New Brunswick has missed the opportunity to screen more than 1,800 potential tissue or ocular donors because no one was available to screen them, according to new figures obtained by CBC News through access to information.
The numbers, which capture the period April 2017 to September 2019, show the province has widespread gaps in its tissue and ocular donation program.
The figures don’t capture organ donation, which is separate and runs 24 hours a day, according to Horizon Health Network, which operates the New Brunswick Organ and Tissue Program.
Horizon estimates about four per cent of potential donor “referrals” will become tissue or ocular donors.
That would mean the 1,851 missed potential donors could have translated into about 74 actual donors, giving life-altering tissue or ocular donations such as corneas, tendons and bones.
The numbers were “shocking” and “disappointing” for Michelle Astle, whose 16-year-old son, Avery, was one of the 1,851 missed potential donors.
“I think people in general have a trust that our system is not failing their citizens, their customers,” Astle said.
“However, with those stats, it’s proving that we are failing.”
Avery and three of his friends — Emma Connick, Logan Matchett and Cassie Lloyd — died following a devastating car crash in Miramichi last Easter weekend.
The Astles remember their son as someone who always did the right thing and always wanted to help others. While they don’t believe Avery could have donated his organs, they were at least hoping he could provide a tissue or ocular donation that could help improve someone else’s quality of life.
But when the Astles asked staff at the Moncton Hospital about donating Avery’s organs and tissues, they say they were told no one was available to facilitate the donation.
Earlier this year, provincial Health Minister Ted Flemming noted in the legislature that the crash happened “late at night on a Saturday between a Good Friday holiday and an Easter Sunday holiday.”
“Sometimes, things like this unfortunately and regrettably happen,” Flemming said in the legislature on May 9, adding that he would “work hard to try to see that it is improved.”
But Astle said the statistics show it isn’t just a problem on holiday weekends.
“That obviously wasn’t the case, because you’re going month to month to month, and that many people not getting assessed,” she said.
‘Still work to be done’
In addition to Avery, 62 other potential donors weren’t screened in April because the program was closed or there was no technician on call, the figures show.
The month with the highest number of missed screenings was December 2018, with 112.
According to the data provided by Horizon, the program could be closed for a variety of reasons, including that the retrieval team is already working on a recovery for another donation. A technician might not be on call because of a “staff shortage and planned or unplanned absences.”
No one from the health authority was made available for an interview.
Horizon sent along more recent statistics, which show “far fewer gaps in service” so far this fiscal year.
In August and September, the most recent months for which numbers are available, the program missed screening 31 and 27 potential donors, respectively.
“While Horizon acknowledges there is still work to be done in terms of addressing the gaps that continue to exist in our ocular and tissue programs, it is clear we are making progress,” Nadya Savoie, director of the New Brunswick Organ and Tissue Program, wrote in an emailed statement.
Savoie said the program has been able to hire and train new staff members, which has increased on-call service.
The picture elsewhere
In comparison, the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Regional Tissue Bank is “always operating” with a full staff complement, according to an emailed statement from Harold Taylor, health services manager of the tissue bank.
Nova Scotia’s program has missed only five donations since April of this year.
“We have recently developed a service delivery model for tissue donation to be efficient and sustainable in the face of new legislation, and have developed a more effective referral process,” Taylor wrote.
In comparison, New Brunswick missed 204 potential donors between April and the end of September, Horizon’s figures show.
A spokesperson for Eastern Health in Newfoundland and Labrador said that province “does not have an ocular or tissue donation program.” Instead, the province imports tissue, including ocular tissue, for transplants.
Prince Edward Island doesn’t do tissue and ocular donation, according to a spokesperson for Health PEI. Potential donors are referred to the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Regional Tissue Bank.
A new policy
In New Brunswick, in cases where a family wants to donate but no one is available to screen the potential donor, a new policy means there will always be a program member available to answer family members’ questions, Savoie wrote.
“We have already witnessed some successes as a direct result of this measure and are optimistic that will continue to be the case moving forward.”
But Astle said the new policy isn’t good enough because it still relies on family members to ask about donation.
“I can see why many wouldn’t [ask] because you’re in such grief and shock,” Astle said.
“It shouldn’t be up to the family to ask. They should be coming to the family and explaining it and saying, ‘Are you willing?'”
‘We need to do better’
In the eight months since she said goodbye to Avery, Astle has had many dark days. But she’s also seen some light.
The Astles have started a campaign called Let’s Act 4 Avery to spread the word about donation, and she believes his story has already had an impact.
On her Christmas tree, she’s hung several ornaments made in Avery’s memory.
“It is always the right time to do the right thing,” one says.
“There’s been a lot of really good things to come out of it,” Astle said.
But she believes there’s more to be done to make things better.
Horizon’s statement doesn’t mention what prompted a new policy and changes in the tissue donation program. That doesn’t sit well with Astle.
“The only reason those changes have happened is because we stood up and we spoke up. It’s because of Avery,” she said.
“So to me, at least own that and say, ‘Thank you, and because of your son these changes have been made to help others.'”
