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Ontario open to mass-vaccinating children against COVID at schools –



Ontario’s government is open to running mass-vaccination clinics at schools to get as many children as possible vaccinated against COVID, the province’s Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Tuesday.

Elliott’s comments come hours after Health Canada confirmed that it had received Pfizer-BioNTech’s official request to authorize its COVID vaccine for children ages five to 11.

To date, Health Canada has only approved COVID vaccines for people who are 12 and older. More than 83 per cent of all Ontarians who are 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID, and more than 87 per cent have received at least one dose.

The provincial government asked for and has since received all 34 of the province’s public health units’ plans to vaccinate kids between five and 11, Elliott added on Tuesday.

“The plans are now being reviewed by our central team at the Ministry of Health, and it’s a variety of ways that are going to be employed to vaccinate children, depending on the different geographic locations,” Elliott said.

Children who are older than five will be able to get vaccinated at pharmacies, their doctor’s office, or at other locations facilitated by the local public health unit, depending on where they live, according to Elliott.

As for schools, Elliott seemed to dismiss the idea that children would be immunized against COVID during school hours, saying instead that they could be used as mass-vaccination clinics on weekends or evenings, so parents can be present.

“Many parents with small children would prefer to be with their child when they received the vaccination,” Elliott said.

She also said that Ontario will be ready to rollout vaccines to kids as young as five, pending Health Canada’s approval.

“We have the forces on the ground ready to go, and I know that parents are concerned about this, but they need not be because we will be ready to go,” Elliott said. “We’re working on this and putting the final plan together right now.”

Seventy-four per cent of parents of children between the age of five and 11 in Ontario say they will get them vaccinated against COVID when the option becomes available, including 54 per cent who want to do so immediately, according to the results of a survey that the Angus Reid Institute released on Monday. Eighteen per cent of Ontario parents of kids in this age group said they wouldn’t get them vaccinated, while eight per cent were unsure.

So far, Ontario’s government has resisted pressure from some school boards and teachers groups to mandate COVID vaccines for children who are old enough to get immunized. Children attending primary or secondary schools in Ontario are required to have received vaccines against nine other diseases, or else risk suspension.

Teachers and other school staff also aren’t required to be vaccinated against COVID to continue doing their jobs in Ontario. They’re able to be exempted from the Ontario government’s vaccination policy by taking COVID tests twice a week.

As of Monday, two of Ontario’s schools were closed because of COVID outbreaks. There were also 1,255 active COVID cases in the public school system, which makes up about one-third of all cases in the province. The number of active cases in schools has been declining over the past two weeks, as it has in the province overall.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province would “keep all doors open” to immunize kids against COVID.

Health Canada will review Pfizer-BioNTech’s clinical trial data from its trials in five- to 11-year-olds, as well as other data around how COVID-19 can affect children’s health, it said in a press release on Monday night.

With Pfizer-BioNTech currently studying use of its COVID vaccine in kids younger than five, Health Canada expects to receive an application for approval for its vaccine in this age group sometime in the next few months.

READ MORE: Ontario plans to immunize kids, pending Health Canada’s approval

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Islander living with HIV for 3 decades reflects on World AIDS Day –



Troy Perrot-Sanderson has lived with human immunodeficiency virus for almost 30 years, but he’s only recently started talking about how he became infected. 

“It’s a very difficult thing for me to talk about,” said Perrot-Sanderson, in an interview tied to Dec. 1, which is World AIDS Day. “I’ve only really started dealing with it.” 

He said he was 21 years old when he was sexually assaulted, while he was living in Alberta. 

After the rape, Perrot-Sanderson said his life “spiralled” as he used drugs and alcohol to cope. 

He has just started to see a counsellor to help him deal with the trauma.

Perrot-Sanderson was a volunteer and later a staff member for AIDS P.E.I. He said his outlook on the disease has changed over the years and he feels much more optimistic now compared to when he was first diagnosed. (Submitted Troy Perrot-Sanderson)

HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.  

Perrot-Sanderson remembers that when he was first diagnosed, he thought his life was over. It took two decades after AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s to find an effective combination of drugs to treat it. In Canada alone, a 2017 report estimated, nearly 25,000 people had died of the disease by the end of 2016. 

“I just slowly prepared myself to die for a few years,” Perrot-Sanderson said. 

Advocate for others

He said he got more optimistic after he starting taking drugs to fight HIV. He volunteered and worked at AIDS PEI (later renamed PEERS Alliance) and was even acting executive director for a time. 

“We can take medication and live a pretty normal life,” he said.

