Ontario is calling for its larger school boards to offer targeted COVID-19 testing in at least five per cent of their elementary and secondary schools, reaching two per cent of their student populations weekly.
The updated approach for expanded testing in schools was laid out in a memo from Education Minister Stephen Lecce on Tuesday.
The memo calls for testing outside of Toronto, York and Peel’s school boards to begin Feb. 22. The requirement took effect in those three regions on Tuesday.
School boards with less than 10 schools will not be subject to the five per cent target, the memo saying the ministry will work with those boards to develop an “appropriate” testing plan for their school communities.
The schools targeted for testing will be chosen by the boards with support from the ministry and local public health units, the memo says.
The testing will consist of a combination of rapid antigen as well as PCR testing, “and will look to use less invasive methods of testing where possible,” the memo says.
The memo lays out steps boards have to follow to set up the testing initiative, including working with the local public health unit to develop a plan and contacting the ministry to have a vendor assigned to perform the tests.
Boards must submit plans, report back
As part of the plan, boards must submit testing plans each week and report back on testing activities.
Modelling presented last week said new, more infectious variants of the virus were poised to become prevalent and would cause cases to rise this month.
Lecce said Tuesday that new measures — including expansion of an asymptomatic testing initiative, stricter masking rules for younger students and a COVID-19 screening form — should help keep cases low in the province’s schools.
But he also called on school communities — in particular, high school students — to avoid mingling outside of schools to prevent he more infectious variants from spreading.
“We know we can keep schools open and safe,” Lecce said in an interview. “But it does require … the partnership of all of us because given that historically higher rate of positivity amongst high school kids, it’s going to require a real collective commitment to not congregate.”
He said the province is asking students and staff to “respect the cohorts” of student groups and not gather together outside their classes.
The Education Ministry reported that 50,000 asymptomatic tests are available for use on a voluntary basis across public health units this week, including at 40 schools in Toronto.
Their deployment falls to local public health units, and an exact figure on tests deployed to date wasn’t yet available on Tuesday.
First AstraZeneca doses on their way, will be part of nearly 945K doses delivered this week: Anand – CTV News
The first tranche of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines is on its way to Canada and is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, as part of the 944,600 vaccine doses arriving this week, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday.
A total of 500,000 AstraZeneca shots are in transit to Canada from the Serum Institute of India and Verity Pharmaceuticals, as part of a deal for two million doses. As well, the weekly delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contains 444,600 doses.
“This week, we are on track to see approximately 945,000 doses of vaccines arriving in Canada,” said Anand. “Thus, almost a million doses will be delivered into this country this week alone, and next week we are set to receive more than 900,000 doses of vaccines,” she said.
With the addition of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada’s list of authorized vaccines, the federal government has said that shipment sizes are set to continue to increase. This aligns with the plans to begin immunizing more people, and could lead to an acceleration of the timeline of having at least 14.5 million Canadians fully vaccinated by the end of June.
“As our government ramps up the delivery of vaccines to provinces this week, we know that more Canadians will be offered the opportunity to receive their vaccine, and we encourage everyone who’s offered this opportunity to accept,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, adding that all who are vaccinated will need to continue to follow their local public health guidance.
NEW DETAILS ON COMING SHIPMENTS
Next week’s shipments will come from Pfizer and Moderna, as those firms work to meet their commitment to ship a combined total of six million doses by the end of March.
“We anticipate receiving over two million doses spread over the five weeks of March, with equal amounts each week,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin on Tuesday.
The balance of 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses coming to Canada through the Serum Institute will come over April and May, likely overlapping with the beginning of deliveries of the 20 million AstraZeneca doses Canada has secured through an agreement with AstraZeneca for shots developed in partnership with Oxford University and coming from the U.S. Health Canada’s approval authorized shots to come from both manufacturers.
While Pfizer’s shipments will continue to come to Canada weekly, Moderna will be moving from delivering doses every three weeks to sending new shipments every two weeks.
Fortin said that in the first two weeks of April, Pfizer is expected to send around 769,000 doses per week.
In light of the latest figures being confirmed, the federal government is in talks with the provinces and territories about the per capita allocations of these shipments.
“We will continue to lead the planning effort to ensure that the processes for delivering, storage, handling, and immunization clinics and the provinces and territories can keep pace with increasing shipment sizes of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines,” Fortin said.
Alberta seniors won't receive AstraZeneca vaccine following new recommendations – CTV Toronto
Albertans aged 65 or older will not receive the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine following new advice from a national advisory committee on who should and shouldn’t get the shot.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) in Canada is not recommending the use of the vaccine in people 65 or older due to “the insufficiency of evidence of efficacy in this age group at this time.”
Health Canada approved the two-dose vaccine for anyone 18 years or older last Friday and stresses there is no safety concerns for seniors. However, it’s ultimately up to the provinces and territories to determine which vaccine is given and to whom.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says Alberta will follow the advice from NACI, along with the government’s own vaccine advisory committee and Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
“Now how that’s going to change the administration of those who are in phase two is still to be determined. We will be making those decisions and announcing them fairly soon,” said Shandro.
Alberta is currently in phase one of its vaccine rollout and started immunizing all seniors in their 75th year or older last week.
The second phase is set to run from April to September and includes four different groups. Group A is everyone 65 to 74 years old no matter where they live, Indigenous people 50 years and older, and staff and residents of licensed supportive living that weren’t included in phase one.
Each phase is dependent on the vaccine supply and it’s yet to be seen if there will be changes to Alberta’s second phase as a result of the new advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
B.C. says all eligible adults should get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by end of July – Global News
Health officials are hoping to fast-track how quickly all eligible British Columbians will receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The province is expecting all adults in the province will have the option to receive their first dose before the end of July.
Officials aim to administer first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all British Columbians by July
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday that the gap between the first and second doses of the vaccine will be extended to 112 days.
Pfizer, one of the manufacturers, has recommended a 21-day gap between doses and the province previously was spacing them out by 42 days.
The province is also expecting to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as next week, which will allow some essential workers to get the shot ahead of their age group.
“The extension of dose two will make a big difference in our ability to vaccinate our mass population,” Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading the province’s vaccination plan, said Monday.
“It will likely result in mid-to-late July we will be able to give a first dose to everyone in our population, which is a significant shift in our original plan. We will come back with more details on this.”
B.C. health officials roll out phase two of province’s vaccination plan
There is still no approved COVID-19 vaccine for children and teenagers in British Columbia.
Dr. Danuta Skowronski, epidemiology lead for influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, has convinced provincial health officials that spreading out doses will not jeopardize the vaccine’s effectiveness.
In a letter to the editor published in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored with Dr. Gaston De Serres of the Institut National de Sante Publique du Quebec, Skowronski argues the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — initially said to be just 52.4 per cent effective with one dose — could provide more than 90 per cent protection with a single shot.
According to Skowronski and De Serres, Pfizer’s own research started measuring the vaccine’s efficacy immediately after a dose was administered, not after a two-week grace period, which is typical in vaccinology.
Using documents submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the doctors say they determined Pfizer’s vaccine is actually up to 92.6 per cent effective with a single dose.
“These are decisions that have gone through our immunization committee, our public health team,” Henry said.
“We have such good protection from these vaccines after the first dose. We will be focusing on second doses in the summer.”
The province originally estimated all eligible British Columbians would receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by September.
–with files from Aaron McArthur, Simon Little and The Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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