Asked what Avery would think about the number of missed potential donations, Astle said her son always found a way to see the good in everything. She doesn’t think he would have wanted to dwell on the negative.
“It would be, ‘Well there’s a chance there to help save others and they’re doing the best they can,’ would be what Avery would say,” Astle said.
“But mother bear kicks in and says, we need to do better.”
438 new COVID-19 cases and 2 more deaths in B.C. – Voiceonline.com
DR. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, on Tuesday announced 438 new cases, including nine epi-linked cases, of COVID-19, for a total of 81,367 cases in British Columbia.
There are 4,679 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 8,445 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 75,255 people who tested positive have recovered.
There have been two new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,365 deaths in the province.
To date, 283,182 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., 86,537 of which are second doses. Immunization data is available on the COVID-19 dashboard at: www.bccdc.ca.
Of the active cases, 243 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 63 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.
There have been 137 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 249 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 19 in the Island Health region, 16 in the Interior Health region, 17 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.
There have been 22 new confirmed COVID-19 cases that are variants of concern in the province, for a total of 182 cases. Of the total cases, eight cases are active and the remaining people have recovered. This includes 159 cases of the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant and 23 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant.
There have been two new health-care facility outbreaks at Chartwell Carrington House (Fraser Health) and at Eagle Ridge Hospital.
Henry and Dix added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to continually review and adapt our approach based on the scientific evidence and real-world data.
“The experience in our communities has clearly shown us that the older you are, the higher your risk.
“More recently, we have also learned that the approved vaccines are highly effective at providing protection with the initial dose. This means we can safely adjust the time between doses.
“Setting second doses at 16 weeks allows us to use our available supply to protect far more people, far sooner.
“The addition of the newly approved AstraZeneca-Serum Institute of India viral vector vaccine also means we can look at accelerating availability of vaccine for essential workers, including for first responders and those who are unable to work from home.
“While this is encouraging news for everyone, we are not yet at that important level of protection that we need to be at to put aside the public health restrictions. We have to have the confidence that we are slowing the spread in a sustained way, which means we need to continue to stay committed to using our layers of protection, to stay small and stay local right now.”
What we know about spacing out COVID-19 vaccine doses – CBC.ca
Federal and provincial health officials are poring over emerging data on the advantages and disadvantages of extending the time between shots of two-dose COVID-19 vaccines. Here are some of the factors they’re weighing and why it matters.
Why do provinces want to space out the doses beyond official recommendations?
More vaccines are arriving and the provinces aim to get them into the arms of willing Canadians as quickly as possible.
But demand exceeds supply, so researchers in British Columbia and Quebec are studying what happens when the interval between doses is extended. That way they can use the supply to vaccinate more people with a first shot sooner.
Late last year, Quebec decided to vaccinate more quickly and more widely by allowing a 90-day delay between doses.
But British Columbia went further on Monday, moving to a four-month interval for doses of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, pointed to advances since Health Canada approved those vaccines.
“What’s happening is, I think, very encouraging,” Njoo said in a briefing on Tuesday.
“We have real-world data, the actual experience of what’s happening with the vaccination, for example in British Columbia and in Quebec, as they’re vaccinating seniors in long-term care facilities. We’re seeing quite a high level of protection.”
Njoo said experts are balancing vaccinating a large number of Canadians to achieve a good level of protection without compromising the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician in Mississauga, Ont., says the top priority is to protect older individuals and those who are at highest risk of severe consequences, hospitalizations and death.
Chakrabarti said the principle of getting as many people covered with one dose is a good one.
“We do know from other vaccines that increase in the interval between two shots doesn’t have any major consequence in decreasing efficacy and in some situations might actually make it better,” he said. “But keeping that in mind, we do have to be careful. I think that we don’t want to stray too far away.”
What’s the basis for the recommended dosing schedule?
Vaccine-makers tested their shots in clinical trials with certain times between doses.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is meant to be given as two doses, 21 days apart, while Moderna recommends 28 days. For AstraZeneca-Oxford’s, the interval is eight to 12 weeks.
Health Canada approved the vaccines based on that clinical trial data. Both Pfizer and Moderna acknowledge that, in a pandemic, health authorities will make their own recommendations.
What’s the scientific basis for delaying?
Chakrabarti says there’s evidence, for example, to support delaying the second dose of the Hepatitis A vaccine by six to 36 months, and that’s true for other vaccines, too. But the COVID-19 vaccines haven’t existed long enough to know.
Efficacy for Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was around 95 per cent after both doses and 52 per cent after the first, according to clinical data. For Moderna’s it was about 80 per cent after one dose and 94 per cent following the second.
WATCH | Stop confusing vaccine messaging, expert says:
The benefits of a second dose include include longer-lasting protection says Tania Watts, a professor of immunology at the University of Toronto who is studying immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines in Canadians.
She says everyone should eventually get a second dose. But “as we go to the broader population, yes, I think we will still get the benefit if you delay the second dose,” Watts said.
