MONTREAL — Quebec authorities share blame with the owners of a private Montreal-area long-term care home where 47 residents died during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the province’s coroner said Thursday.
The owners of the home, the Quebec government and a Montreal health authority “passed the ball around” while vulnerable people died alone, coroner Géhane Kamel told reporters.
“There were a lot of emails that were sent, but during that time, people died,” Kamel said. “There were people who were dehydrated; there were people who were in their excrement and no one came …. Everyone failed.”
Thursday’s news conference was the first time Kamel spoke publicly since she released her report on Monday regarding her investigation into 53 deaths at several long-term care homes during the pandemic’s first wave.
She said that on March 29, 2020, officials at the local health authority were sending lawyer’s letters to the owners of the Herron care home, writing to the Health Department and deciding whether to call the police.
“While all this was happening, people were dying,” she said.
In August 2021, Quebec’s Crown prosecutor’s office says the Herron’s owners wouldn’t face criminal charges. The office said that after an “exhaustive” investigation, the evidence did not meet the high bar for criminal charges, adding the decision not to lay charges did not minimize the “tragic events” that took place at the home, nor did it rule out that civil or ethical violations could have been committed.
Kamel said one death in particular at the Herron still haunts her — that of Leon Barrette, who died March 29, 2020, two days after he had been transferred to the facility. His body was cold when it was found, according to her report. He had died alone, apparently forgotten in his room.
“Did we leave the people to die without care?” she said.
While Kamel said her mandate wasn’t to blame specific people, her report was highly critical of Lynne McVey, the CEO of the health authority. Kamel refused to comment on an announcement that McVey would step down at the end of her mandate in July.
The coroner thanked Seniors Minister Marguerite Blais for her honesty at the inquest. Kamel said Blais’s testimony made it clear how little was done to protect older people living in long-term care.
Kamel’s report said that residents of Quebec long-term care homes were kept in a blind spot while the provincial government focused on protecting hospitals as it prepared for the first wave of the novel coronavirus in the spring of 2020. Almost 4,000 long-term care residents died between March and June of that year.
Her report included 23 recommendations intended to prevent future deaths. “Ultimately, what I hope we remember is that this report is supposed to be used so that this never happens again,” she said.
Patrick Martin-Ménard, a lawyer who represented some of the families of people whose deaths were investigated by Kamel, said her report is a good first step but that a full public inquiry is needed.
“We know that there were a number of shortcomings by a number of people in decision-making positions, from the top to the bottom of the health-care system, that led to significant casualties during the pandemic,” he said in an interview Thursday. “It’s not so much about pointing the finger, it’s about learning the lessons of what went wrong.”
Martin-Ménard said long-term care facilities are still seen as a place where elderly people are sent to die and that “sustainable” change is needed.
“There was an issue with the culture, the approach with which we take care of our most vulnerable elderly people, and this approach, unfortunately, has not changed; we’re seeing the same mentality prevail today,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
New Brunswick prepares for COVID-19 vaccine rollout for children under 5 – CBC.ca
New Brunswick will be ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to children under five as soon as they’re approved and available, according to the chief medical officer of health.
The province is also working on an early flu vaccination campaign in anticipation of “a higher than normal” influenza season this year, said Dr. Jennifer Russell.
In the U.S., immunization of infants and preschoolers against COVID-19 began this week after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in children as young as six months old last Friday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended use of the vaccines in this age group the following day.
No COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for children under five in Canada yet. Health Canada is reviewing an application from Moderna.
“We are waiting for Health Canada as well as NACI [National Advisory Committee on Immunization] to come forth with their recommendations,” said Russell.
The province is “watching very closely,” she said, and is “ready to act on those when they come through.”
Russell could not estimate when that might be.
“But we are preparing ahead of time for that inevitability.”
No details yet
Planning for the rollout is underway, said Department of Health spokesperson Michelle Guenard.
The department is working with its primary care partners, including the regional health authorities, community pharmacies and the New Brunswick Medical Society, she said.
No other details, such as where the shots will be available or who will administer them, are available yet.
“Final decisions will be made after Health Canada has given approval to the vaccine,” Guenard said in an emailed statement. “This includes reviewing a statement from NACI and local considerations.”
