The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force is calling on Health Canada to “look into” the possibility of providing Moderna’s vaccine as a single dose, rather than two, in a bid to quickly expand capacity as cases of the illness surge in the province.
Retired general Rick Hillier said Tuesday that the first shipment of about 50,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive in Ontario within 24 hours. It will be distributed to four sites in hotspots throughout southern Ontario before they are sent to long-term care and retirement facilities.
“I know it’s late to ask for a Christmas gift. But if I could ask for one, I would ask Health Canada to re-look at the Moderna vaccine and see if we can make that a one-shot vaccine to give us that greater capacity to go out and vaccinate people even faster than we plan on doing it now,” Hillier told reporters.
As it stands currently, the Moderna vaccine requires two doses administered about 28 days apart. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only other COVID-19 vaccine currently approved for use by Health Canada, also involves two doses, taken some three weeks apart.
WATCH | Retired general Rick Hillier asks if the Moderna vaccine could be a single dose:
Hillier said that if the Moderna vaccine were to be made a single dose, “that would allow us to get literally hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps even several million” vaccinated more efficiently.
Hillier’s request comes as Ontario this morning reported a record-high 2,553 new cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of 78 people with the illness over the last two days.
During a briefing last week, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada said that while the first dose of Moderna’s vaccine imparts about 80 per cent immunity, it is uncertain how long that immunity would last.
“So we would recommend that the second dose be given,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, adding that provinces would also need to factor in the reliability of the supply chain when deciding how doses should be administered in the coming months.
And speaking to CBC News on Dec. 23, the general manager of Moderna Canada rejected the idea.
“The two doses are necessary and very important to achieve full immunity and maintain that,” said Patricia Gauthier.
“It’s really important that everybody gets the two doses, four weeks apart.”
As of this morning, Ontario has used more than 14,000 of the 90,000 doses included in the initial shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The pace is considerably behind those of other provinces.
Some health experts have also criticized the province for scaling back its vaccination program over the holidays.
Hillier said today that it was a “mistake” to do so, and that doses will be administered seven days a week moving forward.
“We can’t do it any faster,” he said. “We want to make sure that we get it right, and not at the expense of time, but we want to make sure we get it right.”
WATCH | Retired general Rick Hillier apologizes for pause in vaccination program:
B.C. health officer approves of possibility
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said the possibility of providing Moderna’s vaccine as a single dose, rather than two, would “absolutely” be helpful to get the most of the vaccine supply.
“It would be just wonderful if people only needed a single dose,” she told reporters in Victoria. “That would make our lives so much easier.”
Henry said experts around the world are looking at data about vaccine efficacy after just the first dose, but right now it is a two-dose program.
Record-high new cases
Meanwhile, the record 2,553 cases reported this morning include 895 in Toronto, 496 in Peel Region, 147 in Windsor-Essex, 144 in Hamilton and 142 in York Region.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
- Niagara: 115.
- Durham: 108.
- Middlesex-London: 86.
- Halton: 78.
- Ottawa: 65.
- Waterloo: 57.
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 57.
- Simcoe Muskoka: 34.
- Southwestern: 25.
- Chatham-Kent: 19.
- Eastern Ontario: 16.
- Lambton: 16.
- Brant County: 11.
- Haldimand-Norfolk: 10.
[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.]
Combined, the new cases bring the seven-day average to 2,236. Ontario has seen daily case counts above 2,000 since Dec. 15. In that same time, there have been an average of 32 deaths per day of people with COVID-19, according to Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health.
In the last 24 hours, Ontario’s network of labs processed 34,112 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 9.7 per cent, a new high for the pandemic. It follows a reported positivity rate of 8.6 per cent the day before, which was the previous record-high. Another 32,850 tests are in the queue to be completed.
There are 864 people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19, though some hospitals didn’t submit data and therefore that figure could be an underrepresentation of the actual total. Of those, 304 are being treated in intensive care, the most at any time during the pandemic, and 207 require a ventilator to breathe.
Norway warns of vaccination side-effects, deaths in some patients over 80 – Global News
Norwegian officials have adjusted their advice on who gets the COVID-19 vaccine in light of a small number of deaths in older people, leaving it up to each doctor to consider who should be vaccinated.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency on Thursday reported a total of 29 people had suffered side effects, 13 of them fatal. All the deaths occurred among patients in nursing homes and all were over the age of 80.
