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Several provinces halt AstraZeneca vaccine for those under 55 in wake of new NACI guidelines – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Several provinces have halted administration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to those under the age of 55 following new recommendations from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

On Monday, the NACI recommended pausing administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under the age of 55, pending further investigation on reported cases of vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), a rare blood clotting disorder, in Europe.

“We are taking this precautionary measure while Health Canada as the regulator completes its updated risk benefit analysis based on emerging data,” Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada, saidMonday during a technical briefing on the matter.

“During this time of risk assessment, Canada has other vaccine options to address the ongoing risk of COVID-19 infection.”

Following the recommendation, several provinces announced they would follow the guidance, including Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Prince Edward Island indicated on Monday morning it will no longer give the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone. It had been set aside for people between the ages of 18 and 29.

Health officials in Nova Scotia said the updated recommendation will not impact vaccine rollout as the AstraZeneca vaccine is currently only being offered to people between the ages of 60 and 64.

VIPIT is a condition that refers to blood clots — including blood clots in the brain — stemming from receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Symptoms include serious headache, seizure, blurred vision and shortness of breath and tend to develop between four and 16 days after receiving the vaccine.

According to the NACI, cases have been identified primarily in women under the age of 55, though cases have been reported in men as well.

Based on available information, the NACI said the fatality rate of VIPIT is about 40 per cent, but this may decrease as doctors and those receiving the vaccine are more aware of the condition.

“The exact mechanism by which the AstraZeneca vaccine triggers that is still under investigation and no other risk factors have been consistently identified in patients who develop VIPIT,” Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the NACI, said in the briefing.

Previously, it was believed that cases of VIPIT occur in about one per million administered dosesof the vaccine. However, a recent report from the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany indicated it could be one in 100,000 doses.

“NACI has determined that there is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to adults under 55 years of age, given the potential risks associated with VIPIT,” Deeks said.

The NACI also recommended the continued use of the AstraZeneca vaccine among people over the age of 55 with informed consent, due to the lower risk of developing of VIPIT in older populations and the increased risk of severe COVID-19 infections among these age groups. 

Canada and many other countries had previously halted the use of the vaccine in seniors at the beginning of March, but rescinded that guidance two weeks later.

Sweden and Finland have already suspended distribution of the vaccine to those under the age of 65, while in Spain it is only administered to those between the ages of 18 and 65. In Denmark, health officials have extended their suspension of the vaccine until at least April 18.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said it respects the NACI’s decision and that patient safety “remains the company’s highest priority.”

“Regulatory authorities in the U.K., European Union, the World Health Organization and Health Canada have concluded that the benefits of using our vaccine to protect people from this deadly virus significantly outweigh the risks across all adult age groups,” the company wrote in the statement.

“Tens of millions of people have now received our vaccine across the globe. The extensive body of data from two large clinical datasets and real-world evidence demonstrate its effectiveness, reaffirming the role the vaccine can play during this public health crisis.”

In a statement, Health Canada said there have been no reports of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine in this country, but noted that cases have been reported in Europe and it is now requiring “additional terms and conditions on the authorizations of the AstraZeneca and Verity Pharmaceuticals/Serum Institute of India vaccines.”

“These will include a requirement that the manufacturers conduct a detailed assessment of the benefits and risks of the vaccine by age and sex in the Canadian context,” Health Canada said in the statement. “This information will support the ongoing evaluation of these rare blood clotting events, and allow Health Canada to determine if there are specific groups of people​ who may be at higher risk.”

Last week, Health Canada noted that the vaccine is not associated with an overall increased risk of blood clots and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks.

In Monday’s statement, Health Canada noted that this guidance still stands and it is working with international partners to evaluate the incoming data.

Canada is expecting to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday from the United States, which has not yet authorized it for emergency use. The shipment will represent the first doses to come from the United States.

Another 500,000 doses that were delivered from the Serum Institute of India have already been distributed.

Last week, AstraZeneca reported its vaccine was 76 per cent effective in preventing symptoms and 100 per cent effective against serious infections that result in hospitalization.

With files from CTVNews.ca producer and writer Ryan Flanagan

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With average prices up another 14%, Swiss bank UBS warns of housing bubbles in Canada – CBC.ca

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Average house prices rose 14 per cent in the past year, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Friday, adding to concerns that Canada’s most expensive real estate markets are dangerously overvalued.

The group that represents realtors across the country says the average price of a Canadian home sold on its MLS system was $686,650, almost 14 per cent higher than it was in the same month a year ago.

Canada’s inflation rate hit four per cent in August, the fastest increase in the cost of living in almost 20 years. The new data on house prices Friday means that house prices are going up at more than three times that record pace.

