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New coronavirus cases confirmed in New Brunswick

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New Brunswick confirmed on Thursday three new active cases of the coronavirus that appear to have a connection to a health-care professional who worked in the Restigouche area.

The person travelled to Quebec earlier this month and did not self-isolate upon their return.

The new cases are of an individual under 19, another between 40 and 49 and the third over 90, who all reside in the Campbellton region.

At Thursday’s press briefing, Premier Blaine Higgs said information on this health-care professional has been passed along to the RCMP to determine exactly what took place and whether charges are warranted.

“I understand the person’s employer is also looking into the matter and I am confident the appropriate steps to address this incident will be taken.”

 

CEO of Vitalité Health Network Gilles Lanteigne said it has been contact-tracing since Wednesday afternoon and has so far tested 50 to 60 employees who had been in direct or indirect contact with the physician.

“We do the staff and the physicians that are under Vitalité and then probably help test the community contacts by doing over 100 tests,” said Lanteigne.

Campbellton Regional Hospital

As a result of the recent case of the health-care professional, the province announced that the emergency department at the Campbellton Regional Hospital is closed until further notice due to the increased risk of COVID-19.

“Non-urgent or elective health-care services at the hospital have also been put on hold. For now, patients seeking emergency care are asked to visit the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst,” the province said in a statement.

Higgs said many Zone 5 health-care workers and their families “are concerned about their potential exposure to the virus.”

“They are doing the right thing by getting tested and self-isolating until they have the results. Health-care workers in Bathurst are being asked to take on additional patients while their colleagues in Campbellton are unable to work,” he said.

Back to Orange level

On Wednesday, Zone 5 transitioned back to Orange level under the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

“The only reason we went back to Orange in that case (was) because we have a lot of contact tracing to do… so being very aware and needing to close the hospital in the region right now,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health.

So far, she said 811 has received many calls, and about 290 people will be tested.

“We have great capacity to do that.”

 

In the meantime, Russell said the province could see transmission of the virus in other parts of New Brunswick if people have travelled to Zone 5 (Campbellton region) and did not maintain physical distancing.

Russell also noted that testing in the coming days will reveal a lot of information about the extent of transmission that may have taken place.

According to the province, the following rules apply to Zone 5 only:

  • A two-household bubble is permitted. Your household can join up with one other household if both households mutually agree. You must not have close contact with anyone else. You cannot join up with more than one household or bubble.
  • Non-regulated health professionals and businesses such as acupuncturists and naturopaths cannot operate at this time.
  • Personal services businesses such as barbers, hairstylists, spas, estheticians, manicurists, pedicurists and tattoo artists cannot operate at this time.

The province said officials from WorkSafeNB and the Department of Public Safety are in the area to ensure compliance.

“They will closely monitor and assess the situation in the days ahead,” the province said in a statement.

All other zones in New Brunswick will remain at Yellow level.

The state of emergency has also been extended for another 14 days.

Both cabinet and the all-party cabinet committee have approved the extension. New Brunswick has been under a state of emergency since March 19.

To date, 23,693 tests have been conducted in New Brunswick. There have been 126 confirmed cases. The number of active cases is six and 120 people have recovered from their illness. None of the active cases are in hospital.

 

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Edited By Harry Miller

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Coronavirus vaccine: ICMR aims to launch COVAXIN by August 15 – Moneycontrol

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This is as per a letter written as internal communication by ICMR to Bharat Biotech asking for fast-tracking of the indigenous vaccine with an aim to launch by August 15.

Representative Image (Source: Reuters)

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The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday said that it aims to launch the Coronavirus vaccine being developed in partnership with Hydereabad-based Bharat Biotech for public health use by August 15.

This is as per a letter written as internal communication by ICMR to Bharat Biotech asking for fast-tracking of the indigenous vaccine with an aim to launch by August 15.

“It is envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by 15th August 2020 after completion of all clinical trials. BBIL is working expeditiously to meet the target, however, final outcome will depend on the cooperation of all clinical trial sites involved in this project,” the letter says.

PM Modi had recently held a high-level meeting to take stock on the indigenous vaccine efforts.

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Bharat Biotech, the company to whom the letter is addressed, has refused to comment on the matter.

ICMR sources confirm authenticity of the letter but say it was meant for internal communication.

Moneycontrol couldn’t independently verify the letter.

The indigenous vaccine being developed in India is one of the top-priority projects which is being monitored at the top-most level of the government, the statement further read. 

