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Ontario expecting shorter timeline for COVID-19 vaccine rollout after good news on dosing and AstraZeneca – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Health Minister Christine Elliott says that with the approval of a new COVID-19 vaccine in Canada and new guidelines for administering second doses, Ontario is “recalibrating” its timeline for rolling out vaccines and may be able to get more people their first dose sooner than initially thought.

“We were looking at the end of the summer, probably into perhaps September,” Elliott told reporters Thursday. “I think it’s fair to say that we will be able to shorten that timeline, given the new volumes of vaccines coming in with AstraZeneca, and the extension of the first and second doses for both Pfizer and Moderna, meaning we can get more first dose into more arms faster.”

Last week, Health Canada rubber-stamped the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third COVID-19 vaccine that has now been approved for use in the country. On Wednesday, a national panel of vaccine experts also recommended extending the interval between first and second vaccine doses to four months, based on data showing good protection after just a single dose.  

While it looks like the province’s vaccination program may proceed more quickly than first thought because of the two developments, Elliott said it is too soon to set a new target date.

“We expect that our timelines will be reduced overall, but I can’t give you a specific date right now,” she said.

The provincial government is expected to announce the next steps of its vaccination plan on Friday, CTV News has learned.

Speaking to CP24 on Thursday morning, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who is also a member of the province’s 10-person vaccine distribution task force, said recent developments indicate that Canada will be able to significantly speed up its timeline for vaccinating members of the general population.

“I think it is very, very, very likely that most Canadians will be able to have a vaccine by, just guessing here, but could be the early part of the summer,” he said Thursday.

The federal government previously said that all Canadians who want a vaccine should be able to receive one by late September.

Bogoch noted that after a sluggish start to vaccine shipments, more doses are finally starting to arrive in Canada.

“The real inflection point is as March turns into April. You are going to start to see the mass vaccine clinics expand, and then of course the massive expansion of the vaccines going into pharmacies,” he said.

“That giant shift really is at the tail end of March.”

To date, Ontario has administered 784,828 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and about 268,118 of the province’s 14 million residents have received two doses for full immunization.

Ontario is expecting to receive approximately 700,000 more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next four weeks. While provincial allocations for the Moderna vaccine have not been updated on the federal government’s website, the company previously promised to deliver 1.3 million doses to Canada in the month of March.

At least 113,000 AstraZeneca doses manufactured in India are destined for Ontario after arriving in Canada this week.

Johnson and Johnson decision expected within a week

“We are actually starting to see a significant number of vaccines coming to the country, especially with AstraZeneca coming in. We are getting half a million doses now and much more of that in the coming weeks,” Bogoch said.

“If you look in the crystal ball, it is likely that we’ll have (the) Johnson & Johnson (COVID-19 vaccine) and even with some of the delays that Johnson & Johnson is having in manufacturing, we are seeing other indications that they will be able to ramp up manufacturing… At the end of the day, it just points to much shorter timelines for Canadians.”

Health Canada’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said Thursday that a decision on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely be made within the next week.

“The review of the Johnson & Johnson submission is going very well. It is progressing and we are expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days. I would say within the next seven days or so,” she told reporters.

If approved, Canada is expecting to receive a million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of September, however the delivery schedule is still unclear. On Thursday, federal officials said shipments could begin sometime in the second quarter of the year.

More encouraging news came earlier this when the panel of experts who provide advice to Ottawa on vaccinations said second doses of COVID-19 vaccines can now be administered up to four months after the first dose is given, allowing vaccines to flow to more members of the population sooner.

The panel cited emerging clinical evidence from the U.S., Israel and the UK that indicated the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines provides 90 per cent or better protection from coronavirus infection for much longer than initially thought.

The Ford government has signalled that it plans to accept that recommendation and delay second doses beyond the current 28-day timeframe.

“Most places in Canada will likely be spacing out the doses between dose one and dose two by anywhere from three to four months,” Bogoch said. “You can just vaccinate way more people in a shorter period of time.”

AstraZeneca to be used in pharmacy pilot starting next week

While some Ontario municipalities have begun to vaccinate people over the age of 80 who are living in the community, the province’s largest city has not yet been able to begin vaccinating members of the general population.

Toronto’s mayor has said that the city is still focused on trying to vaccinate other priority populations, including frontline health-care workers.

In the meantime, Elliott confirmed Thursday that the AstraZeneca vaccine will be used in a pilot project starting next week that will see vaccines distributed through pharmacies in three health units, including Toronto.

The storage requirements for the vaccine are simpler, making it easier to distribute through remote locations such as pharmacies.

