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Ontario changes COVID-19 vaccination plans after slowing rollout – The Globe and Mail

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Amy Oh, a registered nurse, administers a Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN pilot site in downtown Toronto on Dec. 15, 2020.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Ontario has changed its COVID-19 vaccination plan to give a first dose to as many people as possible and no longer hold second doses in reserve as the province has lagged behind Canada’s already-slow immunization pace.

The province announced the change Monday, 14 days after the launch of Canada’s vaccination campaign. Ontario has administered 13,200 of its allotted 96,000 doses and faced criticism for shutting down clinics over the holidays.

“We are not holding or reserving doses, and are vaccinating as many people as possible, counting on confirmed shipments of the vaccine that will arrive over the coming weeks for second doses,” said Ontario Ministry of Health spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene in an e-mail statement.

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The change came amid conflicting practices between the provinces and evolving guidelines from the vaccine’s manufacturer.

Quebec’s Health Ministry said in a statement Monday it is still following the guidelines of vaccine manufacturer Pfizer-BioNTech by holding back half of the doses it has received for second doses. Those are expected to start at the end of the week, following the manufacturer guidelines that the second vaccination be administered 21 days after the first. Quebec has so far administered 19,643 of its 56,000 shots.

Other provinces including Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are not holding back doses and giving a first shot to as many people as possible. Others are still making plans.

Pfizer recommended holding back second doses for the first shipment of the vaccine, Christina Antoniou, director of corporate affairs for Pfizer Canada, said Monday.

“As we move into the first quarter of 2021 and are bringing in larger volumes of vaccine doses, there is greater predictability of expected volumes so we are a little more flexible on this guideline,” Ms. Antoniou said. “However, we still consider it to be a safe approach for the points of use to continue storing a portion of the doses received, to ensure no delay in the second dose deployment.”

Last week, researchers from the University of Toronto published modelling that showed giving a first dose to as many people as possible would give more people partial immunity and decrease serious illness and death, compared with holding back second doses.

Canada has vaccinated slightly fewer than 4,000 people a day since the first of 249,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine began arriving in the country Dec. 13. The provinces combined have administered about 55,540 vaccines. Moderna Inc. is expected to ship 168,000 doses of its vaccine by the end of December. No other shipments have been publicly confirmed.

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A representative of Health Canada did not answer a request for information on new vaccine shipments Monday, saying in an e-mail that the offices were closed.

Canada is lagging behind the United States, Britain and Israel in vaccination rates but is ahead of Denmark and Germany. Much of the rest of the world has yet to start.

Maxwell Smith, bioethicist and assistant professor at Western University and member of the province’s vaccine distribution task force, said that when Ontario received its first shipment of vaccines in December, it was unclear whether there would be enough supply of the vaccine to rely on steady shipments when the province launched its vaccination program on Dec. 14. When the province received 90,000 vaccines last week, it reassured officials that the province will reach its goal of receiving 2.4 million doses by March, he added.

The first dose of the Pfizer vaccine gives 50 per cent of people immunity while the second dose provides 95-per-cent immunity, vaccine trials showed.

“On the one hand, it might be the case that if you used all available doses as soon as you get them, then it’s true that you could vaccinate more people,” Dr. Smith said. “But if we don’t have a guarantee that we’ll get a second dose in time for those who already got a first dose, we don’t have the evidence to suggest that the second dose would be effective at such a high interval.”

While Quebec and other provinces continued to vaccinate through the Christmas holidays most vaccine clinics in Ontario were closed, prompting criticism from public health experts that vaccinations should not be interrupted at a time when infections are at record highs.

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The COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Toronto’s University Health Network was closed during the holidays, but the clinic is on pace to finish administering all vaccines reserved for first doses by the end of this week, according to Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at the UHN.

“We’re at a bad point in this pandemic, so the greater impact would be to get broader coverage and try to vaccinate as many people as possible with the first dose, recognizing that worst-case scenario is that people can’t get the second dose,” Dr. Hota said.

Immunization experts say it is important to refine immunization regimes but supply is the most urgent problem.

“The biggest issue is and has always been, when will they get the number of vaccines that will allow them to ramp up administration?” said David Levine, the former director of the Montreal health region who was in charge of vaccinating the city’s population during the H1N1 outbreak 11 years ago. “The key moment will be when millions of doses start arriving, not thousands. We vaccinated a million people in nine weeks in Montreal in 2009. The key factor was that the vaccine was there.”

Caroline Quach, an infectious-diseases specialist and microbiologist at the University of Montreal, said Quebec’s choice to vaccinate residents and staff at nursing homes has slowed rollout of the limited vaccines available. Vaccinating health care staff in the next phase will go more quickly but still will not move as fast as mass clinics that will come with larger vaccine shipments.

“A big problem is nobody knows when the next shipment will come,” she said. “It’s supposed to be in the first quarter of 2021, so let’s hope it’s in January and not March.”

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216 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, including 118 in north – CBC.ca

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There are 216 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths from the illness in Manitoba, according to a provincial news release issued on Saturday.

