Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 16, 2021 9:34AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 16, 2021 3:13PM EDT
OTTAWA – The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says there is now enough “real-world evidence” to show the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective for seniors.
The decision reverses a recommendation made by the body two weeks ago when the panel of vaccine experts said AstraZeneca hadn’t included enough people over the age of 65 in its clinical trials. As such NACI didn’t recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine be used on seniors, and instead said they should be given either the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or Moderna.
“You have to realize that when we issued a recommendation on March 1, there was only one real-world effectiveness study that had been issued,” said NACI chair Dr. Caroline Quach at a virtual news conference Tuesday morning. “And that study that we will discuss a bit further, later on was not deemed of sufficient quality to modify policy.”
Quach said two more studies of patients who received the vaccine in the United Kingdom have been released since then and show the AstraZeneca vaccine is both safe and effective for seniors, particularly against severe disease and hospitalization.
The NACI still says because clinical trial data suggests the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are more effective than AstraZeneca‘s, they should be prioritized for seniors and other high-risk populations.
But Quach also said real-world data on the vaccines since they began being widely used shows similar levels of effectiveness. She said the NACI is looking at those studies more closely now.
Provincial governments will now have to decide if they revise how they use the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Most provinces, with the notable exception of Quebec, heeded NACI’s advice and set aside the AstraZeneca vaccine for younger populations. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario began using it for residents between 60 and 64, for example. British Columbia targeted it to workers in high-risk jobs like food processing or in work camps, and Prince Edward Island set it aside for 18-to-29-year-olds working in restaurants and bars, or delivering food.
AstraZeneca‘s news comes as more warnings emerge in Ontario about the arrival of a third wave of COVID-19. Chief medical officer Dr. David Williams warned Monday it could be happening, while the province’s “science advisory table” said Tuesday it is happening.
The group, which provides independent advice and analysis to the province, says two-thirds of Ontario’s public health units are seeing “exponential growth” in cases, and that almost half the new cases are now the more transmissible viral variants of concern.
However Ontario reported almost 1,100 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, which was down from nearly 1,750 on Sunday and 1,268 on Monday.
Canada vaccinated almost 125,000 people Monday, the highest one-day total so far. More than 3.2 million doses have been administered to date, with 2.6 million Canadians receiving at least one dose.
Provinces have some time to reconsider their AstraZeneca plans, since most report the majority of the 500,000 doses delivered last week have now been spoken for and the next shipment of a million doses from that manufacturer isn’t expected until April.
By then the concerns about blood clots and the vaccine could be settled. More European countries have shelved the vaccine pending further review of reports some patients developed blood clots, though Health Canada says there is no biological evidence that would link the vaccine to a blood clot.
The company said a study of more than 17 million patients who received the vaccine did not identify any blood clots that were caused by the vaccine, and Thrombosis Canada also issued a statement saying the vaccine is safe.
The European Medicines Agency, which has not changed its authorization of the vaccine, is discussing the evidence today, and expects to report publicly by Thursday.
Several European nations have also reversed their initial decisions not to use AstraZeneca on seniors, including Germany, France and Italy.
Many experts say that despite some differences among the vaccines available, all that have been approved are safe and effective against COVID-19 and the best one to get is the first one you’re offered.
A new poll suggests more Canadians are heeding that advice.
Fifty-one per cent of respondents to the online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies say they will take whichever of the four COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada.
One-quarter said they would be willing to wait to get a shot they prefer.
Few provinces are offering a choice at the moment, though Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday he felt people should be offered one.
Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said concerns about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine don’t seem to be on Canadians’ minds.
“For now, there’s no real major issue exactly (with the AstraZeneca vaccine), but could it in light of what we’ve seen over the past couple of days? I don’t know,” Bourque said.
The online poll of 1,512 adult Canadians was carried out March 12 to 14 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based surveys are not considered random samples.
The poll also found that 41 per cent of respondents say they believe the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is behind us, while 25 per cent say we are now in the worst period.
Bourque said Canadians seem to feel that we’re rounding the corner as vaccination campaigns accelerate across the country.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2021.
