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Moderna CEO says data for Omicron-specific shot likely available in March

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Moderna Inc’s vaccine candidate against the Omicron coronavirus variant will enter clinical development in the next few weeks and the company expects to be able to share data with regulators around March, CEO Stephane Bancel said on Monday.

“The vaccine is being finished … it should be in the clinic in coming weeks. We are hoping in the March timeframe to be able to have data to share with regulators to figure out next steps,” Bancel said at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda conference.

Moderna is also developing a single vaccine that combines a booster dose against COVID-19 with its experimental flu shot. (https://reut.rs/3FAeyya)

Bancel said the best case scenario was the combined COVID/flu vaccine would be available by the fall of 2023, at least in some countries.

“Our goal is to be able to have a single annual booster so that we don’t have compliance issues where people don’t want to get two to three shots a winter.”

Many countries are already offering a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to their citizens, especially to older individuals and those who are immunocompromised, while Israel has started offering its citizens a fourth dose.

Earlier in January, Moderna’s CEO said people may need a fourth shot in the fall of 2022 as the efficacy of boosters against COVID-19 was likely to decline over the next few months.

However, booster programs have met with skepticism from some disease experts over whether, and how widely, additional doses should become available, including the European Union’s drug regulator, which has expressed doubts about the need for a fourth booster dose.

Speaking at the same event, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there was no evidence that repeat booster doses would overwhelm the immune system.

“Giving boosters at different times, there is really no evidence that’s going to hinder (immune response).”

Fauci said the goal should be to have a booster that induces a response against multiple potential variants.

 

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Monkeypox: Cases in Canada climb to 16, PHAC says – CTV News

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The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says it has now confirmed a total of 16 cases of monkeypox in the country, all in Quebec.

The latest update on the spread of the viral disease came in a statement issued Wednesday evening.

The statement says Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory continues to receive samples from multiple jurisdictions for confirmation testing.

“At this time, cases of monkeypox are being identified and treated by local health clinics,” the statement said.

“There is ongoing planning with provinces and territories to provide access to approved vaccines in Canada that, if required, can be used in managing monkeypox in their jurisdiction.”

The PHAC says it has given Quebec a small shipment of the smallpox vaccine Imvamune from Canada’s National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, with other jurisdictions able to receive some supply.

In April, Public Services and Procurement Canada submitted a tender to purchase 500,000 doses of the Imvamune vaccine between 2023 and 2028.

There is currently no need for mass immunizations, the PHAC says.

“I know Canadians are concerned,” Duclos said in a statement Tuesday. “The Government of Canada is prepared to respond to emerging public health events and takes precautions to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.”

The national laboratory received its first samples during the week of May 16, before announcing the first two cases of monkeypox identified in Quebec on May 19. That number rose to five cases the following day.

Since then, other possible cases of monkeypox have emerged in Canada. On Wednesday, Toronto public health authorities said they identified two new suspected cases in the city, along with one probable case currently under investigation.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that was first discovered among colonies of monkeys used for research. Historically, it has also been transmitted from animals to humans, with the first human case recorded in 1970. The virus can spread through close contact with an infected animal, human, or contaminated material.

The federal government is prepared to help provinces and territories develop their own means of testing for the disease in order to monitor it more easily, Duclos said.

“Our surveillance system is working, as is our testing system, though we will continue to refine both, including supporting provinces and territories in building their own testing capacities so cases can be identified and traced even more efficiently,” Duclos’ statement read.

The government will also provide updated guidance on preventing infection, as well as procedures around isolation and case management. Canadians can expect the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to provide additional guidance in the coming weeks as well.

In his statement, Duclos emphasized that the emergence of monkeypox is not the same as COVID-19, which quickly spiralled into a worldwide pandemic.

“I want to re-iterate to Canadians that this is a different situation than we saw ourselves in with the emergence of COVID-19,” Duclos’ statement read. “While global understanding of the monkeypox virus is still evolving, we do have a supply of vaccines, which we will be sure to maintain, and we are working hand-in-hand with our provincial and territorial counterparts to roll out our response plan as quickly as possible.”

In an effort to avoid contracting the disease, Canadians are advised to physically distance from those around them, frequently wash their hands and wear masks in crowded environments.

With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press

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Quebec bill would give Alzheimer’s patients access to medical aid in dying

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MONTREAL — Quebec has tabled a bill that would extend the province’s assisted death legislation to people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said today that Bill 38 would allow people with severe and incurable diseases to consent to an assisted death before they become mentally or physically incapable of doing so.

The bill comes after a special legislative committee recommended last December to expand end-of-life care.

Quebec’s medical aid in dying law requires that patients give written consent to an assisted death within 90 days of the procedure.

Patients with severe Alzheimer’s, however, are usually incapable of offering clear and informed consent and are therefore prohibited under law from accessing medical aid in dying.

Bill 38 was tabled late in the legislative session and will only be adopted before the summer break — and the fall election — if it receives unanimous support from all five parties.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 25, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

The Canadian Press

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B.C. launches Canada’s first lung cancer screening program for high-risk residents

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia has launched the country’s first provincewide lung cancer screening program for residents who are at high risk of getting the disease.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the innovative program will both save lives and improve their quality.

Screening will be available at 36 centres across all health authorities using existing CT scans for those who are between 55 and 74, currently smoking or have previously smoked, and have a smoking history of 20 years or more.

People who meet that criteria are encouraged to call the program for a consultation and risk assessment to determine eligibility.

Dr. Stephen Lam, medical director of the screening program, says lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and worldwide.

He says 70 per cent of all cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage and the program aims to change that trend by detecting lung cancers earlier when treatment is more effective.

Dr. David Byers, CEO of the Provincial Health Services Authority, credits BC Cancer for making the launch possible, adding a centralized system will reduce the burden of cancer, “including among Indigenous people, who are disproportionately impacted by lung cancer.”

BC Cancer says that after an appointment, a radiologist would look for spots, or nodules, on a scan, and both the patient and their primary care provider would get results within three weeks.

It says screening works best when scans are done regularly to monitor for any changes.

The Health Ministry says in a release that an estimated 10,000 patients are expected to be screened in the first year of the program, and that number is expected to jump by about 15 per cent per year.

“It is estimated the program will diagnose approximately 150 lung cancer cases annually, with more than 75 per cent of these diagnosed at an earlier stage than without screening.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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