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Ontario Premier Ford calls out PM Trudeau, claims federal government is ignoring 'extremely serious' COVID-19 threat at airports – Yahoo News Canada

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The Canadian Press

The empty chair: Canadians face first Christmas without loved ones lost to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a pall over the holiday season, leaving thousands of chairs permanently empty at the Christmas dinner table.
Many Canadians are contending with a cascade of grief as they prepare for their first Christmas without a loved one who died of COVID-19, said Susan Cadell, a social work professor who studies grief at University of Waterloo.
Special occasions often evoke fond memories of the person who died, sharpening the pain of their absence, Cadell said.
The inexorable jolliness of the season can also make people feel more alone in their bereavement, said Cadell. The pandemic intensifies this isolation, she said, depriving mourners of communal rituals of commemoration and celebration.
Cadell said the COVID-19 crisis has left everyone with some degree of loneliness or loss. That’s why she advises people to “hold space” for grief during the holiday festivities, so we can support one another from afar.
Here are the stories of how Canadians who lost loved ones to COVID-19 are coping with Christmas grief: 

AFTER MORE THAN 20 YEARS APART, LAST YEAR WAS THE “BEST CHRISTMAS EVER” 
Jaclyn Mountain says her mother would be thrilled to see her Port Coquitlam, B.C., home decked out in Christmas lights for the first time in 15 years.
She’d hoped the extra decorations would help put her in a festive mood, but she knows nothing can replace Cindy Mountain’s exuberant holiday spirit.
Jaclyn Mountain said that she and her sister, Marilyn Tallio, barely got to see their mother over the holidays when they were children growing up with their uncle in ‘Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay, a remote village located off the northern end of Vancouver Island.
Jaclyn Mountain said last year marked their first proper Christmas celebration together in more than 20 years.
But she said Cindy Mountain was eager to make up for lost time, spending a full month living in close quarters with her daughters and grandchildren.
“It was the best Christmas ever,” Tallio said.
Only a few months later, Cindy Mountain developed symptoms for what she believed to be a cold, her daughters said. She died of COVID-19 in April at age 59.
The sisters also lost the uncle who raised them this year. And while his death wasn’t related to COVID-19, Jaclyn Mountain said the virus has hit their hometown, and she fears for the elders who live there.
“Every day, I try not to think about it,” she said. “But it just pops into your head and you just cry.”
Despite her devastation, Jaclyn Mountain said she’s determined to give her children the best Christmas possible as she struggles to muster some of her mother’s unwavering cheer.
“She just likes us to be happy and healthy and positive,” she said. “I take a lot after my mom, actually. But there’s those days where it’s just so hard.”

PUTTING OFF THE CHRISTMAS TREE 
Paul Doroshenko says his grandmother, Kathren Hartley, kept her hands busy over her 106 years.
An avid knitter and seamstress, Hartley stitched countless garments and toys for her five children, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Around 20 years ago, Doroshenko said Hartley started gifting him wool socks, on the condition that he remember her whenever he wears them.
Every year, as Christmas rolls around, the Vancouver lawyer said he pulls on a pair and Hartley’s handiwork keeps him warm.
One of his earliest memories is sitting next to Hartley on the sofa as she rubbed his back, her hands so tender that Doroshenko can still feel their touch at age 52.
He spent many childhood Christmases at his grandparents’ Edmonton homestead, where Hartley served stew made with vegetables grown in their “paradise” of a garden, replete with rose bushes to which she dotingly tended.
Doroshenko fondly recalls cobbling together the finest clothes he could find as a university student so he wouldn’t look too dishevelled on Hartley’s arm as he escorted her to the opera.
After moving to B.C. two decades ago, Doroshenko said he would return to his hometown to spend time with Hartley, reminding her of their history as her memory faded with age.
On Oct. 31, Hartley died in an Edmonton long-term care home after testing positive for COVID-19.
Since then, Doroshenko seems to see reminders of his grandmother everywhere: the well-worn pairs of socks in his drawer, the buds in his rose bush straining to bloom in the chill of December, and in the box of ornaments he hasn’t touched.
Doroshenko said he put off buying a Christmas tree until last Friday, leaving decorating to his children so he didn’t have to look through all the ornaments Hartley crafted for him.
There’s one in particular that makes him choke up with emotion — an ornament she made with a photo of a young Doroshenko sitting on his grandfather’s knee.
“I show it to my children every year,” he said. “That one is going to kill me when I see it.” 

