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PM: Feds, provinces agree vaccine prioritization should be consistent Canada-wide – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
As the precise order of who will follow seniors, health care workers and high-risk populations in line to get COVID-19 vaccines is still being sorted out, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal and provincial governments agree that there should be a cross-Canada “consensus” on the matter.

With Health Canada now beginning its assessment of a fourth potential vaccine candidate — Johnson & Johnson’s — the prime minister said talks are ongoing with the provinces and territories about the “challenging ethical and societal” aspect of the country’s vaccine rollout.

Logistics aside, governments and health care experts are having to weigh and decide who will be prioritized and what the eventual order of precedence will be for Canadians to line up and be vaccinated.

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According to the preliminary guidance issued by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, prioritization will be based on three factors: the state of the pandemic when the vaccine is available; the supply available and number of doses required; and the risk-benefit analysis of key populations such as those who are at higher risk for adverse outcomes if they contract the novel coronavirus.

Based on that advisory group’s preliminary guidance, the recommendation is that essential workers and others who face increased risks related to COVID-19 should be vaccinated against the disease before everyone else. Examples of those at higher risk include providers of essential services, or those whose living or working conditions put them at higher risk.

The subsequent order of who gets vaccinated next remains a largely open question, however, in the race to see 70 per cent of Canadians vaccinated by September.

“We talked about it with the provinces last week on our 22nd first minister’s call, and there was a number of perspectives, but there seemed to be a consensus that we should all agree across the country on what that list looks like and make sure that it is applied fairly right across the country,” Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday.

“There are more conversations to come and we will keep Canadians informed as we determine what that right order of priority is. Other elements of it is, certain vaccines might be more effective with certain populations versus others, and that’s why the experts are going to be so important in making determinations around, what is the best path to move forward for our country,” said the prime minister.

Though, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said later that provinces will be able to refine the prioritizations based on their own regional demographics.

“At the end of the day it is the provinces who deliver health care and it is the provinces who will decide on the priority populations and of course we’re working closely to make sure that we have coordination across the country, and that we agree on the principles, which in fact we have, we have a shared set of principles,” Hajdu said.

“There are also some federal populations that we will obviously have to take care of ourselves as the federal government,” Hajdu said. Examples of these groups would presumably be Indigenous communities and federal inmates.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said on Tuesday that he and other premiers still have outstanding questions that need to be answered.

“Clearly we need our most vulnerable folks, our seniors… our front-line care workers to get the vaccine earlier, we can all agree on that. But the devil’s in the details, when you get beyond that. Should it be done on the basis of age? Or how do you determine vulnerability? Should it be done on the basis of ethnicity? Should it be done on the basis of race in some way? These questions have to be addressed,” Pallister said.

“We’re not saying the federal government has to do it all but we’re saying that we need to have the criteria established and the priority should be common, not different in one side of Saskatchewan’s border with Alberta than it is on the other, or not different than it is in Ottawa from Gatineau, but rather that we have a co-ordinated strategy.”

In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said in his province he doesn’t anticipate there will be a huge line up of people who want to get vaccinated early on, but communicating as clearly as possible in advance of who will be eligible first will help avoid a “panic situation.”

So far, just over $284 million has been spent on distributing vaccines to Canadians, with overall more than $1 billion allocated to Canada’s vaccine procurement effort, as part of a more than $14-billion commitment over the next several years on research into and development of vaccines and therapeutics.

AGE MAY BE KEY FACTOR: TAM

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday that work is underway right now on getting more “granular” in planning who among the highest risk groups will be first.

“That detail work is, you know, being taken very seriously by the provinces and territories as they begin to plan their immunization clinics.”

Then, once the priority groups are immunized, it’s possible the next easiest way to break down the order would be by age, said Tam.

“The age group, based on our analysis is actually the easiest and the most scientifically-sound way, I think, of increasing the population coverage,” she said.

“We know that underlying medical conditions put people at high risk but when we actually analyze all the different underlying medical conditions, and their age, it still comes out that the age is in fact the most important where you look at severe illness and mortality.”

There will also be groups who won’t be able to get a vaccine early on, due to the lack of research into the potential impacts on them, such as children and people who are pregnant.

“Kids haven’t really been engaged in a lot of the clinical trials, so that would be another age group for which data is needed, and we’ll be looking towards more data on pregnant women as well,” Dr. Tam said.

Asked whether he anticipates being among the earliest groups to get vaccinated, Trudeau said that he’s “going to trust the experts to make the right determination of what the priority populations are.”

With files from CTV News’ Ryan Flanagan

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Air Canada suspending flights to Calgary from YXE and YQR – CTV News Saskatoon

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Starting in mid-January Air Canada will no longer be offering direct flights to and from Calgary for the province’s two biggest airports.

Travelers at the Saskatoon Airport were not happy with the announcement.

“I want them to continue. There are many people in Saskatoon that go to Calgary,” said Josephine Regan.

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“Who wants to go to Vancouver and then fly back again,” said Anne McDonald.

Air Canada passengers will now have to catch a connecting flight through Vancouver, more than tripling the time it takes to reach Calgary with a direct flight.

“It was a surprise, we were not aware that this decision was going to be made,” said Vice-President of Business Development for Skyxe Airport CJ Dushinski.

