OTTAWA, ON, Jan. 23, 2021 /CNW/ – As the resurgence of COVID-19 activity continues in Canada, we are tracking a range of epidemiological indicators to monitor where the disease is most active, where it is spreading and how it is impacting the health of Canadians and public health, laboratory and healthcare capacity. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to maintain COVID-19 at manageable levels across the country.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 737,407 cases of COVID-19, including 18,828 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. Though many areas continue to experience high infection rates, it is important to remember that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. This is why it is important for everyone to continue with individual precautions to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.
At this time, there are 65,750 active cases across the country. The latest national-level data indicate a recent downward trend in daily case counts (past 10 days), with a 7-day average of 6,079 new cases daily (Jan 15-21). While this suggests that community-based measures may be starting to take effect, it is too soon to be sure that current measures are strong enough and broad enough to maintain a steady downward trend. With still elevated daily case counts and high rates of infection across all age groups, the risk remains that this trend could reverse. Likewise, outbreaks continue to occur in high-risk populations and communities, including hospitals and long term care homes, correctional facilities, congregate living settings, Indigenous communities, and more remote areas of the country. These factors underscore the importance of sustaining public health measures and individual practices and not easing restrictions too fast or too soon. This is particularly important in light of the emergence of new virus variants of concern that could rapidly accelerate transmission of COVID-19 in Canada.
As severe outcomes lag behind increased disease activity, we can expect to see ongoing heavy impacts on our healthcare system and health workforce for weeks to come. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 4,651 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Jan 15-21), including 870 of whom were being treated in intensive care units. During the same period (Jan 15-21), there were an average of 149 COVID-19-related deaths reported daily. This situation continues to burden local healthcare resources, particularly in areas where infection rates are highest. These impacts affect everyone, as the healthcare workforce and health system bear a heavy strain, important elective medical procedures are delayed or postponed, adding to pre-existing backlogs.
Stringent and consistent efforts are needed to sustain a downward trend in case counts and strongly suppress COVID-19 activity across Canada. This will not only prevent more tragic outcomes, but will help to ensure that new virus variants of concern do not have the opportunity to spread. Unless we continue the hard work to suppress COVID-19 activity across Canada, there is a risk that more transmissible virus variants could take hold or even replace less transmissible variants, which could result in a significant and difficult to control acceleration of spread. Staying the course will also buy critical time for vaccines to begin working, as we continue to prepare the way for widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through safe and effective vaccines.
A range of public health measures and restrictions are in place across Canada as we continue our collective effort to interrupt the spread of the virus. Canadians are urged to continue following local public health advice and to consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid all non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a face mask as appropriate (including in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household).
Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practices and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities and by downloading the COVID Alert app to break the cycle of infection and help limit the spread of COVID-19. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.
SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada
For further information: Media Relations, Public Health Agency of Canada, 613-957-2983, [email protected]
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine – MENAFN.COM
(MENAFN – IANS)
Ottawa, Feb 27 (IANS) Canada announced its approval of the use of the Covid-19 vaccine co-developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca on Friday, clearing the way for millions of more inoculations in the country.
“AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine is indicated for active immunisation of individuals 18 years of age and older for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019,” said Health Canada in its news release.
“The efficacy of the vaccine was estimated to be 62.1 per cent. Overall, there are no important safety concerns and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants,” it added.
Canada, which began to assess the submission from AstraZeneca and Oxford University for safety and efficacy since last October, has secured access to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine before July, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The approval follows that of Pfizer and Moderna, both of which also require two doses.
Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines based on mRNA technology, AstraZeneca uses more conventional viral vector technology.
One major advantage is in logistics. The shot can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures, unlike its leading mRNA-based competitors, which require ultra-cold storage.
Health Canada said it has no immediate safety concerns for those 65 and older.
France has restricted the vaccine to people under the age of 65 despite the World Health Organization’s insistence that the product is safe and effective for all age groups.
As of Friday morning, more than 1,729,203 doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines have been administered across Canada, according to Health Canada.
Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government was “very confident” that it would meet its end-of-September goal of vaccinating every Canadian who wants to be inoculated.
