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Quebec vaccine plan may be rethought after troubling Israeli data, says provincial advisor

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MONTREAL —
Quebec could change its vaccine strategy based on new data out of Israel about the efficacy of the first dose, on its own, of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, says a top advisor in the province.

Israel just provided the world with its first large-scale, real-world hint of how effective the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine is before the booster, and it doesn’t seem reassuring for places that have delayed the second shot, including Quebec and the United Kingdom.

“We not only monitor the data that comes from Quebec but also what is observed around the world,” said Dr. Gaston De Serres, a chief advisor on Quebec’s vaccine strategy,

“Yes, we are looking at the data from Israel and the [Quebec immunization committee] could make recommendations based on this data if necessary,” he said.

Data on 200,000 elderly Israelis suggests that the first shot alone only lowered infections by 33 per cent—about a third of the roughly 90-per-cent rate that many experts around the world have predicted.

It’s “concerning in terms of the single-dose policy decision,” said a U.K. scientist, John Robertson, who had previously written about his concerns about the U.K.’s decision, like Quebec’s, to delay booster shots.

Importantly, Israel is not delaying boosters. It’s following the timeline set out by Pfizer and giving the second, or “booster,” shot 21 days after the first.

The data doesn’t call into question how well the two doses together work. The trial data showed that together, both doses are 95 per cent effective.

But the Pfizer trial wasn’t meant to prove the efficacy of the first dose alone, so the estimates on how well it works without the booster have all been just that—estimates—with scientists looking back at the data and trying to gauge whether delaying the second shots will work.

Delaying the boosters, as Quebec is doing for up to 90 days, is meant to give more people a first shot and some heightened, if imperfect, immunity.

Israel’s new numbers suggest that even when giving the shots on schedule, the elderly people in question didn’t have nearly the protection that was predicted in the short time before they got the booster.

The data doesn’t help with a bigger uncertainty in places like Quebec: whether, and how much, that first-dose protection could last after the 21-day mark if the booster isn’t given. Pfizer says its trial provided no data on this, and the Israel numbers don’t fill that gap either.

ISRAEL’S FINDINGS SO FAR

Israel has moved very quickly on vaccination, inoculating 2.2 million Israelis over the last month. It made an agreement to get rapid delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in return for tracking the effects and sending the manufacturer detailed data.

Two Israeli experts have spoken about the results in recent days.

According to Israeli news channel i24 News, the leader of the country’s vaccine drive, Nachman Ash, told Israeli Hebrew-language outlet Army Radio that “many people have been infected between the first and second injections of the vaccine,” and that it was “less effective than we thought.”

Ran Balicer, an Israeli doctor and epidemiologist, and an adviser to the World Health Organization, spoke to the UK outlet Sky News, explaining more about what was found.

“We compared 200,000 people above the age of 60 that were vaccinated,” the outlet quoted Balicer as saying.

“We took a comparison group of 200,000 people, same age, not vaccinated, that were matched to this group on various variables,” he said.

Scientists then compared the daily rate of positive COVID-19 cases between the two groups. They found at first, unsurprisingly, there was no difference in the first two weeks after the shot—the vaccine takes about two weeks to kick in.

After that, starting at 14 days post-vaccination, “a drop of 33 per cent in [positive cases] was witnessed in the vaccinated group and not in the unvaccinated,” Balicer told Sky News.

He called it “really good news,” considering the group did have much more protection than their unvaccinated peers.

SHORT OF ESTIMATES, THOUGH MANY QUESTIONS

However, that number fell far short of the estimate in recent weeks: Dr. De Serres in Quebec, as well as the UK vaccine advisory committee and many other experts, had all said they believed the first shot would be about 90 per cent effective, at least for several weeks, allowing them to delay the booster.

Pfizer has maintained that its trial data only showed a rate of 52.4 per cent efficacity before the second shot and that it knows nothing about what would happen past 21 days.

One question remains around how well the single dose worked to help people fight off serious infections, even if they tested positive for the virus—a key measure. On Wednesday afternoon, Israel’s Minister of Health said Ash’s comments had been taken “out of context” on this.

The minister clarified that Ash had been discussing how Israel “[has] yet to see a decrease in the number of severely ill patients,” not infections, according to the BBC.

