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More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, BC provincial health agency says – Nanaimo News Bulletin

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The health of B.C. residents would be jeopardized if it provided more data about how COVID-19 was affecting individual cities, according to the provincial health agency responsible for the BC Centre for Disease Control.

The mayors of several Fraser Valley municipalities have written the province, saying better city-level data would help municipalities better respond to the pandemic.

But the Provincial Health Services Authority has justified redacting city-specific data in documents released to The News by saying the information could threaten someone’s “safety or mental or physical health” if it was made public. The province also suggests individual’s privacy could be compromised by the release of city-level data – even for those municipalities with hundreds of cases.

Last month, The News filed a freedom of information request more granular data on how COVID-19 is affecting different parts of Abbotsford and the Lower Mainland. Currently, the province only provides daily data on the B.C.’s six provincial health authorities and weekly data on 16 “Health Service Delivery Areas,” most of which span multiple cities and are home to hundreds of thousands of people

The province responded to The News’s request with figures for individual Local Health Areas – which roughly correspond to the boundaries of Abbotsford and hundreds of other B.C. cities and towns. But the information only includes monthly data for August and September. The BC CDC has also released community-level figures for October. But the province has balked at releasing more information about how COVID-19, despite pleas by politicians and journalists who have asked for more comprehensive and timely city-level data.

Recently, the mayors of several Lower Mainland municipalities jointly wrote a letter to the province saying better city-level data would help.

“A better understanding of community transmission levels will help us make informed decisions regarding our facilities and the associated safety plans,” they wrote in a letter to Premier John Horgan. “More detailed local COVID-19 data will also guide our decision-making and resource allocation processes while working with local businesses and community organizations as they work to stay safe, open and economically viable.”

The Kootenay East Regional District made a similar plea to Interior Health. That health authority responded that they are following the provincial rules for reporting COVID-19 cases.

“As this is a provincial approach to reporting, I have asked that our Medical health Officers and Epidemiology team raise this issue with their provincial counterparts and colleagues in other health authorities for further discussion,” chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers wrote.

So far the province has deemed that releasing any more detailed information would jeopardize the health of some people. It hasn’t clarified how, exactly, releasing any municipal information would hurt people.

In the document released to The News, officials redacted the number of cases confirmed in each Local Health Area during two two-week time periods in September and October. Officials cited two sections of British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacty Act for the redactions. The PHSA declared that the redactions were necessary because the release of the figures would “be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy” and/or “would be harmful to a third party’s personal privacy.”

The News has asked the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to review the redactions.

It’s not clear why information cannot be released for at least some of the Local Health Areas. Regular data is already released on a weekly basis for Richmond and Vancouver – the only two municipalities that are also considered Health Service Delivery Areas. The province already releases data regularly for such HSDAs, the size and population of which very vary greatly.

While the BC CDC releases data on the number of people in the Northeast health region, where fewer than 80,000 people live, it says privacy and safety concerns prohibit it from providing the same information for Surrey, where more than half-a-million people live.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
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45 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Island Health – CHEK

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British Columbia health officials have reported 485 new cases – including 45 in Island Health – and four deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

The number of confirmed cases in B.C. climbs to 65,719 while the province’s death toll now stands at 1,172.

Of the new cases, 115 were recorded in Vancouver Coastal Health, 210 were in Fraser Health, 45 in Island Health, 83 in Interior Health, and 32 in Northern Health.

There are currently 4,299 active cases in the province, 303 people in hospital — 74 of whom are in intensive care — and 6,520 people under active public health monitoring due to possible exposure to an identified case.

A total of 58,778 people in B.C. have recovered from COVID-19 and 124,365 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across, 4,160 of which are second doses.

Today’s data was released by health officials in a statement to the media.

More to come

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Calgary company begins clinical trials for Canadian-made COVID vaccine candidate – HalifaxToday.ca

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A prospective COVID-19 vaccine touted as a made-in-Canada response has begun human clinical trials in Toronto, and the company says it’s already preparing a followup that will target more infectious variants.