-With files from Maan Alhmidi in Ottawa and Shawn Jeffords in Toronto
COVID-19: Ottawa adult vaccinations at 69 per cent; Ontario reports 192 new cases – Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa Public Health reported Friday that 69 per cent of adults in the capital are fully vaccinated.
According to the OPH vaccination dashboard, updated Friday morning, 591,639 people aged 18 and over have the two shots.
In all, 83 per cent of the population 12 years and older has received one dose.
Seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ottawa on Friday, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 27,268.
The death toll remains unchanged at 593.
Ottawa Public Health knows of 41 active cases in the region. However, there are no COVID-19 patients in hospital.
In indicators of interest, the rolling seven-day average of cases per 100,000 residents is 3.9, while the populations per cent positivity in testing is 0.5.
The reproductive number, the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, is 1.28.
Latest COVID-19 news in Ottawa
Ontario reported 192 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one new death on Friday.
While it’s the second week the province’s numbers have been below 200, confirmed cases have climbed significantly from Monday, when 130 new cases were reported.
Currently, there are 137 people in hospital in Ontario, with 136 in ICU due to COVID-related illness and 84 on a ventilator. (Ontario Public Health statistics of ICU hospitalizations and ventilator cases contain some patients who no longer test positive for COVID-19 but who are being treated for conditions caused by the virus.)
There have been 548,986 confirmed cases and 9,308 deaths since the pandemic began.
In health regions in the Ottawa area, Renfrew and District reported three new cases. There were no new cases reported in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Kingston or Leeds, Grenville and Lanark units.
Latest COVID-19 news in Quebec
Quebec reported 101 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death Friday morning.
Hospitalizations in the province declined by four patients, for a total of 67. The number of cases in ICU were unchanged at 21.
The province administered 94,624 additional vaccine doses were administered over the previous 24 hours.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 376,530 cases and 11,239 deaths linked to COVID-19.
Latest COVID-19 news in Canada
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam reported Friday that 46.7 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Canada, and more than 60 per cent of people over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated.
Dutch Teen Who Went to Space With Jeff Bezos Told Him He’s Never Bought Anything on Amazon – Gizmodo
The award for “Best Small Talk on a Flight to Space” goes to Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old from the Netherlands who was part of Blue Origin’s inaugural crewed flight to space earlier this week. On the roughly 10-minute flight, Daemon told Amazon founder Jeff Bezos what probably sounded like blasphemy to his billionaire ears: He had never bought anything on Amazon.
In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Daemen recounted his first flight to space, from when he got the call asking him if he was interested to the conversations he had with his crewmates, which included Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, and 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk. Daemen, whose father is the CEO of a private equity firm in the Netherlands, became the youngest person to ever fly to space, while Funk became the oldest.
The teen also holds the distinction of surprising Bezos, whose Amazon empire has made him one of the richest men in the world.
“I told Jeff, like, I’ve actually never bought something from Amazon,” Daemen told Reuters. “And he was like, ‘oh, wow, it’s [been] a long time [since] I heard someone say that.’”
Considering that Bezos thanked “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer” for making the flight possible after he and the crew returned to Earth, Daemen’s comments may have been a little awkward. However, it’s nice (and kind of funny) to hear that someone was frank with him. Bezos no doubt has enough people telling him that Amazon is God’s gift to humanity, so it’s cool to see one of the youths set him straight.
Daemen wasn’t originally supposed to go on the flight with Bezos and crew. He was offered the opportunity after the winner of the online auction for the seat, whose identity is still unknown and who paid a whopping $28 million for it, said they couldn’t go because of “scheduling conflicts.” Daemen, who was a participant in the auction and had already secured a spot on the second flight, was then moved up on the list. His father, Joes Daemen, paid for the seat.
According to Daemen, his family didn’t pay anything near what the mysterious bidder paid for the opportunity.
“We didn’t pay even close to $28 million, but they chose me because I was the youngest and I was also a pilot and I also knew quite a lot about it already,” he said.
