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Single vaccine jab appears highly effective against COVID-19, experts say – Sudbury.com

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A single jab of COVID-19 vaccine appears to be highly effective, which could allow better use of scarce supplies and see more people immunized, federal and Quebec health officials said Thursday. 

Health authorities in Ottawa said experts were looking at whether one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be almost as good as the recommended two. 

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, called the data in a new Canadian-authored study compelling.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, two doctors say U.S. data indicate the vaccine to be 92 per cent effective against COVID-19 two weeks after just one dose. Original data suggested a first dose offered about 52 per cent protection.

Co-author Dr. Gaston De Serres, with the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec, said preliminary data show a single dose given to health-care workers and long-term care residents in the province had been 80 per cent effective within two or three weeks.

De Serres and Dr. Danuta Skowronski, with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, said delaying second doses could allow more of the most vulnerable to be protected by giving them at least one shot.

To stretch its supplies, New Brunswick said residents at lower risk for severe disease will now wait up to three months for a second vaccine dose so as many others as possible can get their first.

“This is not a perfect approach but action is required,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Across Canada, COVID-19 has killed 21,435 people out of 834,000 infections. Almost 33,000 people are currently infected, according to federal data.

Ontario reported another 44 pandemic-related deaths to bring its total to 6,773 and Quebec saw 10 more fatalities, bringing its total to 10,268.

“It is important to remember that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

The misery inflicted by the pandemic, beyond its rising death count, was highlighted Thursday by a report showing record-setting job losses in the country’s largest province last year, with young people hit hardest.

Ontario’s fiscal watchdog said 355,000 jobs disappeared, while another 765,000 people had work hours cut. Youth unemployment jumped to 22 per cent.

The Canadian Labour Congress, noting many people were still out of work and facing an end to emergency benefits, called on Ottawa to provide extra weeks of aid beyond the maximum 26. Latest federal data show the Canada Recovery Benefit paid out $9.88 billion in the $500-a-week aid to more than 1.7 million people in the past four months.

Despite mounting casualties, new cases of COVID-19 have plunged in recent weeks, prompting eased restrictions in many areas.

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said it may be safe to lift more restrictions soon as the numbers trend downward. The province announced 415 new infections Thursday. 

However, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe issued a recommendation that residents travelling outside the province get tested twice for COVID-19 to prevent more contagious variants from taking hold there.

In British Columbia, health officials reminded residents to follow public health orders and restrictions after a rise in cases from earlier this week. The province reported 617 new cases on Thursday after recording 348 cases between Sunday and Monday.

In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said much of the uptick in cases has been in the Lower Mainland and in the province’s northern region.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his province was considering a plea from two hot spots — Toronto and Peel Region — to stay locked down for two more weeks. 

In Newfoundland and Labrador, where a stubborn outbreak of coronavirus disease has hit the capital region, the mayor of a fly-in community expressed shock after a still unconfirmed case in his village.

Mayor Barry Andersen of Makkovik on Labrador’s north coast said the case appeared to be related to medical travel to St. John’s. Save for a few scattered cases, Labrador health officials have so far managed to keep the virus out of the region. 

Makkovik was one of the first places in the province to receive the Moderna vaccine and about 75 per cent of residents have received two doses.

In Manitoba, those able to receive their shots can now access proof of vaccination to carry with them. The information can be printed from a government website while the province works toward more formal vaccination cards like in British Columbia.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, meanwhile, said his government would compensate soon-to-reopen movie theatres barred from selling popcorn and other snacks as an anti-pandemic measure. 

— With files from Mia Rabson and Jordan Press in Ottawa, Jacob Serebrin in Montreal, Sarah Smellie in St. John’s, N.L., Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto and Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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Ontario records highest number of new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Ontario is reporting the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks.

Health officials reported 1,299 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, which is a sharp increase from the 990 cases reported on Saturday.

It’s the highest number of new infections in a single day since Feb. 13, when 1,300 new cases were logged.

Ontario also reported an increase in the number of COVID-19-related fatalities in the previous 24-hour period, with 15 deaths added.

With 46,586 tests completed in the previous 24-hour period, Ontario’s positivity rate also increased to 3.1 per cent. 

Health officials also deemed 1,105 more cases of the disease to be resolved, bringing Ontario’s number of recovered patients up to 290,840

Sunday’s case count brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario to 308,296, including deaths and recoveries.