Of the new cases, more than half — 118 — are in the Northern Health Region, which has seen a worrisome spike recently.

The rest of the cases are in the Winnipeg (50), Interlake-Eastern (22), Southern (14) and Prairie Mountain (12) health regions.

The deaths reported Saturday were all in the Winnipeg health region — a man in his 60s, a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s.

The provincial five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the number of tests that come back positive — is 9.8 per cent, up from 9.3 per cent on Friday. Winnipeg’s rate also rose slightly, to 6.5 per cent from 6.2.

The province’s news release says 1,836 COVID-19 tests were completed Friday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February 2020 to 463,084.

The number of Manitobans in hospital is 272, up from 268 on Friday. There are also 40 people in intensive care, up from 33 the day prior.

On Friday, the province reported 173 new cases of COVID-19, with more than a third — 64 — in the Northern Health Region.

As well, Fox Lake Cree Nation declared an outbreak of COVID-19 on Friday.

There are 34 active cases in the First Nation, about 700 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, Chief Morris Beardy said in a news release.

That number includes Beardy himself.

“This is very serious and scary for us all. I also know how resilient and strong our community is, and how we can support each other through difficult times,” he said.

There are 88 Fox Lake households affected by the virus, including 15 in the Bird reserve and 70 in the nearby town of Gillam, according to the release.

The northern region, including the town of Churchill, was excluded from an easing of some of the province’s strict pandemic restrictions, which came into effect for the rest of Manitoba Saturday, following recent drops in case numbers.

Two designated visitors are now allowed for each household, and group of up to five can gather outdoors on private property.

Retailers are allowed to sell non-essential items in-store again, and barbers and hair stylists are able to go back to work.

As well, as of Saturday, all Manitoba teachers, educational support staff and other staff working in schools and directly with students can now make an appointment for rapid COVID-19 testing at the Winnipeg Fast Pass site at 1066 Nairn Ave., provided they meet certain criteria.

To be eligible, people who work in schools must be symptomatic, identified as a close contact because of an exposure at school, or have a symptomatic household member. 

Appointments for the pilot site are now open for eligible staff working in all schools and school divisions, the province says.

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Fewer than 2400 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario, another 52 deaths logged – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Health officials in Ontario are reporting fewer than 2,400 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday.

The 2,359 infections mark a drop over Friday’s report when 2,662 cases were added and bring the province’s COVID-19 case total to 252,585, including deaths and recoveries.

Fifty-two of those deaths occurred in the previous day, 25 of which were residents in a long-term care home.

The Ministry of Health now considers 3,025 more cases to be resolved, a number that has been outpacing new infections in Ontario in recent days. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 222,287 people previously diagnosed with COVID-19 have recovered. 

The data released by the government Saturday shows there are currently 24,545 active cases of the novel coronavirus across Ontario.

With 63,453 tests processed in the last 24 hours, the province’s COVID-19 positivity rate stands at 4.5 per cent.

Where are the new COVID-19 cases in Ontario?

Most of the cases reported Saturday were found in Toronto (708), Peel Region (422), York Region (220), Hamilton (107) and Windsor-Essex (100).

Toronto Mayor John Tory commented on the city’s numbers in a tweet published Saturday where he said case counts are heading in the “right direction.”

“Let’s keep it that way. Stay home this weekend, Toronto,” he said.

For context, the province reported 779 cases in Toronto on Friday, 897 (102 of which were attributed to a previous technical issue) on Thursday and 925 on Wednesday.

Toronto has consistently reported the highest daily COVID-19 case numbers in the province since the start of the pandemic.

Several other regions reported case numbers in the high double digits, including Niagara, Waterloo, Halton, Simcoe Muskoka and Durham Region.

Right now, there are 1,501 patients in hospital with COVID-19, down from the 1,512 reported a day earlier.

Of those patients, 395 are being treated in an intensive care unit and 299 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

Update on COVID-19 vaccinations in Ontario

Health Minister Christine Elliott says that 276,146 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered throughout Ontario since inoculations began last month.

The province said that 11,161 of those shots were administered in the previous day.

At least 57,907 people have received both their first and second shots and are considered to be fully vaccinated.

Ontario is currently operating in Phase 1 of it’s vaccination rollout, which will see shots given to health-care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes, other congregate care settings and remote Indigenous communities

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2 New Deaths, 116 New Cases Of COVID-19 In Windsor Essex On Saturday – windsoriteDOTca News

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[unable to retrieve full-text content]

  1. 2 New Deaths, 116 New Cases Of COVID-19 In Windsor Essex On Saturday  windsoriteDOTca News
  2. BlackburnNews.com – Overdose alert issued for Windsor area  BlackburnNews.com
  3. Some local leaders fear looming crisis as migrant workers start to arrive in Windsor-Essex  CBC.ca
  4. 8 additional deaths, 99 new COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex  CTV News Windsor
  5. Ontario’s enforcement tour coming to Windsor-Essex this weekend  CTV News Windsor
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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