If all goes according to plan, Canadians will start getting vaccinated for the novel coronavirus early next year.
And one of the people spearheading those efforts is a Canadian from Sherbrooke, Que. — Nicolas Chornet, senior vice-president of international manufacturing at Moderna.
He moved to Switzerland in August to set up the U.S. drugmaker’s European office and has not seen his extended family in almost a year. But they, too, ask him for constant updates.
“Hey, how fast can we get this? Because we want to see you and we want you to travel and come and see us again,’” his family asks him about the vaccine, he says.
The shipment and distribution of the vaccine — once approved — will, however, be a Herculean effort involving a lot of manpower, a web of logistical challenges and scientific constraints.
Coronavirus: Majority of Canadians concerned vaccine will come too late, Ipsos poll finds
Promising candidates from U.S. pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson as well as the U.K.’s AstraZeneca, are all currently under a rolling review process, which means vaccine data is being submitted for regulatory approval to Health Canada as it becomes available.
“Canada is one of the countries that moved very, very fast in securing a vaccine with us. It’s one of the first countries or one of the top countries to receive our supply also,” Chornet said.
Canada is not manufacturing any COVID-19 vaccines because it has a limited production capacity, especially for the vaccine candidates that are currently proving to be the most promising.
This means it will need to import the vaccines, adding another layer to the logistical labyrinth that has also set off political turmoil.
Last week, members of the opposition slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his comments that countries like the United States, Germany and the U.K. — some of which have domestic pharmaceutical facilities — will get vaccines before Canada.
Moderna’s supplies to Canada will come all the way from the Swiss city of Visp — home to some 8,000 people — where the company has set up a secondary production plant, in addition to its U.S. headquarters, to meet the global demand.
“Of course, our level of production or inventory will be lower than in the United States,” Chornet said, before adding: “In our distribution here (in Europe), we’ve optimized the supply chain so we can distribute as fast as possible to all the countries.”
Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine 94.5% effective
The U.S. will receive approximately 20 million doses from Moderna by the end of the year.
Last week, Trudeau said a majority of Canadians should be vaccinated against the coronavirus by next September. That means roughly 75 million doses for the country’s entire population if two shots are given.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 400,000 people in Canada have been infected and at least 12,400 have succumbed to the virus.
Long-term care homes have borne the brunt of the pandemic, with outbreaks reported at several hundred nursing homes.
More recently, hospitalizations are soaring across provinces. Quebec, Alberta and Ontario are among the worst affected.
A vaccine will come as a relief for lockdown-weary Canadians – 65 per cent of whom say they intend to get a vaccine when it’s approved by Health Canada and available for free, according to a new poll this week. Meanwhile, an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found that 74 per cent of respondents are worried that the public distribution of a vaccine would be too slow to stop a greater spread of COVID-19.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), has identified key populations that should get immunized first, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, as well as health-care workers, according to its preliminary recommendations.
“This will probably be the most complex deployment of vaccines that we’re attempting in Canada, or I would suggest even around the world,” Daniel Chiasson, president and CEO of the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management, told Global News.
So how will it work?
Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines need to be kept in cold storage and have specific temperature requirements.
Pfizer’s vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70 C, while Moderna’s can be stored for up to six months at -20 C.
This requires a certain level of infrastructure that Canada may not have if vaccines are deployed in a short time frame, Chiasson said.
“The bottleneck for me is likely to be at the warehouse level,” he said.
“Do we actually have sufficient capacity with the right equipment in terms of refrigeration or frozen capacity to do it? … The infrastructure exists today. Do we have enough of it?”
Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine: The refrigeration problem no one is talking about
In anticipation of a vaccine’s arrival, the federal government has ordered 26 ultra-cold freezers required for Pfizer’s vaccine and another 100 needed for Moderna’s. So far, 34 freezers have arrived, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada.
U.S.-based Thermo Fisher Scientific is among those companies supplying the cold storage to Canada.
