One of the vaccines in Canada’s COVID-19 arsenal is another step closer to approval, after Pfizer reported more results from its clinical trials Wednesday.
The company said new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95 per cent effective, is safe and also protects older people most at risk of dying — the last data needed to seek emergency use of limited shot supplies as the catastrophic outbreak worsens across the globe.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech just last week estimated the vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective after 94 infections had been counted in a study that included 44,000 people. With the new announcement, the company now has accumulated 170 infections in the study and said only eight of them occurred in volunteers who got the actual vaccine rather than a dummy shot. One of those eight developed severe disease, the company said.
“This is an extraordinarily strong protection,” Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s CEO and co-founder, told The Associated Press.
The companies have not yet released detailed data on its study, and results have not been analyzed by independent experts. Also still to be determined are important questions such as how long protection lasts and whether people might need boosters.
Pfizer said it is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.
Pfizer applied to Health Canada for approval of the vaccine Oct. 9, and will submit the latest data to continue that process. Vaccines must be reviewed and authorized by the federal health department before they can be used in Canada. Health Canada is encouraging vaccine makers to submit for approval before their Phase 3 trials are done, so the approval process that normally takes up to a year can be finished faster.
Pfizer is also undergoing similar “rolling submissions” for approval with regulators in Europe and the United Kingdom.
AstraZeneca and Moderna have also submitted their vaccines for parallel review to Health Canada. All three are among the seven vaccine candidates Canada has contracts to buy on the understanding the doses will only be delivered if Health Canada green-lights the vaccine.
Earlier this week Moderna, Inc. announced that its experimental vaccine appears to be 94.5 per cent effective after an interim analysis of its late-stage study.
Similar results from two vaccines both made with a brand-new technology — using a snippet of the genetic code of the coronavirus to train the body to recognize if the real virus comes along — likely will add to experts’ reassurance about the novel approach.
The companies didn’t disclose safety details but said no serious vaccine side effects have been reported, with the most common problem being fatigue after the second vaccine dose, affecting about 4% of participants.
Canada has contracts to get 20 million doses from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, with options to get up to 56 million more from Pfizer and 36 million more from Moderna. All three require would require an individual to get two doses of the vaccine, several weeks apart.
Canada has contracts for four other vaccines but none of those companies have yet requested approval from Health Canada.
The timeline for when the doses will actually come has always been murky. The federal government has been saying it is likely in the first quarter of 2021 but the specific timing depends on if and when they are approved.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said in Queen’s Park Wednesday that Canada was supposed to get four million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, and two million of Moderna’s in the first three months of next year. She said Ontario is to get 40 per cent of those doses.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu refused to confirm that however, saying on Parliament Hill that Ottawa would work out distribution to the provinces to make sure every Canadian gets access.
“There are a number of steps to go through before we actually get to the point of distribution,” Hajdu said.
Canada is trying to be ready to roll out the vaccine as soon as it gets approved, including buying millions of syringes, needles, bandages and the like, and most recently signing two contracts to buy freezers to store the vaccine. Pfizer’s vaccine has to be stored at -70 C, while Moderna’s requires temperatures of at least -20 C. Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada is going to buy 26 freezers that can be as cold as -80 C and 100 that can be up to -20 C.
Pfizer and BioNTech said they expect to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
U.S. officials have said they hope to have about 20 million vaccine doses each from Moderna and Pfizer available for distribution in late December. The first shots are expected to be offered to vulnerable groups like medical and nursing home workers, and people with serious health conditions.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended similar priorities be made for the first doses of vaccine here.
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Who's getting sick (and who's not) in Nova Scotia's second wave – CBC.ca
With the onset of COVID’s second wave in Nova Scotia, the picture of who is getting sick in this province has changed.
“It is focused in that 18 to 35 demographic,” Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Thursday in a briefing.
“That is just the nature of this virus when you get it in an age demographic where social activity is an important part of the way they live.”
All age groups had cases during the first wave, but the focus turned to outbreaks among seniors as COVID-19 spread from the community to staff and residents in the province’s nursing homes.
The first wave
Just over half of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 cases from March to the end of September were people of prime working age, between 20 and 59 years old.
A further 21 per cent fit into the 60 to 79 age bracket, and 17 per cent were over 80 years old. About 10 per cent were 19 and under.
Overall, 61 per cent of the cases were women and 39 per cent were men.
The outbreak at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax alone accounted for 345 cases between staff and residents. Smaller outbreaks were reported in at least seven other long-term care or seniors facilities around the province.
More residents in long-term care tend to be women, as women have a longer life expectancy than men. Staff in long-term care are also more likely to be female.
Experts in aging and long-term care have said this is one reason why the first wave showed an uneven gender split that was weighted toward women.
The second wave
At this point in Nova Scotia’s second wave — which Strang said began at the start of October — the age and gender split looks very different.
Between Oct. 1 and Strang’s briefing on Nov. 24, a full 71 per cent of COVID-19 cases fell in the 20 to 39 age bracket. Trailing that group were people between 40 and 59 years old, who made up 13 per cent of the cases.
