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Pfizer asks FDA to allow COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Lauran Neergaard And Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press


Published Tuesday, February 1, 2022 8:23AM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, February 1, 2022 4:48PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) – Pfizer on Tuesday asked the U.S. to authorize extra-low doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5, potentially opening the way for the very youngest Americans to start receiving shots as early as March.

In an extraordinary move, the Food and Drug Administration had urged Pfizer and its partner BioNTech to apply earlier than the companies had planned.

The nation’s 19 million children under 5 are the only group not yet eligible for vaccination against the coronavirus. Many parents have been pushing for an expansion of shots to toddlers and preschoolers, especially as the omicron wave sent record numbers of youngsters to the hospital.

If the FDA agrees, Pfizer shots containing just one-tenth of the dose given to adults could be dispensed to children as young as 6 months.

An open question is how many shots those youngsters will need. Pfizer is testing three shots after two of the extra-low doses turned out to be strong enough for babies but not for preschoolers, and the final data from the study isn’t expected until late March.

That means the FDA may consider whether to authorize two shots for now, with potentially a third shot being cleared later if the study supports it.

The agency’s decision could come within weeks, but that isn’t the only hurdle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has to sign off.

The Biden administration has been trying to speed the authorization of COVID-19 shots for children, contending vaccinations are critical for opening schools and day care centers and keeping them open, and for freeing up parents from child care duties so they can go back to work.

Yet vaccination rates have been lower among children than in other age groups. As of last week, just 20% of kids ages 5 to 11 and just over half of 12- to 17-year-olds were fully vaccinated, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nearly three-quarters of adults are fully vaccinated.

While young children are far less likely than adults to get severely ill from the coronavirus, it can happen, and pediatric COVID-19 infections are higher than at any other point in the pandemic.

“What we’re seeing right now is still a lot of hospitalizations and unfortunately some deaths in this age group,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary of the University of Colorado, who is on the AAP’s infectious disease committee. If the FDA clears vaccinations for these youngsters, “that’s going to be really important because all of those hospitalizations and deaths essentially are preventable.”

For kids under 5, Pfizer‘s study is giving participants two shots three weeks apart, followed by a third dose at least two months later. The company is testing whether the youngsters produce antibody levels similar to those known to protect teens and young adults.

In December, Pfizer announced that children under 2 looked to be protected but that the antibody response was too low in 2- to 4-year-olds. It’s not clear why, but one possibility is that the extra-low dose was a little too low for the preschoolers.

Since the preliminary results showed the shots were safe, Pfizer added a third dose to the testing in hopes of improving protection.

Given how well boosters are working for older age groups, “it makes some sense” that younger children could benefit from a third shot, O’Leary said. “I certainly can understand where both the company and the FDA are coming from in terms of wanting to move this along, anticipating that there’s going to be a third dose down the line.”

AP journalist Emma H. Tobin contributed.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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'Every dollar counts': Ontario's gas and fuel tax cut goes into effect – CBC.ca

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Ontario drivers experienced some relief from record-setting prices at the pump on Friday as the province’s gas tax cut came into effect.

The Ontario government cut the gas tax by 5.7 cents per litre until the end of the year, though Premier Doug Ford said he would consider an extension if inflation remains high.

Drivers noticed the impact Friday at gas stations in the Toronto-area, where prices dropped around 11 cents overnight to $1.93 — only partly attributable to the tax cut.

“Every dollar counts,” said Matthew Johnston as he filled up a cargo van at a downtown Toronto gas station. “This will actually help a bit.”

Gas prices in Toronto are up nearly 40 per cent since the start of the year, reaching a record high $2.15 per litre in early June before ending the month around $2.00 per litre.

Cut also applies to diesel

Johnston, who runs an upstart catering business and works at a winery, says the soaring price of gas paired with inflation has forced him to cut back on spending.

“I haven’t been able to go out or do anything anymore. It’s honestly just all gone to gas, rent — you know, just the cost of living,” he said.

He usually puts $60 in the tank to make his near-daily commute to the Niagara area. On Friday, he opted to try a $40-fill-up. 

The tax cut is expected to cost the province $645 million while it’s in effect. Analysts note Ford may face a tough decision in December when the measure expires and with prices likely to rise again before Christmas.

The legislation passed this spring will also cut fuel tax, which covers diesel, by 5.3 cents per litre until Dec. 31.

Hermain Kazmi called the tax cut a move in the right direction as he pumped gas into his car. He said high gas prices recently pushed him to use more public transit, but he expected to return to his previous driving habits if prices came down.

Kazmi was “100 per cent” in support of the government extending the tax cut into 2023, even expressing the hope it could lead to more financial relief.

“I don’t think a 10 cent drop would make a huge impact. It’s a good change but I think it needs to come down lower depending on how much inflation is and how salaries have not matched how inflation has gone up,” he said.