“You have been chosen as a clinical trial site of the BBV152 COVID Vaccine. In view of the public health emergency due to COVID-19 pandemic and urgency to launch the vaccine, you are strictly advised to fast track all approvals related to the initiation of the clinical trial and ensure that the subject enrollment is initiated no later than 7th July 2020,” ICMR’s statement read.

India has over 6 lakh reported cases of coronavirus with over 19,000 deaths until July 2.

First Published on Jul 3, 2020 08:26 am

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What social science says about convincing people to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic – CBC.ca

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Mandating, not just recommending, the use of non-medical masks will help convince more Canadians to wear them as the economy reopens, just as wearing seatbelts is now the norm, some social scientists and physicians say.

In Canada’s largest city, wearing non-medical masks is now mandatory for people riding with the Toronto Transit Commission, with certain exemptions, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. A bylaw extending the rule to indoor public spaces goes into effect on July 7. Similarly, mayors in Peel Region, which includes Mississauga and Brampton, west of Toronto, and York Region to the north also plan to introduce such bylaws.

In Quebec, Premier François Legault announced that public transit users in the province will be required to wear masks starting on July 13.

Governments are passing laws that require the wearing of masks, but they’re difficult to enforce. That’s why behavioural scientists say it’s so important for the public to get on board with many health authorities who now consider face coverings a necessity.

Kim Lavoie, a professor of psychology in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal, is among the experts calling for governments in Canada to consult social scientists on preventive measures like wearing masks as lockdowns lift in the absence of vaccines or effective treatments for COVID-19.

“Wearing a mask is something we control. Washing our hands, staying home, skipping that party are all things we control,” Lavoie said.

“People forget that the virus isn’t more powerful than our collective will to get rid of it, and there are things we can do. But right now, they’re behavioural.”

Many aspects of the pandemic are beyond our control. Wearing a mask isn’t one of them, experts say. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said masks could help more people get back to business and “regular life.”

“We think it’s sort of low-hanging fruit and a no-brainer,” Fisman said.

Why? Layering on masks on top of hand hygiene, avoiding touching your face and physical distancing helps reduce transmission in small case reports, observational studies and a preliminary model.

“Me wearing a mask protects you. If I have COVID, you wearing a mask also protects you from breathing in my virus,” Fisman said.

While Fisman called Canada “a country of rule followers,” there are people who oppose mandating masks, saying it impinges on individual rights and freedoms.

But with COVID-19, one person’s behaviour affects the next person — the basis for secondhand smoke laws.

“It’s no more [an infringement] than asking you to wear a seatbelt,” Lavoie said. “You’re not free to drink yourself under the table and then get behind the wheel. If you don’t have a PCR test at your house to test yourself negative, then you have to consider the possibility that you might be infected and not know it and be putting us all at risk.”

Protecting yourself a major motivator

Lavoie is one of the researchers behind a large study called iCARE (International assessment of COVID-19-related attitudes, concerns, responses and impacts). Together with collaborators from Johns Hopkins University’s project on cases and Oxford’s policy tracker, they’re regularly surveying Canadians and people around the world on how they feel about and adhere to policies.

The goal of the research is to disentangle what motivates people of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds to change their behaviour to inform health-care policy and messaging.

Awareness, motivation and confidence are important to changing behaviour, says Kim Lavoie, a professor of psychology in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal. (Submitted by Kim Lavoie)

Based on 50,000 responses since the end of March, Lavoie said the findings to this point suggest that concern about getting infected with the virus is a major motivator.

“One thing people don’t realize is how contagious it is,” she said.

Most people recover at home, but people of all ages have also been severely sickened, some for months, says the Public Health Agency of Canada. Patients say long-term symptoms and consequences such as heart damage are coming to the fore.

An urgent need

While making mask wearing the norm would help prevent transmission, Fisman said mixed messaging and “dithering” by Ontario’s government have hindered mask use from becoming commonplace.

“Once the signal comes from our public health leaders that this is the expectation and this is how we’re going to move forward, I think people will fall in line pretty fast,” he said.

A woman wears a protective face mask as she waits to enter a bank in downtown Vancouver on June 2. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Wearing masks could be considered a behaviour that needs to be adopted urgently and collectively, Lavoie said.

She pointed to how behavioural change boils down to three factors:

  • Awareness of the need to wear masks.
  • Motivation, such as protecting yourself, loved ones or neighbours who may be vulnerable to serious complications.
  • Confidence in the ability to execute the behaviour.

