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Royal Bank of Canada warns of headwinds after better-than-expected profit – Financial Post

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“We expect mortgage growth to slow going forward as pent-up housing demand begins to cool,” Royal Bank Chief Executive Dave McKay said on the call.

Royal Bank joined rivals including Bank of Nova Scotia , Bank of Montreal and National Bank of Canada in reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter profits as it set aside less money than analysts had estimated to cover future bad loans.

That came after three straight quarters of adding to provisions for credit losses, including on performing loans, that have built up record reserve levels.

But should the pessimistic scenario materialize, allowances on performing loans would have to increase by about 18 per cent, Royal Bank Chief Risk Officer Graeme Hepworth said.

Amid short-term headwinds like the second coronavirus pandemic wave, and the end of loan deferrals and government support, “we do see a world where delinquencies and … impairments will start to increase through 2021,” Hepworth said.

That would come as trading and underwriting activity, which helped the bank’s capital markets unit generate near-record earnings of $2.8 billion this year, moderates, executives said.

Royal Bank reported fourth-quarter adjusted net income of $2.27 per share, up 5 cents from a year earlier, and better than estimates of $2.05.

National Bank, the smallest of Canada’s six largest lenders, which also reported results on Wednesday, took provisions of $110 million, versus the nearly $160 million that was expected. That helped it post adjusted profit of $1.69 a share, compared with expectations of $1.52.

Royal Bank shares slipped 0.3 per cent to $107.72 in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, while National Bank’s stock dropped 1.1 per cent to $72.67. The TSE’s stock benchmark fell 0.1 per cent.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Ontario seniors 'living in fear' of COVID-19 feel forgotten in vaccine rollout plan – CBC.ca

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When the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved in Canada, Ketty Samel and her 76-year-old husband Morris believed the end to the long months of isolation was in sight. Since last March, the Thornhill, Ont., couple has been hunkering down in their home.

“We’re living in fear. For me to go to a grocery store right now, I’m in a total sweat. I’m stressed, I walk in and I walk out. I grab whatever I need off the shelves and that’s it.”

Under Ontario’s vaccination rollout plan, Samel, 71, and her husband will be vaccinated in Phase 2 — a phase that could begin as early as March, according to government officials, and will continue through to July.  It’s a tiered system by age groups, starting with those 80 years of age or older, then decreasing by five-year increments.

“They’ve told us from the beginning of this pandemic that we were vulnerable. [After] long term care we were the next vulnerable population,” said Samel.

“And all of a sudden we’re expendable. That’s our feeling.”

The Ontario Ministry of Health says the roadblock to vaccinating more people faster is supply, which is expected to increase in Phase 2. 

But in the meantime, some are questioning whether everyone getting a dose in Phase 1 is as vulnerable as seniors in the community, with figures from Public Health Ontario showing that more than a third of COVID-19 deaths are adults over 60 who aren’t in long-term care.

Long-term care nurse Limin Liu, right, takes a selfie as registered nurse Sasha Vartley vaccinates her with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Dec. 15. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Federal guidelines

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends adults 70 and older to be part of the first stage of immunization rollout, alongside residents and staff in seniors’ congregate living settings, health-care workers, and adults in Indigenous communities “where infection can have disproportionate consequences.”

Actual plans vary by province. In Ontario, Phase 1 of the rollout involves vaccinating all residents, staff, essential and other workers in long term care and retirement homes, health care workers, adults in First nations, Metis and Inuit populations and recipients of adult chronic home care. 

Seniors in the community aren’t slated to be vaccinated until Phase 2.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health-care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccine clinic in Toronto on Jan. 7. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

This discrepancy between federal guidelines and Ontario’s planned rollout is one that 76-year-old Toronto resident Brian Corcoran calls frustrating.

“We’re not considering elderly people. They don’t have that criteria in Ontario,” said Corocoran. 

Corcoran, like many other seniors in Ontario, has called his local health clinic to try to find out when he’d be vaccinated, only to be told staff have received no direction.

“By having the seniors in limbo is not good for a lot of people. A lot of people will get depressed. A lot of people will be isolated.”

