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N.L. to start vaccinating children for COVID-19 on Saturday –



Children can be vaccinated in schools or at community vaccination clinics, say healthy officials. (Lisa Leutner/The Associated Press)

Children ages five to 11 in Newfoundland and Labrador can receive the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine at mass vaccination clinics beginning Saturday, and appointments can be booked now.

“Barring any new and unexpected developments, this is the last major hurdle we need to get through in the COVID-19 marathon,” said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health, at a media conference Tuesday afternoon.

The news comes after Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids age five to 11 on Friday.

Fitzgerald said Pfizer’s clinical trials have shown the vaccine to be 90.7 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection in children five to 11, and no serious side effects have been identified.

Health Minister John Haggie said the first shipment of the pediatric vaccine is expected to arrive within the next 48 hours, and by Friday the province should have enough to vaccinate all eligible children in N.L.

The vaccine will be available for children through schools and community clinics, and parents can choose their preferred option.

Fitzgerald said there are about 35,000 children in the province eligible for the vaccine.

“I strongly encourage parents and guardians of children in this age category to make the choice for your child to be vaccinated,” she said.


Like the adult version of the vaccine, the pediatric version will be administered in two doses. 

Haggie said parents should start getting notifications about the availability of the vaccine in the next day, with other reminders to follow.

“This is the final brick in the wall,” Haggie said.

Watch the full Nov. 23 update:

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The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended that children do not receive the COVID-19 vaccine within two weeks of receiving another vaccine, Haggie said.

He said the vaccines will be rolled out through the regional health authorities, the school district and the Department of Education. The regional health authorities will make announcements about vaccinations within schools on their websites, he said.

Children can be vaccinated through a community clinic beginning Saturday or through school beginning next week, and parents can choose whichever option is most convenient, said Haggie. Parents and guardians will need to sign a consent form before their child can be vaccinated in schools.

“There’s choice here,” he said.

Haggie noted that parents should make sure to select the option for children ages five to 11 if they are booking an appointment through a community vaccination clinic.

Safe and effective, say officials

No children have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, but Fitzgerald pointed to instances across the country where children have entered the ICU due to COVID-19. She said the vaccine will help alleviate the more severe impact of the delta variant.

“We always say delta finds the unvaccinated,” she said.

Fitzgerald said the vaccine will help achieve a sense of normalcy for children and allow them to socialize safely.

“While kids are not as severely affected by COVID-19, they have been more severely affected by the pandemic itself,” she said. 

“Barring any new and unexpected developments, this is the last major hurdle we need to get through in the COVID-19 marathon,” said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

She noted that vaccinating children will help prevent the disease from spreading to adults, and provide a greater portion of the province’s population with immunity. 

Modelling suggests that 90 per cent of the total population of Newfoundland and Labrador must be vaccinated in order to safely lift all public health restrictions, said Fitzgerald.

Dr. Natalie Bridger, a pediatric infectious disease physician, noted the effectiveness of other vaccines in children.

“In Newfoundland and Labrador we no longer have to worry about our children becoming paralyzed by polio. We almost never see cases of measles. We don’t see babies being born blind from congenital rubella anymore. This is all because of vaccines.”

She acknowledged that some parents may have reservations about vaccines, but said she is confident in the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in children.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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CN trains rolling again after B.C. tracks repaired amid mounting backlogs –



Amid growing backlogs, Canadian National Railway Co. says trains are moving again in southern British Columbia after the third atmospheric river in two weeks descended on the region.

CN says service resumed Sunday after crews worked around the clock on the Vancouver-Kamloops corridor, which was first cut by mudslides and washouts amid torrential rain in mid-November.

The country’s largest railroad operator restored limited activity along the vital supply link late last month before opting to close the line again a week ago as more downpours triggered further flooding, landslides and debris.

“CN crews will continue to monitor both the rail infrastructure as well as the terrain over the coming days and weeks,” CN spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis said in an email.

An aerial view of the Port of Vancouver taken Nov. 21. After service was suspended due to weather-related track damage, freight is now moving by rail again in and out of the city’s port. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The restored connection will allow freight to flow to and from the Port of Vancouver and begin to clear the massive backlogs of incoming shipping containers and outgoing grain.

The repaired lines will also allow Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, which shares tracks with CN through part of the Fraser Valley, to boost its shipments.

End of year is a critical time for shipment of grain — canola in particular — with the bulk of Canadian grain transported via rail to B.C. ports.

Some can be diverted to Prince Rupert, B.C., the United States or Thunder Bay, Ont., but the window for the latter is nearly closed as winter ice looms, while rail cargo generally is hard to divert en masse.

“Regardless of when the traffic on the mainlines resume handling normal levels of traffic, the reverberations back through the grain supply chain in Western Canada (and all commodities) will be measured in months,” Steve Pratte, policy manager at the Canadian Canola Growers Association, said in an email.

Grain strain

The backlog of Prairie grain may lose much of its value if trains can’t ship it to port before spring, when prices typically drop amid heightened global supply, according to the Western Grain Elevator Association.

Contract extension penalties and demurrage fees — issued by a shipping line when freight exceeds the time allotted at a terminal — also present a threat for farmers and grain elevators trying to clear out brimming barns and silos.

The number of grain cars unloaded at West Coast ports dropped by 83 per cent year over year in the third week of November, according to the federal grain monitoring program’s latest update.