CREA says the average price can be misleading, since it is heavily skewed by sales in the most expensive markets of Toronto and Vancouver. It trumpets another number, known as the MLS House Price Index (HPI), as a more accurate gauge of the overall market, because it strips out some of the volatility.

But the HPI is rising by even more than the average is right now — up 21.5 per cent in the past 12 months. In the Greater Toronto area, the average price of a home that sold was $1,136,280 in September, up 18 per cent in a year, according to the local real estate board. In Vancouver, the average is 1,186,100 — up by more than 13 per cent in the past year.

“There is still a lot of demand chasing an increasingly scarce number of listings, so this market remains very challenging,” CREA chair Cliff Stevenson said.

The pandemic has had an unexpected impact on house prices in that instead of causing people to be more conservative because of the economic uncertainty, buyers have been eager to shell out for more space.

Canada’s central bank slashed its benchmark rate to help stimulate the economy through the pandemic, and when lenders passed those rates on to consumers in the form of record low mortgage rates that had the effect of pouring gasoline on the fire of housing demand, making it more affordable to borrow more and more money to buy a home.

UBS warns of bubble

The fresh numbers on prices come as a major Swiss bank was already warning that Toronto and Vancouver are home to two of the worst housing bubbles in the entire world.

In an annual ranking, UBS examines the housing markets in 24 major world cities in Europe, North America and Asia to assess them based on how expensive housing is compared to local income levels and other factors.

It then puts all the cities into one of five categories: 

  • Depressed housing market (a score of -1.5 or lower).
  • Undervalued (-0.5 to -1.5).
  • Fairly valued (-0.5 to +0.5).
  • Overvalued (+0.5 to +1.5).
  • Bubble (1.5 and up).

Six cities were deemed to have housing bubbles. Two of them are in Canada. 

Toronto got a score of 2.02. That was higher than every other city except Frankfurt, Germany, which scored a 2.16.

Vancouver scored a 1.66, just behind Hong Kong (1.90), Munich (1.84) and Zurich (1.83).

Realtors say a lack of homes is the problem and are urging the construction of new ones. But one expert says supply and demand imbalances are nowhere near able to explain the current price increases. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The bank says house prices in Toronto have effectively doubled in the past decade. Government interventions through things like foreign buyers taxes and rent controls caused the market to take a breather in 2018 and 2019, but things have only accelerated since, the bank said.

“Real prices increased by almost eight per cent from mid-2020 to mid-2021,” the bank said.

The bank says price gains are being fuelled by record-low mortgage rates, which are not expected to last much longer once the Bank of Canada inevitably has to raise its rate.

That “could lead to an abrupt end to the current housing frenzy,” the bank said.

Isabel Serrano, a prospective homebuyer in Toronto, is well aware of how frothy things have gotten in the city. She and her husband have been renting for the past 15 years, and are finally ready to buy. But despite having more than $200,000 a year in combined income, the pair can’t find anything in their price range — and they keep getting outbid when they try.

In an interview with CBC News, she said she has looked at between 40 or 50 houses in the past few months, and placed offers on four. In some cases, the house sold for six figures more than the asking price.

“I never thought it was going to be this hard. I really didn’t,” she said. “It blows my mind that there are no homes to buy. It blows my mind that we cannot find a house to buy for $800,000.”

WATCH | Isabel Serrano says house prices are out of reach for people like her

House prices out of reach

5 hours ago

Prospective home buyer Isabel Serrano says even though she and her husband have steady incomes, there’s only so high they can go in terms of buying a home to live in. (Credit: Mark Boschler/CBC) 0:53

‘A fast rebound’

Things don’t look much better in Vancouver. Taxes on vacant homes and foreign buyers in 2016 cooled what was then a red-hot market, as prices rose by more than 20 per cent that year. Those moves seemed to relieve some of the pressure, as prices declined by 10 per cent between 2018 and 2019.

“Since then, however, lower prices, falling mortgage rates and looser stress test rules have enticed households to buy properties again, leading to a fast rebound,” UBS said. “From mid-2020 to mid-2021, property prices increased by 11 per cent, offsetting past losses.”

High prices aren’t just bad for would-be buyers like Serrano, who plan to live in them — they don’t augur well for investors hoping to pay them off by renting them out either.

According to UBS, anyone buying an investment property with the intent to rent it out would need to rent it for 31 years in Vancouver to cover the price of buying it. In Toronto, it would take 28 years. In cities like Miami and Dubai, it’s half that.

