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Queen to be vaccinated within weeks, but no preferential treatment: U.K. reports – CTV News

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LONDON —
Queen Elizabeth II will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine within weeks, reports on Sunday said, as the biggest immunization program in U.K. history begins next week.

The monarch, 94, and her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip are in line to get the jab early in the rollout, which gets underway Tuesday, due to their age and will not receive preferential treatment, several newspapers reported.

The most senior royals will “let it be known” they have been given the inoculations “as a powerful counter to the anti-vaccination movement,” the Sunday Times said.

The Mail on Sunday added they hope “to encourage more people to take up the vital jab”.

The Queen has spent much of the pandemic in self-isolation in Windsor because of her age, and will this year forego her traditional family Christmas at her Sandringham estate in eastern England with other royals.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman declined to comment on the vaccination reports, noting “medical decisions are taken personally”.

Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and health officials have already drawn up criteria based on age and vulnerability to decide who will receive it first.

‘RISE TO THE CHALLENGE’

Britain has pre-ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in total, and is set to receive an initial batch of 800,000 to kickstart Tuesday’s rollout.

Elderly care home residents and their carers will be the very first in line, followed by those aged 80 and over and frontline health and care staff.

Other elderly people and the clinically extremely vulnerable will be next, with the rest of the population then prioritised by age.

The first doses were transported to the U.K. this week from a Pfizer plant in Belgium and will begin to arrive at dozens of “hospital hubs” nationwide by Monday.

Among those first to be inoculated will be the eldest patients already attending hospital as an outpatient, those being discharged home and others invited in.

The effort faces significant obstacles because this vaccine must be stored at -70 C.

However, it can be kept for up to five days at temperatures between 2 and 8 C.

“Despite the huge complexities, hospitals will kickstart the first phase of the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country’s history from Tuesday,” Stephen Powis, national medical director of the state-run National Health Service (NHS), said.

“Hardworking staff will once again rise to the challenge to protect the most vulnerable people from this awful disease,” he added, noting the NHS had “a strong record” in vaccine delivery.

VACCINE AIRLIFT

U.K. regulators were forced to defend their world-first approval, insisting it met all safety standards, after U.S. and European officials queried the rapid process.

The Sunday Mirror reported a string of high-profile figures in Britain had committed publicly to getting the vaccine in a bid to boost take-up.

They include Monty Python star Michael Palin, 77, 69-year-old Bob Geldof and rocker Ronnie Wood, 73, the tabloid said.

“I will absolutely and immediately take it as soon as humanly possible,” Geldof said.

Meanwhile, plans are reportedly being stepped up to ensure any complications arising from the end of the Brexit transition period on Dec. 31 do not hit the rollout.

The Observer said ministers have drawn up contingency plans to fly millions of doses into Britain on military aircraft in the event of Brexit-related disruption at UK ports.

“We will do this if necessary,” a health department spokesperson told the newspaper.

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Pfizer to halt COVID vaccine deliveries to Canada next week, making worse already slow rollout – National Post

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Article content continued

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said the Liberals had to come clean about the full details of the rollout, so Canadians could see how it stood up to scrutiny.

“When they say that every Canadian will have a dose of vaccine by September, what assumptions have they made on approval, timelines, and availability of other vaccine candidates and if those don’t come to pass what’s plan B?”

She said she wanted the government to succeed, so Canadians could get back to a normal life, but that clearly had not happened.

“I really don’t take any pleasure in saying that they haven’t delivered.”

According to the Bloomberg news service, as of Monday, Canada was 12th in the world on vaccines delivered on a per capita basis. Behind countries like Israel, the U.K. and the United States and the United Arab Emirates, as well as several small European countries.

Israel is the world leader so far having administered first doses to more than 25 per cent of its population primarily using the Pfizer vaccine. Several reports indicated the country had paid more for the vaccines than other countries. it also had agreed to share anonymized patient data from its health system with Pfizer.

The United Kingdom has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine and made it a major part of its rollout. The vaccine, which is not yet approved in either Canada or the United States, does not need to be kept frozen and is easier to distribute. Some countries, like the United Arab Emirates, that are ahead of Canada are using a vaccine from Sinopharm, a Chinese state company.

Trudeau was asked Tuesday why Canada hadn’t ordered more doses for the first quarter of the year. He said there were only so many doses available from the two approved candidates Pfizer and Moderna, before the vaccines were approved and manufacturing could ramp up.

