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Moderna begins testing its COVID-19 vaccine on young children – Global News



Moderna has begun testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children between six months and 12 years old, but experts in Canada aren’t optimistic we’ll see approvals for adolescents anytime soon.

The company on Tuesday started a mid-to-late stage study of its vaccine to assess the safety and effectiveness of two doses of the shot, given 28 days apart, and intends to enroll about 6,750 children in the United States and Canada.

In a separate study, which began in December, Moderna is also testing its vaccine in adolescents between 12 and 18 years old.

Read more:
A look at when Canada could start administering COVID-19 vaccines to teens, children

Moderna’s vaccine has already been authorized in Canada and the U.S. for those who are aged 18 and older. But experts don’t expect to see any approvals for children in the near future.

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When asked whether Health Canada could approve a vaccine for use in children before school begins in the fall of 2021, Dr. Supriya Sharma, the agency’s chief medical advisor, said the timeline sounded “a bit optimistic.”

“So the trials in children tend to be a bit slower to get up and running in terms of recruiting individuals,” she said earlier this month. “And then, of course, we have to conduct the trials and then take that information and assess that.”

She said it’s “not inconceivable that we might have some data in the summer.”

“And potentially by the end of this calendar year, we might have some indications in children, but … that’s still pretty optimistic.”

When will kids be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Experts weigh in

When will kids be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Experts weigh in – Jan 26, 2021

That appeared to be echoed by Dr. Caroline Quach, the chair of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizations, on Tuesday. She said data has so far been provided by Pfizer-BioNTech on its vaccine being tested within the 12 to 15 age group.

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However, she said NACI will not make any recommendations on vaccines used in children before it has seen data from a phase three trial, she said.

“From our understanding, we should get some data in the next two to three months for at least eh 12 to 15-year-olds. Then, as data is accrued and vaccines are deemed to be safe and immunogenic, then they will decrease in age range until they go down to the younger ones,” she said.

“But we’re not expecting anything for children before the end of 2021.”

Read more:
When will kids be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Experts weigh in

At this point in Canada, no vaccines have been approved for use in children younger than 16 years of age.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be used in anyone 16 and older, Health Canada says, while the other three shots — Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson — have been approved for adults 18 and up.

Health Canada says it is waiting on data from the vaccine manufacturers before it approves any shot for use in children.

Sharma said Pfizer and Moderna’s clinical trials in younger-age adults are the furthest along so far, but acknowledged that Johnson & Johnson has also been given Health Canada’s seal of approval to test the safety and efficacy of its vaccine in children aged 12 to 17.

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AstraZeneca has also started its own clinical trial to test its vaccine in younger age groups, though Sharma is convinced Health Canada will receive data from Pfizer and Moderna first.

Click to play video: 'Montreal pediatric specialist answers questions about the coronavirus and kids'

Montreal pediatric specialist answers questions about the coronavirus and kids

Montreal pediatric specialist answers questions about the coronavirus and kids – Jan 1, 2021

Children have so far fared better than adults throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus is considered far deadlier for adults — particularly seniors and those with pre-existing conditions — but has proven to be generally very mild in the young, with minimal to rare deaths.

The result has essentially put kids near the end of the line for vaccinations. It’s also sparked a debate among scientists and other officials about how important it is to get children immunized.

So far, the rollout of vaccines worldwide has prioritized older people and others at risk because of their health or occupation.

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Read more:
U.S. may start vaccinating children by summer, says Fauci

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert from Vanderbilt University, said it’s important vaccine makers are testing their precious drugs in children.

He put it simply: “First of all, they’re not at zero risk.”

“There have been seriously afflicted children in this country and around the world, so we want to protect them,” he said.

“Second, children can be transmitters. They can carry the virus, bring it home, and transmit it among themselves. Not as freely and exuberantly as influenza, but nonetheless, they can do that.”

Click to play video: 'Long-haulers: Some kids struggle with lingering effects of COVID-19'

Long-haulers: Some kids struggle with lingering effects of COVID-19

Long-haulers: Some kids struggle with lingering effects of COVID-19 – Feb 19, 2021

Schaffner said it’s important to test the vaccines in segmented age groups — like 12 to 15 years old — because it helps “get the dose right.”

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“We want to make a careful assessment of all the safety issues, as well as the effectiveness,” he said.

Schaffner believes adding childhood or student vaccination to Canada’s vaccination strategy could add confidence to school safety plans and “lower the risk even further.”

— with files from Global News’ Hannah Jackson and Reggie Cecchini 

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

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Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs



By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

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In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers



By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.

Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.

Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”

Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.

Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.

“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”

Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.


On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.

Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.

“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.

Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.

Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.

The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.

Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.

“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”


(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

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Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare



OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.

“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.

The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.

Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.

Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”

Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.

($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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