“It can be moved more easily. It doesn’t have the same kind of temperature requirements that the Pfizer vaccine has and to a lesser extent Moderna,” Elliott told reporters. “I would say that in addition to pharmacies, you may also see it in primary care centres, and perhaps even in larger vaccination clinics.”

Ontario has said that keeping in line with advice from the  National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), it will only distribute the Astra Zeneca vaccine to those under 65 years of age.

Infection-prevention measures still important in the meantime

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams called the possible shortening of the vaccination timeline “good news” Thursday.

“This means we can accelerate faster, and we have some advise on timelines that we might be able to move up on the previous predictions of early fall to complete, we may have it even sooner than we had anticipated, and this is good news for all,” he said.

However he cautioned that people still need to stick to public health advice while the vaccine rollout is underway, especially with the more contagious variants of the virus on the loose in the province.

“We still have to hold the other ones down while we undertake this task,” he said. “So our task of  maintaining our distancing, masking, staying home when sick, getting tests when we need to get tested, keep to your household, stay home if you do not need to (go out), limit your activities, even if you are in a zone within the framework that allows you to access those activities.”

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Hospitals across much of Ontario will start ramping down elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures Monday to ensure they have the capacity to treat more COVID-19 patients. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Friday that could increase intensive-care unit capacity in Ontario by up to 1,000 patient beds.

The province reported on Sunday that there were 1,513 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 605 people in intensive care “due to COVID-related illness.”

Ontario also said that there were 4,456 new COVID-19 cases in the province on Sunday, marking a new single-day high for new infections.

Hospitals in northern Ontario are exempt from cancelling non-urgent procedures, but a memo from Ontario Health on Thursday night said they should prepare to ramp down quickly in the near future.

The memo also asked hospitals to identify staff who may be redeployed to other sites if necessary.

Meanwhile, more than 700 pharmacies are joining Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the province races to slow the spread of the virus. Government officials say the move will rapidly expand availability of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 55 and over this week.

-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

WATCH | Many educators still waiting for access to COVID-19 vaccine:

Educators are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in several provinces, but many are still waiting for access to the shots. 2:01

As of early Monday morning, Canada had reported 1,060,163 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 73,446 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 23,315.

Across Atlantic Canada, health officials reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, including:

  • 9 new cases in the Edmundston area of New Brunswick, which entered a lockdown on Sunday.
  • 5 new cases in Nova Scotia, which brought the number of active cases in the province to 40.
  • 1 new case in Newfoundland and Labrador, putting the number of active cases in the province at 10.

Prince Edward Island, which did not report any new cases on Sunday, is as of Monday allowing people aged 55 and up to get the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at 12 pharmacies on the island.

In Central Canada, Quebec health officials on Sunday reported 1,535 new cases and five new deaths. Hospitalizations in the province, as reported on a provincial dashboard, stood at 608, with 139 people in intensive care.  The province, which has moved up its curfew in Montreal and Laval, on Sunday night saw hundreds of protesters gather in Old Montreal.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 112 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while neighbouring Saskatchewan reported 321 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.

Health officials in Alberta, meanwhile, reported 1,183 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death. The province’s chief medical health officer said 50.5 per cent of the active cases in the province are variants of concern.

In British Columbia, health officials have decided that all adults who live or work in Whistler are eligible as of Monday for a COVID-19 vaccine as the region struggles with increasing cases.

Across the North, there were no new cases of COVID-19 reported on Sunday in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or Yukon.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

Women take a selfie with their drinks on Monday at The Fox on the Hill pub after its reopening as coronavirus restrictions ease in London. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

As of early Monday morning, more than 136.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking site run by Johns Hopkins University in the United States. The reported global death toll stood at more than 2.9 million.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to “behave responsibly” as shops, gyms, hairdressers, restaurant patios and beer gardens reopen after months of lockdown. Monday sees the easing of restrictions that have been in place in England since early January to suppress a surge in coronavirus infections linked to a more transmissible new variant of the virus.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following their own, broadly similar plans to ease lockdown. Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths.

Meanwhile, in France, more than 10 million people have received a first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Jean Castex said.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the hard-hit Philippine capital and four nearby provinces have been placed under a lighter coronavirus lockdown to avoid further damage to an already battered economy despite a continuing surge in infections and deaths. The Philippines has long been a Southeast Asian coronavirus hot spot, with about 865,000 confirmed infections and nearly 15,000 deaths.

“Our emerging strategy is to increase our bed capacities instead of closing the economy,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque  who spoke in a televised news briefing from a Manila hospital after contracting COVID-19 like many cabinet members.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees flocked to take a holy bath in India’s Ganges river, even as the nation racked up the world’s highest tally of new daily coronavirus infections.