Corcoran said he believes in the importance of vaccinating seniors in long-term care homes and front line workers first, but said he doesn’t understand why older adults like him aren’t included in the first phase after them.

Brian Corcoran, 76, pictured outside his Toronto home. He’d like to see elderly people such as himself vaccinated in Phase 1 of Ontario’s rollout plan. (Pelin Sidki/CBC)

It’s a sentiment shared by Samel and her husband.

“If we should contract COVID, it’s most likely that we are going to end up taking up a hospital bed and end up not surviving. That’s the bottom line,” she said.

‘The numbers don’t lie’

According to Public Health Ontario’s figures as of Friday, there have been 5289 COVID deaths in the province.

A closer look at the numbers show that of the estimated 5289 deaths, 96 per cent — 5064 people — are aged 60 and over. (The majority — 3137 deaths — have been seniors in long-term care homes, but nearly 2000 estimated deaths have been seniors not in long-term care.)

Those figures are prompting some medical professionals and advocates to call for Ontario’s vaccination plan to look more closely at older adults. 

“The numbers don’t lie,” said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of Geriatrics at at Mount Sinai and the University Health Network Hospitals in Toronto. 

“And yet our government is basically following a kind of a plan that I don’t actually think really follows the science.”

Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health and University Health Network in Toronto, says he doesn’t believe the government is using science to guide its vaccination rollout plan when it comes to seniors. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

Sinha questions why some essential workers in hospitals — who don’t interact with patients — are being vaccinated before older adults.

“The science says that when 96 per cent of the people dying in this pandemic are people older than 60. Why would you make that make that population wait until April, that 3.5 million people, and start vaccinating 1.5 million essential workers months in advance of that?” 

Sinha pointed to other countries — such as Israel — that he said have already vaccinated more than 70 per cent of its population over the age of 60 in a matter of weeks. 

Bill VanGorder is the Chief Policy Officer for the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP). He says with community spread in Ontario, there is a serious risk to those seniors living in their own homes. (CARP)

Each province has its own timeline for vaccinating seniors. In British Columbia for example, only those 80 years of age or older who live in the community will be vaccinated before April.

In Quebec, the provincial government plans to start vaccinating those 70 years and older by February 15 with the hope that all Quebecers over 70 will get vaccine by April. In Alberta the plan is to start offering vaccines to seniors 75 and older by February.

Some seniors’ advocates say older adults must be prioritized regardless of where they live.

“There is great risk to people who are living in their own homes. They’re still visited … by caregivers, by their own family,” said Bill VanGorder, chief policy officer with the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP)

“And we know how bad community spread is right across [Ontario]. Why would we not want to vaccinate them just as quickly as possible first?”

WATCH | Why some provinces are delaying 2nd dose of vaccine against recommendations:

As provinces rush to get vaccines into arms, debate continues over how late second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can be given. Canada’s Vaccine Task Force is pushing for manufacturer guidelines to be adhered to, while Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization says up to 42 days is OK. 2:01

Ministry response

CBC News reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Health to ask why older adult aren’t part of Phase 1 and why the province hasn’t moved to vaccinate them sooner.

In a statement it said the province has the ability to ramp up its capacity to vaccinate more people, but the problem is supply. 

“We continue to urge the federal government to deliver more COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible to keep up with Ontario’s capacity to administer.”

It added: “As the province continues to receive more doses, we will continue to expand locations across the province to vaccinate our most vulnerable and over time every Ontarian who wishes to be immunized.”

For Ketty Samel and her husband, that’s not good enough. They’ve started a letter-writing campaign to the provincial government.

“They’ve told us and warned us that we are so vulnerable,” said Samel. “If we’re so vulnerable, why is nobody looking at this?”

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23 Died After Getting Covid Shot in Norway. Here's the Rest of the Story – TheStreet

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After a striking headline circulated over the weekend — that 23 patients in Norway died after getting a Covid-19 shot — TheStreet reached out to the Norwegian Medicines Agency to find out more details of what happened.

