Paola Loriggio, The Associated Press
Published Monday, November 16, 2020 11:00PM EST
News of another promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate stirred hope Monday as Canada’s case count surpassed the 300,000 mark, with the two hardest-hit provinces continuing to report more than 1,000 daily new infections and a sudden spike in Nunavut triggering a two-week lockdown.
Moderna’s announcement that its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be 94.5 per cent effective, according to preliminary data, comes a week after a similar announcement from Pfizer.
Both American companies are among those that have signed agreements with Canada, and have asked Health Canada to review their products.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Monday the news from Moderna amounts to “a light at the end of the tunnel,” echoing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments last week regarding the Pfizer vaccine candidate.
But she said Canada is still months away from being able to distribute a vaccine, noting both drugs must still be approved for use in the country. The federal government has deals to buy millions of doses of both if they are approved, she said.
The provinces and territories are also working out their distribution plans, Hajdu said.
“We’ve still got a long way to go. So I encourage everyone to continue to follow the public health measures that are keeping us safe, to reducing their gatherings, to making sure that they’re staying home when they’re sick and washing their hands and wearing a face mask,” she said.
Ontario’s health minister, Christine Elliott, said Monday the province has a team preparing a plan for the distribution of a vaccine, including ethicists to ensure the immunization is doled out “fairly and equitably and to the people that absolutely need it the most.”
Calling it a “top priority,” Elliott said the province will be “ready to go as soon as the vaccines are available.”
Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, said that based on the data available, “there is room for cautious optimism” regarding both vaccine candidates.
But he said no one should be surprised if there are hiccups along the road, noting many questions remain unanswered, such as the drugs’ effectiveness in a real-world setting and how long immunity will last.
Even once vaccines are available for distribution, it will take a long time for everyone to be immunized, and the daily case counts show the spread of the virus is accelerating, Bogoch said.
“Certainly there can be a lot of damage done between now and when vaccine programs are rolled up,” he said.
“So, we really hope that the provinces and municipal, political, and public health leaders take steps to protect people. And I hope people take steps to protect themselves and their community,” he said.
British Columbia reported almost 2,000 more cases of COVID-19 over three days on Monday, pushing the national case count past the 300,000 threshold. It reached the grim milestone less than a month after hitting the 200,000-case mark; Canada first reached 100,000 cases in June.
Nunavut, which had no infections until this month, ordered a two-week shutdown of non-essential businesses and schools as its tally rose to 18 cases.
The restrictions are set to begin Wednesday, and include closing child-care centres to all but the children of essential workers, and shuttering health centres except for emergency services.
Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces that account for the bulk of Canada’s COVID-19 case count, reported 1,487 and 1,218 new infections, respectively, on Monday as well as 10 and 25 more deaths.
In Manitoba, where 392 new cases and 10 additional deaths were logged Monday, the province’s chief public health officer warned that hospitals are near capacity.
Dr. Brent Roussin said it appears some people aren’t understanding that they need to stay home, noting one COVID-19 case over the weekend had come in contact with 85 others.
Out east, New Brunswick reported eight new cases, and Nova Scotia recorded two.
Over the weekend, Alberta saw a daily increase of more than 1,000 cases, though that dropped back to 991 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Green party Leader Annamie Paul says the federal government needs a national task force of scientists to create a co-ordinated response to COVID-19 across the country, saying the current approach is leading to mixed messages.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2020.
Toronto and Peel Region enter lockdown for at least 28 days – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Toronto and Peel are officially under the lockdown stage of Ontario’s framework for COVID-19 restrictions, meaning that all non-essential retail stores are limited to curbside pickup only and a wide swath of other businesses are closed entirely.
The hard-hit regions entered the category at 12:01 a.m. and will remain under the added restrictions associated with it for at least the next 28 days.
It means that retail stores, with some exceptions for grocers, hardware stores, discount and big box retailers selling groceries, and corner stores, will be prohibited from allowing customers into their stores. Personal care services, like barbers and salons, have also been forced to close and restaurants are now limited to takeout only.