Thai workers prepare a field hospital for COVID-19 patients in Bangkok on Monday. Thailand’s Health Ministry warned Sunday that restrictions may need to be tightened to slow the spread of a fresh coronavirus wave as the country hit a daily record for new cases. (Somchai Chanjirakitti/The Associated Press)

In the Middle East, Iran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country on Saturday.

In the Americas, the United States had administered 187,047,131 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and distributed 237,796,105 doses as of Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Venezuela has secured the funds to fully pay for coronavirus vaccines via the COVAX system, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday, a day after a surprise announcement that the country had paid more than half the amount due.

In Africa, Tunisia approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and will soon receive 1.5 million doses of the vaccine under an African Union plan.

-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET


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Myanmar military sentences 19 to death, says anti-coup protests dwindling

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(Reuters) – Nineteen people have been sentenced to death in Myanmar for killing an associate of an army captain, the military owned Myawaddy TV station said on Friday, the first such sentences announced in public since a Feb. 1 coup and crackdown on protesters.

The report said the killing took place on March 27 in the North Okkalapa district of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. Martial law has been declared in the district, allowing courts martial to pronounce sentences.

The military rulers who overthrew an elected government said on Friday that a protest campaign against its rule was dwindling because people wanted peace, and that it would hold elections within two years, the first timeframe it has given for a return to democracy.

Troops fired rifle grenades at anti-coup protesters on Friday in the town of Bago, near Yangon, witnesses and news reports said. At least 10 people were killed and their bodies piled up inside a pagoda, they said.

Myanmar Now news and Mawkun, an online news magazine, said at least 20 people were killed and many wounded. It was not possible to get a precise toll because troops had cordoned off the area near the pagoda, they said.

Junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the country was returning to normal and government ministries and banks would resume full operations soon.

More than 600 people have been killed by security forces cracking down on protests against the coup, according to an activist group. The country has ground to a standstill because of the protests and widespread strikes against military rule.

“The reason of reducing protests is due to cooperation of people who want peace, which we value,” Zaw Min Tun said. “We request people to cooperate with security forces and help them.”

He said the military had recorded 248 deaths and he denied that automatic weapons had been used. Sixteen policemen had also been killed, he said.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group has said 614 people, including 48 children, had been killed by security forces since the coup, as of Thursday evening. More than 2,800 were in detention, it said.

“We are humbled by their courage and dignity,” a group of 18 ambassadors in Myanmar said of the protesters in a joint statement.

“We stand together to support the hopes and aspirations of all those who believe in a free, just, peaceful and democratic Myanmar. Violence has to stop, all political detainees must be released and democracy must be restored.”

The statement was signed by the ambassadors of the United States, Britain, the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland and several other European nations.

“The suggestions from neighbouring countries and big countries and powerful people in politics, we respect them,” Zaw Min Tun said. He also accused members of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy of arson and said the protest campaign was being financed by foreign money, but gave no details.

Suu Kyi and many of her party colleagues have been in custody since the coup.

Zaw Min Tun said reports that some members of the international community did not recognise the military government were “fake news”.

“We are cooperating with foreign countries and working together with neighbouring countries,” the spokesman said.

Ousted Myanmar lawmakers urged the United Nations Security Council on Friday to take action against the military.

“Our people are ready to pay any cost to get back their rights and freedom,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted lawmakers. She urged Council members to apply both direct and indirect pressure on the junta.

“Myanmar stands at the brink of state failure, of state collapse,” Richard Horsey, a senior adviser on Myanmar with the International Crisis Group, told the informal U.N. meeting, the first public discussion of Myanmar by council members.

The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, had wanted to visit the country but said she has been rebuffed by the generals.

She said on Friday she had arrived in Bangkok, the capital of neighbouring Thailand.

“I regret that Tatmadaw answered me yesterday that they are not ready to receive me,” Schraner Burgener said on Twitter, referring to the Myanmar military. “I am ready for dialogue. Violence never leads to peaceful sustainable solutions.”

 

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Grant McCool; Editing by Nick Macfie and Daniel Wallis)

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Australia abandons COVID-19 vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

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By Paulina Duran

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.

Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination programme, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” Morrison said.

Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.

Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.

Australia’s hardline response to the virus largely stopped community transmissions but the vaccination rollout has become a hot political topic – and a source of friction between Morrison and state and territory leaders – after the country vaccinated only a fraction of its four million target by the end of March.

About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison added, noting the speed of Australia’s vaccination programme was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other nations, partly because of its low number of infections, which stand at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.

(GRAPHIC – Global COVID tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/)

 

(Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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