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Quebec's vaccination passport plan raises privacy concerns, bioethicist says – CBC.ca

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The Quebec government may introduce COVID-19 vaccination passports in September that would give only people who are fully vaccinated access to non-essential services like gyms and cinemas if cases skyrocket once again.

Lockdown measures throughout the pandemic closed entertainment venues, bars and restaurants in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Pumping iron alongside strangers and dining with friends became a distant memory.

But if the virus starts spreading like wildfire once again, vaccination passports would allow such businesses to stay open, the province announced on Thursday.

The policy is being discussed on a provincial, federal and international scale, with some countries already implementing similar measures. Quebec officials have been hinting at the passport plan for months.

Since the spring, the province has been issuing QR codes, or quick response codes, to vaccinated people. These codes can be scanned to pull up information about a person’s vaccination status, although so far, the province has not provided anyone with the information to interpret the codes.

In Quebec, about 82 per cent of the eligible population in the province (age 12 and up) have received one dose of vaccine, and 40 per cent have received two doses. 

However, Quebecers in the 18 to 29 age range are lagging behind.

While the intention may be to encourage more people to get vaccinated before a fourth wave hits, Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, says vaccine passports raise ethical concerns as they “absolutely come with an element of surveillance to them.”

“Freedom of movement is really a fundamental democratic right,” he said.

People’s movement would be tracked, and that raises concerns about who has access to that data and how it is stored, said Bowman.

WATCH | Kerry Bowman explains why he is concerned about Quebec’s plan:

While the Quebec government’s intention may be to encourage more people to get vaccinated before a fourth wave hits, Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, says vaccine passports raise ethical concerns as they ‘absolutely come with an element of surveillance to them.’ 1:34

He said it’s also unclear how long these fundamental rights would be suspended. Some freedoms may not be retrievable once the pandemic ends, he warned.

Bowman said it’s impossible to know what the epidemiological situation will be in September, and how many people will be vaccinated by then. 

“I see it as an erosion of a certain amount of freedom and liberty and is it justified? When I look at it from a risk-benefit analysis, we just don’t have enough information at this point to be doing this,” said Bowman.

Back in May, Canadian privacy commissioners issued a warning about vaccine passports, saying measures must be taken to ensure personal information is protected.

“While this may offer substantial public benefit, it is an encroachment on civil liberties that should be taken only after careful consideration,” federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners and the ombudsperson’s offices in Manitoba and New Brunswick said in a joint statement.

The statement went on to say, “Vaccine passports must be developed and implemented in compliance with applicable privacy laws.”

Concerns over discrimination debated

But what about discrimination against those who refuse to get vaccinated or those who simply can’t due to health reasons? 

Bowman said people who have a legitimate reason not to get vaccinated may find themselves answering uncomfortable questions at the entrance to a restaurant or gym.

Vardit Ravitsky, a bioethicist at the Université de Montréal, says the approach introducing vaccine passports only in the event of an outbreak and to be used only for access to services deemed non-essential, is nuanced and non-discriminatory.

“When it’s well targeted like that, so temporary and specific to a place or an activity, I don’t think you can talk about discrimination,” she said.

“It is a public health measure applied on a proportional basis, to prevent further human rights violations.”

Vardit Ravitsky, a bioethicist at the Université de Montréal, says Quebec’s plan to introduce vaccination passports in September makes sense. (Radio-Canada)

Ravitsky said it is an “extremely well justified” public health measure as it is focused on such a narrow field of non-essential services while vaccination proof will not be needed for essential services like grocery shopping.

Vaccination passports serve as incentive

The provincial government’s plan gives people plenty of time to get full vaccinated before September, Ravitsky said.

Dr. Cécile Tremblay, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at a major health-care network in Montreal, told Radio-Canada she believes using a vaccine passport can serve as an incentive for people who don’t see vaccination as a priority.

As research also shows, Tremblay noted, one dose of vaccine is ineffective at preventing the spread of the more highly contagious delta variant. 

“We don’t want people sick or to die, but we also don’t want our health-care system to be overwhelmed, like it was in past waves,” she said.

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Deadly rabbit disease found in Ontario for the 1st time – CBC.ca

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Two pet rabbits infected with a highly contagious virus that’s newly detected in Ontario have died, causing concern among veterinarians and pet owners.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it’s the first time rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHDV-2) has been detected in Ontario. It previously was found in B.C. and Alberta. 

The virus is not known to cause disease in humans, according to both the United States Department of Agriculture and the CFIA.

The rabbits in the Ontario case were from the same household and previously healthy, according to Dr. Jamie McGill Worsley, a veterinarian in Forest in Lambton County. 

The rabbits quickly died. 

“This was devastating for a pet owner with no warning and initially no understanding,” she said, “As we did testing, we started to become more suspicious that maybe this [virus] was the case.”

Samples were sent to a lab. Earlier this month, the CFIA confirmed it was RHDV-2.

The source of the infection isn’t known, the agency said.

“Immediately following this, the CFIA placed a quarantine on the site,” the agency said in a statement. “An investigation has been completed and no high-risk contacts have been identified that could result in spread of the disease from this premise. The CFIA is collaborating with the province and continues to monitor the situation.”

