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Ontario plans to expand vaccination as COVID cases stabilize in several provinces – MSN Canada



Ontario unveiled plans to expand its COVID-19 vaccination rollout to more target groups on Sunday ahead of an expected boost in nationwide shipments of the Pfizer vaccine that could lend ammunition to the provinces’ fights against the spread of contagious variants.

© Provided by The Canadian Press

The Ontario government reported Sunday that all long-term care residents across the province had been “given an opportunity” for a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.


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The province’s vaccine taskforce told regional public health officers in a memo that it is expanding its focus in the coming weeks, with staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, top priority health-care workers and Indigenous adults in remote and higher risk communities among those first in line for the vaccine.

Delays in vaccine shipments forced the province to concentrate its inoculation efforts on long-term care residents in recent weeks, but the memo says the province expects those deliveries to increase again, allowing it to expand the scope of its vaccination drive.

“Given the expected gradual increase in Ontario’s vaccine supply, the next target groups within the Phase One priority populations have been identified for vaccination,” the memo read.

Once those priority groups have been addressed, the province said seniors 80 or older, adults receiving chronic home care and all Indigenous adults will be next in line for a vaccine. The memo said those populations may start receiving their shots “when all reasonable steps have been taken to complete first-dose vaccinations” for the top priority groups.  

Vaccine deliveries are expected to ramp up across the country this week, with Pfizer-BioNTech slated to deliver its biggest shipment to date.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has said more than 335,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be delivered in the coming days following a weeks-long slowdown that forced provinces to curtail their immunization efforts. 

The vaccines are due to land as provinces hoping to protect their vulnerable populations from more contagious COVID-19 variants, which threaten to reverse positive trends in cases in recent weeks.

Officials in both Ontario and Quebec expressed concern over variants on Sunday, even as their provinces reported fewer than 1,000 new cases each.

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The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit became the latest to confirm a case of the variant first discovered in South Africa, which is one of three “variants of concern” that has been detected in the province.

A total of 20 confirmed COVID-19 variant cases had been reported in the region as of Saturday, but the health unit said only one of those has so far been verified as the South Africa-based variant.

“We need to stop the spread of COVID-19 variants of concern, and if we don’t act now, it could be devastating for the entire district,” regional Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jim Chirico said in a statement.

On Saturday, officials announced that another variant, which was first detected in the U.K., has been found in all 10 Canadian provinces.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube also expressed concern about variants, even as his province continued to report encouraging numbers.

While deaths and hospitalizations have declined and new cases have stabilized over the last two weeks, “the threat of variants is concerning, we must continue to limit contacts,” he wrote on Twitter.

The province logged 910 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday along with 15 new virus-related deaths. 

Meanwhile, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador both saw a drop in the number of new cases reported after recent surges.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while New Brunswick recorded two, compared to 16 on Saturday.

Farther west, Manitoba reported 79 additional cases as well as five new deaths among COVID-19 patients.

Saskatchewan counted 161 new cases of the virus, while Alberta logged 284, as well as five added deaths. 

Nunavut added three new cases to its overall tally, all in the community of Arviat that’s the scene of the territory’s only active infections

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2021.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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Canada announces partnership with India-based company to secure more AstraZeneca jabs – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

Published Friday, February 26, 2021 12:31PM EST

Canada’s vaccine rollout received a boost Friday with the approval of a third COVID-19 inoculation, giving the country another immunization option at a time when case counts remain nearly 75 per cent higher than they were at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.

Health Canada approved its third COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, this time from AstraZeneca, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an additional partnership with an India-based institute that will deliver two million more doses of the newly authorized jab to Canadians by the spring.

While numbers of cases and hospitalizations have dropped from all-time highs just weeks ago, variants of concern are rising in parts of the country.

Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam said Friday the country had 964 reported cases of the variant first detected in the U.K., up from 429 reported two weeks ago. There were also 44 cases of the variant first discovered in South Africa, and two cases of the version first found in Brazil.

“The risk of rapid re-acceleration remains,” Tam said. “At the same time new variants continue to emerge … and can become predominant.”

Tam added that daily COVID-19 case counts are nearly 75 per cent higher than they were last spring, and that the average daily case counts in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have increased between eight and 14 per cent over the previous week.

As of Thursday evening, federal data shows there have been 858,217 COVID-19 cases in Canada, including 21,865 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tam warned that COVID-19 variants can still emerge and those that spread more quickly can become dominant.

However, progress on the vaccine front is a source of optimism, Tam noted.

“To date, over 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across Canada. And there are early indications of high vaccine efficacy.”

Canada’s partnership with Mississauga, Ont.’s Verity Pharmaceuticals and the Serum Institute of India means the country is set to receive two million doses of the CoviShield vaccine – essentially the same as AstraZeneca’s product. Trudeau said the first shipment of half a million doses will arrive by March.

Those two million incoming doses of CoviShield are in addition to the 20 million doses Canada already secured with AstraZeneca that will start arriving in the spring.

Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said in a briefing Friday that the CoviShield and AstraZeneca products are “for all intents and purposes” the same vaccine.

The difference is in where they are manufactured, she said, using the analogy of the same recipe made in two different kitchens.

Trudeau said as vaccinations ramp up across the country, many provinces have expanded the number of health professions able to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, and he asked for dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians and retired nurses to lend a hand in the rollout.