RITUALS OF RENEWAL
Valery Navarrete said the death of her aunt, Delia Navarrete, has piled “layers upon layers of absence and loss” onto the holiday season.
There was the years-long, anticipatory mourning of watching the “Tia Delia” of her childhood memories slip away to dementia.
Then, in early November, the 84-year-old was one of many residents who died of COVID-19 as the virus ravaged her north Toronto long-term care home. 
Like so many people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, Valery Navarrete and her family couldn’t hold a funeral for the sole relative who followed her father to Canada from Ecuador.
For many immigrant families, ritual serves as a crucial link to the place and people you left behind, said Navarrete.
She said the inability to come together and share in customs to honour her aunt’s life has compounded the grief of losing one of her most cherished connections to her culture.
Navarrete, who recently moved to Ottawa from Toronto, said the approach of Christmas has aggravated the ache of disconnection from her family.
Instead, Navarrete has found solace in another holiday ritual — the Ecuadorian New Year’s Eve tradition of burning of the “ano viejo,” or “the old year.” At the stroke of midnight, people set effigies ablaze in a symbolic purge of the past 12 months to clear the slate for the year ahead.
“It’s been a hard year. But there’s still there’s room for sadness and joy to sit next to each other,” Navarrete said.
“I hope everyone has a chance … to do some sort of ritual or reflection to let the year go, and create room for renewal.”

ROOM FOR ONE MORE AT THE TABLE
James McAlpine never met a stranger. There were only people he hadn’t had a chance to talk to yet.
A chartered accountant and Toastmaster public speaker, the Montreal native could strike up a conversation with just about anyone, according to his daughter, Marla McAlpine.
And if he caught wind that someone was without holiday plans, he would ask his wife, Roberta McAlpine, to set another place at the family’s Christmas table.
Roberta McAlpine relished playing hostess to a rotating cast of guests from various corners of her husband’s social orbit.
But this Christmas, Roberta McAlpine will eat a turkey dinner from Meals on Wheels alone, as the same virus that killed her husband prevents her from spending the holidays with her children in Ontario.
James McAlpine, who had dementia, died of COVID-19 in April at age 90 as part of a devastating outbreak in a long-term care home near Montreal.
Even if they can’t be together, Marla McAlpine said her father would want his family to make the most of this pandemic-altered holiday season, and prepare to pull out all the stops for their next big Christmas bash.
“(He would want us) to make up the opportunity as soon as that opportunity was available,” she said. “Maybe not even wait until Christmas.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2020.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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Pfizer presses Health Canada to increase doses taken from each vial – The Globe and Mail

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A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Jan. 7, 2021.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Pfizer-BioNTech is pushing Health Canada to amend its COVID-19 vaccine label and formally recognize that each vial contains six doses rather than five, which would allow the company to send fewer vials to Canada but could complicate the vaccination program.

Pfizer submitted a request to Health Canada on Friday to amend the vaccine label, company spokesperson Christina Antoniou said on Tuesday. The company’s contract with Canada is based on delivering doses, rather than a set number of vials, she said.

“Obtaining six doses from the current multi-dose vial … can help minimize vaccine wastage and enable the most efficient use of the vaccine,” she said.

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Medical staff in Canada have sometimes been able to withdraw six doses, but officials have said it’s not consistent. However, Pfizer said with specialized syringes, a sixth dose can be reliably pulled from each vial. These syringes are in short supply around the world.

The United States and European Union have already accepted the requested change.

Canada is buying 40 million doses from Pfizer. If Health Canada approves the change, Canada could get about 6.7 million vials rather than eight million. The change could increase the number of people who can receive the vaccine worldwide. However, it could also be a challenge for Canada’s vaccination program, which has already hit several speed bumps.

SQUEEZING EVERY LAST DROP

Each dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine must be 0.3 ml. The company says if low-dead space syringes are used then six doses can be withdrawn from each vial of the vaccine. However, if standard syringes are used then medical professionals may only be able to extract five doses.

