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Ottawa must be more transparent regarding COVID-19 vaccine rollout: expert – Kelowna Capital News

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As some provinces push for clarity on when they will receive their share of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccines, one expert said Monday the government should be more transparent about the terms of its contracts with the companies making the shots.

Kerry Bowman, who teaches bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said it’s likely Ottawa doesn’t have the information the provinces are seeking regarding the timing and quantity of vaccine deliveries, particularly if its contracts with drugmakers are conditional.

But if that’s the case, he said, the federal government should state it clearly or risk eroding public trust in its system.

While news that COVID-19 immunizations could begin in some countries in a matter of weeks is good for Canada in the long term, it will lead to widespread frustration in the near future if the country is lagging behind, he added.

“There’s benefits to all of humankind, no matter who’s getting it,” he said.

Still, “if two weeks from now, the news is full of us watching people all over the world being inoculated, including the United States, and we’re not, there’s going to be some very unhappy Canadians.”

As well, he said, any delay in immunization translates to more COVID-19 cases and deaths, and mounting economic strain.

“People will die and other people’s lives will continue to be ruined until we pull out of it. And so, to me, whether it’s this month or that month (that we get the vaccine) is not irrelevant — it’s highly relevant,” he said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford renewed his calls Monday for a clear delivery date for the province’s share of vaccines, stressing that “the clock is ticking” when it comes to fighting the novel coronavirus.

Ford said he was set to speak to Pfizer, one of the drugmakers that has entered into an agreement with Canada, on Monday afternoon but expected to be told the information must come from Ottawa.

The premier cited reports that other countries, such as the United Kingdom, are on track to start COVID-19 immunizations soon, adding Ontarians “need answers.”

Meanwhile, the American biotech company Moderna said Monday the first 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped to the United States next month.

The chairman of the American vaccine maker told the CBC on Sunday that Canada is near the front of the line to receive the 20 million doses it pre-ordered, confirming that the country’s early commitment to purchasing the shots means it will get its supply first.

Moderna is one of several companies to have already submitted partial data to a “rolling review” process offered by Health Canada. Rather than presenting regulators with a complete package of trial results, the would-be vaccine makers file data and findings as they become available. Canada has been looking at Moderna’s first results since mid-October.

The issue of when Canada will receive its orders came to the forefront last week when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country will have to wait a bit because the first doses off the production lines will be used in the countries where they are made.

Trudeau has repeatedly defended his government’s vaccine procurement policy, saying Ottawa has secured multiple options for the country.

The federal government was pressed on the matter further during Monday’s question period, as some MPs called for greater transparency regarding vaccine rollout, noting other countries such as Australia have made their plans public.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government has been working with the provinces and territories to ensure the plan is robust.

“Canada is well-served by the diversity of vaccines we have purchased early and in fact in great quantity. Canadians can be assured they too will have access to these vaccines that will bring us to the end of COVID-19,” she said.

VIDEO: B.C. planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the first weeks of 2021

Case counts remained high in several provinces Monday.

Ontario, Alberta and Quebec, reported 1,746, 1,733 and 1,333 new infections respectively. Together, the three provinces had 39 new deaths related to the virus.

Toronto, one of two Ontario hot spots currently under lockdown, recorded a daily high of 643 new infections.

In Manitoba, health officials stressed residents must limit their contact with others in order to bring down the numbers, as the province reported 342 new cases and 11 additional deaths.

The provincial government imposed strict measures on business openings and public gatherings more than two weeks ago, but officials said the test positivity rate remains at 13 per cent.

Nunavut, however, will begin to lift the lockdown measures it enacted in mid-November on Wednesday, as more people recover from the illness.

Only Arviat, which has 86 active cases, will continue to be in lockdown for at least another two weeks, with travel restrictions in place, Nunavut officials said.

The territory reported four new cases Monday, bringing the total to 181.

In British Columbia, the province announced the highest number of deaths for a three-day period as it recorded 46 fatalities over the weekend.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry became emotional Monday as she expressed her condolences to families and thanked caregivers for their dedication.

“Health-care workers have been at the front lines, or maybe the last line of defence right now,” she says. “I know how challenging it is and I’m with you every single day, supporting you in admiration for the work that you’re doing.”

Out east, six new infections have been recorded in New Brunswick today, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one.

Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total of active cases to 138.

On Sunday, the federal government announced it will extend a series of travel restrictions meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 into January, in light of the steady rise in case counts across the country.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Hajdu said in a statement the measures, which were first enacted near the start of the global health crisis, would be in effect until Jan. 21, 2021, for travellers entering Canada from a country other than the United States.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press


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The Latest: New virus clusters hit China's north provinces – Burnaby Now

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BEIJING — A Chinese city has brought 2,600 temporary treatment rooms online as the country’s north battles new clusters of coronavirus.