And Balicer suggested the surprise in Israel’s data may have come partly from the fact that those studied so far have all been elderly, whereas Pfizer’s trial subjects were a mix of ages. The immune systems of the elderly aren’t as strong as those of younger people.

Balicer said he expects the Israeli numbers to rise once more young people are included in the group studied.

He also said that real-world data is not the same as trial data—and on the upside, Israel’s data proves beyond a doubt that the vaccine does work, and on the same kind of timeline the Pfizer trial showed.

“This is not the ideal setting of a randomized controlled trial where everything from coaching maintenance to selection of the population of interest is done in a very meticulous way,” he said.

“This is the real world. And so by seeing the real-world impact so early on in the same direction and in the same timing as we’ve seen in the clinical trials is something that makes us very hopeful.”

According to the BBC, Balicer also said that after the first 33-per-cent drop in infections, the rate of cases continued to drop—meaning immunity appeared to keep growing stronger, in those vaccinated with the first dose—but it was too soon to know more.

QUEBEC URGED TO TAKE A SECOND LOOK

Robertson, a professor of surgery at the University of Nottingham, said Wednesday that he thinks the Israeli results provide strong evidence for Quebec and similar jurisdictions to change course if they’ve delayed second doses.

Earlier this month, Robertson co-published an opinion piece for the BMJ British medical journal arguing that delaying the second dose wasn’t based in firm science.

“The personal and population risks have even greater relevance and urgency for Quebec given the real-life data reported from Israel,” he said Wednesday.

“The second dose should be given on Day 22 as in the Phase 3 trials and approved by regulatory agencies worldwide.”

Pfizer said it has no comment yet on the new data and can only speak about the results of its Phase 3 trial.

Source: – CTV News Montreal

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Ontario surpasses 300000 total COVID-19 cases as province logs another 1062 infections on Sunday – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Ontario has now surpassed 300,000 total cases of COVID-19 as more than 1,000 new infections were logged in the province over the past 24 hours.

Ontario recorded 1,062 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus on Sunday, down from the 1,185 confirmed on Saturday and the 1,258 logged on Friday. 

Today’s tally is also down slightly from the 1,087 new infections reported one week ago, but the rolling seven-day average has increased week-over-week. The average number of new infections reported per day is now 1,104, up from 1,031 last Sunday.

The total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the province is now 300,816.

With 49,185 tests completed yesterday, the Ministry of Health is reporting a provincewide test positivity rate of 2.4 per cent today, down from 2.7 per cent last week.

Another 20 virus-related deaths were confirmed over the past 24 hours and none of the deaths involve residents of long-term care homes in the province.

The seven-day average of new virus-related deaths in Ontario has dropped to 17, down from 24 last week.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Ontario was trending downward for several weeks following the provincewide lockdown but as most regions of the province gradually begin to reopen, active infections are unsurprisingly beginning to rise once again. 

There are currently 10,492 known active COVID-19 cases in Ontario, up from 10,371 last Sunday. 

According to the province, the number of patients with COVID-19 who are receiving treatment in hospital has dipped to 627, although hospitalization data is frequently less reliable during the weekends due to gaps in reporting from some hospitals.

After declining to as low as 263 earlier this month, intensive care admissions continue to rise in Ontario. The province says there are currently 289 COVID-19 patients in intensive care at Ontario hospitals, up from 277 seven days ago.

Of the new cases confimred today, 259 are in Toronto, 201 are in Peel Region, and 86 are in York Region

Two regions of Ontario will be returning to the grey zone of the province’s reopening framework on Monday, forcing many businesses that had just recently reopened to close once again. The province announced Friday that it would be using its so-called “emergency brake” to place both the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit under lockdown amid a recent rise in cases in both health units.

On Friday, the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit was reporting a total of 184 confirmed cases of the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant, accounting for more than a third of all confirmed cases of a variant of concern across Ontario.

Toronto and Peel Region have not yet exited the Ford government’s provincewide lockdown and most businesses remain closed in both regions. Local politicians in Peel Region have expressed their desire to rejoin the province’s reopening framework in the red zone, which would allow gyms, hair salons, and retail shops to reopen and in-person dining to resume with reduced indoor capacity.

