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Ontario to start administering Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in long-term care homes this week – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Ontario is expected to receive its first shipment of the newly approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by Wednesday and start administering it in long-term care homes this week, according to the chair of the province’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.

Retired General Rick Hillier made the announcement Tuesday morning and said the province does “not have the Moderna vaccine in our hands” yet but expects to receive about 50,000 doses in the next 24 hours.

“We anticipate that Moderna will arrive tomorrow, and within 48 to 72 hours we will be vaccinating people in several long-term care homes, potentially a retirement home. And again, we’ll be composing a playbook as we do that, and learning the lessons…,” Hillier said.

Although Hillier said the province is still waiting on the vaccine, federal officials did receive the first shipment of it last week in Toronto. Ottawa is responsible for dividing the vaccines among all provinces and territories.

The Moderna vaccines will be delivered to four sites in hot zones located across southern Ontario that have been hardest-hit by the virus, Hillier said.

The vaccines will initially be deployed at long-term care homes because it’s easier to transport compared to the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which needs to be stored at at least -70C.

“We want to go into one or two or three long-term care homes, we want to do it very carefully. We want to vaccinate the residents there using the staff in the homes where it’s possible, augmenting them where it’s necessary and preparing a playbook from that,” he said.

Currently there are 19 vaccination sites open but Hillier said he expects two more will open by next week.

As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the province has administered more than 17,300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. However, the inoculations represent a small number of doses that have already been shipped to the province.

Ontario has already received around 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 21.

The rollout of the Moderna vaccine is part of Phase 1 of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout plan which is expected to inoculate 1.1 million people by April.

8.5 million people expected to be vaccinated by July

Hillier said the province expects to receive 50,000 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the beginning of January, followed by about 80,000 doses weekly of the Pfizer vaccine for the remainder of that month.

“And so by the end of Phase One [end of March], we hope to have vaccinated over a million health care workers, and people in the most vulnerable circumstances here in Ontario,” Hillier said. “We can’t do it any faster. We don’t have the vaccines coming to us any faster, and if we did we will use them more quickly.”

From April to July, 15 million doses are expected to be shipped to the province in Phase 2 and about 7.5 million people are set to receive the inoculation.

“We want to end Phase Two, with the bulk of the population, having had the opportunity to get the vaccine by the end of July,” Hillier said.

Phase 3 is set to begin near the end of July when the rest of Ontarians are expected to start receiving the vaccines at their doctor’s office or a pharmacy.

“Phase 3 for us is steady state. That is putting the COVID-19 vaccine into the same category as a shingles vaccine as a flu vaccine, and you can go to your family physician, your family clinic or the pharmacy closest to you, and you would be able to get your vaccine…,” he said.

The Ministry of Health also confirmed on Monday that vaccines are not being held back as they initially were in the beginning of the month to guarantee that those who were vaccinated would receive their necessary second dose.

“We are not holding or reserving doses, and are vaccinating as many people as possible, counting on confirmed shipments of the vaccine that will arrive over the coming weeks for second doses,” the statement read.

Ontario recorded a new single-day high of daily COVID-19 cases on Tuesday with 2,553 infections, beating the previous record of 2,447 on Christmas Eve.

Seventy-eight more people died from the disease in Ontario in the past 48 hours.

The province recorded 1,939 new cases on Monday, 2,005 on Sunday, 2,142 on Boxing Day and 2,159 on Christmas Day.

‘We will not take any more days off’

Hillier’s announcement on Tuesday comes after he apologized Monday evening for scaling back the vaccination schedule over the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, most vaccination clinics were open with shortened hours and all clinics were then closed on Dec. 25 and Dec. 26. Just five hospitals opened clinics on Sunday, while 10 were operating Monday.

After receiving backlash for pausing the vaccination schedule, Hillier said “we got it wrong” and that he takes “full responsibility” for the decision.

“We heard loudly from people this past 36 to 48 hours, they want it rolling all the time and we are, as of this morning. We have 19 hospitals that are acting as vaccination sites, we will add to that in this coming week, we will be working straight through. We will not take any more days off until we win this war against COVID-19,” Hillier said on Tuesday.

In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Health said the modified holiday schedule had been requested by hospitals due to “staffing challenges.”

“As a result, over the holidays hospital sites administering the vaccines requested to operate on slightly amended schedules, recognizing the challenges that the holidays can have on staffing levels in hospitals and long-term care homes,” the statement read.

However, Hillier later said that staffing wasn’t the issue and that the government wanted to give front-line workers a break during the holidays.

“We did it with honourable intentions. We felt that the folks working at long-term care homes who have reduced their staff somewhat working during the traditional holiday season to maybe get a little bit more of a break to some of the people who have been labouring so hard for the last 10 months…,” he said.

A number of doctors, including Ontario Medical Association President Samantha Hill, told CP24 that they would have gladly volunteered their time to keep vaccinations going over the holidays.

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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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