High-dead space syringe

0.092 ml of fluid retained

Low-dead space syringe

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

SQUEEZING EVERY LAST DROP

Each dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine must be 0.3 ml. The company says if low-dead space syringes are used then six doses can be withdrawn from each vial of the vaccine. However, if standard syringes are used then medical professionals may only be able to extract five doses.

High-dead space syringe

0.092 ml of fluid retained

Low-dead space syringe

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

SQUEEZING EVERY LAST DROP

Each dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine must be 0.3 ml. The company says if low-dead space syringes are used then six doses can be withdrawn from each vial of the vaccine. However, if standard syringes are used then medical professionals may only be able to extract five doses.

High-dead space syringe

0.092 ml of fluid retained

Low-dead space syringe

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

Shipments from Pfizer have had delays, and Canada will get no shots this week. Officials hope vaccine candidates from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca will soon be approved in Canada, but so far no delivery is expected before April.

A spokesperson for Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she could not comment until Health Canada decides whether to change the product information.

Late Tuesday, Martin Bégin, a spokesperson for Health Canada, confirmed the regulator has received Pfizer’s request. He was unable to provide a timeline for a decision.

In a statement to The Globe on Monday, Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette said the extra volume per vial acts as “a safeguard against potential loss of volume that can occur during storage, preparation and administration of the vaccine, and can result in overages that may amount to an extra dose or two. The monograph of the product would not change because of extra volume in the vial.”

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If health professionals use what’s called a low dead space syringe to extract each dose, Ms. Antoniou said, six doses can be consistently drawn. Dead space is vaccine that is left in a syringe after an injection. “If standard syringes and needles are used, there may not be sufficient volume to extract a sixth dose from a single vial,” Ms. Antoniou said. Some needles can limit dead space.

Pfizer did not provide The Globe with the data to show how often six doses are retrieved from a vial. The Globe asked the Ontario, B.C. and Quebec governments, but they did not provide such information.

The low dead space syringes are a “niche” item, said Troy Kirkpatrick, a spokesperson for BD, the medical technology company supplying the United States with syringes. BD is selling syringes to Canada, but not low dead space ones. The federal government was unable to tell The Globe which company supplies those.

Of the 145 million syringes Canada has bought for the vaccination program, 37.5 million are the kind that would be required if Health Canada approves Pfizer’s request, Ms. Anand’s office said. Her office was unable to say on Tuesday when they would all be delivered.

Ms. Antoniou said six low dead space syringes are needed for each vial.

Until now, the syringes “have historically had low demand,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said, and “no vaccine manufacturer identified the need for these types of devices when production capacity was increased.” He said the company is meeting its current contracts, and advising governments it will “take time” to increase production.

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Canada has also bought 40 million vaccine doses from Moderna. On Tuesday, the company said its shots require standard syringes.

At the University Health Network in Toronto, one of Canada’s largest hospital groups, Emily Musing, a vice-president and professional pharmacist, said staff have been able to “more consistently” get a sixth dose when using a one-milliliter syringe.

However, the hospital ran out and had to use three-ml syringes. “We found with the larger syringes, we were not able to pull up as many sixth doses,” she said.

Neither of those is as reliable as the low dead space syringe, Ms. Antoniou said.

Even without the requirement for the specialized syringe, some public health units were facing supply challenges. In Ontario, one health unit is asking pet clinics for syringes that are specialized enough to get a sixth dose from a vial.

“With an aim to maximize the efficiency of our approach to vaccine delivery, we have reached out to local veterinary clinics and community partners to ask for contributions of syringes,” said Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health at Hastings Prince Edward public health, which includes the city of Belleville.

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Andrew Blais, who works for a pet hospital in the region, said he was shocked to receive a request from the health unit on Monday for the clinic to donate 1 cc-size syringes. “It felt outrageous that they were even thinking about veterinary clinics,” he said. “I would have thought maybe they would start with public health agencies or other government-funded [agencies].”

“There was definitely a feeling of panic to it,” he said.

Alexandra Hilkene, a spokeswoman for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, said it’s Ottawa’s responsibility to procure syringes for vaccinations. However, she said the province can get additional supplies to help local public health units. She said Ontario sent three-ml syringes to Hastings Prince Edward on Jan. 22 and 25 for a total of 1,000. But those are not the specialized syringes to extract six doses.

Alberta’s health authority said it is buying low dead space syringes and other supplies to supplement shipments from Ottawa.