“Job 1 remains beating this pandemic,” Trudeau said, adding that the federal government will continue to send rapid tests to provinces in hopes of getting more Canadians tested.

“We still have to be very careful, especially with new variants out there. We all want to start the spring in the best shape possible.”

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, added that the country’s vaccine rollout will be just one method in slowing the spread of new variants and avoiding a third wave.

He said public health measures aimed at halting transmission such as physical distancing and limiting contacts remain important.

Experts advising the Ontario government said this week more contagious variants of COVID-19 are expected to make up 40 per cent of cases by the second week of March.

Ontario reported 1,258 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with 362 of them in Toronto, 274 in Peel Region and 104 in York Region. There were also 28 more deaths linked to the virus in the province since the last daily update.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021.

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Health Canada approves AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine – 680 News



Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The shot is the third to be given the green light for use in the country, following vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The country has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

After completing their rigorous and independent review process, Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine – and we’ve already secured millions of doses for people across the country,” said Trudeau on Friday.

“Canada now has 3 vaccines approved for use in our fight against COVID-19.”

It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June.

“It means more people vaccinated and sooner,” Trudeau said. “Because for AstraZeneca, like we were for Pfizer and Moderna, we’re ready to get doses rolling.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the approval is great news for the province.

“I think it’s the best news we’ve heard in a long time,” said Ford. “The two questions we need answered is when we are getting it and how much we are getting.”

The AstraZeneca shot is a two-dose vaccine that can be refrigerated which makes it easier to handle than the shots from Pfizer and Moderna, which must be kept frozen.

In Canada, federal health officials provided an updated vaccine forecast last week, estimating that by the time summer arrives the country could see over half of its residents inoculated.

“Here is the bottom line. With Pfizer, Moderna, and now AstraZeneca, Canada will get to more than six-and-a-half million doses by the end of March,” Trudeau said.

“There will be tens of millions more doses to come between April and June.”

RELATED: Pfizer, Moderna executives expect vaccine shipments to triple in weeks ahead

Best-case forecasts considered vaccine deliveries from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax, in addition to the already approved Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots.

Health Canada continues to review the two other vaccines and the approval of the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will likely not come until late February or early March and Novavax are not expected until April.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine successfully protects against COVID-19 and is effective in reducing the spread.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine can be refrigerated but only requires a single-dose.

This week Canada received its biggest combined shipment yet of vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said recently that health officials were looking into evidence that a single dose of the Pfizer shot could be as effective as a double dose.

Original data suggested one dose gave around 50 percent more protection against the virus while two doses gave about 95 percent protection.

Health Canada senior medical advisor Doctor Supriya Sharma says while the AstraZeneca vaccine is considered less effective overall than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the real measure is how well it prevents serious illness and death.

“I think the key numbers that are important is that if you look across all the clinical trials at the tens of thousands of people that were involved, the number of cases of people that died from COVID-19, that got vaccines, was zero,” Sharma said.

“The number of people that were hospitalized because their COVID-19 disease was so severe was zero.

Experts are now saying that was measured from the moment the vaccine was given instead of waiting two weeks to let the immune system gear up.

With files from the Canadian Press

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CPP Investments CEO Mark Machin resigns after travelling to UAE for COVID-19 vaccine – CTV News



The chief executive of the fund that manages Canada Pension Plan investments has resigned after it was revealed that he decided to travel to the United Arab Emirates, where he arranged to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

CPP Investments said Friday that Mark Machin tendered his resignation after discussions with the board Thursday night.

The resignation comes after Machin on Thursday evening sent a memo to staff, in which he said he received a COVID-19 vaccination while on a “very personal” trip to Dubai.

Machin said in the email viewed by The Canadian Press that he remains in Dubai with his partner “for many reasons, some of which are deeply personal.”

“This was a very personal trip and was undertaken after careful consideration and consultation,” the memo reads.

The federal government is actively discouraging Canadians from travelling abroad and recently implemented stricter quarantine measures for those returning home.

Machin told staff he followed all travel protocols related to his role as head of the pension fund while on the trip.

“This trip was intended to be very private and I am disappointed it has become the focus of public attention and expected criticism,” he wrote.

Several politicians and health-care officials have become high profile flashpoints in recent months for leaving the country despite public health advice to the contrary.

Among them, the former CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre is now embroiled in litigation after his travel to the U.S. prompted the hospital to terminate his contract.

Rod Phillips, Ontario’s former finance minister, resigned from his post in late December after taking a personal trip to St. Barts.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that while CPPIB is an independent organization, the revelation is “very troubling.”

“The federal government has been clear with Canadians that now is not the time to travel abroad,” Katherine Cuplinskas said in an emailed statement.

“We were not made aware of this travel and further questions should be directed to the CPPIB on this matter.”

CPP Investments said Friday it has no comment beyond the statement announcing Machin’s departure.

The fund’s board has appointed John Graham as its new CEO. Graham was its global head of credit investments.

CPP Investments, which had $475.7 billion in assets under management as of Dec. 31, invests money on behalf of retired and active employees covered by the Canada Pension Plan.

Machin joined CPP Investments in 2012 and was appointed president and chief executive in June 2016. Before joining the pension fund manager, he spent 20 years at investment bank Goldman Sachs.

“The board wishes to thank Mr. Machin for his global perspective, leadership and commitment to excellence and we offer him our sincere best wishes for the future.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021

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