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Should vaccinated people across Canada get certain freedoms? Here’s what health experts say – Global News

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Ontario health officials are asking people who are vaccinated to continue following COVID-19 safety rules until more people get inoculated — but some health experts say Canada’s vaccinated population should get some freedoms, including socializing indoors without masks and physical distancing.

This comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that America’s more than 30 million fully-vaccinated residents could meet indoors without masks or social distancing.

“I think it’s the reasonable and right thing to do,” said Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Sinai Health Toronto, who also sits on Ontario’s science advisory table.

“I don’t think we should be committing the entire population to the same restrictions because not everyone has had the opportunity to be vaccinated. One of my fears in all of this is we may try and be too Canadian and say, ‘If we can’t all do it together, then no one should be doing it at all,’ and I think that’s actually a bad approach here.”

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Read more:
No masks, no distancing: U.S. CDC says fully vaccinated people can gather indoors

Stall adds that the U.S. has tens of millions of people fully vaccinated compared to Canada’s 600,000. Canada has also recently announced that intervals between vaccine doses could stretch up to four months.

Stall argues that even one dose could allow people to return to some normalcy.

“I will say that the emerging evidence does show that immunity is pretty good after one dose,” he said.

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Government officials have been postponing making any commitments to whether or not vaccinated Canadians will get to enjoy certain privileges, like socializing indoors without masks and physical distancing or seeing other family members.

On Tuesday, Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, said public health guidelines will loosen when more people are vaccinated — but Canada isn’t there yet.

Read more:
Guidelines for vaccinated Canadians will only evolve ‘when safe,’ Tam says

Meanwhile, on Monday, Ontario health minister Christine Elliott encouraged the province’s vaccinated population to keep following the COVID-19 safety guidelines for the near future.

“All of that is going to be important until people receive both doses of the vaccine,” said Elliott.

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But infectious disease physician Zain Chagla argues the loosening of rules for inoculated individuals will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

Read more:
Some Ontarians will soon be able to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments at more than 300 pharmacies

“You have to attach an incentive,” he said. “I’m glad (the CDC) put out something to actually probably use to leverage people to get vaccinated.”

Chagla also believes seniors and personal support workers at long-term care facilities who have been vaccinated should be allowed to socialize with one another and especially with children, who are believed to be at lower risk of contracting the coronavirus.

“So letting that face-to-face contact happen, letting social activities happen in long-term care, getting rid of the loneliness, knowing people have been so, so devastated by this,” Chagla added.

Read more:
Senior Canadian scientists question government plans to delay 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Meanwhile, Anna Banerji, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Toronto, believes that vaccinated individuals are going to enjoy freedoms whether the government allows them to or not.

“If we don’t give guidelines around people who are vaccinated against COVID and give some concessions, people are going to do what they want anyways eventually,” she said.

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“People are so tired from not engaging.”

But some, including a behavioural scientist and bioethicist, argue that allowing vaccinated people more freedoms than those who are not inoculated will create a ‘have and have not’ scenario, excluding the majority of the population.

“It really is about understanding the right messaging to give them hope and then giving them the space to come along on the ‘COVID-journey,’ so that everyone can see themselves reflected in the progress,” said behavioural scientist, Laura Desveaux.

“We have to find a way forward that is as just and fair as we possibly can,” said bioethicist, Kerry Bowman.

“If we have large amounts of the population that really don’t represent a risk to other people, it would be very unjust to limit their freedom.”


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Toronto doctor launches COVID-19 immunity app


Toronto doctor launches COVID-19 immunity app

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U.S. confirms it will accept Canadian travellers with mixed vaccines – CBC.ca

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Canadians with mixed vaccines and U.S. travel plans can breathe a sigh of relief tonight. 

Following weeks of speculation, the United States confirmed late Friday it will accept mixed vaccines when new rules kick in on Nov. 8 requiring that foreign travellers entering the U.S. be fully vaccinated. 

Individuals inoculated with any combination of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization will be considered fully vaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CBC News.

WHO-approved vaccines include Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and its Indian-made counterpart, Covishield. So travellers with any combination of these vaccines will be allowed to enter the U.S. 

The CDC does not recognize mixing COVID-19 vaccines but said it updated its guidance to reflect growing global acceptance of the practice. 

“While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said in an email. 

Ingrid and John Whyte of Toronto are set to fly to Florida to spend the winter at a condo they own in Naples, Fla. The snowbirds are relieved to hear the U.S. will accept their mixed vaccines. (Submitted by Ingrid Whyte)

Millions of Canadians have mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines. When the U.S. recently announced it would impose a vaccination requirement for travellers entering by both land and air, many Canadians with mixed doses worried they might soon be barred from entering the country. 

“We felt kind of blindsided,” said snowbird, Ingrid Whyte of Toronto. Following Canadian government guidance, she and her husband, John, each got one dose of Covishield and a second dose of Pfizer.

“We did everything that we were supposed to do in terms of getting vaccines,” Whyte said.

The couple had booked a flight to Florida for Nov. 17, but cancelled it due to concerns over their mixed vaccines. They’re now relieved to hear their vaccine combination won’t be an issue when entering the U.S. 

“We are thrilled,” Whyte said. “I wish it could have been a little sooner. It would have allowed people to plan a little bit more effectively. But in the long run, it’s great news.”