“The challenge is, as of December 1, 2020, there were none of these vaccines being produced anywhere in the world for general use. They were all in testing and trials in the scientific community,” he said.

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Pfizer to halt COVID vaccine deliveries to Canada next week, making worse already slow rollout – National Post

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Article content continued

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said the Liberals had to come clean about the full details of the rollout, so Canadians could see how it stood up to scrutiny.

“When they say that every Canadian will have a dose of vaccine by September, what assumptions have they made on approval, timelines, and availability of other vaccine candidates and if those don’t come to pass what’s plan B?”

She said she wanted the government to succeed, so Canadians could get back to a normal life, but that clearly had not happened.

“I really don’t take any pleasure in saying that they haven’t delivered.”

According to the Bloomberg news service, as of Monday, Canada was 12th in the world on vaccines delivered on a per capita basis. Behind countries like Israel, the U.K. and the United States and the United Arab Emirates, as well as several small European countries.

Israel is the world leader so far having administered first doses to more than 25 per cent of its population primarily using the Pfizer vaccine. Several reports indicated the country had paid more for the vaccines than other countries. it also had agreed to share anonymized patient data from its health system with Pfizer.

The United Kingdom has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine and made it a major part of its rollout. The vaccine, which is not yet approved in either Canada or the United States, does not need to be kept frozen and is easier to distribute. Some countries, like the United Arab Emirates, that are ahead of Canada are using a vaccine from Sinopharm, a Chinese state company.

Trudeau was asked Tuesday why Canada hadn’t ordered more doses for the first quarter of the year. He said there were only so many doses available from the two approved candidates Pfizer and Moderna, before the vaccines were approved and manufacturing could ramp up.

“The challenge is, as of December 1, 2020, there were none of these vaccines being produced anywhere in the world for general use. They were all in testing and trials in the scientific community,” he said.

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Wattpad to be sold to South Korean internet giant for $600M US – CBC.ca

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One of Canada’s most prominent technology darlings is being sold to a South Korean internet conglomerate in a $600 million US deal.

Toronto-based online storytelling company Wattpad said its board of directors unanimously approved a cash and stock transaction Tuesday that will see it acquired by Naver later this year. The company will retain its Canadian headquarters.

“This is the most important day in the history of the company and an incredible milestone,” said Allen Lau, one of Wattpad’s co-founders, in an interview.

“It is the beginning of a new chapter and using TV show terminology, this is episode one of season two, so I’m absolutely looking forward to this.”

Lau and Ivan Yuen, who will continue to lead Wattpad following the sale, started the self-publishing platform after the pair dreamed up the idea on a napkin while waiting for a flight at the Vancouver airport food court in 2006.

Wattpad quickly became home to stories from dozens of genres because it allows anyone to share their writing for free and is accessible on phones and tablets.

It became a household name around 2013 when Anna Todd, a Texas woman, started writing After, a fanfiction series on the platform about One Direction singer Harry Styles.

Her stories were eventually made into books and a film series, which encouraged Wattpad to start book publishing and studio entertainment divisions.

However, Lau admitted a sale wasn’t always his plan.

“We weren’t actively looking for sellers, but we have been talking to investors along the way … to accelerate our growth,” he said.

“We knew Naver for quite some time and we realized after some conversations we have a shared vision.”

Opportunity to grow, get into animation, co-founder says

Naver, which bills itself as “South Korea’s largest web search engine,” was an ideal partner because it owns digital comics platform Webtoon, he said.

Webtoon is behind some of the biggest names in webcomics, including Lore Olympus, and has worked with the Jim Henson Company and producers behind hit films like The Lego Movie, the It franchise and Snowpiercer.

Lau said Naver will offer Wattpad a chance to get into animation and to grow beyond the 90 million users — including more than five million writers — that Wattpad has. Webtoon said it has more than 72 million monthly active users.

“Wattpad’s vision to entertain and connect the world through stories fits perfectly with our vision for Webtoon and Naver’s content brand and we’re thrilled to have them join the Naver family,” Seong-sook Han, chief executive, said in a statement.

The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of Wattpad’s fiscal year and is subject to regulatory approvals.

It is the latest in a string of sales that have seen once-promising Canadian tech companies snatched up by foreign owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Element AI, a Montreal-based firm that creates artificial intelligence solutions for large organizations, signed a deal in November to be purchased by ServiceNow, a Santa Clara, Calif., company that offers a cloud-based workflow technology.

San Francisco-based “buy now, pay later” company Affirm reached a deal to buy Toronto rival PayBright for $340 million in early December.

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