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'Taken out of context': Doctors respond to WHO chief scientist's comments on mixing COVID-19 vaccines – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Experts in Canada say that comments by the World Health Organization’s chief scientist on mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccine doses have been taken out of context and that doing so under public health guidelines is safe and effective.

The WHO’s Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said during an online briefing Monday that there is little data on mixing and matching vaccines and that it could be a “chaotic” situation if “citizens start deciding” when they should be taking “a second or a third or a fourth dose” and from which vaccine manufacturer.

“To be charitable here, I think this was a conversation that was taken out of context,” Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease doctor, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

In some parts of the world, he said, people have taken it upon themselves to get multiple doses of various COVID-19 vaccines so they can travel.

“We’re seeing in other parts of the world, some people are getting a certain vaccine, say Sinopharm – not available in Canada — and then trying to get another two doses of vaccine to get double vaccinated or get a vaccine that will satisfy some sort of condition,” he said.

Some countries will not allow travellers to cross their borders without full vaccination via specific authorized vaccines. Others, including Canada, require travellers to quarantine for 14 days unless they’ve been fully immunized with one of the vaccines authorized for use in the country.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca, the WHO said that Swaminathan’s remarks were targeted towards individuals.

“At our Global press conference on COVID 19, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan explained that individuals should not decide for themselves, public health agencies can, based on available data. Data from mix and match studies of different vaccines are awaited – immunogenicity and safety both need to be evaluated,” the statement said.

In Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and Public Health Agency of Canada have said mixing and matching doses is safe based on available evidence. In a June update to COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, NACI said that the mRNA vaccines can be used interchangeably if the original dose is not available, and that a second dose of mRNA vaccine is recommended for those who got AstraZeneca as a first dose.

“I agree that mixing and matching doses of vaccine is safe, we have evidence for this, we’ve been doing it, and it works so I think that that discussion was something that was not applicable to what’s happening in Canada,” Chakrabarti added.

Studies conducted in other countries have shown that mixing mRNA and AstraZeneca vaccines can promote a stronger immune response.

“We have some evidence out of Spain, in England, and also Germany showing that you can actually put these two vaccines together, and you see actually a boost in the amount of antibodies you get,” he said.

Canadian researchers are conducting their own study on mixing and matching vaccines. The study will investigate the impacts of the use of COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers in adult participants.

Dr. Joanne Langley, co-principal investigator of the MOSAIC study and infectious disease physician, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday that the Canadian study is investigating antibody responses to mix-and-match vaccine schedules and will document how participants are feeling in the short-term and long-term.

Due to Canada’s quickening vaccine rollout, the researchers have run into issues getting enough participants for the study, particularly as it also aims to examine extended intervals of up to 70 days between doses.

“They think they can get it quicker through public health and that may not be the case,” Langley said. “There is an interval so you can get it as soon as 28 days from your first vaccine or as long as the 70 days, but if you’re already at two months from your first vaccine that means it’s only two weeks to get your next one.”

The study is done in conjunction with the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group, Canadian Immunization Research Network and Dalhousie University and it will investigate mixing and matching vaccines and extended dose intervals in 1,300 adults across Canada at Canadian Immunization Research Network clinical trial sites. These sites are located in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C.

And while Langley agrees that there is room for more data and evidence, there are currently at least 26 studies on mixing vaccines being conducted worldwide. She too thinks Swaminathan’s remarks were taken out of context.

“She was referring in particular to what some people are talking about doing: getting a third and a fourth dose, and that absolutely should only be done if it’s recommended by public health people,” she said. “In Canada you couldn’t do that. But in some countries, you could access the vaccine as an individual.”

COVID-19 vaccines aren’t the only ones we see mixed and matched with other brands. This happens with other vaccinations that Canadians need occasional boosters for.

“We also know from previous vaccines, outside of COVID, that this works,” Chakrabarti said. “For example, with pneumococcal vaccinations, this is something that’s safe.”

In a statement to CTVNews.ca, the Public Health Agency of Canada also said that vaccine interchangeability happens regularly in Canada.

