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PM and health officials warn variants could spark third wave if restrictions eased – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Federal health officials and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued consecutive stark warnings on Friday: now is the time for “extra” vigilance around the new coronavirus variants as a continued spread could spark a third wave in Canada.

While the national COVID-19 curve is bending, with more cases of novel coronavirus variants being detected across Canada, now is not the time to ease up on public health restrictions, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday.

“These past weeks have been very challenging, but we’ve made great progress and are now almost two-thirds of the way down this curve… But we’ll need to keep putting the brakes on the spread of new virus variants of concern in Canada,” Tam said during a briefing on the current COVID-19 situation on Friday morning.

Echoing this, Trudeau said that while it is a “positive sign” that cases are going down across the country, people need to remain cautious as some modelling is indicating an increase in variant spread could spark a third wave.

“Nobody wants a third wave to start, particularly not one comprised of new more communicable variants that can cause real challenges.”

On Friday, the federal government announced a new $53 million “variants of concern strategy,” to increase capacity to research, find, track and sequence the three prominent variants of concern: B.1.1.7 which originated in the U.K., B.1.351 which originated in South Africa, and P.1 which originated in Brazil.

“You might be worried about these new strains… we’re putting our best experts on it,” Trudeau said adding that: “Canada is ready” to handle the variants, though at present, the surveillance strategy for testing positive cases to detect these strains, varies across the country.

The new strategy includes a partnership between the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, Genome Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The group of epidemiology, immunology and virology experts will advise on drug therapy and vaccine effectiveness, as well as broader public health measures.

The strategy will also implement standardized data sharing across the country.

Tam said that part of the fight against the variants will also be through the ongoing vaccine rollout, though at present, mass vaccinations aren’t set to begin until April, meaning for the next month and a half the immunization campaign will continue prioritizing front-line health care workers, seniors, and other vulnerable populations.

As a result, most Canadians will have to continue to increase their vigilance with measures like physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing to do their part.

On Friday Trudeau confirmed that by the end of March Pfizer will have sent its promised total of four million vaccine doses, and as part of the Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout the pharmaceutical giant will be sending 10.8 million doses between April and June.

“This is a really delicate period,” Tam said. “Look at the European countries, they give us a clue as to what might happen if variants circulating and we let our guard down,” she said, adding that if that happens Canada could see a “massive acceleration” leading to a “third resurgence.”

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said during Friday’s briefing that, as early as next week, federal health officials will be presenting updated national modelling that will factor in the potential impact these variants will have on the country’s epidemic curve.

SHOULD PROVINCES REOPEN?

There are now eight provinces that have reported having cases of at least one of the variants of concern.

These warnings come as some provinces are mulling easing lockdowns once again, including in Ontario where there have been cases of all three variants. On Thursday, modelling experts in that province reported that the case count will “likely rise” in Ontario if these new highly contagious variants spread further into communities.

Asked whether he thinks the threat variants pose merits evoking the Emergencies Act or if further intervention would be required to dissuade provinces from easing up on certain restrictions, Trudeau wouldn’t comment directly on the approaches of the provinces but said all Canadians need to be “extra vigilant.”

“As certain restrictions are perhaps eased by certain provinces, and people get to go out a little bit more, all the more reason,” Trudeau said, suggesting it’s an opportune time to download the federal COVID Alert exposure notification app and refrain from gathering with others.

He also noted the billions of dollars sent to the provinces to help them support their citizens when they have to make decisions like keeping sectors closed to keep case counts down.

“We make our decisions based on the best recommendations of our health officials and as a federal government we will be there to support and encourage the right decisions by the provinces,” Trudeau said.

As of Friday afternoon there are more than 36,000 active COVID-19 cases Canada-wide. To date there have been more than 819,000 cases and more than 21,100 people have died in this country.

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COVID-19: National panel agrees with Dr. Henry on four-month vaccine delay – Vancouver Sun

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The vaccine experts say extending the dose interval to four months can protect the entire adult population within a short time despite limited supply.

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Taking a cue from B.C.’s top doctor, a national panel of vaccine experts recommended that provinces extend the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to up to four months when faced with a limited supply, in order to quickly immunize as many people as possible.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued updated guidance Wednesday for the administration of all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada.

Extending the dose interval to four months will create opportunities to protect the entire adult population against the virus within a short time frame, the panel said in releasing the recommendation.

As many as 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could receive a single dose by the end of June simply with the expected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the panel said.

  1. The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control says new preliminary data shows that a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine reduces the risk of the virus by 80 per cent within two to three weeks of receiving the shot. The agency says in a statement that research led by Dr. Danuta Skowronski, the head of its influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens team shown here in a file photo, came to the conclusion after analyzing COVID-19 cases in long-term care homes.

    A look at the studies from Israel, U.K. that informed B.C.’s second-dose delay

  2. B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

    Longer interval between doses means restrictions can be lifted sooner: Henry

The addition of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the country’s supply could mean almost all Canadians would get their first shot in that time frame, but the federal government has not yet said how many doses of that vaccine will be delivered in the spring and how many in the summer.

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“The vaccine effectiveness of the first dose will be monitored closely and the decision to delay the second dose will be continuously assessed based on surveillance and effectiveness data and post-implementation study designs,” the panel wrote.

“Effectiveness against variants of concern will also be monitored closely, and recommendations may need to be revised,” it said, adding there is currently no evidence that a longer interval will affect the emergence of the variants.

The committee’s recommendation came hours after Newfoundland and Labrador said it will extend the interval between the first and second doses to four months, and days after B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the province was doing so.

Manitoba also said Wednesday it will delay second doses in order to focus on giving the first shot to more people more quickly.