The CFIA’s website says the virus is found in most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Cuba and some parts of Asia and Africa, and there have been occasional outbreaks in the U.S. and Canada, in 2011, 2016 and 2018.

What is RHDV-2

According to the CFIA, the disease is highly contagious in wild and domestic rabbits. The virus doesn’t affect other species.

People can pick up the virus on their shoes — or even on their vehicle’s tires — through the feces of an infected rabbit, said McGill Worsley.

That’s one of the reasons there’s such concern, she said.

“It is very resilient in the environment. It’s very easy to spread around with microscopic amounts. And then, of course, the potential outcome of this virus, its impact on the rabbits, whether they’re wild or pet rabbits, is quite devastating,” said McGill Worsley, who has strengthened disinfection protocols at her clinic because of RHDV-2.

Dr. Jamie McGill Worsley of Forest Veterinary Clinic in Forest, Ont., shown with a pet rabbit at her clinic. McGill Worsley has strengthened disinfection protocols at her clinic because of RHDV-2. (Submitted by Jamie McGill Worsley )

The CFIA said infected rabbits usually show symptoms within one to five days. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite and neurological symptoms such as difficulty walking.

“Death is common after a short period of illness. Death may also occur suddenly without signs,” the CFIA says in a fact sheet on its website.

Hazel Gabe of Ottawa is part of a Facebook group for rabbit owners where news of the virus has generated concern.

“People are really scared. People are very scared and nervous,” she said.

But for some, there’s a bit of relief, she said.

“Now that there’s been some cases in Ontario, even though we hate that some rabbits died and somebody probably lost their pet, but this means that maybe we will finally have access to the vaccine, because we’ve been asking for this for a while.”

 While other countries have vaccines that protect rabbits against the virus, they’re not readily available in Canada.

Hazel Gabe, shown with her pet rabbit, wants to see a vaccine against rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus become more widely available. (Sonya Varma/CBC)

In B.C., where there have been outbreaks, the government waited until there were a certain number of cases before offering an organized vaccine program.

McGill Worsley suspects it will be the same case in Ontario. But at this point, clinics have to request a special permit to import the vaccine from Spain or France, she said.

“It’s a bit of a process. I’ve worked part way through it myself … that way we can start to be able to protect rabbits once we have permission from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to bring those vaccines here.”

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Should I be worried about monkeypox? A doctor answers questions as the outbreak spreads – CBS News

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The World Health Organization said June 25 that monkeypox wasn’t yet a public health emergency of international concern. More than 4,000 cases have been reported worldwide, with about 250 in the U.S. And with public health officials unable to follow all chains of transmission, they’re likely undercounting cases. Everyone should be aware of its symptoms, how it spreads, and the risks of it getting worse.

Q: Should I be worried about monkeypox?

The American public is currently at low risk for monkeypox. It is spreading among men who have sex with men, but it is only a matter of time before it spreads to others. As of June 27, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control had reported 10 cases among women. Monkeypox is generally a mild disease but can be serious or even deadly for people who are immunocompromised, pregnant women, a fetus or newborn, women who are breastfeeding, young children, and people with severe skin diseases such as eczema.

But monkeypox could become endemic in the U.S. and around the world if it continues to spread unchecked.

Q: How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox is a viral infection, a close cousin of smallpox. But it causes a much milder disease.

It is transmitted through close contact, including sex, kissing, and massage — any kind of contact of the penis, vagina, anus, mouth, throat, or even skin. In the current outbreak, monkeypox has primarily been transmitted sexually.

Condoms and dental dams will reduce but won’t prevent all transmission because they protect only against transmission to and from the skin and mucosal surfaces that are covered by those devices. It’s important to know that the virus can enter broken skin and penetrate mucous membranes, like in the eyes, nose, mouth, genitalia, and anus. Scientists don’t know whether monkeypox can be transmitted through semen or vaginal fluid.

Monkeypox can be transmitted through respiratory droplets or “sprays” within a few feet, but this is not thought to be a particularly efficient mode of transmission. Whether monkeypox could be transmitted through aerosols, as covid-19 is, is unknown, but it hasn’t been documented so far.

It is not known whether monkeypox can be transmitted when someone doesn’t have symptoms.

Q: What are the common symptoms of monkeypox?

Symptoms of monkeypox may develop up to 21 days after exposure and can include fevers and chills, swollen lymph nodes, rash, and headaches.

It is not known whether monkeypox always shows any or all of those symptoms.

Experts currently think monkeypox, like smallpox, will always cause at least some of these symptoms, but that belief is based on pre-1980 science, before there were more sophisticated diagnostic tests.

Q: What does the monkeypox rash look like?

The monkeypox rash usually starts with red spots and then evolves into fluid-filled and then pus-filled bumps that may look like blisters or pimples. The bumps then open into sores and scab over. People with monkeypox should be considered infectious until after the sores scab over and fall off. Monkeypox sores are painful. The rash was often seen on palms and soles in the past, but many people in this outbreak have experienced external and internal lesions of the mouth, genitalia, and anus. People may also experience rectal pain or the sensation of needing to have a bowel movement when their bowels are empty.