Another 23 cases involving a variant of concern were confirmed in Ontario over the past 24 hours, including 20 cases involving B.1.1.7, two new cases of B.1.351, and one more case of P.1.

Ontario has now administered 687,271 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 262,103 people have received both doses for full immunization. 

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

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More than 300000 COVID-19 cases logged in Ontario since beginning of pandemic – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Ontario is marking a grim milestone Sunday as health officials report that the province has logged more than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in January.

The news comes as 1,062 new infections were recorded in the previous day as well as 20 deaths related to the disease.

Sunday’s report brings Ontario’s lab-confirmed COVID-19 case total to 300,816, including 283,344 recoveries and 6,980 deaths.

With 49,185 tests processed in the last 24-hour period, the province says its COVID-19 positivity rate stands at 2.4 per cent.

The seven-day average for number of cases reported in Ontario is 1,104. This time last week, that number was 1,031.

Where are the new COVID-19 cases?

Most of the cases reported in Ontario on Sunday were found in three regions.

According to the province, Toronto logged 259 new infections, Peel Region logged 201 and York Region logged 86.

Waterloo added 60 cases while Halton Region and Hamilton recorded 47 and 45 cases, respectively, the province said.

There are currently 627 patients in hospital with COVID-19. At least 289 of those patients are being treated in an ICU and 185 are on a ventilator.

COVID-19 variant case count climbs

The number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario that have been confirmed as a variant of concern has grown to 558.

The province confirmed 20 more cases of B.1.1.7 (U.K. variant), pushing the case total for that strain to 528.

Two more cases of B.1.351 (South African variant) were also confirmed which brings that strain’s case total to 27.

As well, one additional case of P.1 (Brazilian variant) was confirmed, bringing the total number of that variant to three.

Update on COVID-19 vaccinations

At least 262,103 Ontarians have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the province said Sunday.

In total, 687,271 doses of a vaccine have been administered since inoculations began in December. Some 19,000 of those shots went into arms yesterday.

Backstory:

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

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Ontario reports more than 1000 new COVID-19 cases Sunday; 31 in Ottawa – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
Ontario health officials are reporting 31 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Sunday.

The figure is among 1,062 new cases reported across the province, pushing Ontario past 300,000 total cases since the start of the pandemic. Ontario also reported 20 new COVID-19 related deaths and 1,029 newly resolved cases on Sunday.

Provincial officials reported no new cases of any variants of concern on Sunday. To date, Ottawa has seen eight confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant and one case of the B.1.351 variant.

An updated local snapshot of COVID-19 from Ottawa Public Health is due later today. Figures from Ottawa Public Health often differ from those from the province because the respective health units pull data for their daily reports at different times the previous day.

VACCINES IN OTTAWA

As of Feb. 26

  • Vaccine doses administered in Ottawa (first and second shots): 49,125*
  • COVID-19 doses received (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna): 61,820

A new shipment of 4,000 Moderna doses arrived in Ottawa on Feb. 25.

A new shipment of 9,360 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Ottawa on Feb. 22.

*OPH says staff were able to extract additional doses out of several vials, which were given to residents. In a statement on its dashboard, OPH said, “Vaccine inventory is based on an expected 5 dose per vial supply. Occasionally, an additional dose (6th dose) is successfully extracted and administered to clients.”

COVID-19 TESTING

Ontario health officials say 49,185 COVID-19 tests were completed provincewide on Saturday and there are 18,318 tests still under investigation.

The Ottawa COVID-18 Testing Taskforce does not provide local testing figures on weekends. In its most recent update Friday afternoon, the taskforce said 1,742 swabs were processed at assessment centres in Ottawa on Thursday and labs performed 6,789 tests.

The average turnaround from the time the swab is taken at a testing site to the result is 33 hours.

The next local testing update will be released on Monday, March 1.

COVID-19 CASES ACROSS THE REGION

  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit: Four new cases
  • Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health: One new case
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit: Four new cases
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit: Two new cases
  • CISSS de l’Outaouais (Gatineau and western Quebec): 25 new cases

This story will be updated. CTV News Ottawa will have the latest as it becomes available.

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