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More protection: U.S. likely to authorize COVID booster shots – Rimbey Review

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After struggling for months to persuade Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine, U.S. health officials could soon face a fresh challenge: talking vaccinated people into getting booster shots to gain longer-lasting protection as the delta variant sends infections soaring again.

As early as this week, U.S. health authorities are expected to recommend an extra dose of the vaccine for all Americans eight months after they get their second shot, according to two people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

That means the biggest vaccination drive in U.S. history is about to get even more extensive.

The move is being driven by both the highly contagious variant and preliminary evidence that the vaccine’s protective effect starts dropping within months.

The new urgency from U.S. officials reflects how quickly the variant has knocked the country back on its heels. On July Fourth, President Joe Biden proclaimed that the nation was declaring its independence from the virus. But since then, infections, hospitalizations and deaths have increased nationwide, overloading emergency rooms across parts of the South and West.

When Pfizer announced plans in July to apply for approval for boosters, U.S. officials shot back that it was too early to know whether they were needed. Experts worried that a new campaign calling for boosters would muddle the continuing campaign to win over the tens of millions of Americans who are skeptical or hesitant to get their first shots.

“We have to really make sure that while we’re spending a lot of time and effort on third doses that we don’t undermine our campaign for first vaccinations,” Lawrence Gostin, a public health specialist at Georgetown University, said Tuesday. “That’s truly the existential crisis in the United States.”

Calling for third doses could discourage people who had been skeptical of the shot’s effectiveness in the first place, Gostin warned.

Booster shots would only begin to be administered widely once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves the vaccines, which are being dispensed for now under what is known as emergency use authorization. Full approval of the Pfizer shot is expected in the coming weeks.

Last week, U.S. health officials recommended boosters for some people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients.

The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, said Sunday the U.S. could decide in the next couple of weeks whether to offer booster shots this fall to other Americans as well.

Among the first to receive them could be health care workers, nursing home residents and other older Americans, who were some of the first to be vaccinated once the shots were authorized last December.

More than 198 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or 70% of those who are eligible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just under 60% of Americans 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Those numbers are well below where the Biden administration wanted the U.S. to be by now. At the same time, the variant is spreading aggressively through unvaccinated communities and also causing an increasing number of “breakthrough infections” of fully inoculated people.

Studies show the vaccine remains highly protective against severe COVID-19, but results from Israel released last month suggest its effect wanes. Its effectiveness against symptomatic infection peaked at 96% two months after study participants got their second dose. Four months later, it was down to 90%. By six months, it was about 84%.

Israel, which exclusively administered the Pfizer shot, has been offering a booster to people over 50 to control its delta surge. Researchers are still trying to understand to what extent the breakthrough infections are due to waning immunity or vulnerability to the delta variant.

On Tuesday, European medical regulators said they are talking with vaccine developers about the need for boosters but haven’t made any decisions.

On Monday, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced they submitted data to the FDA to support authorizing a booster shot for the general public. Pfizer said a small study showed people who received a third dose had higher levels of antibodies against several versions of the coronavirus, including the delta variant. The company is working on a larger study.

Americans who received the earliest doses of Pfizer’s vaccine — mainly health care workers and nursing home residents — are approaching the eight-month mark from when they received their second dose.

“There is a concern that the vaccine may start to wane in its effectiveness,” the NIH’s Collins said. “And delta is a nasty one for us to try to deal with. The combination of those two means we may need boosters, maybe beginning first with health care providers, as well as people in nursing homes, and then gradually moving forward” with others.

He said because the variant only started hitting the country hard in July, the next couple of weeks of case data will help the U.S. make a decision.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are administered in two doses. Officials are continuing to collect information as well about the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was only approved in the U.S. in late February, to determine when to recommend boosters.

The White House has said that even though the U.S. has begun sharing more than 110 million vaccine doses with the rest of the world, the nation has enough to deliver boosters to Americans.

Global health officials, including the World Health Organization, have called on wealthier and more-vaccinated countries to hold off on booster shots to ensure the supply of first doses for people in poor corners of the world.

—Zeke Miller And Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press

RELATED: Are we going to need COVID-19 booster shots?