Watts noted that when the mRNA vaccines were developed, the four-week interval for the “prime-boost effect” in the clinical trials was done for practical purposes.
“All things being perfect, we could stick to the protocol,” from the clinical trials, Watt said. “But, if you can save a lot more lives by not giving everyone the second dose at three weeks, but giving a lot more people the first, I think this is where the rationale comes, and I think it makes complete sense.”
The variants of concern that are more transmissible than the original coronavirus could throw a wrench into the works for some combinations of vaccines.
Watts said neutralizing antibodies that block the coronavirus from attaching and infecting cells dropped to almost nil in lab tests of those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot against the B1.352 variant that first appeared in South Africa.
“After two doses, which gives you stronger antibodies, you still had some partial protection,” she said.
Watts says Canada is at a critical juncture, watching to see if the variants will take off among partially vaccinated people.
Epidemiological or population-level studies are also needed to figure out how many antibodies are needed to prevent infection as well as the details of immune system memory.
B.C. records two more COVID-19 deaths, as vaccination roll-out stays slow – Richmond News
Two more British Columbians lost their lives while suffering from COVID-19, pushing the province’s death toll from the virus to 1,365, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said March 2.
That comparatively low number of new deaths is good news given that the province’s vaccination effort continues to crawl along.
Despite Henry saying today that she believes it is possible for all eligible British Columbians to be vaccinated by the end of July, only 7,501 vaccine doses were provided in the past day. Those doses went to 4,746 people as a first dose, and 2,755 people as a second dose.
In total, B.C. has administered 283,182 doses of vaccine to 196,650 individuals, with 86,532 people being fully vaccinated with their needed second doses. Given that children are not eligible for vaccines, the province, which has around 5.1 million people, likely has more than four million additional people that it needs to vaccinate.
Mahesh Nagarajan, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, whose focus area is supply chains, told Glacier Media that he can foresee potential glitches in the province’s roll-out of the vaccines.
New cases continue to rack up, with 438 new COVID-19 infections identified in the past 24 hours. Henry said that 254 cases were detected in the past seven days but not previously reported, so the total number of infected people in B.C. since the first case was detected in January 2020, is 81,367.
The province considers more than 92.4%, or 75,255 people out of those infected to be recovered, because those individuals have tested negative twice for the virus.
Another 22 cases of what are known as “variants of concern,” bring the total of variant cases identified in B.C. to 182.
Many of these cases were confirmed as variants long after they were first confirmed as COVID-19 cases. That is why the active cases of variants of concern fell to eight today, from 10 yesterday, despite 22 new cases identified.
Of the variant cases, 159 have been the B.1.1.7 virus first identified in the U.K., while 23 have been cases of the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa. All but the eight active variant cases are people who are considered to have recovered, so no one has died from a COVID-19 variant yet in B.C. Nine of the 182 people infected with variants in B.C. were in hospital at some point. Only one person with a variant virus is currently in hospital, Henry said.
More than 68% of the variant cases have been discovered in the Fraser Health region, while more than 27% have been detected in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
People currently battling serious COVID-19 infections include 243 individuals in hospitals, with 63 of those who are in intensive care units. The vast majority of the 4,679 people actively battling COVID-19 illnesses have been told to self-isolate.
Health officials are monitoring 8,445 people for symptoms because those individuals have had known exposure to identified cases – the highest number since January 8.
Here is the breakdown of where the 438 new cases are located:
• 137 in Vancouver Coastal Health (31.2%);
• 249 in Fraser Health (56.8%);
• 19 in Island Health (4.3%);
• 16 in Interior Health (3.7%); and
• 17 in Northern Health (3.9%).
Because the vast majority of residents in seniors’ care homes have had at least one vaccine dose, Henry said that she expects that rules around visits for residents in those homes could soon be loosened.
“We expect the next step, before the end of this month, to be able to increase visits, and have families be together with their loved ones is care homes,” she said.
One new outbreak at a seniors’ home is at the Chartwell Carrington House retirement residence in Mission.
That brings the total number of outbreaks in those homes to nine, even though Henry said at the press conference that the total was eight.
None of those current outbreaks at seniors’ homes are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
The five active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Fraser Health are:
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey;
• Chartwell Carrington House in Mission;
• Revera Sunwood in Maple Ridge;
• Royal City Manor in New Westminster; and
• Shaughnessy Care Centre in Port Coquitlam.
The outbreak at Glacier View Lodge in Courtenay is the only outbreak in the Island Health region.
The only outbreak in the Northern Health region is at the Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert.
The two active outbreaks at seniors’ living facilities in Interior Health are now at Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops, and The Florentine in Merritt.
One new outbreak at a B.C. hospital is at Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody.
The other seven active COVID-19 outbreaks at B.C. hospitals include:
• Chilliwack General Hospital in Chilliwack;
• Dawson Creek and District Hospital in Dawson Creek;
• Kelowna General Hospital in Kelowna;
• Mission Memorial Hospital in Mission;
• Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey; and
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver.
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438 new COVID-19 cases and 2 more deaths in B.C. – Voiceonline.com
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