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Pharmacies facing flu shot shortages

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With a major pharmacy chain suspending its Ontario flu shot program because of supply problems, experts warn that the province may be missing its chance to boost vaccine uptake in a critically important year and beyond.

Rexall said appointments would be “temporarily paused due to supply issues that are currently being experienced across the province,” noting that vaccine supply is determined by the Ministry of Health.

Last week, an executive for McKesson Canada, the company that distributes flu shots to more than three-quarters of Ontario pharmacies and that owns Rexall, warned in a letter that its government-supplied inventory of flu shots would be depleted by Oct. 29.

Vaccinations are still available at doctors’ offices and public health clinics, and most of these clinics don’t usually ramp up until November. Premier Doug Ford on Monday highlighted the successes of the province’s largest-ever flu shot program, noting the province would get 1 million more doses compared to last year.

But with nearly 90 per cent of the province’s order of 5.4 million doses already distributed, and some primary care clinics reporting problems of their own obtaining enough doses or setting up vaccination clinics amid pandemic-related safety concerns, experts worried that Ontario would miss a rare opportunity.

This is “the one year that (people) are finally willing to roll up their sleeves to get a vaccination,” noted Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System and University Health Network in Toronto.

The province-wide influenza vaccination rate has hovered somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent in recent years, Sinha noted, despite the Public Health Agency of Canada recommending a target of 80 per cent coverage. Canada has worse flu vaccine coverage among seniors than other industrialized countries, including the U.S. and U.K.

This historic complacence is out of step with the harms of influenza, which exerts a massive strain on our health-care system. The flu causes an average of 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths in Canada annually, with seniors and those with chronic health conditions especially at risk, according to a 2018 white paper.

 

Health experts have been dreading the “twindemic” of influenza and COVID-19, two infectious respiratory diseases slamming into the same vulnerable populations simultaneously, and threatening the same limited health-care resources. The one silver lining is that COVID-related restrictions may diminish flu too: Australia and other bellwether southern-hemisphere countries experienced historically low levels.

But frustrating people who are finally willing to line up for a flu shot could have long-term consequences outside of this critical season, Sinha said.

“We may have actually further eroded that very delicate level of public confidence that we need, that we can’t be complacent about … it’s going to make it harder to regain their confidence next year.”

In a 2018 research paper on influenza and Canada’s elderly, Sinha and other co-authors highlighted research showing that increasing flu vaccine availability in pharmacies raises vaccine coverage rates overall: Convenience is a key factor.

This year Ontario originally ordered 5.1 million flu shot doses for its population of almost 15 million. Another 300,000 doses were later added, according to the health ministry. The province has distributed nearly 4.7 million doses of that order as of Oct. 31, with about 30 per cent, or 1.4 million doses, going to third-party distributors for pharmacies.

McKesson is the largest of these distributors, supplying flu shots to about 80 per cent of participating pharmacies, according to the Ontario Pharmacists Association. A spokesperson for McKesson blamed the province for failing to meet “significant and early” demand.

“Unfortunately, the government’s allocation of flu vaccines to pharmacies is insufficient to service this increase in demand and pharmacies are having to turn away patients looking to be vaccinated due to limited vaccine supply,” Andrew Forgione said in a statement. (Shoppers Drug Mart is in a similar position, said Justin Bates, chief executive officer of the Ontario Pharmacists Association.)

Ford hit back at a press conference on Monday, saying the company’s pharmacies had booked more flu shot appointments than the doses it knew it would receive.

“My friends at Rexall, you knew the allocations that you had, so don’t overbook people. It’s (as) simple as that,” Ford said. “If you have 100 flu shots, don’t book 200 people, you won’t have the problem.”

Approximately 3.3 million doses have also been distributed to public health units, the province says. Health units then distribute those to hospitals, long-term care homes, primary care clinics and their own flu shot programs. Toronto Public Health says it’s own flu shot clinics are running as planned.

Primary care clinics have reported mixed experiences, according to doctors in this sector. Some large, well-staffed family health teams are vaccinating as usual, while others have come up with creative solutions like drive-thru clinics or banding up with other health-care providers to find sufficient staff.

But other family doctors are reporting problems obtaining the doses they ordered, and even those that do get their full order are struggling to vaccinate at normal volumes.

 

“It’s not very transparent, how the flu shot distribution is done and who has responsibility for what,” said Dr. Tara Kiran, a family doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital and a professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.