Ontario previously said it was weighing a similar move but would seek advice from the federal government.


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Trudeau 'very optimistic' vaccine rollout can be accelerated and move closer to U.S. goals – National Post

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Trudeau held to his September target, but said with vaccine deliveries being moved up and new candidates being approved, the timeline could be moved up

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday morning he was hopeful Canada’s vaccine timelines could be moved up, but offered no assurance the vaccine rollout here won’t be completed months after the United States.

But late on Wednesday afternoon, a national panel of vaccine experts recommended extending the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot when faced with a limited supply.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s updated guidance is for the administration of all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada. It says extending the dose interval to four months will create opportunities to protect the entire adult population against the virus within a shorter timeframe.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Tuesday evening America would have enough vaccines delivered to cover the entire population by late May. The rollout of those vaccines into arms will follow, but America is still likely to be able to vaccinate its entire population months ahead of Canada.

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Trudeau’s long-held timeline is to have all Canadians vaccinated by the end of September. He held to that target at his Wednesday morning press conference, but said with vaccine deliveries being moved up and new candidates being approved, it is possible the timeline could be moved up.

“We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to accelerate some of these timelines,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to allow our population to get through this challenge as quickly as possible,” he said.

  1. Public health measures like masking are being recommended regardless of if someone has been vaccinated.

    What happens after my COVID shots? Masking, social-distancing, still recommended, but some experts want different approach

  2. Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

    Liberals confident U.S. AstraZeneca vaccines will be delivered despite Biden’s ‘America first’ strategy

Trudeau said COVID has had a much more devastating impact on the U.S. and that will have a significant impact on the recovery.

“Obviously, the pandemic has had a very different course in the United States with far greater death tolls and case counts and that has had its own impact on the American economy,” he said.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, the party’s health critic, said the government should be providing a clearer, more detailed explanation of its vaccine plan, to help businesses have confidence about what comes next.

“We don’t have any of that data. We don’t actually know what the realistic time horizon is for delivery of vaccines,” she said.

With Canada set to be months behind the U.S., United Kingdom and potentially other countries in the rollout, Rempel Garner said the government should be offering information about what else it will do to ease the pandemic in the meantime.

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“I think we’ll have a problem on compliance and certainty for business reopening, so this is why we’re saying look, be honest with Canadians, and then let’s work together to come up with a plan B,” she said. “COVID fatigue is a real thing. There’s a lot of frustration.”

Trudeau announced that both the government’s rent subsidy for small business and the wage subsidy will be extended into June as the pandemic continues. The extension of the rent subsidy is forecasted to cost an additional $2.1 billion and the wage subsidy will cost the government an additional $13.9 billion.

Finance Minister Chyrstia Freeland said the government would continue to support businesses with the goal of keeping the economy moving so it can resurge quickly when restrictions are lifted.

“Our government will continue to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to help Canadians through this bleak time, to prevent economic scarring and invest in a way that allows us all to come roaring back,” she said.

Biden moved up his timeline to May, from what had been the end of July, after announcing the U.S. government had approved a third vaccine candidate from Johnson and Johnson. Canada is expected to approve that vaccine soon.

Canada received 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first shipment in a total of two million doses expected before mid-May, on top of a further 20 million doses expected between April and September.

Despite all the recent vaccine announcements, Trudeau said it was too early to formally move up the deadline, because there could still be issues with manufacturing or deliveries.

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“These are new processes for new vaccines that are being manufactured in the millions and even billions in order to cover everyone on Earth,” he said. “We’ll be facing continued challenges, which is one of the reasons why we made such a deliberate effort to sign more deals with more different companies than many of our fellow countries.”

While the Biden administration has said it won’t ship vaccines from the U.S. to other countries until all Americans are vaccinated, Trudeau said Biden knows the challenge is global.

“It was very clear that they understand, like us, we know that you don’t get through this pandemic, anywhere, not fully, until you get through it everywhere.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Nova Scotia to accept shipment of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine – HalifaxToday.ca

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Nova Scotia has decided to receive its first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Next week, the province will get 13,000 doses of the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use by Health Canada.

They don’t have a long shelf life and must be used by April 2.

Because of that, even though it is a two dose vaccine, the province announced today it plans to administer all of the supply as first doses. They will be going into the arms of Nova Scotians between the ages of 50 and 64 at 26 locations throughout the province on a first-come, first-served basis.

Earlier this week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended the Oxford-AstraZeneca only be used for people between the ages of 18 and 64.

“AstraZeneca is different than the two vaccines we’re using now,” explained the province’s chief medical officer of health at Tuesday’s briefing. “The Pfizer-BioNtech and the Moderna are mRNA vaccines, which have been shown to be 94 to 95 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 illness.”

“The AstraZeneca is slightly different. It’s called a viral-vector vaccine and it’s been shown to be about 62 per cent effective against preventing symptomatic illness.”

Because of that, Dr. Robert Strang said it won’t be used for any group considered to be a high risk for severe disease and/or exposure.

Unlike the mRNA vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine does contain a virus, however the province says it isn’t the one that causes COVID-19. It’s a “different, harmless virus that triggers an immune response.”

The vaccine also doesn’t need the cold or ultra-low cold storage that the other two require. It can be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, which is similar to the standard flu vaccine.

Doctors Nova Scotia and the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia will be handling the launch.

“This vaccine provides another tool in our fight against COVID-19 and builds on the roll-out that is already underway in our province as we work to vaccinate all Nova Scotians,” said Premier Iain Rankin in a news release. “We have to move fast as we are mindful of the fact that we have a short window to use it given that they will expire in a month.”

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