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Online vaccine booking details announced, starting with those 85 and over – The Battlefords News-Optimist

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Regina – Health Minister Paul Merriman announced the new online and telephone booking system for COVID-19 vaccinations in Saskatchewan on March 10.

Beginning March 11 at 8 a.m., residents ages 85 and over from across the province will be able to book their COVID-19 vaccine appointment online or over the phone.

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That age group, representing a very small slice of the population, many of which have already been vaccinated, was deliberately chosen so the system is not initially overwhelmed. Merriman said that in British Columbia, that province initially made only 100,000 people eligible for booking, and they system was overwhelmed by 1.7 million people trying to log in. Thus, he urged people to not try out the system, but instead wait until their age group is called up.

“Please do not try to book your appointment right away. We will be opening the booking system to more people in the days ahead by descending in age order. So please be patient. We are going to go as fast as the vaccine supply allows us to, and you will be able to book your appointment very soon,” Merriman said in a press conference from the Legislature in Regina.

“If you do try to book an appointment outside of your age group, you will not be allowed to, and you will tie up the system and slow down the bookings for seniors who are eligible to book.”

The Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA) new online booking system can be found at www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19-vaccine, and will also indicate which age category is currently eligible for appointments. It is also mobile and tablet friendly. Alternatively, patients can speak by phone to a booking agent for help with their appointment. The Vaccine Call Centre operates 8 am to 11 pm, 7 days per week and can be accessed by calling 1-833-SASK-VAX (1-833-727-5829). He stressed it is a 1-833 number, not a 1-800 or 1-888 number.

Merriman strongly suggested people use the online system. The phone system will have a capacity of 6,000 calls per day. The government has drawn on public service staff, 811 personnel, and contractors to take those calls.

“The launch of the new patient booking system is a huge step forward in our efforts to get faster and more efficient at delivering COVID-19 vaccines,” Merriman said. “Booking your appointment online will only take a few minutes, making things simple and fast for those who are scheduling their appointments.”

The press conference included a demonstration of how the online bookings work. You must have a valid health card and a cell phone number or email address where notifications will be sent. You must also enter your birthdate. If you don’t have a health card, use the call-in line.

Users who aren’t comfortable with, or don’t have access to technology can book by phone. Family and friends who aren’t yet eligible can also book on behalf of someone who is eligible, such as a parent or grandparent.

After you’ve entered your information and chosen first or second dose, the online booking allows you to choose a location by either a map or list. You can also enter in your community and it will provide the closest location. Then, choose an available time.

Merriman pointed out that booking for additional groups will occur withing days, not weeks. In the coming days based on an available supply of vaccine, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will announce further age groups eligible to book their appointments.

All appointments available will be shown in the online booking system. The Vaccine Call Centre will not have access to more appointments than what patients can see online. Vaccine supply in this initial phase will not allow all clinics planned for Phase Two of the Immunization program to be open, so the Ministry pointed out that clinic locations/availability in your area may be limited.

Once the online booking system is operational, SHA will be phasing out the existing process of direct phone-calls to eligible individuals. Eligible patients should go to the new booking system and not wait for a phone call.

The system is designed to verify a person’s eligibility as their appointment is booked. Identification is also required when you arrive for your appointment, to ensure vaccination of the same person who was registered online. Any instances of providing false information in an attempt to ‘jump the queue’ are taken seriously, and may result in a criminal investigation.

Only those eligible will be able to receive an appointment; if you are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine, you will be asked to visit again once you become eligible. At this time booking is available for first doses only. Current COVID vaccination prioritization and sequencing, along with other vaccine-related information, can be found at www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19-vaccine.

The online booking system was designed to be a safe and secure online experience, meeting all Saskatchewan Health Authority security standards, policies and controls. Data is stored securely in Canadian data centres and is subject to Canadian data security laws.

“Despite being under unprecedented pressures, our health care workers keep finding ways to serve our patients and residents better,” Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said. “This is one more tool in our toolbox that will not only help us deliver COVID-19 vaccines quicker and more effectively, it is a system we can build on after the pandemic to create more seamless access for our patients to the services they rely on.”

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Canada will not restrict AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, says benefits outweigh risk

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada‘s health ministry said on Wednesday it would not restrict use of AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine after a review showed the benefits outweighed the very rare risk of blood clots.

A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. The panel is now reviewing that advice, the health ministry said in a statement.

Denmark on Wednesday became the first country to stop using the vaccine altogether over a potential link to the rare blood clots. Other nations have imposed limits on its use.

But Health Canada, the federal health ministry, said in a statement that a review of data from Europe, Britain and AstraZeneca had not identified specific risk factors.

“Therefore, Health Canada is not restricting the use of the vaccine in any specific populations at this time … The potential risk of these events is very rare, and the benefits of the vaccine in protecting against COVID-19 outweigh its potential risks,” it said.

Canada on Tuesday said it had recorded its first case of blood clotting with low platelets after someone received the AstraZeneca shot. The patient in question, a woman from Quebec, is recovering. (Graphic on vaccines: https://tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta)

COVID-19 cases are surging in Canada with the country reporting a near-record number of new cases recently. (Graphic on cases: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Factbox-Some countries limit AstraZeneca vaccine use, US pauses J&J shot

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(Reuters) -Some countries are restricting use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to certain age groups or suspending use after European and British regulators confirmed possible links to rare blood clots.

