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Quebec changes COVID-19 vaccine strategy, won't hold back doses for booster shots – BayToday

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MONTREAL — Quebec is accelerating its vaccination rollout by inoculating as many people as possible instead of holding back doses to be given later as booster shots.

“All the vaccines that we have received and that we will receive in Quebec over the next few weeks will be used to immunize as many priority groups as possible,” the Health Department said in a statement Thursday.

Vaccine-maker Pfizer had requested the province reserve half the doses as booster shots for those already vaccinated. That strategy had been criticized by health experts who said the province’s vaccine rollout was taking too long.

Quebec has so far received 87,000 doses of vaccine — 55,000 doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and 32,500 from Moderna — and has administered 29,250 injections. Both vaccines require two doses: Pfizer recommends a second dose after 21 days while Moderna says its second dose should come 28 days after the first injection.

Dr. Gaston De Serres, chief physician of the scientific immunization group at Quebec’s national public health institute, said Thursday the first dose provides the majority of the protection against the virus. The second, he added, serves mostly to prolong that protection.

Meanwhile in Quebec City, almost 100 people at a long-term care home — both residents and staff — have tested positive for COVID-19 after they were vaccinated against the virus, according to the regional health authority. The Saint-Antoine long-term care home was the site of the first COVID-19 vaccination in Canada on Dec. 14.

De Serres said the outbreak at that facility had been detected several days before vaccinations began. He said it takes time for the body to build immunity following a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“It’s not really a surprise to see these cases occurring,” De Serres said in an interview. “In general, with vaccines, we anticipate that protection should be present starting two weeks after the vaccine has been injected, not necessarily the day the vaccine has been injected.”

He said he doesn’t expect any more cases among people who received the vaccine on Dec. 14 and 15. The Health Department said there were 64 active cases of COVID-19 among residents at Saint-Antoine on Wednesday, the most recent date for which data is available.

Dr. Maria Sundaram, a Toronto-based epidemiologist at health-care research agency ICES, said given the high rates of community transmission and the high risk of exposure in long-term care homes, catching COVID once vaccinated “is unfortunately almost a given at this point.”

“This is not an indication that the vaccine doesn’t work,” she said in an interview Thursday. “This is an indication of the vaccine trying to work in sub-optimal conditions and it’s in a group that hasn’t been fully vaccinated.”

Quebec exceeded the 200,000 COVID-19 case mark Thursday after officials reported a record 2,819 new infections. The province also reported 62 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 22 that occurred in the past 24 hours.

Quebec has reported a total of 202,641 COVID-19 cases and 8,226 deaths linked to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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The proposed changes to Manitoba's code red restrictions – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG —
Manitoba is proposing changes to the current code red restrictions, which may allow some friends and family to visit in homes, allow more stores in the province to reopen, and could allow Manitobans to get a haircut – but not all of Manitoba can expect to see relaxed restrictions.

Manitoba’s top doctor said the proposed changes, which were released Tuesday morning, would balance the needs of the health-care system and the economy, but protect Manitobans at the same time.

“Certainly, the overall theme is a cautious approach,” Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer. “We don’t want to go back and forth. We want to have a slow, cautious approach so we can continue reopening over time and not have to go back and close certain things again.”

More than 67,500 people completed the provincial survey on health orders over the past four days. The province said the feedback from this survey helped shape the proposed changes to the code red restrictions.

Roussin said the province is considering easing restrictions around three specific areas in this next round of health orders.

VISITING IN HOMES

Under the current public health orders, which are set to expire on Friday, Jan. 22, visitors to private residences are currently restricted, with the exception of support people, trades workers, and limited visitors for people who live alone.

The province proposed – for the sake of the personal connections and well-being of Manitobans – to allow two people, either friends or family, to visit a home. Roussin said this would mean any two people would be able to visit at one time.

“We want that messaging to be clear that these are close family members, close friends that you need that connection with,” Roussin said. “We still want to limit the amount of contacts we have.”

It would allow up to five people, plus household members, to visit outdoors on private property.

The province said 77 per cent of the people surveyed said the ability to gather with people outside their homes was important. Roussin said there is a concern that the eased restriction could lead to larger gatherings.

“A lot of this is going to depend on Manitobans’ actions. If we start seeing transmission of that virus again, we are not going to be able to further reopen,” Roussin said. “No matter what restrictions we have in place, it really comes down to Manitobans adhering to our public health messaging.”

The proposed changes could also see funerals allow up to 10 people in addition to the officiant.

SHOPPING IN STORES AND GETTING A HAIR CUT

The province is also proposing changes to retail sales, allowing stores to open with no restrictions in place on what they can sell. The physical distancing limits and occupancy limits would remain in place, and will still be enforced.

The province said 74 per cent of the people surveyed saw the ability to shop without any limitations as a priority.

The proposed changes also suggest barbershops and hairstylists can reopen at 25 per cent capacity, though they would be required to collect information for contact tracing – something 70 per cent of the people surveyed said they saw as being important.

Non-regulated health services, such as podiatrists and reflexologists, may also be allowed to open, though they too would be required to follow physical distancing and collect information for contact tracing.

Roussin said there are no proposed changes to restaurants – which are not allowed to open for in-person dining. He said people sitting and eating together might pose a greater risk of transmission.

There are no proposed changes to the restrictions on recreational and organized sports, gyms and fitness centres, places of worship, tattoo parlours, and nail salons.

“We can’t open everything at once,” he said. “There will be an end to this pandemic. We just have to ensure that we are reopening things in a very safe and cautious manner so that we can be ready for that end.”

NOT ALL OF MANITOBA TO SEE EASED RESTRICTIONS

While regions including Winnipeg, Southern Health, Interlake-Eastern, and Prairie Mountain Health are expected to see some restrictions eased when health orders expire on Friday, Roussin said the Northern Health Region is likely going to remain under the strict code red restrictions given the high case count.

As of Tuesday, the region had 1,459 active cases of COVID-19 – the highest of any region in the province.

Roussin said the proposed changes outlined are only considerations at this point. He said the province will make the final decision on the health orders later this week and will release more details on Thursday. The new health orders are set to take effect on Saturday.

He said this next round of health orders will likely be in place for three weeks.

Manitobans can submit their feedback on the proposed changes by visiting EngageMB.ca.

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News Releases | COVID-19 Bulletin #319 – news.gov.mb.ca

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Need More Info?

Public information, contact Manitoba Government Inquiry: 1-866-626-4862 or 204-945-3744.

Media requests for general information, contact Communications Services Manitoba: 204-945-3765.

Media requests for ministerial comment, contact Communications and Stakeholder Relations: 204-794-0732.

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News Releases | Province Considers Modest Changes to Household Gatherings, Retail and Personal and Health Services Restrictions – news.gov.mb.ca

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Need More Info?

Public information, contact Manitoba Government Inquiry: 1-866-626-4862 or 204-945-3744.

Media requests for general information, contact Communications Services Manitoba: 204-945-3765.

Media requests for ministerial comment, contact Communications and Stakeholder Relations: 204-794-0732.

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