“Vaccine interchangeability is not a new concept. Similar vaccines from different manufacturers are used when vaccine supply or public health programs change. Different vaccine products have been used to complete a vaccine series for influenza, hepatitis A, and others,” the statement read.

The WHO’s latest messaging may have also been an attempt at stopping countries from hoarding COVID-19 vaccines for future booster shots, one infectious disease doctor said.

“I do sincerely believe that it was a well-intended message aimed at preventing the idea of hoarding too many doses of vaccines for booster shots, and potentially third or even fourth doses, especially when you’re dealing with a situation where COVAX has not worked ideally for under resourced parts of the world,” Dr. Abdu Sharkawy told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.

Swaminathan did caution on Monday that “if 11 high and upper middle income countries decide… that they will go for a booster for their populations or even subgroups, this will require an additional 800 million doses of vaccine.” She said that would affect the global vaccine supply at a point “when there is no scientific evidence to suggest that boosters are definitely needed.”

Despite good intentions, Sharkawy said that he was surprised that Swaminathan said mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines was an “evidence free zone,” as studies around the world have yielded evidence and real-world evidence is taking place.

“When you’re talking about the science behind this protocol, and we’re dealing with emerging real-world evidence from multiple parts of Europe, that shows that this is a safe and effective strategy to use,” he said. “So for any Canadian who did receive a multi-platform vaccine protocol, including my own wife, I say you have nothing to fear. The science is very sound.”

For those who did mix their vaccine doses, Langley said they did the right thing by following public health advice and that advice hasn’t changed.

“The most important thing is to have two doses of an authorized COVID vaccine, so that you will reduce your likelihood of getting COVID serious complications,” she said.

For Chakrabarti, he has no doubt in the safety of mixing and matching and even recommended his own father mix doses.

“I wouldn’t do that unless I thought it was entirely safe.”

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Run, don't walk, to the nearest clinic to get vaccinated before September, families told – CBC.ca

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Kids who are going back to local elementary and high schools in September must get their first COVID-19 shot by Saturday to ensure they’re eligible for their second dose and be fully vaccinated by Labour Day, according to the health unit. 

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says 73 per cent of those aged 12 to 17 in Middlesex-London already have their first shot, and just over a quarter have two doses. 

 “The uptake among this age group has been tremendous, right on board with some of our older population who was really eager to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Alex Summers, the associate medical officer of health for the MLHU. 

“We see eagerness for people to get vaccinated and we’re just delighted by that. 12 to 17-year-olds will be back in in-person activities, and that’s where they flourish, that’s where they want to be, and we want to be able to support them to do so in a way that COVID isn’t transmitting.” 

Vaccination is the “key ingredient” to maximizing the coming school year and making sure there are few disruptions. 

With school eight weeks away, Ontario health officials examine what the upcoming school year will look like. Overall, vaccine numbers are good but the data shows a lag in vaccination rates among eligible younger Canadians. If vaccine pickup does not improve before the beginning of the school year, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore is concerned about rising infections. 4:06

COVID-19 vaccines have yet to be approved for those under 12. 

“That’s why it’s really important to be gathering outdoors and making sure that everybody who is older than the age of 12 who is interacting with kids is vaccinated,” Summers said. “We can limit transmission among those who just can’t get the vaccine because they’re not old enough as we approach the school year.”

What exactly school will look like in September isn’t quite clear, but screening for symptoms, staying home when exhibiting symptoms, and wearing masks in classrooms are likely.

No appointments are required for COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone 12 or older for first or second doses at walk-in and mass vaccination sites. For more information on vaccinations and locations, visit the health unit’s website here.

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Air Canada anticipating recovery in demand as travel restrictions are eased – Yahoo Canada Finance

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Air Canada is anticipating a recovery in demand in the coming months as travel restrictions are eased and leisure passengers look to get away after being grounded by COVID-19.

Although overall bookings remain below pre-pandemic levels, customer interest began to increase in June with the elimination of quarantines for fully vaccinated returning Canadians and the removal of other travel restrictions.