The single-occupancy rooms in the city of Nangong in Hebei province just outside Beijing are each equipped with their own heaters, toilets, showers and other amenities, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Special attention has been paid to Hebei because of its proximity to the capital and the province has locked down large areas to prevent further spread of the virus. The provincial capital Shijiazhung and the city of Xingtai, which encompasses Nangong, have been largely sealed off from the rest of the country. Community isolation and large-scale testing have also been enforced.

China on Saturday marked the anniversary of the start of a 76-day lockdown in the central city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019. A World Health Organization inspection team is in the city to probe the virus’ origins, amid stiff efforts by China to defend its response to the outbreak and promote theories that the virus might have come from elsewhere.

The National Health Commission on Sunday reported 19 additional cases had been detected in Hebei over the previous 24 hours. The far northeastern province of Heilongjiang reported another 29 cases, linked partly to an outbreak at a meat processing plant. Beijing, where around 2 million residents have been ordered to undergo new testing, reported two new confirmed cases.

China currently has 1,800 people being treated for COVID-19, 94 of them listed in serious condition, with another 1,017 being monitored in isolation for having tested positive for the virus without displaying symptoms.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

Life in the Chinese city of Wuhan has some normalcy a year after deadly pandemic erupted there. British doctors are urging the government to review its policy of delaying 2nd virus vaccine shot for 12 weeks. Hong Kong is in lockdown to contain the coronavirus. And Mexico’s president has OK’d states acquiring vaccines. ___

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

SEATTLE — Washington and Oregon are now confirming additional cases of the more contagious variant of COVID-19 in the Pacific Northwest. The Washington Department of Health announced Saturday that the B.1.1.7 variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom last September, has been confirmed by DNA sequencing in two cases in Snohomish County. Those are the first confirmed cases in Washington. The Oregon Health Authority confirmed a second case, in someone from Yamhill County, a week after the first case was detected in Multnomah County. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no conclusive evidence that it’s more severe than other strains of the virus.

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NEW YORK — New York will be sending more vaccination preparation kits to senior housing complexes and churches in an effort to ensure fairness in vaccine distributions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

The kits include syringes, vials, room dividers, privacy curtains, cleaning supplies, personal protective gear and other items. They also include instructions on how to set up a vaccination site.

New York deployed the first kits last week to five New York City Housing Authority senior citizen complexes and eight churches and cultural centres where nearly 4,200 people eligible to receive the vaccine were vaccinated, Cuomo said.

Kits are now being sent to four additional New York City senior complexes and eight other churches statewide, with plans to vaccine another 3,000 people at those locations by Tuesday. Locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Buffalo will be receiving the kits.

The kits are part of an effort to ensure vaccinations in Black, Latino and other communities where COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact, the governor said.

Also Saturday, the governor’s office reported 144 more deaths statewide from the coronavirus. More than 8,800 people were hospitalized, a drop of 44 compared with Friday’s data.

___

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has denied a Southern California church’s request to overturn the state’s coronavirus restrictions barring worship services indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sacramento Bee says Friday’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals leaves the door open for addressing Gov. Gavin Newsom administration’s limits on church attendance if a California county is in a less-restrictive COVID-19 tier.

A three-judge panel ruled against South Bay United Pentecostal Church of Chula Vista over public health orders that restrict religious services from being held inside while virus case rates and hospitalizations remain high.

Currently in California, indoor worship services are banned in all purple-tiered counties — those deemed to be at widespread risk of coronavirus transmission. This tier accounts for the vast majority of the state. Just four counties are in less-restrictive tiers.

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SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico on Saturday reported 859 additional COVID-19 cases and 38 more deaths.

That increases the state’s pandemic totals to 168,579 cases and 3,115 deaths.

Bernalillo County had the most additional cases with 184, followed by 83 in San Juan County, 74 in Dona Ana County and 53 in McKinley County.

Most of the additional deaths involved older New Mexicans, but they also included several people in their 20s and 30s.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — The governor of Brazil´s Amazonas state has announced tough new lockdown measures to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases that has overwhelmed local hospitals.

Gov. Wilson Lima said Saturday that as of Monday, the state’s 4 million people can only go out for essential activities such as buying food or seeking medical attention.

Hospitals in the state capital of Manaus have been strained amid reports that a new variant of the novel coronavirus is more contagious, and the state has seen a shortage of oxygen supplies. The state health secretary says 584 people are on a waiting list for hospital beds, 101 of them requiring intensive therapy.