“At any one time, you don’t know what you’re going to get next and when you’re going to get it,” making it difficult to plan clinics, Kiran said. “And then we’re also hearing from many family doctors offices where they didn’t get nearly enough flu shot relative to how much they know they’re going to need to give.”

 

Doctors are prioritizing kids under five who can’t be vaccinated at pharmacies, seniors and other high-risk groups, Kiran and others said — and many offices are telling patients to visit their local pharmacy.

A spokesperson said the health ministry is looking to reallocate existing inventory to areas where demand is high including in pharmacies, and is working closely with pharmacy and other providers on options for them to redistribute their current flu shot supply while maintaining vaccine safety, adding any future shipments would go to areas of greatest demand and providers focusing on high-priority populations.

 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province has reached out to the federal government and international suppliers for additional vaccine and that $28 million has been earmarked to purchase more.

With files from Rob Ferguson

Writen By

 

Kate Allen is a Toronto-based reporter covering science and technology for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @katecallen

Source: – Toronto Star

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Ontario reports 1824 new COVID-19 cases, including 10 in greater Kawarthas region – kawarthaNOW.com

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Here’s an update on COVID-19 cases in Ontario as well as in the greater Kawarthas region.

Ontario is reporting 1,824 new COVID-19 cases today, although this number includes 127 cases from Middlesex-London Health Unit reported over the previous three days that, due to a data processing error, were not included in previous daily reports. The average number of daily cases over the past seven days has increased by 49 to 1,769.

There are 10 new cases to report in the greater Kawarthas region, with the total number of active cases decreasing by 5 to 99.

Most of the new cases reported today are in Peel (592), Toronto (392), York (187), and Middlesex-London (127). The cases in Middlesex-London, which are the total cases reported over the past three days, work out to an average of 42 cases per day.

There are double-digit increases in Waterloo (87), Halton (68), Windsor-Essex (62), Durham (57), Hamilton (56), Ottawa (41), Niagara (25), Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (23), Eastern Ontario Health Unit (19), Thunder Bay (13), and Simcoe Muskoka (11), with smaller increases in Huron Perth (9), Southwestern Public Health (8), Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (7), and Leeds, Grenville & Lanark (6).

The remaining 15 health units are reporting 5 or fewer new cases, with 6 health units reporting no new cases at all.

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Of today’s cases, 54% are among people under 40 years of age, with the highest number of cases (728) among people ages 20 to 39 followed by 499 cases among people ages 40 to 59. With 1,541 more cases resolved since yesterday, the percentage of resolved cases remains unchanged at 84.8%. The average positivity rate across Ontario has decreased by 0.3% to 4.4%, meaning that 44 out of every 1,000 tests performed were positive for COVID-19 on December 2.

Ontario is reporting 14 new COVID-19 deaths today, including 11 in long-term care facilities. Hospitalizations have increased by 10 to 666, with 12 additional patients with COVID-19 admitted to ICUs and 1 additional patient on a ventilator.

A total of 52,873 tests were completed yesterday, and the backlog of tests under investigation has increased by 8,746 to 58,320.

There are 122 new cases in Ontario schools today, a decrease of 44 from yesterday, with 94 student cases and 28 staff cases. There are 17 new cases in licensed child care settings, a decrease of 11 from yesterday, with 11 cases among children and 6 cases among staff.

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In the greater Kawarthas region, there are 10 new cases to report, including 4 in Hastings and Prince Edward counties (almost all in Belleville), 3 in Northumberland, 2 in Peterborough, and 1 in Kawartha Lakes. There are no new cases to report in Haliburton.

An additional 9 cases have been resolved in Hastings and Prince Edward, 3 in Northumberland, and 3 in Peterborough.

The new cases in schools reported by Ontario include 1 student case at St. Paul Catholic Elementary School in Asphodel-Norwood. In addition, St. Peter Catholic Secondary School in Peterborough is reporting a confirmed case, but has not identified whether it is a student or staff member.

None of the reported new cases in child care settings are in the greater Kawarthas region.

There are currently 99 active cases in the greater Kawarthas region, including 39 in Hastings and Prince Edward counties, 28 in Northumberland, 23 in Peterborough, 8 in Kawartha Lakes, and 1 in Haliburton.

Since the pandemic began in the greater Kawarthas region, there have been 221 confirmed positive cases in the Peterborough area (193 resolved with 5 deaths), 203 in the City of Kawartha Lakes (176 resolved with 32 deaths), 101 in Northumberland County (72 resolved with 1 death), 27 in Haliburton County (26 resolved with no deaths), and 156 in Hastings and Prince Edward counties (114 resolved with 5 deaths). The most recent death was reported in Peterborough on November 23.