Providence Therapeutics of Calgary says if all goes well, it could start manufacturing millions of doses of its first prospective vaccine by the end of the year, guaranteeing a Canadian stockpile that wouldn’t be subject to global supply pressures or competition.

That’s if the formulation proves safe and effective, of course. 

Among the challenges of developing a vaccine amid a raging pandemic is the uncertainty of how more infectious variants now emerging will complicate the COVID battle. 

Even if successful, by the time Providence Therapeutics releases its vaccine hopeful, much of the country could be in the throes of a more infectious virus that does not respond to this formulation, said company CEO Brad Sorenson. 

“We don’t believe that this is going to be resolved by a single vaccine,” said Sorenson, whose biotech also produces a personalized mRNA-based vaccine against cancer.

It’s a challenge now facing Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which have each said its products appear to respond well to the variant initially identified in the United Kingdom, and to a lesser degree, the variant first detected in South Africa.

Moderna said earlier this week it plans to test two booster vaccines aimed at the variant associated with South Africa.

Sorenson said Providence is already internally testing a vaccine candidate that targets the variants, and he hoped to begin clinical trials by the end of the year.

“We believe that there’s going to be a need to be in a position of readiness to be able to respond as these variants are coming up, and to be able to make sure that we have that capacity.”

That doesn’t mean Providence is changing production runs just yet. 

Sorenson said the immediate focus is to establish the safety and efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed PTX-COVID19-B and designed in the early days of the pandemic last March.

It uses messenger RNA technology and focuses on the spike protein located on the surface of a coronavirus that initiates infection, similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products.

The trial involves 60 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 25 who will be monitored for 13 months, with the first results expected in February. 

The subjects are divided into four groups of 15, three of which will get three different doses. The fourth group gets a placebo.

Sorenson said immediate pandemic efforts should be focused on the novel coronavirus currently devastating many parts of the country.

“It’s a matter of capacity. Right now these variants are there, they’re concerning, and we’re keeping a close eye on it, but that’s not predominantly what the needs of the population are,” said Sorenson.

“Right now the needs of the population are still tied to the primary spike protein virus that’s out there and is ravaging around the world.”

Sorenson said his next vaccine candidate takes a broader approach by attempting to elicit a T-cell response, thereby creating a longer-term vaccine “and cover what we believe would be a lot more variants.”

“We have to prove it out, but we believe that if we are successful that it will allow for a much more durable immunity and a much broader immunity.”

The other goal is to prepare for large-scale manufacturing in Calgary, if all goes well with the trials and approval process.

Sorenson said doses for the Phase 1 trial are being made in Toronto, but the plan is to commercially manufacture the completed vaccine through a contract with the Calgary-based Northern RNA Inc.

That won’t be up and running by the end of the year, Sorenson allowed, so the short-term plan is to send raw materials made in Canada to a plant in the United States that would make the commercial product.

Eventually, the whole process would be completed in Canada, he said.

“We’re building the entire chain within Canada, so we’re not going to run into a problem where this particular input into the vaccine is unavailable,” he said.

Much of this also depends on financial support from the federal government, Sorenson added.

While the National Research Council of Canada has backed Phase 1 trials, Sorenson said he’s awaiting word on further support. He’d also like Ottawa to back Providence’s efforts to address the new COVID variants.

“They’ve already recognized the importance of mRNA technology. What they don’t realize is the power of mRNA technology to be responsive to these challenges that are coming up,” he said.

“Hopefully the politicians and the people that cut the cheques and write the policies that give direction to the bureaucrats will hear that and we’ll start seeing a more concerted approach that looks at a fuller picture.”

Pending regulatory approval, Sorenson said a larger, international Phase 2 trial may start in May with seniors, younger subjects and pregnant people, followed by an even broader Phase 3 trial.