“The criticality of this is huge, being able to manage the temperature from the point of manufacturing through distribution and ultimately to preparation for injection. It just can’t be overstated,” Dr. Alex Esman, general manager and senior director for cold storage at Thermo Fisher Scientific, told Global News.
“Typically, these freezers are used today in research… but now these freezers are going to be just in slightly different places … like in the pharmacy or in a doctor’s office or a clinical office.”
ESBE Scientific, a distribution company in Markham, Ont., told Global News it has already supplied stocks to the federal government, and the provinces of Ontario and Alberta.
While the federal government is overseeing the procurement and authorization of the vaccines at the national level, provincial health authorities are currently working on their individual plans to decide where the vaccines will be deployed and administered and who will get them in what order.
The Canadian military has also said it is preparing to help with the country’s vaccine roll-out more broadly.
Retired general Rick Hillier, who led the NATO forces in Afghanistan, was recently tapped to lead the vaccine roll-out for the province of Ontario.
“We’re talking to the IT professionals, they’re talking about building a system that is already in progress on iPads to use at those sites to log where the vaccines are, where they’re going to connect that to health cards to make sure that we have a record that somebody has been vaccinated,” Hillier told Global News.
Coronavirus: Initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Canada to be around 3 million vaccinations
At the city level, immunization teams will then be responsible for making sure the vaccines get delivered to the identified priority groups, and for carrying out the immunizations in the community.
Matthew Pegg, the head of Toronto’s COVID-19 Immunization Task Force, says the roll-out will be a “massive undertaking” that will require a lot of planning and co-ordination.
The “biggest hurdle,” he said, is identifying facilities that can store vaccines and serve as a location for people to get vaccinated.
“We need facilities where we can install whatever the requirements will be for refrigeration or freezers,” Pegg told Global News.
His team is currently looking for facilities to serve as warehouses for all of the expected inventory.
Second dose and followup
Vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca will require two doses.
Dr. Michael Finkelstein of the Toronto Public Health says it will be important to report and investigate any adverse effects and make sure patients return for that second dose.
“We have a lot of experience with people getting vaccines, but much less experience with people needing two doses,” he told Global News.
“And so it’s going to be very important for us to be able to remind people and making sure that they get the message they have to come back.”
If both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines are approved, the first batch of what’s expected to be six million doses — enough for three million Canadians — will begin arriving in early January.
But the actual work of the roll-out will be far from over.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Cruise line says only vaccinated passengers can sail – CTV News
Given all the problems faced by the cruise industry in 2020, the announcement by one operator that all passengers must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before they board sounds sensible.
But when Saga Cruises this week became the first to introduce the requirement, not everyone agreed — the British operator was inundated with so many responses, good and bad, it temporarily made its Twitter account private while it dealt with them.
Nevertheless, the move by Saga will be eagerly watched by many in the cruise industry interested to see if whether a vaccine rule will help kick start travel, or prove as divisive as other attempts to work around COVID-19.
Saga, which caters mostly to British people over the age of 50, told CNN Travel that the vaccinated-passengers-only rule was prompted by the results of a recent customer poll, which suggested 95 per cent of regular Saga customers would support such a policy change.
Saga Holidays’ CEO Chris Simmonds said in a statement that the decision was made partly because “many of our customers [are] amongst the first groups of people to be offered the vaccine.”
“With this in mind and having spoken with our customers, we want to ensure we are providing the safest possible experience whilst they are on holiday with us,” said Simmonds.
As well as offering cruises, Saga also organizes tours and all-inclusive holidays. Travelers will also need to be vaccinated before embarking on these vacations.
Before boarding a Saga ship, passengers must have had both COVID-19 jabs at least 14 days before departure.
Right now, Saga’s operations are paused, but the company aims to restart cruises in May 2021. If the U.K.’s vaccine rollout goes to plan, by then, a substantial number of Brits over 50 should have been inoculated against coronavirus.
Saga said crew, who largely skew younger, would not need to be vaccinated before working on board, stating that other protocols would be in place to protect staff until they’re able to receive inoculation.
