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Proof of pre-existing illness not required for COVID-19 shot, health minister says – Dawson Creek Mirror

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TORONTO — Ontario’s health minister says people won’t be asked to provide proof of their pre-existing health conditions to access a COVID-19 vaccine during the second phase of the rollout.

Christine Elliott says she believes most people will come to the clinics when they are permitted and not take advantage of the honour system.

The vaccine will be offered starting in April to people with specific health conditions like organ transplant recipients, those living with obesity and those receiving treatments that suppress the immune system.

Elliott says local public health units will screen people as they arrive at the clinics and may be able to check with a person’s family physician, but that will not be mandatory.

Meanwhile, Ontario is reported 1,631 new cases of COVID-19 today, but the government says the case count is higher than expected due to a “data catch-up process” in its system.

The province also recorded 10 additional deaths linked to the virus

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 568 of the new cases are in Toronto, 322 are in Peel Region, and 119 are in York Region.

Ontario said 994 more cases were resolved since the last daily update.

The numbers come as a stay-at-home order in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay lifts today, loosening pandemic restrictions imposed nearly two months ago.

The three regions were the last ones still under the order, and are transitioning back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.

Toronto and Peel entered the strictest “grey lockdown” category, something local public health officials asked for in both regions.

Even those strict measures, however, allow more retailers to open, with restrictions, but leave gyms and personal care services closed. Restaurants, meanwhile, can only offer takeout, drive-thru or delivery.

Some restaurant owners said they won’t be able to survive much longer unless they’re allowed to reopen for on-site dining, even at limited capacity.

“Move us to the red zone (of the pandemic system) so we have a fighting chance. Even 14 days in grey lockdown could mean the end of my business and many others,” Regan Irvine, owner of the Irv Gastropub in Toronto, said in an open letter to officials issued last week.

“Over the last year, my mother and I have depleted our life savings to try and keep the restaurant afloat. We have cashed RRSPs, drained savings accounts, maxed out credit cards and maxed out lines of credit because the government assistance programs simply aren’t enough.”

North Bay is now in the “red zone,” the second most restrictive level of pandemic measures.

Elliott said the government is taking a “safe and cautious approach” to ending the provincewide shutdown, which started in January.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021.

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Exclusive-Canada’s Ontario to expand use of AstraZeneca COVID vaccine as epidemic rages

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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to people turning 40 or older this year, according to a government source.

The change will broaden access to vaccines as a third wave of infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals in Canada‘s most-populous province, and should make it easier to use doses that in some cases have been accumulating at pharmacies.

The change will be announced on Monday and go into effect across the province on Tuesday, according to the source. The vaccine has already been distributed to pharmacies but currently can only be given to people turning 55 or older this year.

Ontario announced new public health measures on Friday, promising checkpoints at provincial borders, new police powers and closing outdoor amenities, while leaving many workplaces open. The measures were widely criticized by doctors and public health experts, and the province quickly reopened playgrounds and modified the new police powers.

On March 29, Health Canada said it would review reports of serious blood clots and bleeding in a small number of people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine in other countries, and an independent panel called the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) recommended that it only be given to people 55 and older. All provinces followed that advice.

But NACI’s recommendations are not binding. Last week, Health Canada, the country’s drug regulator, said it had reviewed all available evidence and would not restrict the use of the vaccine, because its benefits outweigh its potential risks. Health Canada said at the time that NACI was reviewing its recommendations.

On Sunday, NACI’s chair told Reuters that the panel would make a new recommendation on Tuesday.

Health Canada said regulators in the UK had estimated the risk of clots to be very small, roughly four in a million people who receive the vaccine. It also said the complication was treatable. Two people have developed it in Canada, and both are recovering.

Several other countries have limited the use of the vaccine to older people. Denmark has withdrawn the shot, and Norway said on Thursday it would take more time to decide whether to resume use.

Ontario reported 4,250 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The Ontario Hospital Association said 59 patients were admitted to intensive care on Saturday, bringing the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs to 737.

Health Canada says those who receive the vaccine should seek medical attention immediately if they experience shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent belly pain, neurological symptoms like severe headaches or blurred vision, or skin bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.

 

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)

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Trudeau mobilizes federal workers to battle COVID-19 in Toronto and rest of Ontario

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he would send federal healthcare workers to help Toronto and the province of Ontario battle a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has forced shutdowns of schools and businesses.

“We are mobilizing federal healthcare workers from across government departments to deploy on the front lines in Ontario and specifically the Greater Toronto area where the situation is most critical,” Trudeau said in a video posted on Twitter.

Other provinces, especially on the Atlantic coast, are working “to determine what human resources and equipment they could free up over the coming days,” Trudeau said, adding that the federal government would cover the costs of that help.

The government will also seek to boost rapid testing, especially for essential workers, Trudeau said.

The government of Ontario, Canada‘s most-populous province and industrial powerhouse, has moved schools online and announced more stringent public health measures on Friday, including shutting the provincial borders to non-essential travel.

On Saturday, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair deployed two mobile health units to set up more hospital beds in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and the prime minister said he stood ready to send the Red Cross to staff mobile vaccination clinics in Ontario if help is requested.

Canada‘s seven-day average of new infections was 8,669, the chief medical officer said on Sunday, a 26% increase compared with the previous seven days. Ontario reported 4,250 new cases on Sunday.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

More than 48 million doses are to be delivered by the end of June, which is enough for all of Canada‘s population of some 38 million to receive at least one shot, with a total of 100 million doses expected by the end of September.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Canada has second case of rare blood clots after AstraZeneca vaccin

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(Reuters) – Canada on Saturday reported a second case of rare blood clots with low platelets after immunization with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in a week, while it said it still recommended the use of the shot.

The person who experienced the very rare event has been treated and is recovering, Canada‘s health ministry said in a statement, adding that the person lives in the province of Alberta.

Based on the evidence available, Canada still maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the potential risks, the statement said.

Canada health authorities “will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely and examine and assess any new safety concerns,” the statement said.

Canada reported a first blood clotting associated with the vaccine on Tuesday, and a day later, after a review, health authorities said they would not restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. That panel is in the process of reviewing its advice.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign, but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

Amid a spiking third wave of infections, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, announced new public health restrictions on Friday, including closing the provinces borders to domestic travelers.

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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