Norwegian health officials say they have now revised guidelines on who should get the Covid-19 shots made by Pfizer  (PFE) – Get Report and BioNTech  (BNTX) – Get Report, after 23 deaths among the frail and elderly were believed to be “associated with” recent Covid-19 vaccinations. More than half of those who died, 13, have been assessed. The agency believes those fatalities might be linked to common adverse reactions from the vaccine, known as BNT162b2.

A Pfizer spokesperson said that the company and its partner, BioNTech, are “aware” of the deaths and are working with the Norwegian agency to collect necessary information. Pfizer’s “immediate thoughts are with the bereaved families,” said Jerica Pitts, Pfizer’s director of global media relations, in an email to TheStreet on Sunday. But Pitts pointed out that the number of incidents is so far not alarming and to be expected, according to Norwegian health officials.

For perspective, 42,003 people have been given the first dose of the vaccine in Norway as of Friday, so the deaths are a tiny fraction of the total vaccinated. Also, Norway, which has a population of slightly more than 5 million, has fewer than 58,600 total known cases of Covid-19 and under 517 deaths attributed to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins data. That ratio alone appears far worse one than that of the vaccinated vs. deaths potentially linked to the vaccine.

Still, the reports of deaths “suggest” that common adverse reactions to the messenger RNA vaccine may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients, says Norwegian health officials.

Following is a lightly edited exchange between TheStreet and the Norwegian Medicines Agency about the deaths, which occurred after the first dose of the vaccine, which began getting distributed in Norway on Dec. 27.

TheStreet: Why did the agency put out this notice?

Norwegian Medicines Agency: The Norwegian Adverse Drug Reaction registry is a national health registry, obliged to report statistics to the public. At the highest political level, the public has been promised full transparency of the reported ADRs of the Covid-19 vaccines. … In Norway, we have a “reporting culture” for vaccine ADRs, where the normal procedure is to report all suspected adverse reactions for new vaccines. Health care professionals in Norway have a low threshold for reporting possible adverse reactions, even when the causal relationships appear very unclear.

TheStreet: It sounds like you believe these deaths were likely linked to common adverse side effects of the shots. Could you expand on that? Is there any side effect that you find most concerning?

Norwegian Medicines Agency: For privacy reasons, we can not provide detailed information about this, but … all reports are about elderly people with serious underlying disorders. Most of them have experienced the expected side effects of the vaccine, such as nausea, vomiting, fever and local reactions at the injection site.

All deaths that occur within the first few days of vaccination are carefully assessed. We cannot rule out that adverse reactions to the vaccine occurring within the first days following vaccination may contribute to more serious course and fatal outcome in patients with severe underlying disease.

TheStreet: How old were those who died after getting the shots?

Norwegian Medicines Agency: All deaths fall into the age group of 75 years or older.

TheStreet: Do these deaths make you question how the vaccine is given to that population of the elderly who are sick?

Norwegian Medicines Agency: The Norwegian Medicines Agency approves the vaccine, but the National Institute of Public Health is responsible for the distribution. The Norwegian Medicines Agency and the National Institute of Public Health jointly assess all reports of suspected adverse reactions. As a result, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has updated the Covid-19 vaccination guide with more detailed advice on vaccinating the elderly who are frail.

We are now asking for doctors to continue with the vaccination, but to carry out extra evaluation of very sick people whose underlying condition might be aggravated by it. This evaluation includes discussing the risks and benefits of vaccination with the patient and their families to decide whether or not vaccination is the best course.

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Toronto opening mass COVID-19 vaccine clinic as ICUs move patients around province – CBC News: The National

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  1. Toronto opening mass COVID-19 vaccine clinic as ICUs move patients around province  CBC News: The National
  2. Ontario health officials report 3,422 new cases of COVID-19, 69 more deaths  CP24 Toronto’s Breaking News
  3. Almost two dozens warnings, tickets on first day of big-box store blitz  680 News
  4. Ontario inspectors find 36 stores violating COVID-19 rules during big-box safety blitz  CTV Toronto
  5. Active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Ottawa drop on Sunday; 123 new cases, 1 new death  CTV News Ottawa
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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