As of Nov. 28, there were 24 grain vessels at berth or at anchor around the Port of Vancouver waiting for deliveries of up to 1.4 million tonnes of grain — mainly wheat, canola and barley — the update states.

“These shipments are critical to ensure that Canadian farms get the cash flow required to cover the operating costs accumulated through the season, and it is a race against winter every year to try to get as much grain to port before winter conditions settle in,” Geoff Backman, markets manager at the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commission, said in a statement.

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SEC probing Tesla after whistleblower alleges company hid solar panel fire risk –



The U.S. securities regulator has opened an investigation into Tesla Inc. over a whistleblower complaint that the company failed to properly notify its shareholders and the public of fire risks associated with solar panel system defects over several years, according to a letter from the agency.

The probe raises regulatory pressure on the world’s most valuable automaker, which already faces a federal safety probe into accidents involving its driver assistant systems. Concerns about fires from Tesla solar systems have been published previously, but this is the first report of investigation by the securities regulator.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosed the Tesla probe in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Steven Henkes, a former Tesla field quality manager, who filed a whistleblower complaint on the solar systems in 2019 and asked the agency for information about the report.

“We have confirmed with Division of Enforcement staff that the investigation from which you seek records is still active and ongoing,” the SEC said in a Sept. 24 response to Henkes, declining his request to provide its records. The SEC official said the letter should not be taken as an indication by the agency that violations of law had occurred.

Reuters was able to confirm the response.

Safety violations

Henkes, a former Toyota Motor quality division manager, was fired from Tesla in August 2020, and he sued Tesla, claiming the dismissal was in retaliation for raising safety concerns. Tesla did not respond to Reuters’ emailed questions, while the SEC declined to comment.

In the SEC complaint, Henkes said Tesla and SolarCity, which it acquired in 2016, did not disclose its “liability and exposure to property damage, risk of injury of users, fire etc to shareholders” prior and after the acquisition.

Tesla also failed to notify its customers that defective electrical connectors could lead to fires, according to the complaint.

Tesla told consumers that it needed to conduct maintenance on the solar panel system to avoid a failure that could shut down the system. It did not warn of fire risks, offer temporary shutdown to mitigate risk, or report the problems to regulators, Henkes said.

The whistleblower alleges that more than 60,000 residential customers were sold solar panels that were defective and dangerous. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

More than 60,000 residential customers in the U.S. and 500 government and commercial accounts were affected by the issue, according to his lawsuit filed in November last year against Tesla Energy over wrongful termination.

It is not clear how many of those remain after Tesla’s remediation program.

Safety calls ignored, whistleblower alleges

Henkes, a longtime quality manager at Toyota’s North American quality division, moved to SolarCity as a quality engineer in 2016, months before Tesla acquired SolarCity. After the acquisition, his duties changed and he became aware of the widespread problem, he told Reuters.

Henkes, in the SEC complaint, said he told Tesla management that Tesla needs to shut down the fire-prone solar systems, report to safety regulators and notify consumers. When his calls were ignored, he proceeded to file complaints with regulators.

“The top lawyer cautioned any communication of this issue to the public as a detriment to the Tesla reputation. For me this is criminal,” he said in the SEC complaint.

Litigation and concerns over faulty connectors and Tesla solar system issues stretch back several years. Walmart in a 2019 lawsuit against Tesla said the latter’s roof solar system led to seven store fires. Tesla denied the allegations and the two settled.

Business Insider reported Tesla’s program to replace defective solar panel parts in 2019.

Several residential customers or their insurers have sued Tesla and parts supplier Amphenol over fires related to their solar systems, according to documents provided by legal transparency group PlainSite.

Henkes also filed a complaint with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which CNBC reported this year was investigating the case. CPSC and Amphenol didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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COVID-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir to be manufactured in Canada – CTV News



Merck Canada announced on Monday that it is partnering with Thermo Fisher Scientific to manufacture the investigational COVID-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir at a facility in Whitby, Ont., for distribution to global markets.

The Canadian location will produce doses of molnupiravir, developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, for distribution in Canada, the U.K., the European Union, Asia Pacific, and Latin America, pending approvals in those respective regions. The drug is awaiting approval by Health Canada.

The facility was chosen because of its capacity, capability, and the speed with which it is able to produce the drug, Merck Canada’s new president Marwan Akar said during a press conference.

Thermo Fisher’s existing Whitby manufacturing site is one of three locations in the world that will produce molnupiravir.

“We are marking a very key milestone, and rebuilding Canada’s biomanufacturing capability,” Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne said during the news conference.

“We’ll be producing COVID medications for Canadians and indeed for the world…so to me this is a very big step in how we intend to reveal our biomanufacturing sector in Canada.”

Earlier in the pandemic, Canada came under criticism for its inability to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines domestically, leaving Ottawa reliant on U.S. and European manufacturers to produce and provide doses.

Minister Champagne said the latest announcement is part of the government’s efforts to ensure Canada is better prepared and that “we redesign the supply chain so whatever may come next, we would be ready.”

The new manufacturing deal will also help Ontario’s economic recovery with a $19 million capital investment supporting more than 50 high-paying jobs in the region, according to Victor Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

Last week, the federal government signed a deal with Merck to purchase 500,000 molnupiravir pills, with an option for another half million, pending approval. Request for approval of the drug was submitted in August.

Antiviral drug treatments are considered another tool in the fight against COVID-19, experts say, after personal protective equipment, testing, and vaccines.

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