The announcement raises the question of whether compulsory pre-boarding Covid vaccinations could become the norm for cruise passengers and/or staff.
Previously, testing had previously been championed as the key to unlocking the industry, but when seven people tested positive on-board small cruise ship SeaDream 1 in Nov. 2020, the efficacy of preboarding testing was called into question.
Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), a global body that represents 95 per cent of the world’s cruise fleet, said “a multi layered approach” to on-board safety “is the right one to mitigate risk.”
Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokesperson for CLIA, said measures implemented by cruise lines are being constantly evaluated and will evolve “as the pandemic and circumstances change over time.”
Golin-Blaugrund wouldn’t comment on whether CLIA would enforce a vaccinated passengers-only rule for its member cruise lines.
“We share in the excitement surrounding the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and are optimistic that it will help facilitate the global recovery from the pandemic,” she told CNN Travel.
“At the same time, we understand that the rollout of the vaccine will take some time.”
Saga confirmed to CNN Travel that it will still instigate other safety measures on board its sailings, including reduced capacity, pre-departure COVID-19 testing, social distancing, increasing cabin air flow and improving on-board medical facilities.
British cruise goer Sara Roberts, 59, who was a passenger on board the virus-hit Coral Princess back in spring 2020, told CNN Travel she thinks a widespread return to cruising will only happen if and when passengers are confident ships are Covid safe.
“Vaccination is a good way forward, providing the vaccine is proven to work,” said Roberts, who expressed concern at the current wait times in the U.K. between administration of the first dose and second dose.
Following her experience last year, Roberts also has lingering concerns surrounding cruise travel more generally.
“We have sailed with the majority of cruise lines over the last 15 years and it had always been my preferred type of holiday,” she said.
“However our experience aboard the Coral Princess made me realize you are not in control of your own destiny whilst aboard a cruise. Therefore, I would not consider embarking another for the foreseeable future until COVID is no longer a risk.”
GLOBAL CRUISE LINE PERSPECTIVE
For cruise lines that serve passengers from across the world, and of all ages, establishing a vaccinated-passenger-only policy could be difficult.
But alongside Saga’s announcement, there is already some precedent for this. Australian airline Qantas last year said passengers will need to be vaccinated before boarding international flights. Meanwhile Singapore Airlines recently announced plans to become the world’s first fully vaccinated airline, pledging to inoculate all crew and staff.
There’s also a possibility that port cities will only allow travelers to disembark cruise ships if they have proof of vaccination, which would take the decision out of the cruise lines’ hands.
Last fall, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on cruising in U.S. waters was lifted, the CDC introduced its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for cruise ships, outlining the lengthy process cruise lines need to follow to recommence US cruising.
Measures include mock “trial” cruises, universal mask wearing, physical distancing and COVID-19 testing. There’s no mention of compulsory vaccinations. The guidance was issued before the vaccines had been approved.
When asked whether Royal Caribbean, which owns Royal Caribbean Cruise Line alongside Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises, would adopt a vaccinated-passengers-only policy, spokesperson Jonathon Fishman told CNN Travel that the company was “still in the process of finalizing the details for our return to service.”
“As soon as we have more information on our requirements, we will let our guests know,” he added.
MSC Cruises, which was one of the first major cruise lines to restart operations last summer — in the form of a seven-day, Italian-residents-only, Mediterranean cruise — declined to comment, deferring to the CLIA.
MSC’s voyages were paused over the festive season due to the new Italian lockdown, but MSC Grandiosa is due to restart Italian voyages this weekend.
U.K.-based cruise line Fred Olsen said it had no news to share on this front as yet.
Roger Frizzell, who represents Carnival Corporation — the cruise giant that owns Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Cunard, Holland America and P&O Cruises — also said no firm decisions had been made.
“The new vaccines represent an important breakthrough for people throughout the world, including the travel, hospitality and cruising industries,” said Frizzell.
“We are reviewing the various vaccines, but we have not made any decisions on next steps at this point.”
Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line stated that “all options regarding vaccinations” were being explored for guests and crew — but that staff safety would be at the fore.
“It is our intention that all crew members be vaccinated before boarding our vessels to begin their duties, subject to availability of the vaccine,” said a Norwegian spokesperson.
Conny Seidler, who worked as a dancer on board the Costa Deliziosa during the first half of 2020, said she’d long expected pre-boarding COVID vaccinations to become compulsory for crew.
The Deliziosa was the last ship carrying large numbers of passengers to make it back to port amid the global shutdown of the cruise industry last year.
“You need certain vaccines to be able to work on a cruise anyway,” points out Seidler, citing the yellow fever jab and tuberculosis as examples.
“From the point of view of the cruise, it’s obviously safer and lower risk if all the crew is vaccinated.”
Seidler, who is from Austria, acknowledges that such a regulation could put off some people, but she thinks most crew members would welcome this rule.
Many crew are currently out of work, and experienced a tough time working on COVID-hit vessels in the wake of the pandemic.
“I honestly don’t think there’s going to be a lot of crew members who are going to be against the vaccine,” says Seidler. “I can imagine most of the crew will be like: ‘As long as I can work, I’m happy to do it.'”
As for the passengers, Seidler suggests some may be unwilling to travel unless they know everyone on board has been vaccinated.
But Seilder thinks most big cruise lines will be hesitant to introduce a vaccinated-passengers-only rule, because the global vaccine rollout won’t be fast enough, and it could deter certain guests.
Still, Seidler reckons the more people vaccinated on board, the safer the environment will be, and the likelier it is that cruising can recommence successfully.
Heavy snow hits parts of Nova Scotia Friday – CBC.ca
Parts of Nova Scotia were hit with wintry weather Friday during a system that dumped up to 25 centimetres of snow in some areas before tapering off in the evening.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau said the RCMP has responded to accidents in areas including Lower Sackville, Fall River and Windsor.
“Everybody needs to just take it slow,” she said. “When the roads can be covered in snow and ice, it can lead to collisions.
“So we’re asking people to just slow down, take their time, be patient. We just want everyone to make it home at the end of the day.”
Croteau said she did not know of any significant injuries that came as a result of any of the collisions.
Several Halifax Transit bus routes were on snow plans due to slippery road conditions. Updates are being posted to the Halifax Transit Twitter page.
Friday evening, a vehicle crash knocked out electricity for some Nova Scotia Power customers in Cole Harbour. At one point, more than 2,000 customers were in the dark in the Forest Hills area.
As of 10 p.m., most of the power was restored, according to the utility’s outage map.
A picture posted to Nova Scotia Power’s Twitter account showed a Halifax Transit bus on Merrimac Drive with a power pole on top of it.
Our crews are now on site making repairs. Stay safe on the roads, everyone. <a href=”https://t.co/FLK2reD3tn”>https://t.co/FLK2reD3tn</a> <a href=”https://t.co/UT8hdKCeq9″>pic.twitter.com/UT8hdKCeq9</a>
CBC meteorologist Jim Abraham said only some parts of Nova Scotia were affected by the system.
“As the sun goes down, it’s clear in Digby and clear in much of Cape Breton, but in between there’s this heavy band of snow that has plagued parts of southwestern and central Nova Scotia all day,” said Abraham.
However, Abraham said most of the snow was supposed to taper off by about 7 p.m.
“It should end early enough that we can tidy it up before we go to bed,” he said.
In a tweet, the city of Halifax said the winter parking ban will be enforced from 1-6 a.m. Saturday.
Crews continue to apply de-icing materials to streets and sidewalks across the municipality. Residents should exercise caution as winter conditions are present. An accumulation of ~5 cm is expected. Reminder the parking ban will be enforced from 1-6 a.m.: <a href=”https://t.co/HvjffJEi6y”>https://t.co/HvjffJEi6y</a> <a href=”https://t.co/jaP0a4OgB8″>pic.twitter.com/jaP0a4OgB8</a>
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