“It’s obviously disappointing anytime a carrier decides to cease service from a market, especially when we’re talking about a market like Calgary which is one of our largest markets out of Saskatoon.”

Saskatoon and Regina both see approximately two in-bound and out-bound flights to Calgary daily.

“We know loyal Air Canada customers will be disappointed. It provides a few less options for connections through a variety of places,” said Manager of Customer Experience for Regina Airport Authority Justin Reves.

In a statement to CTV News the airline provider said “Air Canada has made some changes to its flights to/from Calgary. We are continuing to rebuild our business in a prudent and disciplined way and that means looking at every aspect of our network and deploying our resources where they will be most productive. After careful review, we’ve decided that we must continue to strategically focus on rebuilding our main hubs of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. As a result, we have made the difficult decision to suspend a number of regional routes from Calgary effective Jan. 2023.”

Sandy Levinton who operates Marlin Travel Agency says the direct flight suspensions will force her company to switch up some flights for customers.

“We have to find alternate routes for them,” she said. “The airlines have to streamline their operations whenever they can. They’re seeing that flights are not filling up and they’re just going start pulling those or suspending them.”

In the wake of the suspension Levinton says WestJet Airlines has already added more direct flights to Calgary.

Air Canada says it does “review opportunities to add services,” which could have the company add the flights back to the province’s two major airports, however it provided no timetable for when that could happen. 

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Blood Donations: The Gift We take for Granted

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How has the pandemic affected the blood pool within the North America Region? Has the blood supply so needed by the racialized, Black and Asian Communities suffered?

Black and Racialized North Americans tend to die or have blood-related illnesses more often than White Folk. The exact cause is unknown, but it is likely a combination of genetics, behavior, and risk factors entering into it. Blacks tend to have smaller blood vessels, leading to heart-centered illnesses. Ethnic health issues are front and center, in front of our political and health officials these days.

Canada is facing a blood shortage, and 100,000 donors are required to maintain the nation’s blood supply. This is a challenge to accomplish in itself. There are racial communities that have particular needs not being serviced. For many of these people, there is a shortage of donations from their specific genetic community, causing a life-or-death situation.

“Most of the time, blood really never sees race,” says Madeline Verhovsek, a hematologist from St. Joseph’s healthcare in Hamilton. Matching blood transfusions between donors and recipients is usually an easy endeavor, but in some special cases, the blood types available are not sufficient. Sometimes a person with special unique medical conditions or complications may require extended matching, challenging the system’s blood pool. In some cases, people from specific ethnic communities are required to donate to their kin and community members.

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One such condition is sickle-cell anemia, which affects people living in malaria-prone areas of Sub-Sahara Africa and The Middle East Regions. Sickle Cell Anemia can require patients to experience up to 25 transfusions annually. While there are 4 main blood types (O, A/B, A, and B are antigens that sit upon red blood cells), there are other antigens contained in blood, and their genetic codes can vary. Blood from the black community is like gold to the Canadian Blood Services, mostly because of its rarity and availability. That is not to say that the black community does not donate blood, but rather that there are stumbling blocks placed before racialized community members. If you have had malaria, you are not allowed to donate in Canada. In America, those who have had malaria are not banned for life.

Margaret Media of Canadian Blood Services (director of philanthropy) said “Canadians must realize and acknowledge that some government policies are a hindrance to people donating their blood, marrow, and stem cells”.

Sikh Nation, a community-based organization, raises the Sikh Community into donating their blood. They want a safe supply, but also adequate supply, so when there is a need the supply is there. The ban that disallowed LGBTQ Community Members to donate has been re-imaged recently. Those communities with a historic rare blood record have been organizing community drives, as well as blood storage with the Canadian authority’s assistance and cooperation. Those that help themselves through organizing and determining action seem to achieve wonderful results. In our crazy energetic world, finding the time to donate is another problem. The Business World has often responded to this difficulty through employee-encouraged blood drives, paid wages while donating, and promoting blood donations. The blood agency and activist organizations pursue diligently those employed in super active jobs, such as truck drivers and seasonal workers to encourage and achieve blood donations.

Governmental action to lower the barriers to donating blood, especially within Black and African, and Asian populations seems to be achieving its necessary goals. The Indian community of Brampton has responded well to the presence of increased donation centers in Brampton. Sikh Canadian activists point out that blood donation is perfectly in line with Canadian – Sikh values, to save lives.

Sources…Canadian Blood Services, CBC, and Brampton Guardian.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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Military faces calls to return general to duty after sexual assault acquittal

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The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to return Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to duty after the senior officer, who previously oversaw the Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, was acquitted of sexual assault.

The military says it is considering the implications of the ruling, which was handed down by a Quebec civilian judge on Monday following a high-profile trial.

Fortin’s lawyer, Natalia Rodriguez, says her client is ready, willing and able to return to service after being essentially put on paid leave for more than a year.

But Rodriguez also says that Fortin’s career and reputation have suffered as a result of the allegation against him, and the way it was handled by the Liberal government and the military.

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Retired colonel Michel Drapeau, who is now a lawyer specializing in military cases, says the acquittal should pave the way for Fortin should be immediately assigned to a new role with full duties.

But he and others say the government may instead offer a settlement in return for Fortin’s retirement, similar to what happened when the breach of trust case against vice-admiral Mark Norman was dropped in May 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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