Meanwhile, new rules have went into effect in Toronto and Peel to limit all indoor gatherings to only those who live in the household. The limit for outdoor gatherings has also been lowered from 25 to 10 people.
“The main thing people can do now is please stay home,” Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Monday morning. “It matters less in the context of achieving the result which kind of stores are close and not closed. It matters more whether people decide to follow the advice, which is if it is at all possible just stay home.”
The province announced the added restrictions for Toronto and Peel on Friday as new cases of COVID-19 continued to surge in both jurisdictions.
In anticipation of the rules going into effect, several malls extended their hours over the weekend and there were reports of long lineups at stores.
Speaking with CP24, Tory said that the strict new rules are an important, even if there is not a lot of data pointing to widespread transmission in settings like retail stores, for example.
“We don’t really know in every single case exactly where people picked up this virus, we just know it is spreading and was spreading in a fashion last week and the week before and the week before that that was clearly unacceptable in terms of the trend line we were on,” he said. “Look it is a sad day today just to see this kind of thing having to happen but again the choice was to not do these kind of things and have a much longer, much broader, much worse kind of lockdown happen latter when we had completely lost control of this thing as you have seen elsewhere in the world.”
While the lockdown will shutter a number of businesses across Toronto and Peel, schools and childcare centres will remain open as will services deemed essential like dentist offices and physiotherapists.
Industries like film production and construction that were largely shut down in the spring will also continue top operate with restrictions.
That means that several major Hollywood productions currently being shot in the GTA will not be halted, including a movie featuring comedian Kevin Hart.
“I am a little bit concerned that this shutdown doesn’t focus on the largest area of spread. In Brampton our largest source of transmission is industrial settings. Our largest two sectors are transportation logistics and food processing and neither of those sectors are shut down because they are considered essential,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told CP24 on Monday. “So this isn’t truly a lockdown for Brampton. Small businesses have been shut down but with the largest portion of our workforce being essential workers nothing has really changed.”
In addition to the new rules in Toronto and Peel, Durham Region and Waterloo have also been moved into the red category alongside York Region as of today. The rules for that category limit restaurants, gyms and food courts to 10 indoor patrons at a time.
U.S. could begin COVID-19 vaccine rollout by mid-December, top health official says – CBC.ca
The head of the U.S. effort to produce a coronavirus vaccine said the first inoculations could happen as soon as 24 hours after the Food and Drug Administration grants approval, which would kick off the largest inoculation campaign in U.S. history starting in mid-December.
“Within 24 hours from the approval, the vaccine will be moving and located in the areas where each state will have told us where they want the vaccine doses,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser for the government’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine program, told NBC’s Meet the Press.
The FDA’s outside advisers will meet on Dec. 10 to discuss whether to authorize the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech for emergency use. Slaoui told CNN he expects vaccinations would begin on the second day after approval, Dec. 12.
Moderna Inc is expected to seek approval later in December for its COVID-19 vaccine.
The effort to roll out vaccines across the country of 330 million people comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has blocked the normal transition of government before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20. Slaoui said he hoped for a smooth transition and did not expect the vaccination effort to be derailed.
Vaccines will be distributed based on each state’s population, Slaoui said. Each state will decide who gets the vaccine first with the recommendation that priority be given to health care workers, front-line workers and the elderly who face the highest risks of dying from the virus.
About 70 per cent of the country’s population needs to be immunized to achieve herd immunity, a goal the U.S. could reach by May, Slaoui said.
Millions ignoring Thanksgiving warnings
As new COVID-19 cases continue to surge, millions of Americans are ignoring federal and state warnings to stay home for Thanksgiving to prevent overwhelming already strained hospitals. Many people are trying to get tested before the holiday on Thursday, leading to long lines in New York City and elsewhere.