Cost can be a barrier. That’s why Alberta’s government is distributing 20 million non-medical masks at drive-thru restaurants.

Shift from self-consciousness to the norm

Mitsutoshi Horii, a professor of sociology at Chaucer College in Canterbury, England, studied the uptake of masks in Japan during the 1918 flu pandemic. The practice continues in Japan during flu and hay fever season, as well as during COVID-19.

Horii said when the 1918 flu pandemic hit, the Japanese government prohibited traditional folk rituals around health as part of its efforts to promote modernization and to avoid colonization.

“Then the mask came in and that gave people a sense of direction. When you’re facing uncertainty, you want to do something. By doing something, we establish a sense of control,” he said.

WATCH | Canada’s patchwork of mask measures:

Federal government and health officials are reluctant to make wearing a mask mandatory in Canada, citing a focus on education and issues with enforcement. 1:58

Horii contrasts that with his experience in the U.K. now, where wearing masks is not common.

“Personally, I still feel embarrassed to wear a mask” in the U.K., Horii said, even though they’re now compulsory on public transit in England and will soon be required in stores in Scotland.

He said he thinks changing the rules would encourage him and others to overcome self-consciousness.

“At the same time, I bought some masks and we’re ready to wear [them] at any time. We just need a bit of a push to do it.”

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How Moderna executives are cashing in on COVID-19 vaccine stock speculation – Reuters

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(Reuters) – Biotech firm Moderna Inc could reap tens of billions of dollars in sales and stock appreciation if it wins the race for a COVID-19 vaccine. If it loses, the early-stage company’s value could crash.

FILE PHOTO: A sign marks the headquarters of Moderna Inc, which is developing a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyde

In the meantime, the firm’s chief executive is pocketing millions of dollars every month by selling shares that have tripled in price on news of Moderna’s development progress, a Reuters analysis of corporate filings shows. The sales – by CEO Stéphane Bancel, his childrens’ trust and companies he owns – amount to about $21 million between January 1 and June 26, including $6 million in May.

The company’s chief medical officer, Tal Zaks, has cashed out the majority of his available stock and options, netting over $35 million since January, the filings show.

The lucrative liquidations highlight the unusually powerful incentives for biotech executives to highlight development milestones for drugs that often never get approved or sold, according to interviews with seven executive-compensation experts. Optimistic corporate statements on coronavirus vaccines, they said, could cause investors to overpay for company shares or create false hope among the public and health officials seeking new weapons to fight the pandemic.

Bancel set a fixed schedule for his share sales – known as a 10b5-1 plan – long before the pandemic hit. Such executive share-sale plans are meant to guard against insider trading, avoiding the potential for executives to sell in advance of bad news they know is coming, or to put off selling until after a positive announcement.

Zaks sharply increased the pace of his sales with a new plan he put in place on March 13. That was three days before Moderna announced it had dosed the first human with a vaccine candidate, news that sent its stock price up 24% and signaled that future development milestones might push the shares higher.

The sales give the firm’s executives an unusual opportunity to lock in big profits on what could be fleeting market optimism, said Jesse Fried, a Harvard Law School professor who wrote a book about executive compensation.

“This may be their one shot at making a boatload of money if the vaccine doesn’t work out,” Fried said. Executives have wide discretion in releasing information, he said, and Moderna’s chiefs have a powerful motivation to “keep the stock price up.”

Reuters found no evidence that Bancel, Zaks or Moderna has exaggerated the company’s vaccine progress.

Many news outlets have reported sales by Moderna executives in the wake of positive news on its vaccine efforts. Reuters is the first to report that Bancel and affiliated entities are selling 90,000 shares every month and that Zaks moved to sharply increase his sales in March, three days before Moderna released market-moving news.

A Moderna spokesman said that Bancel is liquidating only a small portion of his holdings and that “substantially all of his family’s assets remain invested in Moderna.” This stakeholding reflected Bancel’s “long-term commitment” to the firm, the spokesman said. Bancel, his companies and his children’s trust own more than 24 million Moderna shares, making him the second largest stockholder, owning about 8% of the firm, down slightly from the beginning of the year.

Zaks did not respond to requests for comment, and Moderna did not comment on his share sales.

The high frequency, volume and profits of Bancel’s transactions – at about 90,000 shares monthly – are unique among the CEOs of 26 companies identified by Reuters as developing COVID-19 vaccines or treatments and that regularly publish information on executive trades of company shares.

