As she lined up for her first COVID-19 vaccine shot at a Laval, Que., vaccination centre, six-year-old Lea Strazza was a little apprehensive.
“I’m feeling nervous,” she said, standing with her mother, Sandy Strazza. “I’m scared because it hurts a little bit.”
With children ages five to 11 now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines across Canada, those nerves are common for a lot of children getting their shots.
The vaccination centre in Laval has revamped its site to make it more child-friendly and help put younger patients at ease.
Along with a therapy dog, colourful balloons and a huge inflatable slide, children also have the option of putting on a virtual reality headset to play a game while getting their shot.
“They totally forget the vaccine,” said Isabelle Parent, vaccination director for Laval’s health authority. “We can vaccinate them, and they say at the end, ‘I never felt it.'”
Distraction to take the edge off
The virtual reality headset, developed by Montreal-based startup Paperplane Therapeutics, is intended to be used by patients with severe burns or fractures who are undergoing more painful procedures.
“The shot is usually not a big pain, but the fear of it is the big problem,” said Jean-Simon Fortin, an emergency room physician and Paperplane’s co-founder and president.
Distraction can be a powerful tool to break through that fear, he says, especially with an immersive experience like virtual reality.
“It is a medical treatment where distraction really takes the edge off,” Fortin said.
In the emergency room, Fortin has seen first-hand how hard it can be to keep children calm during procedures. He sees the potential to use his device and other similar products in a wide range of medical settings, including in burn units, for MRI exams and for pain and anxiety reduction in adults.
Research shows that distraction can play an important role in helping to reduce pain and distress during medical procedures, said Christine Chambers, a professor of pediatrics, psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax and scientific director of Solutions for Kids in Pain.
“Virtual reality is just one way that you can reduce pain in kids,” she said.
“There have been a number of studies and systematic reviews that have shown that it’s effective, including for vaccination.”
Fortin’s company is licensed by Health Canada to manufacture the headset, which is a Class 1 medical device. It’s been used in two studies at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine hospital to test its impact and is available at three vaccination sites in and around the Montreal area.
WATCH | Take a peek at the VR world distracting kids from vaccine fear:
‘It made me brave’
When Lea Strazza sat down in the cubicle to get her vaccine, the heath care worked administering it checked her health-care card, then handed her the headset and a remote control.
On the immersive screen, a colourful, therapeutic video game played out, and Lea used the remote to swat away crystals and balloons floating around a castle and up into a blue sky with puffy white clouds.
As the health care worker stuck the needle in her arm, Lea barely flinched.
The shot tickled her a little, she says, and the game was fun.
“It made me brave,” she said.
Sandy Strazza says she was proud of her daughter and impressed with the vaccination centre’s setup for kids, including the video game, which she said made the whole process easier.
“She’s going to be looking forward to her second dose, so we’re glad,” she said.
Ontario to start lifting COVID-related curbs, Quebec more cautious
Canada’s most populous province of Ontario has blunted transmission of the Omicron coronavirus variant and will gradually ease restrictions on businesses from end-January, Premier Doug Ford said on Thursday.
The health care system is starting to stabilize in the wake of limitations imposed on Jan. 5, Ford told a news conference, saying Omicron cases should peak later this month.
“We can be confident that the worst is behind us and that we are now in a position to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures,” Ford said.
The province will allow restaurants, malls, and cinemas to operate with a 50% capacity limit from Jan. 31, before removing more curbs in February and March.
“While February will continue to present its own challenges, given current trends these are challenges we are confident we can manage,” Ford said.
In neighbouring Quebec, premier Francois Legault said he would maintain restrictions to help protect the health care system even though Omicron cases had peaked.
“I understand we are all tired, but lives are at stake. I’m currently under a lot of pressure to remove measures, but my duty is to be responsible to protect the lives of Quebecers,” he told a news conference.
Ontario and Quebec together account for around 61% of Canada’s population of 38.2 million people.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Grant McCool)
Canadian vaccine mandate to lead to inflation, empty shelves, trucking executives say
Canadian consumers should soon see higher prices and some empty shelves in supermarkets and other retail outlets because of disruptions stemming from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers, top trucking executives warned this week.
The mandate, imposed by Ottawa to help curb the spread of the virus, has cost six Canadian trucking companies about 10% of their international drivers, and many are hiking wages to lure new operators during what they said is the worst labor shortage they have experienced.
Within the next two weeks, consumers will see “there’s not as many choices on the shelves,” said Dan Einwechter, chairman and chief executive officer of Challenger Motor Freight Inc in Cambridge, Ontario.
“Eventually the prices will be passed on from the sellers of those products, because we’re passing on our increases to them,” he said.