“Guidance will be provided to those identified to be immunizers for the under-five vaccinations,” she added. “This includes sharing information from Health Canada, the vaccine supplier, NACI and guidance from New Brunswick Public Health.”
Russell called the U.S. approval “very encouraging.”
“I think whatever protections we can provide to the population as a whole is very important,” she said. “This is one of the last pieces, really, that we’ve been waiting for.”
The under-five age group is the only one in the province that doesn’t currently have COVID-19 vaccines available to them.
Children aged five to 11 have been able to get a shot since November.
“As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” FDA commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf said in a statement.
“Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data,” he said.
The FDA found the known and potential benefits of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines “outweigh the known and potential risks in the pediatric populations.”
According to the clinical trial data, the most commonly reported side effects in children aged six months to five years old included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fever and underarm (or groin) swelling/tenderness of lymph nodes in the same arm (or thigh) as the injection.
Spike in flu cases
A total of 52.7 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received a COVID-19 booster shot, as of this week’s COVIDWatch report, 88.1 per cent have received two doses and 93.3 per cent have received one dose.
The province wants to have as many people protected as possible going into the fall, said Russell.
The “pattern of the pandemic” has been that the risks tend to decrease in the summer when people are outside more, physically distancing, and increase in the fall and winter, she said.
“I think that correlation is holding true at the moment but you know we try to be prepared for whatever comes our way with COVID because there aren’t any guarantees.
“We are aware that we’re expecting a higher than normal flu season this year and so we will be pushing our vaccination campaigns early.”
New Brunswick is dealing with an unusually late flu season, due in part to the lifting of COVID-19 protective measures in March, such as masking.
Normally, the flu season really starts to “take off” in January and “peters out” once the warmer weather begins, the province’s acting deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Yves Léger has said.
But nearly a quarter of this season’s cases occurred in one week this month.
Seventy-three positive influenza cases were reported in week 23, which ended June 11, the most recent statistics available from Public Health show. Six of the cases required hospitalization.
Two new influenza outbreaks were reported in nursing homes and one new influenza-like illness outbreak was reported in a school, the influenza surveillance report shows.
A total of 302 cases have been reported so far this season, which began Aug. 29, 2021 and continues until Aug. 27. That’s up from 40 just a month ago.
There have been 60 hospitalizations and four deaths.
If the risks for COVID-19 transmission increase in the fall at the same time the risks for the flu are expected to rise, “then we’ve got, you know, a double kind of risk happening,” said Russell.
“So we want to address that early and making sure that everybody who’s eligible for flu vaccination gets vaccinated as well.”
The province is also “really keen” to have people who fell behind with their routine vaccinations to get caught up on those, she said.
“We wouldn’t want to see a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.”
COVID-19 vaccines saved 20M lives in 1st year, scientists say – CTV News
Nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year, but even more deaths could have been prevented if international targets for the shots had been reached, researchers reported Thursday.
On Dec. 8, 2020, a retired shop clerk in England received the first shot in what would become a global vaccination campaign. Over the next 12 months, more than 4.3 billion people around the world lined up for the vaccines.
The effort, though marred by persisting inequities, prevented deaths on an unimaginable scale, said Oliver Watson of Imperial College London, who led the new modelling study.
“Catastrophic would be the first word that comes to mind,” Watson said of the outcome if vaccines hadn’t been available to fight the coronavirus. The findings “quantify just how much worse the pandemic could have been if we did not have these vaccines.”
The researchers used data from 185 countries to estimate that vaccines prevented 4.2 million COVID-19 deaths in India, 1.9 million in the United States, 1 million in Brazil, 631,000 in France and 507,000 in the United Kingdom.
An additional 600,000 deaths would have been prevented if the World Health Organization target of 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021 had been met, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The main finding — 19.8 million COVID-19 deaths were prevented — is based on estimates of how many more deaths than usual occurred during the time period. Using only reported COVID-19 deaths, the same model yielded 14.4 million deaths averted by vaccines.
The London scientists excluded China because of uncertainty around the pandemic’s effect on deaths there and its huge population.
The study has other limitations. The researchers did not include how the virus might have mutated differently in the absence of vaccines. And they did not factor in how lockdowns or mask wearing might have changed if vaccines weren’t available.