The teen, who will begin his studies at Utrecht University in September, said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally, but would consider focusing on space travel. He also told the outlet that his fellow travelers were “super fun and all down to Earth.” Well, considering Daemen’s referring to a man that wants to stupidly move all polluting industry into space, I’m not sure I’m sold on that.
Congratulations on the award for that great small talk, though.
Several Ontario mass vaccination clinics wind down as focus shifts to smaller sites – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, July 23, 2021 1:37PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 23, 2021 1:37PM EDT
Several mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics across Ontario are winding down as first-dose registrations wane and communities shift their focus to smaller venues.
The large clinics held in local arenas, hospitals and recreation centres across the province have been a key part of the vaccine rollout that began in the winter.
Now that first-dose vaccination coverage has hovered at around 80 per cent for adults provincewide, many health units are beginning the transition to smaller, more targeted vaccination approaches.
“Our large-scale clinics are ending because they are no longer filling up,” the Northwestern Health Unit, which covers the city of Kenora, Ont., and surrounding communities, said in a statement this week as its mass clinics wrapped up operations. “Once they are over, we will provide the vaccine in our offices and at smaller clinics in the community.”
Grey Bruce, a current hot spot for the more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant, is also shutting down its mass clinics at the end of the month to return the large sites for community use.
The health unit is advising people with shots booked for August and beyond to reschedule, and is offering smaller clinics across the region that includes several rural areas.
People living in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region were urged this week to seek out their shots before the local health unit starts closing mass clinics the week of Aug. 6.
“I encourage people to take advantage of the thousands of available appointments at our clinics before we move to the next phase,” Rita Isley, director of community health for the region, said in a statement. “These last few weeks of our mass clinics are the easiest way to get your shot.”
The health unit said it will shift to small clinics and pop-ups “into the fall” after the last of the large clinics close on Aug. 20.
Larger cities are also following the trend, with Mississauga, Ont., aiming to close a convention centre used as a vaccination site on Monday, with another hospital clinic closing the next day.
Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the transition away from mass clinics is part of the city’s focus on bringing vaccines to the least-immunized communities, with more emphasis planned on pop-ups, drive-thru clinics and primary care sites.
“This is a good news story and it shows that our mass vaccination clinics have done their job getting the majority of our people vaccinated,” Crombie told reporters on Thursday.
“We can now look at this period as the home stretch of our initial vaccine rollout to get to that final 10 to 20 per cent of our population and ensure that they, too, are vaccinated.”
â€‹Kingston, Ont.’s health unit announced last week that it would enter a “new phase” of its vaccination effort, with plans to shut down mass clinics beginning in August and shift to pharmacy, mobile and primary care sites.
Mass clinics in the London, Ont., will see reduced hours in the coming weeks amid dwindling demand, the health unit announced this week. It said immunizations have sped up and many people have moved up their second-dose appointments that were scheduled for the fall, meaning the large sites won’t be needed.
“As the health unit turns its focus to individuals in the community, the vaccination effort will rely on mobile and walk-in pop-up clinics, as well as providing opportunities to be vaccinated at community events,” the Middlesex-London Heath Unit said in a statement.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said earlier this month that primary care sites would become more essential to the province’s vaccination plan as mass clinics at hospitals, stadiums and other large venues wind down and resume their old uses.
A spokeswoman for Elliott said targeted vaccination strategies will play a greater role going forward as the province aims to reach vaccine hesitant communities.
“The province is working with the public health units to improve vaccination rates through mobile clinics and community-based pop-ups, dedicated clinic days for people with disabilities, holding townhall meetings in multiple languages, and providing services such as transportation, translation services, and drive-through clinics,” Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement on Friday.
The Grey Bruce health unit noted this week that its local COVID-19 situation is now a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” a trend documented around the world.
The health unit says 95 per cent of cases reported in the first two weeks of July were among people not fully vaccinated, and encouraged people to get their shots, noting that it’s likely that vaccinated people may be subject to fewer restrictions such as isolation rules in the event of future outbreaks.
“Vaccinating the majority of people sets us on the road to return to normal,” it said.
Ontario reported 192 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and one death from the virus. Sixty-six per cent of Ontario adults are now fully vaccinated.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.
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