“We can now optimistically say that we are turning a corner, and we expect to soon see correlated financial improvements,” CEO Michael Rousseau said Friday during a conference call.

“Indications are that the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may now be behind us. Based on what we are seeing in other markets that are further along in reopening in Canada, we anticipate travel will resume at a quickening pace.”

Rousseau said bookings are steadily increasing for domestic, transborder and Atlantic markets as well as to sun destinations for the coming winter. Future bookings In some weeks of June were ahead of the same period in 2019.

“We expect the most recent announcements of the Government of Canada relaxing existing measures will further help strengthen the interest of our customers in flying again.”

Current demand is largely for leisure and visiting friends and family, but Air Canada expects to see a progressive return of corporate demand in September and October, added chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette.

That could be aided by the ability of Canadian passengers to rely on COVID tests taken in Canada for trips of less than 72 hours.

“We are encouraged by some of the commentary from our peers in the United States with regards to overall business travel recovery,” she told analysts.

Guillemette said that rebuilding its U.S. operations as the largest foreign carrier is key to its recovery. That will also expedite the recovery of international long-haul operations as it seeks to achieve or exceed its share of the U.S. long-haul global market.

The Atlantic business will recover quicker than the Pacific or Latin America because of high vaccination rates, strong cultural and business connections with Europe and strong leisure interest from Canadians.

“We are already observing healthy demand signals for Europe into 2022,” she added.

The Montreal-based company says it lost $1.17 billion or $3.31 per diluted share, compared with a loss of $1.75 billion or $6.44 per share a year earlier.

Adjusted profits were $1.08 billion or $3.03 per share.

Revenues during the three months ended June 30 surged 58.8 per cent to $837 million from $527 million in the second quarter of 2020. Passenger revenues more than doubled to $426 million from a year ago which marked the first full quarter to be impacted by the pandemic. Cargo revenues increased 33 per cent to a record $358 million.

Air Canada was expected to post $2.76 per share in adjusted profits on $848.2 million of revenues, according to financial data firm Refitinitv.

The country’s largest airline increased its seat capacity by 78 per cent compared to the same time last year, and was down 86 per cent from the second quarter of 2019. It plans to increase available seat miles in the third quarter so capacity will be 65 per cent below the same period in 2019.

In August, its domestic capacity is expected to be about two-thirds of what it was in 2019.

“The third-quarter outlook pointed to healthy demand recovery and a significant improvement in daily cash burn,” Walter Spracklin of RBC Dominion Securities wrote in a report.

Air Canada says it has refunded about $1 billion for non-refundable tickets and expects to pay an additional $200 million in the third quarter, which will be covered by the federal government’s $1.4 billion refund credit facility.

The airline says it has recalled about 2,900 employees in June and July as it restores service this summer to destinations, particularly in Canada and the U.S. More workers will be called back for the fall season.

Air Canada has retained about half of its workforce, including the vast majority of pilots who have remained current and ready to fly when conditions warrant.

While it works to rebuild operations, the airline said it is also preparing to meet the challenges from increased competition stemming from expansion plans for Porter Airlines and Flair Airlines. Porter plans to add jet service from several gateways, including Toronto’s Pearson airport, in the second half of next year, while Flair is adding aircraft and routes.

“We certainly welcome healthy competition. but suffice to say, we will be ready to deal with that situation,” Rousseau said of Porter.

He also said the failed purchased of Transat may have been beneficial long-term, but it would have been very difficult to integrate while also focusing on the post-COVID recovery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

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Active COVID-19 cases in Ottawa rise as vaccinations slow – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Ottawa is back above 40 for the first time in two weeks, as the city’s vaccine administration pace slows down.

Ottawa Public Health reported seven new cases of the virus in Ottawa on Friday. There were no new resolved cases for the second straight day, so the number of active cases has climbed to 41.

It’s the most since July 9, when there were 43 active cases in the city.

There are still no COVID-19 patients in hospital in the city, which has been the case for nine days now.