It’s also good news for Petar Sesar of London, Ont., who has a mix of Moderna and Pfizer.

Petar Sesar of London, Ont., was relieved to learn his vaccine mix of Moderna and Pfizer wouldn’t bar him from entering the U.S. to visit his fiancée, Mara Bakula, who lives in Cleveland. (Submitted by Petar Sesar)

Sesar’s fiancée, Mara Bakula, lives in Cleveland. Sesar welcomed news this week that the U.S. land border will reopen on Nov. 8 to non-essential travellers, as he prefers to drive instead of fly to Cleveland. 

However, he worried he might have no U.S. travel options come Nov. 8 if the country rejected his vaccine mix. 

“That was a very scary moment,” he said. “It felt like house arrest of sorts, like now I [may] have no option.”

Earlier this year, the CDC stated online that a mix of two mNRA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, would be accepted in “exceptional situations.” But Sesar didn’t rest easy until he learned that the CDC had approved his exact combination. 

“It is unbelievable,” he said. “It is such a relief. I share the relief with millions of [Canadians].”

Where does the U.S. stand now on mixed vaccines?

Canada updated its vaccination guidelines in June to recommend mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses based on emerging research that found it was both safe and effective.

Meanwhile, the CDC still maintains that “data on the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series are limited.”

But that could change. 

The U.S. recently conducted a study exploring the effectiveness of using a different COVID-19 vaccine as a booster shot. 

This week, U.S. authorities met to review the data which so far suggests mixing vaccines is safe and effective.

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Canadian politicians warn of political violence after U.K. MP is stabbed to death – CBC.ca

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Shocked and saddened by the killing of a long-serving British MP on Friday, Canadian politicians say the threat of a similar incident in Canada appears to be growing.

David Amess, 69, was fatally stabbed around noon on Friday while meeting with constituents in Leigh-on-Sea, a town about 62 kilometres east of London.

The Conservative lawmaker had been a member of Parliament for 38 years.

“The MP who was murdered was doing something that we all do as members of Parliament,” said Lisa Raitt, a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister.

“When it’s part of your job, and a fundamental part of your job, it really shook me up.”

For Canadian politicians who have faced harassment and threats of violence, Amess’s death was a startling reminder of the danger that can come with serving as an elected official.

“News like this … I saw this and it just really hit me in the gut,” said Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative MP for Calgary Nose Hill.

Police in the U.K. have arrested a 25-year-old man in connection with Amess’s death. He has not been identified.

Rempel Garner said she’s experienced multiple instances of public harassment and received a death threat at her office during the summer election campaign. She said the political climate in Canada is experiencing an escalation of vitriol unlike anything she’s seen before in her 10 years as an MP.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner said she was harassed and threatened with death during the summer election. ‘I’m not safe in public,’ she said. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“This last campaign, for me, I have never felt so unsafe,” Rempel Garner told CBC News. She said the next Parliament should do more to ensure the safety of its members.

“Something has changed and it has not changed for the good.”

‘Intensity’ of violence growing

The summer election campaign was marred by repeated incidents of violence and vandalism targeting candidates from across the political spectrum. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was pelted with gravel at a campaign stop in London, Ont. as anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters doggedly followed his campaign.

Far-right extremist groups were also said to be more active than in any prior campaign.

“I’m pretty sure that the same groups of people that were attacking the prime minister on the campaign trail were the same people that were after me on the campaign trail,” Rempel Garner said.

Barbara Perry, a criminology professor who studies extremism at Ontario Tech University, said the campaign made it clear that the threat of political violence has become very real in Canada.

“The pattern is not new. I think the intensity and the breadth of the problem is different and changing,” Perry said. 

She said that while women and people of colour have long faced serious threats of violence in the political sphere, that danger appears to be more widespread now.

A vandalized campaign sign for Liberal candidate Dominic LeBlanc. (Instagram/Dominic LeBlanc)

“It seems as if that has broadened out to represent a risk to virtually anyone who runs for office or holds office now,” Perry said.

“I don’t know if it’s social media, I don’t know what it is,” Raitt said. She described the shift in tone as an “undercurrent of anger and a lack of respect for the job that’s being done.”

Former MP says better security needed at local offices

Raitt said she began taking extra safety precautions about halfway through her time in office, which ran from from 2008 to 2019. Those precautions included installing a panic button at her constituency office and rearranging the space to create obstacles that would make an attack more difficult.

She said those measures were meant to help protect her staff during visits from “very angry people who wanted action immediately.”

Raitt said current MPs would be wise to focus on security at their local offices rather than on Parliament Hill, where security is much more robust.

Perry also laid some blame at the feet of political parties and politicians. She said the embrace of attack-style politics may be fuelling some of the anger that is now threatening politicians themselves.

“The parties themselves have escalated the personalization of issues, blaming individual politicians rather than parties or processes,” she said.

“Even politicians themselves have to be very careful in their language so as not to enhance the kind of polarization that can lead to this sort of hostility and violence.”

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Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown

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Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.

Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/horse-racing-third-time-lucky-nature-strip-everest-2021-10-16 in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.

New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.

“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.

The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.

Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.

Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.

“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/covid-19-infections-linger-near-record-levels-australias-victoria-2021-10-14 from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.

The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.

Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.

(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

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