Toronto reported 329 new cases on Sunday, while Peel Region reported 192 new cases and York Region reported 116 new cases.

According to the province, there are at least 606 patients infected with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals as of Sunday. Of those patients, 273 are in the intensive care unit (ICU) and 179 of those 273 patients are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

The increase in cases comes a day before Toronto and Peel Region are set to move into the grey zone of the province’s colour-coded framework, which means all non-essential retail stores can reopen with strict capacity limits.

Variants of concern in Ontario

Health officials confirmed Sunday that two more cases of the U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7, have been found in Ontario, bringing the province’s total count to 828.

There is now a total of 31 confirmed cases of the South African variant, known as B.1.351.

Five new cases of the Brazilian variant, known as P.1, were recorded Sunday, pushing the province’s total infection count at eight.

Meanwhile, 890,604 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario thus far, including 30,192 administered in the previous day.

In Ontario, 271,807 total vaccinations have been completed as of Sunday.

Backstory:

The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.

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Nova Scotia reports two new COVID-19 cases Sunday, 29 active cases remain – CTV News Atlantic

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HALIFAX —
The province of Nova Scotia is announcing there are two new COVID-19 cases Sunday, with 29 active remaining.

Two are in the central zone: one related to travel outside Atlantic Canada, and the other is a close contact of a previous case.

“Seeing a low number of cases today is encouraging,” said Premier Iain Rankin in Sunday’s media release from the province. “I want to thank everyone for doing their part to remain vigilant.”

As of Sunday, 29 active cases remain in the province – the same total as Saturday.

“Let’s keep up our efforts and continue to follow the public health measures- wear a mask, wash your hands, keep physical distance, stay home if you are feeling unwell, self-isolate when required and get tested regularly,” said Rankin.

On Saturday, Nova Scotia Health Authority labs processed 3,685 COVID-19 tests, and 370,367 since the start of the pandemic.

“We know how easily COVID-19 can spread if we let our guard down,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, in Sunday’s media release. “It is up to all of us to follow the public health protocols to make sure we limit the spread of the virus.”

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,659 cumulative confirmed cases in Nova Scotia, 65 deaths, and 1,565 recoveries.

This is a developing story. It will be updated throughout the day.

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Fauci warns of COVID-19 spike in coming weeks, even though more vaccines are being administered | TheHill – The Hill

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Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is warning about another possible spike in COVID-19 infections in the U.S. as the number of new cases has plateaued at a rate health officials say is still too high. 

Cases in the U.S. continue to fluctuate around 60,000 to 70,000 per day after a steep decline of cases over the past several weeks following the record-high holiday surge. Daily coronavirus deaths are hovering around the 2,000 mark. 


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Public health officials are concerned the stall in the decline plus the spread of new variants and easing of restrictions by states could bring on another surge. 

Fauci pointed out that after the first surge in the spring, cases spiked then leveled out around 20,000 before a second wave hit in July, peaking around the 70,000 mark. Cases then plateaued around 40,000 before the U.S. began recording hundreds of thousands of new cases per day through the winter. 

“The issue is that we are starting to plateau. That plateau is about 60,000 to 70,000 cases a day. When you have that much viral activity in a plateau, it almost invariably means that you are at risk of another spike,” Fauci said during a White House COVID-19 briefing Friday. 

“Many countries in Europe have seen just that. They had a decrease in cases over a six-week period. They plateaued. And now, over the past week, they saw an increase in cases by 9 percent, something we desperately want to avoid,” he said. 

Fauci’s warning comes as multiple states have started rolling back restrictions to curb the spread of the virus despite recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) not to do so. Both Texas and Mississippi this week announced they were doing away with mask mandates and are allowing businesses to reopen to 100 percent capacity. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday said the number of cases and deaths in the U.S. are still too high and urged Americans to double down on prevention measures. 

“I know the idea of relaxing mask wearing and getting back to everyday activities is appealing, but we’re not there yet. And we have been — we have seen this movie before: When prevention measures like mask mandates are rolled back, cases go up,” Walenksy said Friday

The warnings come as the U.S. has had some promising news on the vaccine front. The Biden administration this week announced it will have enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all American adults for the coronavirus by May, sooner than the administration’s previous estimate of securing the doses by July. 

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine has also received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration. 

According to the CDC, more than 82 million doses have been administered across the country so far. 


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