It’s a big reason why the bank suspects both Toronto and Vancouver are in bubble territory, which UBS defines as “a substantial and sustained mispricing of an asset, the existence of which cannot be proved unless it bursts.”

UBS has no qualms calling what’s happening in Canada’s two biggest housing markets a bubble, and they aren’t the only ones.

Prof. George Fallis, who teaches economics at York University in Toronto, says the city’s housing market shows all the signs of being detached from fundamentals.

Supply and demand

“A bubble exists if you can’t explain price increases by using the normal variables we look at,” he said in an interview. “Whenever you see that kind of thing, that should be a warning light.”

Fallis says he worries some people buying today are doing so based solely on the expectation that gains in the future will be the same as those of the past, and it’s always dangerous when that happens.

“Economists are not psychologists and the psychology of frothy expectations is poorly understood. But it’s clear that it’s [caused by] something arising which sort of shocks you,” he said. The most likely trigger could be a rapid rise in interest rates, something that experts have already warned is inevitable.

“You only know a bubble exists when it bursts,” Fallis said. “It just keeps going and going and going until it doesn’t.”

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Two B.C. women file constitutional challenge of vaccine card – CHEK

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VANCOUVER — Two British Columbia women who say doctors advised them against getting COVID-19 vaccines have filed a constitutional challenge of the province’s vaccine passport.

A petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court says 39-year-old Sarah Webb, who lives in Alberta and B.C., developed an adverse reaction from her first dose of a vaccine in May and ended up in the emergency department of a Calgary hospital six days later.

The court document says Webb’s symptoms included fatigue, heart arrhythmias, severe pain and a rash on her arm.

It says she received antibiotics but developed further complications the next day and went to another hospital, where a doctor told her she should not get a second vaccine shot.

The petition filed against the attorney general and the Ministry of Health says Leigh Anne Eliason of Maple Ridge, B.C., was told by her doctor that she should not get a COVID-19 vaccine because of the risk of side effects due to her medical history.

READ MORE: A look at COVID-19 vaccine certificate programs across Canada

Neither the Attorney General’s Ministry nor the Health Ministry could immediately provide a response to the court challenge.

The petition says both women’s physicians have written exemption letters citing their physical disabilities.

However, the petition says each of the doctors raised concerns that neither the government nor any provincial medical associations had provided guidelines on how to write such a letter or what information should be included.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the attorney general of British Columbia or the (Health Ministry) have considered individuals like the petitioners in making the vaccine card announcement or in crafting the vaccine card orders,” says the petition, which was filed on Sept. 23.

B.C. residents without proof of vaccination are prohibited from certain activities like dining in restaurants, entering movie theatres and gyms. That deprives the petitioners of their charter rights, the petition says.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said anyone who chooses not to be vaccinated has options including ordering takeout from restaurants and watching movies and sports at home because her order is aimed at reducing transmission of the virus from anyone who may be infected.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021.

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Stellantis cutting 1800 jobs at Windsor Assembly Plant – CTV News Windsor

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Windsor, Ont. –

Stellantis says it is cutting its Windsor Assembly Plant down to one shift next spring in a move that will mean about 1,800 lost jobs.

The company, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, says the move comes as the automotive industry faces significant headwinds including the semiconductor shortage and the effects of COVID-19.

The cut from two shifts comes after Stellantis cut the third shift at the minivan plant in 2020 at a loss of about 1,500 jobs.

Stellantis says it will cut the second shift beginning in the spring, but reaffirmed it’s commitment in the 2020 collective agreement with the local Unifor union to spend upwards of $1.5 billion at the plant.

The auto industry has been grappling with a significant shortage of computer chips, pushing auto companies to prioritize high-margin vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs and cutting back production of sedans and minivans.

The Windsor plant produces the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and Chrysler Grand Caravan.

Official statement from UNIFOR Local 444

“The company served the union official notice late this afternoon that they we will be moving to a one-shift operation at the Windsor assembly plant on April 17, 2022. We will be meeting with the company in the coming days to explore ALL other options, however official notice has been given. The company reiterated its commitment to the bargained investment and the three-shift operation in the future. We will be getting more specifics over the course of the weekend and the upcoming days.”

Official statement from Stellantis

“The global automotive industry continues to face significant headwinds such as the persisting semiconductor shortage and the extended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to these factors, Stellantis will adjust production operations at its Windsor Assembly Plant (WAP) in Canada. Beginning in the spring of 2022, WAP will transition to a one-shift operation. The company reaffirms its WAP investment commitment outlined in the 2020 Collective Agreement of up to $1.5B CAD.”

—With files from CTV Windsor’s Angelo Aversa

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