Ten per cent of the cases were 0 to 19 years old, and seven per cent were 60 to 79.
No cases had been recorded in the 80 and older age bracket as of Nov. 24.
The gender split has also switched, with 55 per cent of cases in the second wave being male and 45 per cent female.
What’s to come
The second wave is not over and it is still possible that older age groups or nursing homes could get hit hard again, which is why the province has set up isolation units in six long-term care homes and hospitals.
Younger adults are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, although it can happen.
“If you look at the vast majority of our positive cases in the last several weeks, they’ve been young adults,” Strang said.
“Lots of social life, going out to work…. as we’re testing contacts, there’s been a number who’ve been asymptomatic. But there’s also been many who have very mild symptoms.”
And that can be problematic.
Strang said the very fact that young people are experiencing mild symptoms — or none at all — makes them excellent transmitters of a virus that isn’t going away any time soon.
Canada sets another daily record with nearly 6,000 new coronavirus cases – Global News
Canada reported just under 6,000 new coronavirus infections Friday, setting another daily record as health officials across the country continue their pleas to the public to slow the spread of the pandemic.
The 5,963 new cases reported Friday brought the national total to 358,741. Of those, 286,500 patients are now considered to have recovered from the virus.
Friday’s cases more than tripled the highest number of daily cases seen in April, when the first wave of the pandemic crested. It’s also the eighth new record set this month alone as the virus spreads like wildfire in communities across the country.
As cases explode, Canadians are admitting to feeling fatigued by the ongoing pandemic. A new Ipsos poll released Friday found nearly half of respondents are getting tired of public health measures, even though nearly 90 per cent still intend to take them seriously.
On Twitter, Canada’s chief medical health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that attitude was the only defence against further spread of COVID-19.
“As with our last effort to bend the curve, this won’t be a quick solution, but a test of our determination and endurance,” she wrote.
“With resilience and resolve, let’s focus on what we can do to protect our families, friends & communities.”
Provinces and territories are also anxiously awaiting news on when a vaccine will be publicly available.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a “majority of Canadians” should be vaccinated by next September “if all goes according to plan,” citing the country’s top doctors.
One of those doctors, deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo, said that timeline was “optimistic” but added he shares that optimism with the prime minister.
Njoo and other officials said this week that they expect a first round of six million vaccination doses to be delivered to provinces and territories in early 2021, and expect to have at least one vaccine candidate approved by the end of this year.
Coronavirus: Dr. Njoo responds to Trudeau’s statement that majority of Canadians could be vaccinated by next September
Ontario set a new daily record itself Friday after reporting 1,855 new cases along with 20 new deaths. The province’s health minister said the staggering total was not unexpected, as restrictions in hard-hit areas like Toronto only kicked in on Monday.
Christine Elliot said the rising infections are coming in part from some of the events and celebrations that have taken place around the province over the past few weeks.
Quebec reported 1,269 more infections and another 38 deaths. The province’s death toll, already the highest in the country, is approaching 7,000.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported 329 and 344 new cases, respectively. Both provinces also saw new deaths: Saskatchewan reported that four more people had died, while another 14 deaths occurred in Manitoba.
New restrictions came into effect in Saskatchewan Friday banning all team sports and limiting capacity at public venues like churches, movie theatres and casinos to 30 people.
Ex-NATO mission head Fortin to lead Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout
Alberta added another 1,227 new cases and nine more deaths. The province has more active cases than any other jurisdiction in Canada and has the highest seven-day infection rate in the country, according to federal data, with 209 cases per 100,000 people.
New measures came into effect Friday to help blunt the spike in cases. Private indoor social gatherings are banned, capacity limits have been imposed on stores and students between grades 7 and 12 switch to remote learning on Monday.
The province’s justice minister said 700 more peace officers have been given the power to enforce those restrictions.
British Columbia also set a new record with 911 new cases, while 11 more deaths were also reported. Hospitalizations also topped 300 for the first time ever.
Cases are continuing to surge nearly three weeks after stringent new restrictions were imposed in parts of the province where infections are high, suggesting they haven’t been effective. Health officials said workplaces, which were not included in the orders, have become a major source of transmission.
In Atlantic Canada, three provinces reported a combined 25 new cases, though no new deaths were reported. Prince Edward Island did not release new testing data Friday.
Coronavirus: Trudeau pleads with young people to download COVID Alert app
Four more cases were reported in Nunavut and another three were added in Yukon, while the Northwest Territories did not report any new infections. That territory is the only jurisdiction in Canada with no active cases.
As of 9 p.m. ET, more than 61.5 million infections have been confirmed worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll has surpassed 1.44 million.
The United States continues to lead the world in both cases and deaths, both of which have grown at alarming rates this month. The country surpassed 13 million cases on Friday, while over 264,000 people have died to date.
— With files from Global’s Rachel Gilmore and the Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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