Twenty-one of the firms have seen their stock rise since the end of January, just before coronavirus spread globally, and ten of those, including Moderna, have seen share prices at least double. But just four of the CEOs of those firms, including Bancel, have sold company stock. Only one – Chad Robins of Adaptive Biotech – made substantial, regular sales under a 10b5-1 plan, like Moderna’s Bancel. Adaptive Biotech, however, has seen a far smaller recent stock-price increase – about 50% – than Moderna. During May and June, Robins sold about $12 million in stock after Adaptive’s stock price rose on news that it is researching antibody therapies and a coronavirus test that delivers faster results.

Adaptive Biotech declined to comment and referred to a company filing that said Robins sold the stock to diversify his investments.

Most of Bancel’s sales have been carried out through plans in place since December 2018, the filings show. The transactions started in November 2019, when a trust belonging to his children began selling 11,046 shares each week. This January, Bancel and two companies he controls started selling stock regularly. Since then, they have collectively sold about 90,000 Moderna shares each month.

HIGH RISKS, REWARDS

Such scheduled sales are more common at early-stage biotech companies such as Moderna – which face intense risk-reward scenarios – than at more established and diversified drug firms, where executives frequently hold their equity until they leave the company.

Executives’ ongoing sales are an effective hedge against the bigger downside risk faced by companies like Moderna. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the firm has more than 20 therapies and vaccines in development – but none near approval. Investors view the firm as a frontrunner in creating a COVID-19 vaccine, but it faces 17 serious competitors with candidates in clinical evaluations and 129 others in earlier development stages, according to the World Health Organization. Only a very small number of companies are expected to get vaccines to market, biotech executives and health experts say.

If Moderna successfully launches its coronavirus vaccine and a dozen other of its most promising trial medicines, its stock price could rise to $279 based on the new revenues, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. That would yield Bancel a fortune of about $10 billion including currently unvested share options, the Reuters analysis shows.

The firm’s stock has soared from $18 in late February – just before it announced it had shipped its vaccine candidate to the U.S. government for trials – to close at $56.57 on July 2, down 5%, after a report that the start of its large vaccine trial would be delayed. That gives the company a market capitalization of nearly $23 billion. The stock hit a high of $80 in May.

But Morgan Stanley also has a “bear case,” in which the company would be worth only as much as the cash on its balance sheet if all of its vaccine and drug candidates don’t make it to market.

‘SCIENCE BY PRESS RELEASE’

Bancel and Zaks have been bullish on Moderna’s prospects in public statements.

Bancel calls the mRNA technology the company uses for all vaccine development the “software of life,” with potential to create “a new class of medicines.” He has also said Moderna’s process can create vaccines much faster and with a better chance of “technical success” – and, by implication, regulatory approval – than other firms.

“We are not aware of anybody else who can do this at this scale, with this focus, at this speed,” he told investors on June 2. Earlier, in a May 7 earnings call, Bancel said he had “never been as excited and optimistic about the future of Moderna.”

Many investors and analysts are optimistic as well but say it is difficult to evaluate Moderna’s prospects given the early stages of trials.

The company drew criticism from scientists for releasing incomplete data from a trial being conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). On May 18, Moderna announced that its vaccine candidate had produced protective antibodies in a small subset of healthy trial volunteers. The news pushed Moderna stock up 20% to its peak of $80.

Some scientists suggested Moderna should have held off publishing until it had all test subjects’ results. “This was science by press release,” said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Without complete data, he said, “you’re left to read the tea leaves.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci – the nation’s top infectious disease expert – shared the test results with U.S. governors, Vice President Mike Pence said in a Twitter post the day of Moderna’s announcement. But Fauci – who is running the Moderna trial – later said he didn’t like the company’s early release of incomplete data, according to an interview published by the STAT health news service. A spokeswoman for Fauci’s agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did not comment beyond what Fauci said in the interview.

Bancel told investors at a June conference that Moderna’s leadership worried the information had been seen by too many people, including at the NIH. He said the company made the partial findings public because it worried the data would get leaked – and it considered the incomplete results material information that all investors should receive at the same time. A company spokesman told Reuters the company believed it needed to release the information to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

The day after the May 18 announcement, Zaks sold 125,000 shares – netting him nearly $10 million – at a price of $78, up from $66 on the Friday before the Monday press release. Company filings show the sale was executed in accordance with the plan that Zaks put in place on March 13.

Reporting by Tom Bergin and Robin Respaut; Editing by Tom Lasseter and Brian Thevenot

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