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Ontario reports record-high 2,553 new COVID-19 cases amid criticism of holiday vaccination delays – CBC.ca

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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:

The head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, retired general Rick Hillier, wants Health Canada to see if a single dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine offers enough protection to avoid a second shot. 1:14

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:

Retired general Rick Hillier addressed reporter questions about temporarily ramping down vaccinations over the holiday season. 1:25

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.

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30 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death reported in Manitoba on Sunday – CBC.ca

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There are 30 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba and one more person has died from the illness, the province’s online coronavirus dashboard says.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate is now 3.2 per cent, the dashboard says, down slightly from 3.3 on Saturday.

The province is no longer issuing COVID-19 news releases on weekends, which means updates on Saturdays and Sundays come from Manitoba’s online dashboards.

Those data portals offer less information than what’s typically included in a news release. For example, they do not provide any information on the age or health region of people who died from the illness.

Those and other details are expected to be revealed in the province’s next news release on Monday.

There are still 103 Manitobans hospitalized after getting COVID-19 and the number of people in intensive care rose by one to 26, the dashboard says.

Manitoba has now reported 1,172 deaths linked to COVID-19. The province’s seven-day new case average sank to just under 44.

On Saturday, the province did 1,465 more tests for the illness, the dashboard says, bringing the total number of swabs completed since the beginning of the pandemic to 865,786.

As of Sunday, Manitoba has fully vaccinated 66 per cent of its eligible population against COVID-19 while 78.6 per cent have at least one dose, the province’s online vaccine dashboard says.

That brings the province slightly closer to its final reopening plan goal of having 80 per cent with at least one dose and at least 75 per cent with both by Sept 6.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 57,446 people in Manitoba have tested positive for COVID-19. The dashboard says 55,719 of them are considered recovered, while 555 are still deemed active cases.

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Ontario reports 172 new COVID-19 cases and 2 more deaths; 7-day average remains unchanged – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Ontario reported fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Sunday, as the seven-day rolling average remains unchanged from yesterday.

Provincial health officials logged 172 new infections today, up from 170 on Saturday but down from 177 a week ago.

The province reported 192 cases on Friday, 185 on Thursday and 135 on Wednesday.

The seven-day rolling average now stands at 159, unchanged from Saturday but up slightly from a week ago when it was 153.

The province’s virus-related death toll is 9,313.

Another 144 people recovered from the virus yesterday, resulting in 1,450 active cases across the province.

Ontario labs processed 13,902 tests in the past 24 hours, down from 19,131 the previous day.

The drop in testing contributed to a slight day-over-day rise in the positivity rate to 1.1. per cent, compared to 0.8 per cent on Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health.

Another 152 lab-confirmed cases of variants of concern were identified in Ontario in the past 24 hours.

In the Greater Toronto Area, 48 cases of COVID-19 were logged in Toronto, 23 in Peel Region, nine in York Region, 11 in Durham and seven in Halton.

There are currently 127 people in intensive care units across the province due to the virus and 81 of those patients are breathing with the help of a ventilator.

To date, there have been more 549,300 lab-confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 538,565 recoveries since January 2020.

Over 8.5 million people are fully vaccinated against the virus after receiving two doses of approved vaccines.

More than 18.9 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Ontario since mid-December, with 103,812 shots into arms yesterday alone.

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

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EU regulator endorses use of Moderna's COVID-19 shot for children – Al Jazeera English

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European Medicines Agency gives all clear for vaccine to be used in children aged between 12 and 17.

The European Union’s medicines regulator has recommended authorising Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged between 12 and 17, marking the first time the shot has been approved for people under 18.

In a decision on Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said research in more than 3,700 children of 12 to 17 years of age showed that the shot produced a comparable antibody response to that seen in 18- to 25-year-olds.

Use of the vaccine, Spikevax, will be the same in adolescents as in people over 18, the EMA said.

Formal approval by the European Commission – the EU’s executive arm – is needed to start rolling out the vaccine for teenagers. The body typically follows EMA recommendations.

Until now, the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech has been the only option for use in children as young as 12 in North America and the EU.

Vaccinating children has been considered important for reaching herd immunity and in light of the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Most children with COVID-19 develop only mild symptoms or none. Yet children remain at risk of becoming seriously ill and can spread the virus.

‘Benefits outweigh the risks’

Moderna said in May that its vaccine was found to be safe and effective in teenagers. Hundreds of millions of doses of the shot have already have been administered to adults.

The EMA said common side effects in teenagers after vaccination with Spikevax were similar to those seen in older people.

But due to a smaller study size, the trial could not detect new uncommon side effects or estimate the risk of known ones such as myocarditis and pericarditis.

“The overall safety profile of Spikevax determined in adults was confirmed in the adolescent study; the CHMP (Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use) therefore considered that the benefits of Spikevax in children aged 12 to 17 outweigh the risks,” the EMA said.

Heart inflammation such as myocarditis and pericarditis has been listed by the EMA as a possible but rare side effect from use of mRNA vaccines such as Moderna’s and Pfizer’s in adults.

Spikevax is already being used in the EU for people over 18, and in the United States and Canada.

Moderna has also sought authorisation in the US and Canada for its use in adolescents.

But with global vaccine supplies still tight, much of the world still is struggling to immunise adults, let alone children.

Agencies including the World Health Organization have urged rich countries to donate their doses to the developing world – where fewer than 2 percent of people have been vaccinated – rather than moving on to inoculate their less vulnerable populations.

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