The federal government has not disclosed how much it is paying Pfizer for the vaccines. A New York Times report suggests that the reduction in vials shipped by Pfizer won’t change how much the U.S. pays. Reuters reports that Sweden is withholding payment until it gets clarity on Pfizer’s billings. The company told a local newspaper it charged for six doses per vial.

With reports from James Keller, Andrea Woo and Les Perreaux.

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B.C. couple accused of flying to Yukon to get vaccinated must wait for 2nd dose, ministry says – CBC.ca

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A Vancouver couple who allegedly flouted COVID-19 rules and flew to Yukon to get the first doses of a vaccine will have to wait their turn for their second doses, says B.C.’s Ministry of Health.

Rodney Baker, 55, the now former president and CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, and Ekaterina Baker, a 32-year-old aspiring actress, are accused of breaking Yukon COVID-19 rules by chartering a plane to the small community of Beaver Creek, a community roughly 450 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse near the Alaska border

There, they took advantage of a mobile vaccination clinic that was administering the first doses of the Moderna vaccine to locals, claiming they were new employees at an area motel, according to Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker

Many in Yukon’s rural communities have been prioritized to receive vaccinations because they are hours away from medical care. 

In a statement to CBC News, B.C.’s Ministry of Health said the couple will have to wait — like everyone else — until their eligible age category before receiving their second dose of the vaccine.

“There is no room in BC’s COVID-19 Immunization plan for people who deliberately put vulnerable populations at risk in order to receive their vaccine before the start of their eligibility group,” the statement read.

“As we move towards immunizing the general public … there will be clear processes in place to ensure people can verify their age and that they are currently living in BC.

“The pre-registration process will help ensure people wait their turn. The system will not allow people to book an appointment until their age category is eligible to pre-register for an appointment for the dose that they should be receiving.”

B.C.’s vaccine plan, which was announced on Friday, will focus on vaccinating high-risk and most elderly populations by April before reaching younger adults in the summer.

The goal is to vaccinate four million members of the general public against COVID-19 by September.

Currently, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends getting the second dose of the Moderna vaccine within 42 days of the first. 

According to current plan, those aged between 59 and 30 — like the Bakers — will receive vaccines between July to September, well after 42 days from their first doses.

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Vancouver couple accused of being COVID-19 vaccine tourists won’t be able to skip B.C. line – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The wealthy Vancouver couple accused of flying to a remote Yukon town to get vaccinated against COVID-19 won’t be allowed to line up for a second shot in B.C. anytime soon.

Rod Baker and his wife, Ekaterina, reportedly flew from Vancouver, where they live, to the remote Yukon community of Beaver Creek, where they received the Moderna vaccine.

But according to a statement from the Ministry of Health, there won’t be any space made for the couple to get their required second shot in B.C.

“There is no room in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan for people who deliberately put vulnerable populations at risk in order to receive their vaccine before the start of their eligibility group,” reads the statement to NEWS 1130.

Vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer require a second dose for full protection.

B.C. was administering the second shot 35 days after the virus until further delays from Pfizer pushed the province to extend that window to a maximum of 42 days.

RELATED: Couple accused of flying to Yukon for vaccine ‘despicable’: B.C. minister

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry didn’t indicate how long the couple would have to wait for their second shot as vaccines are in short supply.

“They should be ashamed of themselves,” Henry said Monday when asked about reports of the Bakers jumping the queue.

“They put a community at risk for their own benefit and that to me is appalling.”

The current plan for immunizing British Columbians against the virus won’t see the general population starting to get vaccinated until April. Even then, those at higher risk and those oldest will be immunized first, before the province works backwards in five-year increments until people 60 years and older are immunized.

Ministry of Health staff confirms there are clear processes in place to ensure people currently live in B.C. The pre-registration system also prevents people from booking an appointment before you are eligible –based on your age.

Following accusations of travel, Great Canadian Gaming confirmed Rod Baker was no longer with the company.

Tickets filed in a Whitehorse court show the 55-year-old man and his 32-year-old wife were each charged with failing to self-isolate for 14 days and failing to act in a manner consistent with their declarations upon arriving in Yukon.

The allegations against them have not been proven in court and the tickets indicate the couple can challenge them.

– With files from the Canadian Press and Denise Wong

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