The Providence project is just one of several Canadian efforts underway to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The biopharmaceutical company Medicago, based in Quebec City, began clinical trials on its plant-based candidate last July. If successful, the company has said manufacturing would take place in Durham, N.C., until it can complete a large-scale manufacturing facility set for Quebec City.

And last month, Health Canada gave the green light to the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan to launch its Phase 1 clinical vaccine trial.

Infectious disease expert Jason Kindrachuk, who works with VIDO but is not involved with its vaccine candidate, said a varied vaccine strategy will be key to controlling the pandemic. 

“Vaccines are not necessarily a one-size-fits-all and maybe with this pandemic, people are getting a greater appreciation for some of the logistical hurdles of trying to transport vaccines. Cold chain storage is not something most people knew about or thought about prior to COVID and everybody in the community now I think has heard about it,” said Kindrachuk, a visiting scientist from the University of Manitoba and Canada Research Chair.

“This is something that, in regards to vaccine development, we really have to put a lot of thought into as a research community because of the fact that we have to make vaccines that are accessible for the communities that are ultimately going to be treated with them.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott acknowledged Tuesday that appetite was strong for a homegrown answer but noted Providence was still a considerable ways from offering a viable option.

“First it has to go through the appropriate approval process, go through Health Canada to make sure that it’s going to be satisfactory and safe and efficacious,” said Elliott.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

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COVID-19: What you need to know for January 27 – TVO

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This article was last updated on Wednesday at 10:32 a.m.

  • According to data as of January 25, there are 745 new cases in Toronto, for a total of 83,474 since the pandemic began; six of them are in hospital. In total, six people have died.
  • Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), said data from Public Health Ontario suggests that the COVID-19 variant is now present in the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, formerly known as Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene, reports CBC. Further testing is still required to confirm if the variant is one first detected in the United Kingdom.

  • Canada Post has said that customers “should expect delays with their parcels” as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak at a facility in Mississauga, reports CP24. In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, Canada Post said that they are aware of 224 positive cases at their Gateway facility since January 1, including a dozen that have come to light over the last 24 hours.

  • 22 support staff at Beverly School, a public school in Toronto’s downtown that serves students with developmental and physical disabilities, are refusing to work for a second consecutive day due to concerns about their safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reports CTV News. The Toronto District School Board has confirmed that there have been a total of five positive COVID-19 cases at Beverly School, one involving a student, one involving a staff member and three involving bus drivers.

  • Starting next month, Toronto will close its outdoor skating rinks to out-of-towners, reports the Toronto Star.The city’s park, forestry and recreation division said Tuesday that it had received “a number of complaints” to its customer service phone lines over the holidays about non-Torontonians making skate reservations online.
  • On Tuesday, Hamilton recorded eight new COVID deaths and a record-high 53 active outbreaks, reports the Hamilton Spectator. Of the city’s 53 outbreaks, more than half are in retirement homes, long-term-care homes and hospitals, six are in workplaces, four are in shelters and two are in daycares.

  • In reponse to reporting by the Hamilton Spectator on the tragic conditions workers at the Grave Villa long-term-care home, APANS Health Services, which operates the home has said, “the safety of our residents, staff and family members is paramount and these statements are deeply concerning,” said CEO Mary Raithby to the newspaper. Workers at the home sent letters and emails to their local MPP’s detailing conditions at the home, which has become the site of Hamilton’s deadliest outbreak.

  • Hospitals in Hamilton won’t say how many staff go vaccinated sooner than they should have. As the Hamilton Spectator reports, staff were able to evaluate which priority group they fell into, thus determining when they would get their first dose. Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare both say most staff registered correctly, but would not confirm how many people did not. The paper also reports that Hamilton’s medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, could not say on Monday how many staff or residents are left to vaccinate in long-term care homes, or how many people in Hamilton have been vaccinated overall. She said that while staff know who has been vaccinated, Ontario’s system does not allow for a breakdown of the numbers.
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