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Flu surges on heels of RSV, COVID-19 to overwhelm children’s hospitals in Canada – Lacombe Express

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A flu season that started early, hospitalized far more children than usual and overwhelmed emergency departments has revealed that Canada’s health-care system is chronically underfunded when it comes to the most vulnerable citizens, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist says.

Dr. Jesse Papenburg, who works at Montreal Children’s Hospital, said a system that was already struggling with a surge of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, on the heels of COVID-19 is now overwhelmed in much of the country.

“Certainly, Ontario and Alberta in particular have been hit very hard with an early and really quite explosive influenza season in pediatrics when it comes to more severe disease requiring complex hospitalization. And we’re also observing in Montreal as well that our influenza admissions are really starting to pick up,” he said.

The last week of November saw the highest number of pediatric hospitalizations for a single week in the past decade, said Papenburg, who is also an investigator for IMPACT, a program that monitors hospitalizations for vaccine-preventable diseases at 12 children’s hospitals across the country.

A typical flu season sees about 1,000 kids admitted to hospital. Due to pandemic public health measures, he said last season saw only 400 and there were none the season before that.

Up to the end of November, over 700 children had been hospitalized with the H3N2 strain of the flu, which typically takes a toll on older adults. But the season could continue until March or April, Papenburg said of the unexpected epidemic.

“When you’re already stretched to the limit under normal circumstances and there’s something exceptional that takes place, it really has a greater impact on the type of care that we can deliver to Canadian children,” he said. “It’s unacceptable, in my view, that this is happening, that we are having to delay important surgeries for children because we need those resources for dealing with acute respiratory infections.”

While the number of RSV hospitalizations is stabilizing, there’s still a “significant burden of disease requiring complex hospitalization,” he said of the Montreal hospital.

Alex Munter, president of Ottawa pediatric hospital CHEO, said the Red Cross will be helping take some of the pressure off critical-care staff starting this week.

He said two teams of nine people will work rotating overnight shifts and that some will be porters while others get supplies or sit with patients.

“Having these Red Cross teams on-site will allow us to send back redeployed staff to their home base,” he said.

“The test positivity rate last week for flu was 30 per cent compared to 10 per cent at the end of October. That’s a big increase and it’s still climbing so flu hospitalizations are increasing and RSV is plateauing,” Munter said.

CHEO, including its emergency department and urgent care clinic, is also getting help from pediatricians, family doctors and nurses in the community while some patients are being transferred to adult hospitals, Munter said.

“We can’t run our hospital this way in perpetuity. I think the moral of the story here is that we have undersized child and youth health system in Canada.”

SickKids in Toronto continues to see high patient volumes in the pediatric intensive care unit and since November has reduced the number of surgeries so staff can be redeployed to provide care in that unit.

“We have been co-ordinating closely with other hospital partners that have the ability to care for some pediatric patients,” the hospital said in a statement, adding it is not currently seeking staffing support from external organizations.

Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room doctor at both the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, said a temporary closure of a pediatric hospice in Calgary is “tragic” as staff are being diverted to a children’s hospital.

“It means that kids who are dying are not getting the palliative and comfort care that they deserve and need, and that acute care is taking priority over that,” Mithani said.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has said Ottawa recently gave provinces an additional $2 billion as calls grow for both levels of government to do more to help hospitals facing unprecedented challenges.

Mithani said funding has to be targeted for children’s hospitals and could also go to staffing after-hours clinics, for example.

She said people planning large indoor gatherings over Christmas and for New Year’s Eve should consider scaling back, while schools should transition to temporary online learning if they have a large number of viral illnesses

Health officials also need to make a concerted effort to educate the public on the importance of vaccination amid misinformation on social media, Mithani said.

“The most vulnerable people in our society are suffering as a result of the decisions that adults made. That’s what’s happening here, that kids are suffering from the poor decisions of adult decision-makers who can’t seem to do the right thing in order to protect our kids.”

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These are some of the advantages of childcare!

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The teaching staff at the daycare encourages interaction between the children by, for example, playing music together, letting them play on the activity mat, or playing games with them. Other ways that interaction is encouraged to include having them play on the activity mat. Your youngster will begin to develop basic social skills in this manner. They also develop the skills to make friends, stand up for themselves when they are bullied, and share with their fellow students as they get older.