Province-wide, there have been 121,746 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,824 from yesterday. This number includes 127 cases from Middlesex-London Health Unit reported over the previous three days that, due to a data processing error, were not included in previous daily reports. There are 103,239 resolved cases (84.8% of all cases), an increase of 1,541 from yesterday. There have been 3,712 deaths, an increase of 14 from yesterday, with 2,342 deaths in long-term care homes, an increase of 11 from yesterday. The number of hospitalizations has increased by 10 to 666, with 12 additional patients with COVID-19 admitted to ICUs and 1 additional patient on a ventilator. A total of 6,406,655 tests have been completed, an increase of 52,873 from yesterday, with 58,320 tests under investigation, an increase of 8,746 from yesterday.

The provincial data in this report is pulled from Ontario’s integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS) at 12 p.m. the previous day. Data from local health units is more current and is usually reflected in the provincial data the following day. There may be discrepancies between the Ontario data reported today (which is from yesterday) and the local health unit data reported today (which is from today).

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Peterborough Public Health

Peterborough Public Health’s service area is the City and County of Peterborough and the Hiawatha and Curve Lake First Nations.

The health unit provides daily reports, including on weekends.

Confirmed positive: 221 (increase of 2)
Active cases: 23 (decrease of 1)
Close contacts: 46 (decrease of 4)
Deaths: 5 (no change)
Resolved: 193 (increase of 3)
Hospitalizations (total to date): 10 (no change)*
Total tests completed: Over 37,000 (increase of 100)
Institutional outbreaks: Fairhaven (no change)

*The health unit is no longer reporting the total number of hospitalizations.

 

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s service area is the City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County, and Haliburton County.

The health unit provides reports from Monday to Friday, excluding statutory holidays.

Confirmed positive: 331, including 203 in Kawartha Lakes, 101 in Northumberland, 27 in Haliburton (increase of 4, including 1 in Kawartha Lakes and 3 in Northumberland)
Active cases: 37, including 8 in Kawartha Lakes, 28 in Northumberland, and 1 in Haliburton (increase of 1 in Northumberland)
Probable cases: 0 (no change)
High-risk contacts: 156, including 22 in Kawartha Lakes, 128 in Northumberland, and 6 in Haliburton (increase of 39, including 8 in Kawartha Lakes and 31 in Northumberland)
Hospitalizations (total to date): 16, including 11 in Kawartha Lakes, 4 in Northumberland, and 1 in Haliburton (no change)
Deaths: 33 (no change)
Resolved: 274, including 176 in Kawartha Lakes, 72 in Northumberland, 26 in Haliburton (increase of 3 in Northumberland)
Institutional outbreaks: None (no change)

 

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health’s service area is Hastings County (including Bancroft) and Prince Edward County.

The health unit provides reports from Monday to Friday, excluding statutory holidays.

Confirmed positive: 156 (increase of 4)
Active cases: 39 (decrease of 5)
Deaths: 5 (no change)
Currently hospitalized: 0 (no change)
Currently hospitalized and in ICU: 0 (no change)
Currently hospitalized and in ICU on ventilator (total to date): 0 (no change)
Resolved: 114 (increase of 9)
New swabs completed: 5,036 (increase of 68)
Institutional outbreaks: None (no change)

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Province of Ontario

Confirmed positive: 121,746 (increase of 1,824)*
Resolved: 103,239 (increase of 1,541, 84.8% of all cases)
Hospitalized: 666 (increase of 10)
Hospitalized and in ICU: 195 (increase of 12)
Hospitalized and in ICU on ventilator: 107 (increase of 1)
Deaths: 3,712 (increase of 14)
Deaths of residents in long-term care homes: 2,342 (increase of 11)
Total tests completed: 6,406,655 (increase of 52,873)
Tests under investigation: 58,320 (increase of 8,746)

*This number includes 127 cases from Middlesex-London Health Unit reported over the previous three days that, due to a data processing error, were not included in previous reports.

New COVID-19 cases in Ontario from November 2 - December 2, 2020. The red line is the number of new cases reported daily, and the dotted green line is a five-day moving average of new cases. (Graphic: kawarthaNOW.com)
New COVID-19 cases in Ontario from November 2 – December 2, 2020. The red line is the number of new cases reported daily, and the dotted green line is a five-day moving average of new cases. (Graphic: kawarthaNOW.com)
COVID-19 tests completed in Ontario from November 2 - December 2, 2020. The red line is the number of tests completed daily, and the dotted green line is a five-day moving average of tests completed. (Graphic: kawarthaNOW.com)
COVID-19 tests completed in Ontario from November 2 – December 2, 2020. The red line is the number of tests completed daily, and the dotted green line is a five-day moving average of tests completed. (Graphic: kawarthaNOW.com)

 

For more information about COVID-19 in Ontario, visit covid-19.ontario.ca.