Canada’s inflation rate https://www.reuters.com/business/canadas-annual-inflation-rate-hits-48-dec-highest-since-sept-1991-2022-01-19 hit a 30-year high of 4.8% in December and economists said the vaccine mandate may contribute to keeping prices higher for longer. In the United States, inflation surged https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-consumer-prices-increase-strongly-december-2022-01-12 7% on a year-on-year basis in December, the largest rise in nearly four decades.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has championed vaccine requirements for federal employees, has resisted pressure from industry to delay or drop the mandate that was announced in November.
The vaccine requirement to enter Canada started on Jan. 15, and the one to enter the United States begins on Saturday.
Since more than two-thirds of the C$650 billion ($521 billion) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States travels on roads, truckers were deemed essential workers until now and traveled freely even when the border was closed for 20 months.
Trudeau defended the mandate on Wednesday, saying Canada was “aligned” with the United States, its largest trading partner.
“We will continue to make sure that we are getting what we need in Canada while, as always, putting the safety and health of Canadians as our top priority,” Trudeau said.
As many as 32,000, or 20%, of the 160,000 Canadian and American cross-border truck drivers may be taken off the roads by the mandate, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates. The industry was short some 18,000 drivers even before the mandate, CTA said.
“We raised our base rate for cross-border drivers effective Jan. 1 by almost 20% … and it didn’t gain us any drivers,” said Rob Penner, president and CEO of Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Bison Transport. “There’s more freight than there is people right now.”
Canada’s transport ministry said in a statement the measure was not negatively affecting the supply of goods, while cross-border truck traffic had not varied significantly since the mandate came into effect.
The six executives who manage nearly 9,200 trucks between their companies and have a combined 173 years in the industry say strong demand for freight during a labor shortage will inevitably translate into higher prices for consumers.
“We’ve been oversold by 5% or 10%, depending on the day, for the last four or five months … The timing of all this couldn’t have been worse,” said Mark Seymour, CEO of Kriska Transportation Group in Prescott, Ontario.
Canadian firms see labor shortages intensifying and wage pressures increasing, according to a Bank of Canada survey https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/firms-see-increasing-labor-shortages-wage-pressures-bank-canada-survey-2022-01-17 released on Monday. Investors increasingly expect https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/even-omicron-slams-canada-bets-january-rate-hike-rise-2022-01-18 the central bank to raise interest rates next week for the first time since 2018.
Fresh foods are particularly sensitive to freight problems because they expire rapidly, though all imports from the United States could be affected, the trucking managers said.
“We have to move the milk, we have to move food. But the rates are going to be much higher,” said Doug Sutherland, president of Sutherland Group Enterprises in Salmo, British Columbia.
“Inflation is going to be the biggest impact of what’s going on here.”
($1 = 1.2478 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao)
Natural immunity against COVID lowered risk more than vaccines against Delta variant, new study says – Euronews
Unvaccinated people who had previously contracted COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were only vaccinated, a new study published on Wednesday by a US health authority said.
Despite this, “vaccination remains the safest strategy” against the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said when publishing the data.
It also pointed out that contracting the disease exposes you to serious complications, while vaccines have proven to be extremely safe and effective.
The study was conducted before booster doses were widely available, and before the emergence of the Omicron variant, which now accounts for more than 99 per cent of new cases in the US. It is therefore possible that the balance has shifted towards vaccination being more effective than immunity following infection.
However, the results published on Wednesday provide key insights into the differences between vaccine-acquired and post-infection immunity.
The health authorities studied cases in the states of New York and California from late May to November 2021. Delta became the majority disease in the US at the end of June.
During the entire period under analysis, the people with the least protection by far were those who had neither been vaccinated nor fallen ill in the past.
But before Delta, vaccinated people who had never contracted COVID-19 were better protected than unvaccinated people who had already fallen ill.
After the introduction of Delta, the ratio was reversed.
Less risk to infected but not vaccinated people
The study analysed the risk of getting Delta compared to the risk of those most likely to get it, in other words, people who had neither been vaccinated nor infected in the past by the beginning of October.
Those that had been vaccinated but never infected with COVID-19 were six times less likely to get it in California, and about five times less likely in New York.
But the risk was even lower for previously infected but not vaccinated individuals: by 29 in California, and by 15 in New York.
When analysing the risk of hospitalisation, this time in California only, the researchers found a similar reversal between the two periods.
“This could be due to different immune response stimuli” caused either by encountering the real virus or a vaccine, the CDC explained.
The reversal also “coincided with the onset of vaccine-induced immunity decline in many people” before booster doses, the study authors added.
The CDC noted too that work on Delta in other countries “has also demonstrated increased protection of previously infected individuals, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, compared with vaccination alone”.
They emphasised that further studies were needed to investigate the durability of protection conferred by infection with each of the variants, including Omicron.
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