Q: How do I get tested for monkeypox?

If you have symptoms of monkeypox, including oral, genital, or anal lesions, go to your nearest sexual health clinic for testing. A medical professional should swab any suspicious lesion for testing. There’s also emerging evidence that throat swabs may be useful in screening for monkeypox, but health officials in the U.S. are so far not recommending them.

People consult about monkeypox vaccination at a clinic in New York City on June 24, 2022.

Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images


Q: Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?

Yes. Two vaccines are effective in preventing monkeypox: the Jynneos vaccine and the ACAM2000 vaccine. The FDA has approved the Jynneos vaccine for preventing monkeypox and smallpox among people 18 and older. The ACAM2000 is FDA-approved to prevent smallpox. The U.S. is currently using only the Jynneos vaccine because it’s safer and has fewer side effects.

The Jynneos vaccine is safe. It has been tested in thousands of people, including people who are immunocompromised or have skin conditions. Common side effects of the Jynneos vaccine are similar to those of other vaccines and include fevers, fatigue, swollen glands, and irritation at the injection site.

The Jynneos vaccine is effective in preventing monkeypox disease up to four days after exposure and may reduce the severity of symptoms if given up to 14 days after exposure.

Q: Can I be vaccinated against monkeypox?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends vaccination against smallpox and monkeypox only for those at heightened risk: people who have had close contact with someone with monkeypox, as well as some health care workers, laboratory staffers, first responders, and members of the military who might come into contact with the affected.

Supplies of the Jynneos vaccine are limited. As of June 14, the strategic national stockpile held more than 72,000 doses. The U.S. government purchased 500,000 more doses this month, bringing the total number of doses bought to almost 2 million.


New York City expanding access to monkeypox vaccine as virus spreads across U.S.

05:26

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has started offering the Jynneos vaccine to gay and bisexual men, other men who have sex with men, and trans women who are age 18 and older and have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the past 14 days. Other big cities, including San Francisco, are expected to do the same.

Q: What are other ways to lower the risk of monkeypox transmission?

The best way is to educate yourself and your sex partners about monkeypox. If you’re worried you might have monkeypox, get tested at a sexual health clinic. Many emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and other health care facilities may not be up to date on monkeypox. The CDC link to find the nearest sexual health clinic is https://gettested.cdc.gov/.

Abstain from sex if you or your partner has monkeypox. And remember that condoms and dental dams can reduce but not eliminate the risk of transmission. The CDC also warns about the risk of going to raves or other parties where lots of people are wearing little clothing and of saunas and sex clubs. It has other suggestions like washing sex toys and bedding.

Q: Is there a treatment for monkeypox?

There is no proven, safe treatment specifically for monkeypox. Most cases of monkeypox are mild and improve without treatment over a couple of weeks. Medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used to reduce fevers and muscle aches, and medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and opioids may be used for pain. In rare cases, some patients —such as immunocompromised people, pregnant women, a fetus or newborn, women who are breastfeeding, young children, and people with severe skin diseases — will develop more severe illness and may require more specific treatment. Doctors are trying experimental therapies like cidofovir, brincidofovir, tecovirimat, and vaccinia immune globulin. If administered early in the course of infection, the Jynneos and ACAM2000 vaccines may also help reduce the severity of disease.

Q: What misinformation is circulating about monkeypox?

Conspiracy theories about monkeypox abound. Monkeypox is not a hoax. Monkeypox is real. Covid vaccines can’t give you monkeypox. Monkeypox was not invented by Bill Gates or pharmaceutical companies. Monkeypox didn’t come from a lab in China or Ukraine. Migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border haven’t brought monkeypox into the U.S. Monkeypox isn’t a ploy to allow for mail-in ballots during elections. There is no need for a monkeypox vaccine mandate or lockdowns due to monkeypox.


Dr. Céline Gounder, an internist, epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist, is Senior Fellow and Editor-at-Large for Public Health at Kaiser Health News.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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Peel Region reports its first confirmed case of monkeypox – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Peel Region has its first confirmed case of monkeypox.

According to Peel Public Health, the person infected is an adult male in his 30s who lives in Mississauga.

The heath unit said the risk to the public remains low.

Monkeypox, which comes from the same virus family as smallpox, spreads though close contact with an infected individual. Most transmission happens through close contact with the skin lesions of monkeypox, but the virus can also be spread by large droplets or by sharing contaminated items.

To reduce risk of infection, people are advised to be cautious when engaging in intimate activities with others. Vaccination is available for high-risk contacts of cases and for those deemed at high risk of exposure to monkeypox.

Symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash/lesions, which could appear on the face or genitals and then spread to other areas.

Anyone who develops these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider and avoid close contact with others until they have improved and rash/lesions have healed.

While most people recover on their own without treatment, those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for monkeypox should self-monitor for symptoms, and contact PPH to see if they are eligible for vaccination.

The Mississauga case is at least the 34th confirmed case of the disease in Ontario, with dozens more under investigation.

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