Denmark became the first country to stop using the vaccine altogether, as it said results of investigations showed “real and serious side-effects”.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine has also been hit by concerns over blood clots, with European regulators reviewing such cases and U.S. federal health agencies recommending pausing its use for a few days. J&J noted no clear causal relationship had been established between the clots and its vaccine.

The developments pose a risk to vaccination plans in Europe.

Regulators have said the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh risks.

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca said it was working with regulators to list the possible brain blood clots as “an extremely rare potential side effect” on the vaccines labels.

As of April 4, the European Medicines Agency had received reports of 169 cases of a rare brain blood clot known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), after 34 million doses had been administered in the European Economic Area. Most cases were in women under 60 years of age.

ASTRAZENECA VACCINE BEING USED, WITH OR WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS

AUSTRALIA

Said on April 8 it recommends people under 50 should get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in preference to AstraZeneca’s shot.

AUSTRIA

Has resumed use.

BRAZIL

Authorities said they would not limit use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying benefits outweigh risks.

BRITAIN

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said an alternative to the vaccine should be given for people under 30 where possible, but people should continue to have a second shot if they have received a first dose.

BULGARIA

Resumed inoculations from March 19.

CYPRUS

Resumed inoculations on March 19.

CANADA

Authorities said in early April they would pause offering the vaccine to people under 55 and require a new analysis of the shot’s benefits and risks based on age and gender. On April 13, the country said it had recorded its first case of blood clotting with low platelets.

ESTONIA

Suspended use of the vaccine for people under 60 on April 7.

FRANCE

Approved resumption of the vaccine on March 19 but said it should be given only to people aged 55 and over. On April 9, recommended that recipients of a first dose of the AstraZeneca shot who are under 55 should receive a second dose with a messenger RNA vaccine.

FINLAND

Resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine from March 29, but only for people aged 65 and over.

GEORGIA

Has limited use of the vaccine following the death of a nurse from anaphylactic shock, and vaccinations will continue only in full-fledged medical centres, Russian news agency TASS reported on March 19.

GERMANY

Sticking to its guidance from March 31 to limit use of the vaccine to those aged over 60. On April 1, Germany’s vaccine commission recommended people under 60 who have had a first shot of the vaccine should receive a different product for their second dose.

HUNGARY

Continuing the vaccine’s rollout.

ICELAND

Resumed use on March 25 after suspending it on March 11.

INDONESIA

Resumed using the vaccine on March 22 but warned against its use in people with a low blood platelet count.

IRELAND

On April 12, the country said it was restricting use of the vaccine to those over 60.

ITALY

Has recommended the vaccine be used only for people over 60, the country’s top health adviser said.

LATVIA

Announced it was restarting administering the shots from March 19.

LITHUANIA

Restarted use on March 19.

MEXICO

Drug regulator Cofepris said on April 7 it did not “at this time” plan to limit the vaccine’s use but was investigating the information raised by Britain.

NETHERLANDS

Limited use of the vaccine to people over 60, the Dutch government said on April 8.

NORTH MACEDONIA

Health minister said on March 31 the vaccine would be limited to people aged over 60 as a precautionary measure.

PHILIPPINES

Suspended use of the vaccine for people under 60 on April 8.

ROMANIA

Has resumed use of the vaccine after temporarily stopping vaccinating people with one batch of the vaccine on March 11.

SOUTH KOREA

Resumed use of the shot for people aged 30 or older on April 12. On April 7, it had suspended providing the AstraZeneca shot to people under 60.

SPAIN

From April 8, it was giving the vaccine only to people over 60.

SWEDEN

Resumed use of the vaccine on March 25 for people aged 65 and older.

THAILAND

Began use on March 15 after delaying rollout the week before.

COUNTRIES WHERE ASTRAZENECA VACCINE USE SUSPENDED

CAMEROON

Suspended administration of the vaccine it was scheduled to receive on March 20 as part of the global vaccines sharing scheme COVAX, the health ministry said.

DENMARK

In a world first, Denmark decided to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether after initially suspending use of the shot.

NORWAY

Authorities said on March 26 Norway would delay a decision on use of the vaccine, with a decision expected by April 15.

J&J VACCINE DELAYS AND RESTRICTIONS

UNITED STATES

On April 13, U.S. federal health agencies recommended pausing use of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine for at least a few days after six women under the age of 50 developed rare blood clots after receiving the shot.

EUROPEAN UNION

The company said it would delay the rollout of the vaccine to Europe, after regulators said they were reviewing rare blood clots.

Widespread use in the EU had not yet started after the company began delivering the doses in the week beginning April 12. The European drug regulator recommended storing doses already received until its safety committee issues an expedited recommendation

SOUTH AFRICA

Suspended use of J&J’s vaccine on April 13.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka, Yadarisa Shabong, Manas Mishra, Vishwadha Chander, Amruta Khandekar and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; editing by Josephine Mason, Alison Williams, Timothy Heritage, Larry King, Barbara Lewis)

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Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs

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By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

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