Price tied to increased demand, invasion of Ukraine

The soaring price of gas, a key driver of inflation, is tied to an increased demand for oil as the economy reopens after the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has also been exacerbated by a global supply crunch caused in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ali Avali stopped to fill up his SUV on the way to a park outside Toronto, with his dog, an Alaskan Malamute, perched in the backseat.

“The only reason I drive is because of this guy. I take him out to do a bit of running in the country,” he said.

Once the loan is paid off on the SUV, Alavi said he plans to switch to an electric vehicle. He said he opposed a gas tax cut, suggesting that if prices continued to go up, more people may also be inclined to make the switch. 

“When I see gas prices going up, it doesn’t really piss me off,” he said. 

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LILLEY: Trudeau government tries to deny responsibility for Canada's air travel delays – Toronto Sun

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Our airports are a disaster and somehow the Trudeau government and their supporters think they can just say, “but it’s bad in other places too!”

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Is that really a good enough answer for Canadians?

It shouldn’t be.

The truth of the matter is that our delays have been going on since the end of March. Airports like Charles de Gaulle in Paris are experiencing problems now due to a strike.

On Thursday, Air Canada was the most delayed airline in the world with 74% of flights not leaving or arriving on time, according to Flight Aware. WestJet was the third most delayed airline globally with 59% of flights delayed.

The discount brand for both carriers, Jazz and WestJet Encore, weren’t far behind them on the list.

Is this due to problems globally or here at home?

You know the answer, but let me give you some more statistics. Canada had three airports in the list of the 20 most delayed airports in the world for departing flights on Thursday – Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. We had five of the top 20 most delayed airports for arriving flights because Vancouver and Calgary made the list along with the other three.

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We don’t have the busiest airports in the world, just the most delayed, but somehow we’re expected to believe that government policies don’t have anything to do with this.

Not a single American airport is in the top 20 for having the most delays, but five Canadian airports are. Chinese airports like Shenzhen, Shanghai and Hangzhou dominate the list in large part because of that’s country’s COVID Zero policies.

“Our policies are so powerful that they’re impacting the entire world,” a senior Liberal messaged me after a recent column on how the Trudeau government’s policies are part of the problem.

They sent links to stories of airport delays in Amsterdam, England and elsewhere.

It’s all true that air travel is a problem elsewhere and staffing issues, including for airlines, is part of that problem, but so are government policies. And to deny that, or minimize it, is to ignore the problem.

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“On our end, we have done everything we can,” Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra said earlier this week.

He said the problems at airports are due to airlines scheduling, staffing issues, etc. Yet people are still needing to show up for their flights hours ahead of time to ensure they make it through security on time. Passengers are still being delayed and held back on planes once they land because the customs area is too busy and can’t hold any more people.

Those are issues the government is directly responsible for, not the airlines or airports.

The Trudeau government just extended a number of COVID travel measures until Sept. 30, including mandatory use of the ArriveCan app. According to customs officers, the app has increased the time it takes to process passengers by 400%.

Yet Alghabra wants you to think they have done all they can to alleviate the situation.

Other countries and other airports outside of Canada are experiencing problems but none as long or persistent as what we have been dealing with here in Canada. Instead of blaming passengers or airlines as Alghabra has done, he needs to work with all parties to find a solution.

That includes the government fixing the problematic areas they are responsible for at Canada’s airports.

blilley@postmedia.com

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95,000 GM vehicles unfinished in storage due to chip shortage – CBC News

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The global shortage of computer chips and other parts has forced General Motors to build 95,000 vehicles without certain components during the second quarter.

The Detroit automaker said in a regulatory filing Friday that most of the incomplete vehicles were built in June, and it expects most of them to be finished and sold to dealers before the end of the year.

The unsold vehicles amounted to 16 per cent of GM’s total sales from April through June. The company said Friday it sold more than 582,000 vehicles during the quarter, down more than 15 per cent from a year ago.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson said only a small percentage of those vehicles, to be completed at a later date, were reserved for Canadian dealers.

The company reaffirmed its full-year net income guidance of $9.6 billion US to $11.2 billion with pretax earnings of $13 billion to $15 billion. For the first time, the company predicted it would make $2.3 billion to $2.6 billion before taxes in the second quarter. That fell short of analyst estimates of $3.97 billion, according to FactSet.

The chip shortage has vexed automakers around the globe since 2020, forcing many automakers to temporarily close factories and trim production. The shortage has limited the supply of new vehicles on dealer lots in the U.S. to around 1 million, when in normal years it’s about 4 million at any given time.

That has pushed prices to record levels and limited vehicle selection, but it’s also led to strong profits for most automakers.

In a prepared statement, GM said its North American production has been relatively stable since the third quarter of last year, but short-term parts disruptions are continuing.

“We are actively working with our suppliers to resolve issues as they arise to meet pent-up customer demand for our vehicles,” the statement said.

Most automakers have predicted minor improvement in the chip shortage during the first half of the year, with far better supplies from July through December.

GM shares fell slightly to $31.69 in Friday morning trading, after the filing was made public.

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