The agency listed fever and nausea as side effects which “may have led to the deaths of some frail patients,” Sigurd Hortemo of the Norwegian Medicines Agency said in the body’s first report of the side effects.
More than 30,000 people have received the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine in the Scandinavian country since the end of December, according to official figures.
“We are not alarmed by this. It is quite clear that these vaccines have very little risk, with a small exception for the frailest patients,” Steinar Madsen, medical director with the agency, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
“Doctors must now carefully consider who should be vaccinated. Those who are very frail and at the very end of life can be vaccinated after an individual assessment,” he added.
Coronavirus: Ontario to complete long-term care home vaccinations in high-risk zones in upcoming weeks
Earlier this week, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that “any side effects of the vaccine will be outweighed by a reduced risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 for elderly, frail people.”
It added that “for very frail patients and terminally ill patients, a careful balance of benefit versus disadvantage of vaccination is recommended.”
In its report, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said that 21 women and eight men had side effects. Beside those who died, the agency said nine had serious side effects without a fatal consequence and seven had less serious side effects. The nine patients had allergic reactions, strong discomfort and severe fever while the less serious side effects included severe pain at the injection site.
Overall, Norway has seen 57,279 cases and reported 511 deaths.
Across the world, officials expect deaths and other severe side effects to be reported after any mass vaccination campaign given the huge numbers of people involved. But determining whether or not the vaccine caused deaths can be very challenging and requires that all other potential causes be ruled out first.
The United Kingdom and the United States have also reported a number of cases of side effects that had fatal consequences.
The European Medicines Agency said Friday that it will receive and consider monthly safety reports from companies authorized to sell vaccines, starting in January with the Pfizer jab.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Canadian home sales see a record December — and a record 2020 – CBC.ca
National home sales set an all-time record in December, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Friday.
Sales were up 47.2 per cent compared to December 2019, the largest year-over-year increase in monthly sales in 11 years.
The spike in sales from November to December, 7.2 per cent, was driven by gains of more than 20 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Greater Vancouver.
It was a new record for the month of December by a margin of more than 12,000 transactions.
For the sixth straight month, sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019.
It was also a record for the entire year.
Average home price up 17%
Almost 552,000 homes traded hands over Canadian MLS systems — a new annual record. It was an increase of 12.6 per cent from 2019 and 2.3 per cent more than the previous record year, 2016.
The actual national average home price was a record $607,280 in December, up 17.1 per cent from the final month of 2019.
The CREA said that excluding Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, two of the most active and expensive markets, lowers the national average price by almost $130,000.
Many of the areas with the biggest price gains last month were in Ontario, including Belleville, Simcoe, Ingersoll, Woodstock and the Lakelands region, where prices were up more than 30 per cent from December 2019.
Areas with more modest price growth included Calgary and Edmonton, where prices rose 1.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.
TD expects sales and prices to cool
“What a fitting end to a surprisingly strong year,” TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said in a note to clients. “Relative strength in high-wage employment, record low mortgage rates, rising supply of homes available for purchase and solid demand for larger units all supported exceptional sales and price growth last year.
“Looking ahead, we’re expecting sales and prices to cool somewhat from their robust pace in the first quarter. However, December’s surprisingly strong performance makes hitting our forecast a tougher proposition.”
Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s senior economist, said in a statement that Canada faces a “major supply problem” in 2021.
“On New Year’s Day there were fewer than 100,000 residential listings on all Canadian MLS systems, the lowest ever based on records going back three decades,” he said.
“Compare that to five years ago, when there was a quarter of a million listings available for sale. So we have record-high demand and record-low supply to start the year. How that plays out in the sales and price data will depend on how many homes become available to buy in the months ahead.”
Quebec confirms it will delay second vaccine dose for CHSLD residents and staff – Montreal Gazette
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On Feb. 15, Quebec will begin vaccinating seniors ages 80 and over who live at home.
Health officials told the Montreal Gazette this week that they aren’t ready to release details about the next phase of vaccination plan.
Public health authorities say they’re closely monitoring seniors in CHSLDs who have received the first dose to make sure it’s still effective weeks later, said Richard Massé, a public health epidemiologist.
Massé defended Quebec’s decision to ignore a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Vaccination, which said if provinces delay administering the second dose due to logistical or epidemiological reasons, it should be given with 42 days of the first dose.
On Thursday, Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health, which includes the Chief Medical Officer of Health from each province and territory, also weighed in on Quebec’s plan, saying if the second dose is extended beyond 42 days, “the impact on people vaccinated must be closely monitored.”
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