Canada has a population of nearly 38 million.
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Tanzania COVID U-turn ‘a good move’ – but is it good enough? – Al Jazeera English
Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania – Esther Mngodo, like other Tanzanians, was relieved to hear this week government officials are finally urging people in the country to take precautions against the coronavirus – and even wear face masks.
“It is a good move,” said Mngodo, a 34-year-old resident of Dar-es-Salaam. “But much more needs to be done to increase public awareness, testing and treatment. Most importantly, we must have a clear strategy on how to navigate through these unprecedented times.”
In a surprise change in the official stance on coronavirus, President John Magufuli on Sunday said the government had not forbidden the wearing of masks and encouraged those who wanted to do so.
However, he warned against what he claimed were faulty face coverings on sale in the country, suggesting that high coronavirus-related death rates worldwide could be linked to the uptake of such products and claiming those in Tanzania’s rural areas were less likely to fall victim to the virus because they tended not to wear them.
“The government has not forbidden mask-wearing. But we have to be careful about which masks we wear. We will perish. Don’t think we’re loved so much. Economic war is bad,” Magufuli told a congregation at a church service in Dar-es-Salaam.
“These masks which we buy in the shops- we’re killing ourselves,” he argued, before advising Tanzanians to either to make the masks themselves or use those produced locally.
Magufuli has long downplayed the severity of COVID-19, urging Tanzanians to pray, use steam inhalation and embrace local remedies to protect themselves from the respiratory disease. Tanzania stopped releasing infection numbers in April 2020, weeks before Magufuli declared the country coronavirus-free in June through divine intervention.
For Mngodo, the recent U-turn could be a result of what seems to be a deadly resurgence of infection, which has swept across the country over the past few months.
“It appears that the extent of the problem has reached to a point where the government cannot deny the severity of the problem,” said Mngodo, a media consultant.
Announcements of deaths often attributed to “the current pneumonia” or “breathing problems” have flooded social media.
Among the deceased are a number of high-profile individuals, including several university professors, a former governor of the central bank, the country’s chief secretary and Zanzibar’s first vice president, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad.
Of them, Hamad was the only person confirmed to have been infected by the novel coronavirus, as he texted his COVID-19 test results to the media. As for the others, the public has been left to speculate about the causes of their deaths, at a time when the world is stilling battling the coronavirus pandemic and many common Tanzanians have been touched by the effects of it.
These circumstances have led religious leaders and other critics, particularly on social media, to put pressure on the government to provide clear and consistent guidelines on fighting the pandemic, while also urging individuals to take precautions.
A Tanzanian medical doctor based in the United States, Frank Minja, said the change of mind is welcomed, if long overdue, and could present an opportunity. “We want to encourage [the president] to move faster in implementing what we know to be effective and implement it right away,” he said.
“I don’t want to say it’s too late, because if we say too late then it means we might as well not do anything. And because, by its nature, the pandemic attacks in waves, it is never too late to start doing the right thing,” added Minja, who has been campaigning on social media to raise awareness about the coronavirus.
Dorothy Semu, acting chairperson of the opposition ACT Wazalendo party, criticised Magufuli, saying the measures implemented when the virus first entered the country – including physical distancing and cancellation of large events – should have been kept in place.
“I am a politician but I am also a believer in science,” Semu said. “As leaders responsible for people’s lives it is important that we make our decisions based on facts. It’s like when HIV/AIDS was discovered; some people denied its presence and many lives were lost. So, I expected the president, who is also a scientist, to have continued with the past measures and we would have saved many lives.”
The new stance by Magufuli – a former teacher and industrial chemist – on mask-wearing seems to have also prompted many other public offices and officials to suddenly come forward and warn people of the dangers of coronavirus and measures individuals should take to protect themselves from the virus.
For instance, the agency which runs Dar-es-Salaam’s rapid transport buses on Monday said passengers would not be allowed to board if not wearing a mask.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, headed by Dorothy Gwajima who has previously advocated steam inhalation and a vegetable smoothie to treat COVID-19, earlier this week issued a statement warning people against the virus and appealing to them to take precautions.
