earlier this week that he remains concerned about the impact of the virus, noting there were 170,000 deaths from COVID-19 reported around the world in the last two months.
“While I will not pre-empt the advice of the emergency committee, I remain very concerned by the situation in many countries and the rising number of deaths,” he said Jan. 24.
“While we are clearly in better shape than three years ago when this pandemic first hit, the global collective response is once again under strain.”
He is worried not enough health-care workers or seniors are up to date on vaccinations, that access to antivirals is limited and that health systems around the world remain fragile following three years of pandemic strain.
In Canada, there was a noticeable rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths over Christmas and early in January but all are trending down again. Tam said there were no surges of the virus anywhere in Canada, though the latest variant of Omicron was being watched closely.
Federal surveillance data shows more than 30 people are still dying of COVID-19 every day, and hundreds of people are still hospitalized.
The formal designation of the global public health emergency was made on Jan. 30, 2020, when 99 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases were still restricted to China.
The decision was made to declare an emergency because human-to-human transmission was starting to occur outside China, and the hope was that by designating an emergency it could prompt a public health response that could still limit the impact of COVID-19.
That did not happen. On March 11, 2020, Tedros declared a global pandemic, practically begging countries to do more to slow it down.
The declaration of a pandemic meant that there was exponential growth in the spread of the virus.
By WHO terminology, a “public health emergency of international concern” is the highest formal declaration and the one which triggers a legally binding response among WHO member countries, including Canada.
It is what is done when a health threat is “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected,” when it carries global public health implications and may require “immediately international action.”
A designation prompts the WHO director-general to issue recommendations for member countries including increased surveillance to identify new cases, isolating or quarantining infected people and their close contacts, travel measures such as border testing or closures, public health communications, investments in research and collaboration on treatments and vaccinations.
Dr. Sameer Elsayed, an infectious diseases physician and the director adult infectious diseases residency training at Western University in London, Ont., said to his mind the WHO should end the global emergency designation even though the pandemic itself is not over.
“I don’t know that we should continue to call it an emergency,” he said. “I hope they say that we’re going to bring it down a notch.”
Elsayed said for vulnerable populations, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, COVID-19 continues to pose a serious threat, but for most people there are far bigger threats, including suicide. He said with limited health resources, COVID-19 needs to be put in its proper place alongside other health issues.
Children, in particular, said Elsayed, are much more at risk from influenza and RSV than COVID-19 in wealthy countries, and from food insecurity and the lack of access to clean water in many developing nations.
Tam said regardless of what WHO decides, Canada won’t stop monitoring the evolution of the virus that causes COVID-19, including for new variants that may require adjustments to vaccines or other treatments.
She also said we must continue to monitor the ongoing developments in long COVID.
“We mustn’t, I think, let go of the gains that we’ve had in the last several years,” she said.
“I think whatever the decision is made by the director-general of WHO, I think we just need to keep going with what we’re doing now.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.
COVID still a concern despite drop in flu, RSV cases: expert – CTV News
As RSV and flu cases steadily decline in Canada, the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to announce on Monday whether it still considers COVID-19 a global health emergency.
Ahead of that announcement, one of Canada’s top infectious disease specialists warns that the WHO’s consensus won’t necessarily mean the virus is behind us.
“I think it’s important to point out that this is not about … whether COVID is gone or not,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology as well as the Department of Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University.
“This is a real committee-based decision at the WHO level to decide in whether this is still a public health emergency of international concern,” she told CTV News Channel Sunday.
Barrett explained that this a matter of prioritizing access to resources and research, and not to determine an end point for COVID-19.
“So what this all means is that COVID is not done,” she said. “And the way it looks in different countries is different in many situations. That’s what they’re trying to decide at this point, not whether a pandemic is done or whether COVID is going away.”
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will make the official call on the status of COVID-19, based on the advice of his committee. Earlier this week, he warned that he remains concerned about the impact of the virus and mentioned that there were 170,000 COVID-related deaths reported around the world in the last two months.
“We’re starting to see influenza, perhaps RSV, starting to come down somewhat,” Barrett said.
“There’s still a lot of debate about whether we’re catching many cases that are not important. But really, I think the big [question] from the last year as we start to see influenza and RSV maybe go down is, what’s the best way forward?”
Barrett noted that the FDA recommended a change to booster shot roll outs.
“They’re suggesting a once-a-year, similar to a flu shot. I think that’s the right approach at this point,” she said.
“I think the first thing we should remind Canadians is that if they are due for an additional dose in the vulnerable populations — older folks, people who have bad immune systems — please don’t think it’s too early to go out and get that last dose from the fall if you haven’t.”
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