Earlier provincial officials had reported 10 new cases in Ottawa on Friday. Their numbers sometimes differ from Ottawa Public Health’s data due to different reporting times.

The city administered an average of about 5,500 second shots on Wednesday and Thursday, down from more than 13,000 second doses per day last week.

Eighty-three per cent of eligible residents have received at least one shot. Sixty-nine per cent are now fully vaccinated.

Earlier this week, the city closed several vaccination clinics due to decreasing demand.

OTTAWA’S KEY COVID-19 STATISTICS

Ottawa is now in Step 3 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen plan.

Ottawa Public Health data:

  • COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (July 15 to July 21): 3.9 (up from 2.7)
  • Positivity rate in Ottawa (July 16 to July 22): 0.5 per cent (up from 0.2 per cent July 14-20)
  • Reproduction number (seven day average): 1.28 (up from 1.18)  

Reproduction values greater than 1 indicate the virus is spreading and each case infects more than one contact. If it is less than 1, it means spread is slowing.

ACTIVE CASES OF COVID-19 IN OTTAWA

There are 41 active cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, up from 24 on Wednesday. It’s the most active cases in the city in nearly two weeks.

For the second straight day, no more people have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19. The total number of resolved cases of coronavirus in Ottawa is 27,134.

The number of active cases is the number of total laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 minus the numbers of resolved cases and deaths. A case is considered resolved 14 days after known symptom onset or positive test result.

HOSPITALIZATIONS IN OTTAWA

Ottawa Public Health is reporting zero people in Ottawa hospitals with COVID-19 related illnesses for a ninth straight day.

There are no patients in the intensive care unit.

These data are based on figures from Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, which refer to residents of Ottawa and do not include patient transfers from other regions.

COVID-19 VACCINES IN OTTAWA

Ottawa Public Health updates vaccine numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. As of Friday:

  • Ottawa residents with 1 dose (12+): 765,350 (+2,089)
  • Ottawa residents with 2 doses (12+): 624,143 (+10,919)
  • Share of population 12 and older with at least one dose: 83 per cent
  • Share of population 12 and older fully vaccinated: 69 per cent
  • Total doses received in Ottawa: 1,237,860 (+8,008) 

*Total doses received does not include doses shipped to pharmacies and primary care clinics, but statistics on Ottawa residents with one or two doses includes anyone with an Ottawa postal code who was vaccinated anywhere in Ontario.

VARIANTS OF CONCERN

Ottawa Public Health data*:

  • Total Alpha (B.1.1.7) cases: 6,830 (+7)
  • Total Beta (B.1.351) cases: 405
  • Total Gamma (P.1) cases: 35 (+1)
  • Total Delta (B.1.617.2) cases: 43 (+5)
  • Percent of new cases with variant/mutation in last 30 days: 45 per cent
  • Total variants of concern/mutation cases: 9,117 (+8)
  • Deaths linked to variants/mutations: 101

*OPH notes that that VOC and mutation trends must be treated with caution due to the varying time required to complete VOC testing and/or genomic analysis following the initial positive test for SARS-CoV-2. Test results may be completed in batches and data corrections or updates can result in changes to case counts that may differ from past reports.

COVID-19 CASES IN OTTAWA BY AGE CATEGORY

  • 0-9 years old: Zero new cases (2,299 total cases)
  • 10-19 years-old: One new case (3,572 total cases)
  • 20-29 years-old: One new case (6,234 total cases)
  • 30-39 years-old: Three new cases (4,246 total cases)
  • 40-49 years-old: Zero new cases (3,649 total cases)
  • 50-59 years-old: One new case (3,332 total cases)
  • 60-69-years-old: One new case (1,962 total cases)
  • 70-79 years-old: Zero new cases (1,095 total cases)
  • 80-89 years-old: Zero new cases (856 total cases)
  • 90+ years old: Zero new cases (520 total cases)
  • Unknown: Zero new cases (3 cases total)  

CASES OF COVID-19 AROUND THE REGION

  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit: Zero new cases
  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health: Two new cases
  • Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health: Zero new cases
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit: Zero new cases
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit: Three new cases

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