PEERS Alliance recently relocated its office to downtown Charlottetown, and is planning an open house at 250 B Queen Street from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Of today’s PEERS leader, he added: “I can’t thank them enough. They’re doing all kinds of amazing work in the community.” 

PEERS Alliance runs a number of education and outreach programs, working with a wide variety of people including gay and lesbian youth and adults; the trans community; and people who use drugs, who are susceptible to getting infected due to shared needles.

Still, as Perrot-Sanderson marks this World AIDS Day, he said it’s important to remember the people who have not survived, noting: “I have lost a lot of friends over the years.”

He worries there’s apathy around AIDS and HIV in 2021. 

“A lot of people just don’t talk about it or think about it any more,” he said. “We know how to protect ourselves now — we certainly know so much more, we know how to prevent this disease.”

Hopes for the future

Josie Baker is the executive director of PEERS Alliance, and hopes people will take part in an open house set up to mark World AIDS Day.

Baker noted that there is better access to testing now, with at-home kits available for use “in the comfort of someone’s own home.” 

Josie Baker of PEERS Alliance says she is looking forward to a day when there is no more stigma around HIV/AIDS. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Baker said non-nominal testing is also available, where each test is assigned a number instead of a name before going to the lab for analysis. That means people can be assured nobody at the lab will know who tested positive.   

There are still pressing issues that require lobbying, though, 40 years after the HIV crisis began. Baker said having an HIV care specialist on P.E.I. would help, since many have to go off-Island for specialized care. 

She also said being HIV-positive still carries a stigma on P.E.I. and elsewhere, and people should be able to access care and live in their communities free of judgment. 

“That would be my hope: to end the stigma,” said Baker. 

Perrot-Sanderson agrees, saying stigma often prevents people from seeking medical help. 

“People ignore it and don’t protect themselves,” he said.

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Singapore tests out ‘smart bandage’ for remote recovery



Researchers in Singapore have developed a smart bandage to enable patients to have chronic wounds monitored remotely via an app on a mobile device, potentially saving them visits to the doctor.

A research team at the National University of Singapore has created a wearable sensor attached to a transparent bandage to track progress in healing, using information like temperature, bacteria type, and levels of pH and inflammation.

“Traditionally when someone has a wound or ulcer, if it’s infected, the only way to examine it is through looking at the wound itself, through visual inspection,” said Chwee Teck Lim, lead researcher at the university’s department of biomedical engineering.

“If the clinician wants to have further information then they will obtain the wound fluid and send to the lab for further testing,” he said.

“So what we’re trying to do is use our smart bandage to cut the number of hours or days to just a few minutes.”

The “VeCare” technology will enable patients to convalesce more at home and visit a doctor only if necessary.

The bandage is being tested on patients with chronic venous ulcers, or leg ulcers caused by circulation problems in veins.

Data collection by researchers on the wounds has so far been effective, according to Lim, who said the smart bandage could potentially be used for other wounds, like diabetic foot ulcers.

(This story refiles to correct to cut extraneous word in the first paragraph)


(Reporting by Ying Shan Lee; Writing by Masako Iijima; Editing by Martin Petty, William Maclean)

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Courts block two Biden administration COVID vaccine mandates



The Biden administration was blocked on Tuesday from enforcing two mandates requiring millions of American workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a key part of its strategy for controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, temporarily blocked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers until the court can resolve legal challenges.

Doughty’s ruling applied nationwide, except in 10 states where the CMS was already prevented from enforcing the rule due to a prior order from a federal judge in St. Louis.

Doughty said the CMS lacked the authority to issue a vaccine mandate that would require more than 2 million unvaccinated healthcare workers to get a coronavirus shot.

“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” wrote Doughty.

Separately, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove in Frankfort, Kentucky, blocked the administration from enforcing a regulation that new government contracts must include clauses requiring that contractors’ employees get vaccinated.

The contractor ruling applied in the three states that had filed the lawsuit, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, one of at least 13 legal challenges nationwide against the regulation. It appears to be the first ruling against the contractor vaccine mandate.

The White House declined to comment.

The legal setbacks for President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy come as concerns that the Omicron coronavirus variant could trigger a new wave of infections and curtail travel and economic activity across the globe.

Biden unveiled regulations in September to increase the U.S. adult vaccination rate beyond the current 71% as a way of fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 750,000 Americans and weighed on the economy.

Republican state attorneys general, conservative groups and trade organizations have sued to stop the regulations.

Tuesday’s rulings add to a string of court losses for the Biden administration over its COVID-19 policies.

The most sweeping regulation, a workplace vaccine-or-testing mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court in early November.

In August, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the administration’s pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

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