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Pregnant and breastfeeding Canadians weighing risks of COVID-19 vaccinations – CTV News



As the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are distributed across the country, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding will have to weigh their individual risks when it comes to getting the shot.

Because there’s currently no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says the vaccine should not be routinely offered to those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, the NACI, which advises the Public Health Agency of Canada, says that if the benefits of vaccine outweigh the potential risks for the individual and “if informed consent includes discussion about the insufficient evidence in this population,” people in that group may get the shot.

Currently, neither Pfizer-BioNTech nor Moderna – the makers of COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada so far — have conclusive evidence on whether the vaccines pose any harm to pregnant or breastfeeding people, since those groups were excluded in clinical trials.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told that despite the lack of data, he believes women should make their own decisions based on their individual circumstances and most up-to-date information available.

“We know that pregnant women can be at risk for more severe illness and more severe outcomes with COVID-19 and based on that I think we can empower women to make informed decisions for themselves,” said Bogoch.

“Having a nuanced discussion with an individual’s health-care provider might clarify if the pros outweigh the cons, then it could be acceptable,” he said.

The U.K. currently excludes pregnant and breastfeeding women from receiving the vaccine because of the lack of data available. The general advice in the U.S. is that individuals should make their own informed decisions based on potential risk factors.

“Pregnant patients who decline vaccination should be supported in their decision. Regardless of their decision to receive or not receive the vaccine, these conversations provide an opportunity to remind patients about the importance of other prevention measures,” according the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Canadian doctors echo their American counterparts in considering whether pregnant or breastfeeding women should receive the vaccine.

“We recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding individuals who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine due to exposure risk, medical status, or other circumstances should be able to make an informed decision by having access to up-to-date information about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine (including clear information about the data that is not yet available) and information about the risks of COVID-19 infection for them,” says the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.

Before deciding whether to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Canadians should consider their own current health status and individual risk of exposure to the virus, according to Bogoch.

“I’m all for empowering people to make their own decisions over their own bodies after having a nuanced discussion about what we know, and what we don’t know about these vaccines,” he said.

Pregnant women are historically excluded from vaccine clinical trials because of potential complications and ethical concerns that need to be considered, such as possible harm to the fetus and milk production.

“There are lots of vaccines pregnant women get, and there’s some that they don’t get. But I think the real question is are they included in clinical trials? And the answer to that is no,” said Bogoch.

“It’s an issue – but there’s a huge push to enroll pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding in clinical trials so we actually have the data.”

Bogoch expects that there will be more data available to pregnant and breastfeeding women in the weeks ahead because of individuals around the world who may have become pregnant after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.

Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.

“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.

Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”

In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.

Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.

“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.

Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis



More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.

The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.

But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”

At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.

Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.

“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.

In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.

($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)

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Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants



Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.

Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.

“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.

Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.

Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.

“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.


(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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