Health Canada has approved a booster of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for people over the age of 18, though third doses have already been given to high-risk people across the country.
The booster is designed to help people with their first two COVID-19 vaccine doses maintain their protection against the virus over time.
The booster is identical to the regular Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and is to be given at least six months after the first two vaccine doses. Clinical trials have shown side-effects more or less the same as those experienced with the original two doses of the vaccine.
Health Canada’s review found the booster dose met the regulator’s safety, efficacy and quality requirements, according to a news release from the department.
Different provinces have employed different rollout strategies for booster doses, and mRNA vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech have already been used to offer longer-lasting protection to high-risk people in several parts of the country.
Most boosters have so far been administered to the immunocompromised, people of advanced age, people in long-term care, Indigenous populations, and front-line health workers.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has also recommended a booster for people who received two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca or one dose of the Janssen vaccine, because of evidence of waning immunity over time.
There is no evidence of waning protection over time against severe COVID-19 in the general vaccinated population, according to NACI’s latest advice.
However at a briefing last Friday. Dr. Theresa Tam suggested some areas of the country with a high number of COVID-19 cases and good vaccine coverage may be suffering from the effects of waning immunity.
“Some of these populations have had the vaccine the earliest and therefore the longest time since vaccination,” she said. “There’s been reports of some observations of waning immunity against infection, and in some cases, they have had some severe outcomes.”
Many provinces have already begun to look ahead to booster campaigns for the entire population.
Ontario is eyeing early 2022 to expand booster doses to all adults, based on a six-to-eight month interval after people received their second doses.
Officials there still note that two doses provide very good protection against COVID-19, especially against serious illness.
Moderna has also applied to Health Canada to approve its COVID-19 booster shot, which uses a smaller amount of vaccine than the first two doses.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2021
Bank of Canada keeps key interest rate on hold – CTV News
Canada’s central bank has sent a warning that increases in the cost of living would continue into next year, but signalled it wasn’t yet prepared to pull its key lever to rein in inflation.
The annual pace of inflation in October rose to 4.7 per cent, a pandemic-era high and the fastest year-over-year gain in the consumer price index in 18 years.
The Bank of Canada said high inflation rates will continue through the first half of next year, but should by the second half of 2022 fall back to its comfort zone of between one and three per cent.
By the end of next year, the bank is forecasting the annual inflation rate to fall to 2.1 per cent.
While the path for inflation and the economy are largely following the central bank’s expectations, the statement released Wednesday said the bank “is closely watching inflation expectations and labour costs” to make sure they don’t take off and cause a spiral of price growth.
The comments in the last scheduled rate announcement of the year left the key rate at its rock-bottom level of 0.25 per cent, unchanged from where it was in January at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement also said that the bank doesn’t expect to raise the trendsetting rate until some time between April and September next year, which is unchanged from its previous guidance.
“Overall, the (Bank of Canada) did indeed resist spitting in anyone’s holiday ‘nog,” Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics at Scotiabank, wrote in a note. “They stayed on track with guidance to begin entertaining rate hikes as soon as next April.”
When the bank moves, it is likely to move fast and furious, said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter. The bank has a history of quickly raising rates from emergency levels, he said, suggesting four rate hikes by the end of 2022.
“When the Bank of Canada believes that interest rates need to go up, they don’t tend to wait around, they tend to move relatively quickly,” Porter said.
The bank said the economy appears to have “considerable momentum” heading to the end of the year after growing at an annualized rate of 5.4 per cent in the third quarter of the year, a hair below what the Bank of Canada forecasted in October.
The Bank of Canada’s statement noted that the quarterly growth brought total economic activity to within about 1.5 per cent of where it was in the last quarter of 2019, before COVID-19 washed upon Canada’s shores.
Similarly, the labour market had a stronger-than-expected showing in November, pushing the share of core-age workers with a job to an all-time high and leaving the unemployment rate 0.3 percentage points above its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.
Still, the bank notes headwinds from devastating floods in British Columbia and uncertainties from the Omicron variant that could throw another wrench into snarled supply chains, and scare off consumers from spending on services.
TD senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said the bank may move sooner on rates if Omicron proves to be less of a health concern than initially feared, noting the economy can handle it “with inflation running hot, and the labour market on solid footing.”
A rise in rates would impact interest charged for variable rate mortgages, which could tighten the finances of households that over the course of 2021 have added $121.5 billion in mortgage debt, including $38 billion between July and September.
“It’s going to be, I think, particularly problematic for Canadians who have gone into fairly substantial mortgages, particularly when interest rates have been low for such a long period of time,” said Tashia Batstone, president of FP Canada, a financial-planning association.
“What that means is you have to work harder to stick to your budget, you have to be watching the debt that you’re taking on, and in particular watch that you may not be able to have the flexibility around mortgage loans.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.
Pfizer says COVID-19 booster offers protection against Omicron – CTV News
Pfizer said Wednesday that a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine may protect against the new Omicron variant even though the initial two doses appear significantly less effective.
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said lab tests showed a booster dose increased by 25-fold the level of so-called neutralizing antibodies against omicron.
Pfizer announced the preliminary laboratory data in a press release and it hasn’t yet undergone scientific review. The companies already are working to create an omicron-specific vaccine in case it’s needed.
Scientists have speculated that the high jump in antibodies that comes with a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines might be enough to counter any decrease in effectiveness.
Antibody levels predict how well a vaccine may prevent infection with the coronavirus but they are just one layer of the immune system’s defences. Pfizer said two doses of the vaccine may still induce protection against severe disease.
“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is maximized with a third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
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
Ontario COVID-19 science advisor recommends tighter restrictions in Thunder Bay – Tbnewswatch.com
THUNDER BAY — A leading Ontario epidemiologist believes the Thunder Bay District Health Unit should take measures immediately to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.
“The trajectory is in the wrong direction. At this rate, they will start to be challenged” with managing the situation, says Dr. Peter Juni.
Juni is the scientific director of the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table.
The COVID-19 caseload has been rising steadily in the Thunder Bay area since mid-November, including cases at numerous schools.
The 54 new cases reported on Monday was the largest number of new cases reported since March 17, 2021.
It brought the active case count to 137, including some cases of the new Omicron variant.
The risk for TBDHU, Juni said, is that “You can’t just get contact tracing, testing and management done as efficiently as before….Omicron pops up now, and you potentially have a problem.”
He said although the challenges presented by the new variant aren’t fully known yet, it needs to be taken very seriously.
It’s why, Juni said, he recommends swift action to slow the spread of the Delta variant while simultaneously preventing Omicron from becoming dominant.
“If I were in the shoes of the local public health unit, and the medical officer of health, I would really follow the same sort of decision-making that Windsor-Essex has just had,” he told TBNewswatch on Monday.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit announced Sunday that it is introducing new measures that go beyond current provincial regulations.
In its service area, where the rate of COVID-19 infections is starting to put a strain on local hospitals, the following restrictions will take effect on Dec. 10:
- social gatherings limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors
- added measures for wedding receptions and for social events tied to funerals and religious services
- limiting indoor capacity for bars and restaurants to 50 % of their usual occupancy limit
- strict adherence to face-covering requirements in all public settings
“The virus loves indoor spaces. It hasn’t changed for Delta and it won’t change for Omicron either,” Dr. Juni said.
He said it’s also essential that people “don’t cut corners with masking.”
At sports venues specifically, he said, he would seriously consider disallowing the consumption of food and drink in order to keep masks in place.
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