“People need to understand that we have to take tough measures to save as many lives as possible,” Lima said in an announcement posted on social media.

___

HELSINKI — Norway says its capital, Oslo, and nine municipalities have been placed under strict restrictions to contain the spread of the new variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.

The Norwegian government said shopping centres and other non-essential stores in those regions were closed at noon on Saturday, and would remain shut at least until Jan. 31.

In addition, organized sports activities were halted, schools were ordered to rely increasingly on remote teaching and households were requested to not invite visitors home in those specified areas.

Norwegian health officials say the Scandinavian country of 5.4 million has so far identified some 55 cases of the virus variant which has spread widely in Britain.

Neighbouring Sweden, where the overall pandemic situation is substantially worse than in Norway, said late Saturday that it was planning to launch a temporary entry ban from Norway due to the new mutated form of COVID-19.

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LAS VEGAS — Federal prosecutors have charged a Nevada man with fraudulently obtaining about $2 million in federal coronavirus relief aid, meant for small businesses, to buy luxury vehicles and condominiums in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the U.S. attorney’s office in Nevada accused Jorge Abramovs of bank fraud after he allegedly applied for funding to at least seven banks between April and June 2020.

The complaint said a financial analysis determined Abramovs spent the money on personal luxury items, including a 2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible for more than $260,000 and a 2020 Tesla Model 3 for about $55,000.

Abramovs was ordered remanded in custody on Friday during a detention hearing.

A defence lawyer assigned to represent Abramovs didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request by The Associated Press for comment.

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CHICAGO — Restaurants and certain bars across Chicago and suburban Cook County have opened their doors to customers for the first time since late October after winning approval Saturday from Illinois health officials.

With the city and county moving up to Tier I of the state’s coronavirus mitigation plan, restaurants and bars that serve food can seat customers indoors at 25% capacity or 25 people per room, whichever is less.

Tables will be limited to no more than four people indoors or six people outdoors, and tables must be spaced 6 feet apart. Indoor service will be limited to a maximum of two hours and bars and restaurants must close by 11 p.m.

___

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden pledged in his inaugural address to level with the American people, and the message from his first three days in office has been nothing if not grim and grimmer.

He has painted a bleak picture of the country’s immediate future dealing with the coronavirus, warning Americans that it will take months, not weeks, to reorient a nation facing a historic convergence of crises.

The dire language is meant as a call to action, but it is also a deliberate effort to temper expectations. The U.S. is trying to roll out its vaccination program, with issues of slow production and distribution.

The U.S. leads the world with 24.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 415,000 deaths.

___

MILAN — Italian premier Giuseppe Conte is pledging legal action not only against Pfizer but any pharmaceutical company that doesn’t meet its coronavirus vaccine commitments.

Conte says delays announced by a second company, AstraZeneca, were “worrying” and if confirmed would mean that Italy would receive an initial delivery of 3.4 million doses instead of the agreed 8 million.

Conte says the “the slowdown in deliveries constitute serious contractual violations that produce enormous damages to Italy and other European countries, with direct repercussions on the lives and health of citizens and on our socio-economic fabric, already badly tested by a year of the pandemic.”

He pledged Italy would take every legal recourse “as we are already doing with Pfizer-Biontech.”

Italy is under tiered restrictions and intensive care wards have surpassed the threshold for alarm in five regions.

On Saturday, 13,000 new cases and 488 deaths were recorded by the Health Ministry. Italy’s death toll of 85,000 is the second highest in Europe and sixth highest in the world.

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MADRID — Spain’s top military commander has been forced to resign after he and other high-ranking officers violated established protocols and received the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of time.

Spain’s defence ministry confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that Minister Margarita Robles had accepted the resignation of Chief of Staff Gen. Miguel Ángel Villarroya.

His resignation comes after online news site El Confidencial Digital reported that Villarroya and other top brass had broken national protocols for Spain’s vaccination strategy, which currently only allows nursing home residents and medical workers to receive shots. Several public officials have jumped the vaccine queue in recent weeks, including a regional health chief for southeast Murcia, who also resigned.

___

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska health officials say they are considering moving up teachers on the state’s vaccine list as more students have restarted in-person instruction.

A top vaccine official with the state Department of Health and Social Services made the announcement.

The state has prioritized health care workers, seniors 65 years or older and long-term care residents and staff.

Teachers 50 years or older, residents that have two or more high-risk health conditions and other essential workers will be prioritized next.

State officials say conversations about vaccinating teachers are happening both in Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office and among a scientific and medical advisory committee that helped develop the state’s vaccine policy.