Another modelling group used a different approach to estimate that 16.3 million COVID-19 deaths were averted by vaccines. That work, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, has not been published.
In the real world, people wear masks more often when cases are surging, said the institute’s Ali Mokdad, and 2021’s Delta wave without vaccines would have prompted a major policy response.
“We may disagree on the number as scientists, but we all agree that COVID vaccines saved lots of lives,” Mokdad said.
The findings underscore both the achievements and the shortcomings of the vaccination campaign, said Adam Finn of Bristol Medical School in England, who like Mokdad was not involved in the study.
“Although we did pretty well this time — we saved millions and millions of lives — we could have done better and we should do better in the future,” Finn said.
Funding came from several groups including the WHO; the U.K. Medical Research Council; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
AP health and science reporter Havovi Todd contributed
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content
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ACIP Backs Moderna's COVID Shot for Kids 6-17 Years – Medpage Today
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend that children ages 6-17 years receive Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
With a 15-0 vote, ACIP endorsed a two-dose primary series of the mRNA vaccine for kids ages 6-11 years (50 mcg per dose) and adolescents ages 12-17 (100 mcg per dose). The recommendation now awaits approval from CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH.
The recommendation was largely expected, and followed FDA’s emergency use authorization last week. Until then, only Pfizer/BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine had been authorized and recommended for these age groups.
At Thursday’s meeting, ACIP members considered safety and efficacy data on Moderna’s vaccine, which was primarily studied during periods where the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 and Delta strains were predominant, in teens and the younger kids, respectively. In both groups, the vaccine was effective against severe disease and hospitalization.
“We know that the benefits outweigh the risks for mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in all ages,” said Sara Oliver, MD, of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during the meeting. “Receipt of this primary series continues to be the safest way to prevent serious COVID-19.”
Oliver emphasized that serious outcomes with COVID-19 do not spare kids. The Omicron wave was accompanied by a surge in hospitalizations among children, and she pointed to 189 COVID-related deaths in kids 5-11 years and 443 in kids 12-17 throughout the course of the pandemic.
Several ACIP members raised questions about the intervals between the first and second dose of the Moderna vaccine, as such an approach may reduce the risk of myocarditis associated with the vaccine. Some evidence suggests the Moderna vaccine carries a higher risk of myocarditis or pericarditis than Pfizer’s vaccine, though CDC experts cautioned that these findings are not consistent in all U.S. monitoring systems.
Among close to 55 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine administered to individuals ages 5-17 years, the rare adverse event has been observed in at least 635 children, according to the CDC. Risk is typically higher among children ages 12-17, in boys, and after the second dose. Among kids age 5-11, there were no signals detected.
In a presentation on clinical considerations, Elisha Hall, PhD, of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that although the current recommendation is for a 4-week gap between the first and second doses, the CDC will likely be recommending an 8-week interval for adolescent males. (The CDC also recommends shorter dose intervals for children who are immunocompromised.)
Some of the ACIP members expressed confusion about the product labels on Moderna’s vaccines in each age group. The product authorized for kids 6-11 will have the same color cap as the vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years, but a different color border to distinguish the higher concentration. For the product authorized for kids ages 12-17, it will have the same label as the adult vaccine, as it is the same dose.
“I am … concerned about vaccine administration errors,” said Matthew Daley, MD, chair of ACIP’s working group. Others echoed concerns about administration blunders, encouraging more resources for providers and further clarification on labeling from the manufacturer.
Safety and efficacy data for Moderna’s vaccine in this younger population came from two ongoing phase II/III clinical trials (study mRNA-1273-P203 for adolescents ages 12-17 and study mRNA-1273-P204 for kids ages 6-11 years). The studies included nearly 8,000 kids in total.
Among participants ages 12-17, vaccine efficacy was 93.3% (95% CI 47.9-99.9) during a time when the ancestral and Alpha strains were predominant. Among the younger group, vaccine efficacy was 76.8% (95% CI -37.3 to 96.6) during a period when Delta was most prevalent.
The committee agreed on the data that COVID-19 vaccines protect children against severe disease. Many children in this age group, however, remain unvaccinated. Approximately 30% of teens and 65% of younger kids have yet to receive a vaccine, according to Oliver.
“We can predict with future COVID-19 surges, the unvaccinated will continue to bear the burden of disease,” she said.
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