Testing shortages still plague many parts of the country with most pharmacies offering COVID-19 tests in suburban Chicago were fully booked ahead of Thanksgiving and long lines at state drive-through testing facilities.
“We’re clearly involved now in a very, very difficult surge here throughout the United States and even globally,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, told NBC.
Last week Biden called the vaccination program a “massive undertaking” and “one of the greatest challenges we will face as a nation.”
The U.S. must distribute tens of millions of vaccines while also combating misinformation about vaccines spread on social media. A recent Gallup poll showed only 58 per cent of Americans would get the vaccine, up from 50 per cent in September.
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said it was crucial to have a seamless flow of information between Trump’s coronavirus experts and Biden’s transition team to avoid delays in distribution after Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
WATCH | Who would get a COVID-19 vaccine first and when?
Biden warned last week that “more people will die if we don’t coordinate.”
The number of U.S. coronavirus cases has surpassed 12 million and rose by more than one million cases in less than a week for the first time.
Deaths have topped 256,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, with many health experts warning deaths will rise to over 2,000 a day in the coming weeks.
AstraZeneca: COVID-19 vaccine 'highly effective' prevention – CTV News
AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals.
The results are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine.
AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage results for a potential COVID-19 vaccine as the world anxiously waits for scientific breakthroughs that will bring an end to a pandemic that has wrought economic devastation and resulted in nearly 1.4 million confirmed deaths.
Pfizer and Moderna last week reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing their vaccines were almost 95% effective. But, unlike its rivals, the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries.
“I think these are really exciting results,” Dr. Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the trial, said during a news conference. “Because the vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, it can be distributed around the world using the normal immunization distribution system. And so our goal to make sure that we have a vaccine that was accessible everywhere, I think we’ve actually managed to do that.”
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also cheaper. AstraZeneca, which has pledged it won’t make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic, has reached agreements with governments and international health organizations that put its price at about $2.50 a dose. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20 a dose, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements the companies have struck to supply their vaccines to the U.S. government.
All three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they can be widely distributed.
The results come as a second wave of COVID-19 hits many countries, once again shutting businesses, restricting social interaction and pummeling the world economy.
AstraZeneca said it will immediately apply for early approval of the vaccine where possible, and it will seek an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization, so it can make the vaccine available in low-income countries.
The AstraZeneca trial looked at two different dosing regimens. A half-dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month later was 90% effective. Another approach, giving patients two full doses one month apart, was 62% effective. The combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70%.
The vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that is combined with genetic material for the characteristic spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19. After vaccination, the spike protein primes the immune system to attack the virus if it later infects the body.
The vaccine can be transported under “normal refrigerated conditions” of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), AstraZeneca said. By comparison, Pfizer plans to distribute its vaccine using specially designed “thermal shippers” that use dry ice to maintain temperatures of minus-70 degrees Celsius (minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit).
Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said the finding that a smaller initial dose is more effective than a larger one is good news because it may reduce costs and mean more people can be vaccinated.
“The report that an initial half-dose is better than a full dose seems counterintuitive for those of us thinking of vaccines as normal drugs: With drugs, we expect that higher doses have bigger effects, and more side-effects,” he said. “But the immune system does not work like that.”
The results reported Monday come from trials in the U.K. and Brazil that involved 23,000 people. Late-stage trials are also underway in the U.S., Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya and Latin America, with further trials planned for other European and Asian countries.
AstraZeneca has been ramping up manufacturing capacity, so it can supply hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine starting in January, Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said earlier this month.
Soriot said Monday that the Oxford vaccine’s simpler supply chain and AstraZeneca’s commitment to provide it on a non-profit basis during the pandemic mean it will be affordable and available to people around the world.
“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” Soriot said.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he felt “a great sense of relief” at the news from AstraZeneca.
Britain has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and the government says several million doses can be produced before the end of the year if it is approved by regulators.
Just months ago, “the idea that by November we would have three vaccines, all of which have got high effectiveness, I would have given my eye teeth for,” Hancock said.
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