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COVID-19 outbreak continues at senior apartment complex in Fort St John – Energeticcity.ca

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – An outbreak of COVID-19 continues at a senior apartment complex, in Fort St. John, that is operated by the North Peace Seniors Housing Society.

According to Eryn Collins of Northern Health, as of Thursday, December 3, a total of 15 residents of been confirmed to have contracted the virus.

Collins says eight of those cases remain active and six have since recovered, with one resident having passed away due to the virus.

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Ontario reports more than 1800 new coronavirus cases, 14 more deaths – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Ontario is reporting more than 1,800 new COVID-19 cases and 14 more deaths but Thursday’s case count reflects an overestimate due to a processing error.

Provincial health officials logged 1,824 new infections in the last 24 hours, up from the 1,723 new cases recorded on Wednesday.

According to the Ministry of Health, today’s total case count includes an overestimate of new cases from the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

“Due to a data processing error, the number of new cases for Middlesex-London Health Unit in today’s report (127 cases) represents cases reported over the previous three days,” a spokesperson said in an email to CP24.

Middlesex-London recorded zero new cases on Wednesday, a reduction of 10 on Tuesday and 14 on Monday. Many of the more recent cases from that region may involve a major COVID-19 outbreak at the London Health Sciences Centre.

Most of the province’s new cases continue to be from the GTA, particularly in the hot spots of Toronto and Peel and Region.

“Locally, there are 592 new cases in Peel, 396 in Toronto and 187 in York Region,” Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted on Thursday.

Elsewhere in the GTA, Durham Region logged 57 new infections, down from 124 a day ago and Halton recorded 68 new cases, up from 45 on Wednesday.

Five of Ontario’s 34 public health units are recording zero new cases of the virus.

The seven-day rolling average now stands at 1,768 up from 1,427 a week ago.

Provincial health officials processed nearly 52,900 tests in the past 24 hours, up from more than 44,200 tests a day ago. More than 58,300 tests are currently under investigation.

The rise in testing helped drop the province’s positivity rate to at least 4.4 per cent, compared to 4.7 per cent a day ago, according to provincial health officials.

The province logged 1,707 new cases on Tuesday and 1,746 on Monday.

There are 1,541 more recoveries from the virus across the province bringing the total number of active cases to 14,795. A total of 3,712 Ontarians have now died from the virus.

Of today’s fatalities, 11 were long-term care home residents.

There are currently 116 long-term care homes with an active outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Ontario.

To date, there have been more than 121,700 cases of the virus in Ontario since January and 103,239 recoveries.

Ontario hits 200-bed threshold for COVID-19 patients in ICU

The number of patients hospitalized with the virus continue to climb across the province amid a second wave of the disease.

There are currently 666 patients hospitalized with the virus in the province, up from 656 on Wednesday.

Of those hospitalized patients, 195 are in an intensive care unit (ICU) and 107 are breathing with the help of a ventilator, according to provincial health officials.

However, Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, told CP24 that the province reached the 200-bed threshold for COVID-19 patients in ICUs on Thursday, roughly five days earlier than provincial modelling data predicted.

The Ford government released its latest modelling on Nov. 12 and said that in all of their scenarios within roughly six weeks the 200-bed threshold would be reached, and that the 450-bed threshold would be reached under the worst case scenario.

The grim milestone comes after Elliott said Ontario hospitals are not “in a crisis” situation during a press conference on Wednesday.

“There is no question that many Ontario hospitals are under stress right now, particularly in the lockdown areas,” she said. “To say they are in crisis is not the case. Alberta is in crisis when you have to have double cohorts in a single intensive care room. That’s a crisis. We are not at that stage in Ontario.”

Meanwhile, GTA residents are anxiously waiting to learn if more regions will enter a lockdown, particularly the regions of York and Halton where cases continue to rise.

Toronto and Peel Region entered a 28-day lockdown on Nov. 23 to curb the spread of the virus in the hot spots.

Under the province’s grey “lockdown” level of it’s colour-coded COVID-19 response framework, restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery service and non-essential businesses can only provide curbside pickup. Gyms, movie theatres and casinos must also close their doors.

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