___

MECCA, Calif. — Advocacy groups are heading into farm fields in California to bring vaccines and information to migrant labourers in Spanish and other languages.

Some immigrants in the country illegally may fear that information taken during vaccinations could be turned over to authorities and not seek out vaccines. Those who speak little or no English may find it difficult to access shots.

These challenges are particularly worrying for Latino immigrants, who make a large portion of the workforce in industries where they have a significant risk of exposure.

In California’s sprawling Riverside County, home to a $1.3 billion agriculture industry, a health care non-profit went to a grape farm to register workers for vaccine appointments. The Desert Healthcare District and Foundation also shares information about the virus and how to get tested on WhatsApp in Spanish.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network has used a Spanish-language radio show on social media to share information.

___

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. — A multipurpose arena in Prescott Valley will be the latest large venue in Arizona to become a COVID-19 vaccination site.

Cottonwood-based Spectrum Healthcare on Monday will open an appointment-only site called “Vaccination Station” inside Findlay Toyota Center, a 5,100-seat facility that has hosted events including basketball games, rodeos, concerts and ice shows. The Daily Courier reports that Spectrum plans to administer shots to as many as 1,000 people daily.

Pima County already opened a drive-through vaccination site in Tucson at Kino Sports Complex. The state plans to open a site at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Feb. 1.

Arizona has the worst infection rate in the country with 1 in every 141 residents diagnosed with the coronavirus in the past week.

The Department of Health Services on Friday reported 8,099 new cases and 229 more deaths. That increased the state’s confirmed pandemic totals to 708,041 cases and 12,001 deaths.

___

MEXICO CITY — Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has given state governors permission to acquire coronavirus vaccines on their own.

With coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths at record highs in recent days, the federal government hasn’t received enough vaccine for the country’s 750,000 front-line medical workers.

So state governors have been calling for permission to obtain vaccines on their own, and the president said Friday they can do so as long as they inform federal officials and use only approved vaccines.

Also, López Obrador announced Mexico plans to start vaccinating teachers and other school personnel in one of the country’s 32 states this weekend with an eye toward resuming in-person classes there in late February.

Officials reported more than 21,000 confirmed infections Friday, a day after the country listed a record 22,339 cases. Deaths related to the virus in the previous 24 hours reached 1,440.

Mexico ranks No. 4 in deaths with more than 147,000, behind the U.S., Brazil and India.

The Associated Press
































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Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine – Kamloops This Week

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WHITEHORSE — A cabinet minister says a couple from outside Yukon travelled to a remote community in the territory this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Community Services Minister John Streiker says he’s outraged the man and woman allegedly chartered a flight to Beaver Creek, the most westerly community in Canada near the border with Alaska, to get the shots.

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Streiker says he heard Thursday night that the Canadian couple arrived in Yukon on Tuesdayand declared they would follow the territory’s mandatory two-week self-isolation protocol, but instead travelled to Beaver Creek.

He says the two people have been charged under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for failure to self-isolate and failure to behave in a manner consistent with their declaration upon arrival.

Streiker says the couple allegedly presented themselves as visiting workers, misleading staff at the mobile vaccination clinic in Beaver Creek.

He says territorial enforcement officers received a call about the couple, who were later intercepted at the Whitehorse airport trying to leave Yukon.

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail.

The RCMP have been notified, he said in an interview on Friday.

Streiker hadn’t confirmed where the couple are from, but he said they didn’t show Yukon health cards at the vaccination clinic.

Yukon has two vaccination teams that are visiting communities throughout the territory with priority going to residents and staff of group-living settings, health-care workers, people over 80 who aren’t living in long-term care, and Yukoners living in rural, remote and First Nation communities.

Beaver Creek was chosen as a priority community to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine because it’s a remote border community, he said.

Yukon’s chief medical officer of health has indicated he believes the risk to the community as a result of the couple’s visit is low, Streiker added.

Streiker said there may be more scrutiny at vaccine clinics when people show up from outside Yukon, but officials are still working through options to prevent such a situation from happening again.

“I find it frustrating because what that does is it makes more barriers,” he said. “We’ve been trying to remove all barriers to get the vaccine for our citizens and so if there’s another sort of layer of check, I just don’t want it to make it harder for Yukoners to get their vaccines.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.

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Corrective to Jan. 22 story about outbreaks in Fraser Health region including jail – Toronto Star

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In a story that moved Jan. 22, The Canadian Press erroneously reported that Fraser Health declared new outbreaks at the Queen’s Park Care Centre and the Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre. In fact, Fraser Health declared these outbreaks over.

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