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Research doesn't back vaccine dose delay for seniors, Canada's chief science adviser says – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s top scientist is advising against extending the time between doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to four months in seniors, arguing the research isn’t there to justify the delay for that population and those with pre-existing conditions.

In early March, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued an updated guidance indicating that the interval between doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines could be extended to four months while still being effective.

The changed guideline led several provinces, including Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, to alter the vaccine rollouts to include more age groups, but it means that second-dose appointments are being pushed back further than manufacturer recommendations.

Canada’s chief science adviser Dr. Mona Nemer told CTV News Channel’s Power Playon Monday that studies have shown that extending the interval between doses has had a negative effect on their efficacy, particularly in seniors.

“I’m not aware of data showing that there is efficacy beyond two months of the first dose,” she said. “In the past few weeks, we’ve seen different studies come out showing that the response to the first dose ofthe vaccine in the people who are elderly, in the people who are immuno-compromised is actually not that good and it wanes quite rapidly.”

Last week, preliminary research out of the U.K. indicated that 95 per cent of cancer patients produced an antibody response if they received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks after their first, while only 43 per cent of patients showed the same responses if they waited five weeks between doses.

Health Canada’s authorization for the vaccines initially indicated a 21-day interval between doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 28 days between doses of the Moderna version, and up to 12 weeks between doses of AstraZeneca.

The NACI said it came to the decision to extend the intervals after considering evidence from scientific research and “real world effectiveness” that shows highlevels of protection following a single dose.

Given the vaccine supply issues at the time, the NACI recommended that it would be more beneficial to maximize the number of people receiving a single dose, rather than hold on to doses for a second appointment.

Nemer said both Health Canada and the NACI will also have access to the updated findings, meaning a new recommendation could be on the way.

“I’m sure they’re following this and they may well be looking at perhaps modulating the recommendation as we go,” she said.

“As data emerges about what it takes to protect [seniors and immune-compromised people], we need to be reviewing what we’re doing.”

Nemer said as long as there aren’t issues with the vaccine supply, reverting to the original recommendations from the pharmaceutical companies “would be the ideal approach.”

“The very people we want to protect the most require that we give them the second dose using the shorter interval, originally as done by the manufacturer in the clinical trials,” she said.

“The one-size-fits-all approach really needs to be modulated in terms of who we need to be protecting.”

Canada is expecting more than two million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to arrive this week, while another 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to arrive by the end of the month.

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Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike

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MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada‘s manufacturers on Monday asked the federal government to curb a brewing labor dispute after dockworkers at the country’s second largest port said they will work less this week.

Unionized dockworkers, who are in talks for a new contract since 2018, will hold a partial strike starting Tuesday, by refusing all overtime outside of their normal day shifts, along with weekend work, they said in a statement on Monday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Quebec’s 1,125 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected a March offer from the Maritime Employers Association.

The uncertainty caused by the labour dispute has led to an 11% drop in March container volume at the Montreal port on an annual basis, even as other eastern ports in North America made gains, the Maritime Employers Association said.

The move will cause delays in a 24-hour industry, the association said.

“Some manufacturers have had to redirect their containers to the Port of Halifax, incurring millions in additional costs every week,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).

While the government strongly believes a negotiated agreement is the best option for all parties, “we are actively examining all options as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said.

Last summer’s stoppage of work cost wholesalers C$600 million ($478 million) in sales over a two-month period, Statistics Canada estimates.

($1 = 1.2563 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara

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OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada on Monday scrapped export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.

Turkey, which like Canada is a member of NATO, is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces gained territory in the enclave after six weeks of fighting.

“This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey,” Garneau said in a statement, adding he had raised his concerns with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier in the day.

Ottawa suspended the permits last October so it could review allegations that Azeri drones used in the conflict had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.

In a statement, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa said: “We expect our NATO allies to avoid unconstructive steps that will negatively affect our bilateral relations and undermine alliance solidarity.”

Earlier on Monday, Turkey said Cavusoglu had urged Canada to review the defense industry restrictions.

The parts under embargo include camera systems for Baykar armed drones. Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased, but reimposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan jumped sixfold last year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million in September alone before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, data showed.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)

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Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits

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By Liz Hampton

DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado refinery owned by Canadian firm Suncor Energy Inc meets required environmental permits and is adequately funded, according to an investigation released on Monday into a series of emissions violations at the facility between 2017 and 2019.

The 98,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, reached a $9-million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) March 2020 to resolve air pollution violations that occurred since 2017. That settlement also addressed an incident in December 2019 that released refinery materials onto a nearby school.

As part of the settlement, Suncor was required to use a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the violations and spend up to $5 million to implement recommendations from the investigation.

Consulting firm Kearney’s investigation found the facility met environmental permit requirements, but also pinpointed areas for improvement, including personnel training and systems upgrades, some of which was already underway.

“We need to improve our performance and improve the trust people have in us,” Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City refinery said in an interview, adding that the refinery had already undertaken some of the recommendations from the investigation.

In mid-April, Suncor will begin a turnaround at the facility that includes an upgrade to a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Plant 1 of the facility. That turnaround is anticipated to be complete in June 2021.

Suncor last year completed a similar upgrade of an automatic shutdown system for the FCCU at the refinery’s Plant 2.

By 2023, the company will also install an additional control unit, upgraded instrumentation, automated shutdown valves and new hydraulic pressure units in Plant 2.

Together, those upgrades will cost approximately $12 million, of which roughly $10 million is dedicated to Plant 2 upgrades, Suncor said on Monday.

 

(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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