When a child attends child care, they will learn…

There are millions of children who spend each day having fun, discovering new things, and playing at one of the hundreds of childcare centers across the country. Child care is a great option not just for working parents but also for the children of those parents, who can reap the countless benefits that child care has to offer. Child care is a fantastic choice for both working parents and their children.

Children are given access to a safe and nurturing environment in which they are encouraged to investigate the world around them. At the same time, they are given the opportunity to learn essential skills that will enable them to be successful in both their academic endeavours and in life more generally. The following are reasons why it is beneficial to both you and your child for you to enroll your child in an early education program at a childcare center.

Capability to communicate with other people

If a child begins visiting a childcare facility at the earliest possible age, it will be of great benefit to their overall social and emotional development. Children have the potential to develop when they learn to engage with people, such as at Daycare Calgary NW or another location. The earlier in life that children begin this process, the simpler it will be for them to mature.

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The capacity for reflection and investigation

A childcare facility that is of high quality will offer a variety of activities and educational games to the children who are enrolled there. These activities and games have the potential to have a positive impact on the cognitive development of children. In addition to acquiring linguistic skills, they will also gain familiarity with shapes, colour schemes, and numerical values.

While taking part in this activity, young people have the opportunity to increase both their general knowledge of the world and their capacity for critical thought. This is still another advantage. In order to make learning more appealing to the children in their care, a good daycare center will, on a daily basis, involve the children in a variety of educational activities. Many of these activities will be presented to the children in the guise of “play,” but their true purpose will be to educate them.

A lesson plan that has been carefully considered

Each and every daycare center has a set of pedagogical guidelines that have been thoroughly analyzed. This provides an overview of the concept that underpins the nursery’s approach to interacting with children. For instance, one of the concepts is to incentivize forward movement. Not only does your kid pick up a lot of social skills at daycare, but they also improve their important motor skills, creative abilities, and cognitive abilities, all while being challenged. The educational staff participates in a variety of activities, such as movement games, reading books, playing outside, and producing music with the student. These activities all contribute to the kids’ development. The development of language is helped by intentionally naming objects and repeatedly using words.

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B.C. to start public push to get more kids vaccinated against flu as cases climb

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia health officials are urging parents to get their young children vaccinated against influenza ahead of the holiday season as the province deals with crowded emergency rooms.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said after two years of low rates of flu, mostly due to travel restrictions, the province is seeing a “dramatic increase” in illness and it arrived sooner than normal.

“We know, much more than COVID, influenza can cause more severe illness in children, especially young children, and it can lead to secondary bacterial infections with things like streptococcus and pneumococcus that can cause very severe pneumonia,” she said Monday.

“And so that’s the concern that we have now.”

Henry said there is still time for people to get a flu vaccine to protect themselves and their children, especially as the holiday season approaches.

“We’re starting to see the impact of a large number of children who haven’t been exposed to influenza for a few years and a small proportion of them are getting severely ill,” she said.

“So now’s the time to really make a difference and get that vaccine now.”

According to the most recent numbers from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, for the week of Nov. 20, 169 patients were in BC Children’s Hospital with some form of a respiratory virus. Of those, 71 had influenza.

Henry said the province started seeing influenza numbers climb about two weeks ago and that the flu season typically lasts about two months.

While the province is on track for a record number of people getting their flu shot this year, Dr. Penny Ballem, with BC Vaccine Operations, said Monday that only 20 per cent of children under five have been vaccinated.

The government will be using its provincial health registry to contact parents in an attempt to increase that number.

Ballem said they’ll be sending texts and emails to the families of about 150,000 children under five who are not part of the province’s vaccine booking system and inviting them to make appointments.

She said there’s also a significant social media campaign from the government and health authorities encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said visits to provincial emergency rooms had been averaging 6,700 per day, but that is now peaking up to 6,900 patients daily, with extra pressure on BC Children’s and Fraser Health hospitals.

B.C. Children’s briefly called a code orange on Saturday, a step sometimes used in mass casualty events. It was lifted 28 minutes later.

Dix said it was determined the code did not need to be enacted in order to make the mandatory overtime call-out, which was required at the time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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