However, it insisted that it would not be recommending lockdown measures.
“As said by the president, we won last year and the economy continued to grow until we achieved middle-income economy status, and Coronavirus still existed,” said the ministry’s statement.
“We did not set lockdowns, and even now, we will not impose lockdowns because God is on our side.”
Canadian experts caution against temptations to comparison shop COVID-19 vaccines – Kelowna Capital News
While it’s tempting to compare various aspects of AstraZeneca-Oxford’s newly approved COVID-19 vaccine to others, several experts cautioned against focusing on data that is not comparable and the danger of underrating the product’s ability to curb hospitalizations and deaths.
Health Canada’s long-awaited announcement Friday that a third vaccine would soon be deployed came just as the provinces faced heightened scrutiny over regional immunization plans that vary by timeline, age eligibility and priority groups.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the boost to Canada’s pandemic arsenal would mean “more people vaccinated, and sooner,” and would be key to helping contain spread.
Nevertheless, Health Canada chief medical advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma acknowledged questions over how the public should evaluate trial results that show AstraZeneca has an efficacy of 62 per cent in preventing symptomatic cases. That’s compared to the 95 per cent efficacy of the country’s two other approved vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
But Sharma stressed that all three have been shown to prevent 100 per cent of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.
“Each vaccine has unique characteristics and Health Canada’s review has confirmed that the benefits of the viral vector-based vaccine, as with the other authorized vaccines, outweigh their potential risks,” Sharma said.
Several medical experts including Dr. Stephen Hwang say Canadians do not have the luxury to pick-and-choose as long as COVID-19 cases continue to rage in several hot spots and strain health-care systems.
With multiple COVID-19 projections warning of a variant-fuelled third wave without tighter suppression measures, any tool that can slow the pandemic should be embraced, he argued.
“It would be important for people to be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is first available in their community to them, rather than trying to hold out for a specific vaccine,” advised Hwang, who treats COVID-19 patients at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Still, Toronto resident Maria Brum couldn’t help but question whether AstraZeneca was safe for her 79-year-old mother.
The vaccine was not tested on people over the age of 65. Health Canada, however, says real-world data from countries already using the product suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups, promising an update on efficacy in the age group as more data comes in.
“I personally would take that one out as an option for my mom,” said Brum, who is her mother’s main caregiver.
“Maybe I am wrong but, I don’t know, I don’t see that it’s more useful. I’d like to see one that has a higher percentage of (efficacy).”
As for herself, Brum said she has allergies that she believes may put her at greater risk of adverse reactions and so she is unsure whether she can take any vaccine.
But she’d like the option of choosing, if possible, even while acknowledging that limited supply could make that unlikely.
“As a Canadian, I would like to see us all have choices, regardless of age, gender, or ability,” says Brum.
“I’m going to wait where I can have more choices.”
Such hesitancy could pose public health challenges to Canada reaching the vaccination coverage needed to build protective immunity against COVID-19, said Hwang.
He noted that Germany has seen a reported preference among some for the vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech with Pfizer, as well as a misconception that the AstraZeneca vaccine is inferior because of a lower efficacy rate.
Hwang says efficacy between vaccines cannot be compared because each involved completely different trials at different time periods, in different countries, with different volunteers of different age groups and varying trial designs.
“Until we have direct comparison studies where we give people one vaccine versus another and directly compare, it’s very difficult to know for sure how it’s going to pan out,” he says.
Then there’s the fact Canada’s initial AstraZeneca doses will be made at the Serum Institute of India, which dubs its version CoviShield, while later packages will be produced at the drug giant’s own manufacturing facilities.
Hwang acknowledges that could invite further scrutiny but says the Pune, India-based biotech firm has a “strong track record of producing vaccines.”
Sharma also stressed the similarities between the two shots Friday.
“For all intents and purposes they’re the same vaccine,” said Sharma.
“There are some slight differences in terms of manufacturing and the places that they are manufactured are different. The analogy is a bit like the recipe – so the recipe for the vaccine is the same, but they’re manufactured in different kitchens.”
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