Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended pausing administration of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to those under the age of 55 due to fears of recipients getting a rare type of blood clot called vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT).
Several provinces, including Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, announced they would follow the guidance, which NACI said stems from pending investigations of VIPIT cases in Europe.
It was believed that VIPIT occurred in about one per million administered vaccines, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but a report from the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany cited potential numbers closer to one in 100,000 doses.
European cases of VIPIT have been primarily reported in women under the age of 55, with a few cases in men.
VIPIT refers to a specific type of blood clot that can stem from receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine and is different from the blood’s regular clotting mechanism or conditions like deep vein thrombosis.
“A blood clot is what you see when the blood coagulates, the platelets stop the bleeding after someone has cut themselves – it’s a response of the body to injury,” said clinical researcher and Toronto physician Dr. Iris Gorfinkel in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca Monday. “It’s really common and it’s necessary.”
“But what happens from certain disease states, and that’s one of the concerns around the AstraZeneca vaccine, is whether it will cause the blood to clot that’s not in a good way, but in a bad way that actually causes…a blood clot to develop in an area and block the blood vessel, and that blood vessel will no longer bring oxygen and nutrients to the area it’s supposed to,” Gorfinkel explained.
VIPIT symptoms usually occur between four and 20 days after vaccination and include persistent and severe headaches, seizures, blurred vision, shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain and redness in a limb, according to an advisory issued from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
The advisory states that VIPIT is very rare and it’s not known if certain patients are more likely to get the condition.
At this time the group states they “do not believe that VIPIT is more common in people who have had blood clots before, people with a family history of blood clots, people with low platelet counts or pregnant women because VIPIT does not develop through the same process as usual types of bleeding or clotting problems.”
A statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said VIPIT can have serious outcomes, but early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent that.
“Based on current evidence, for those individuals who have already been vaccinated with AstraZeneca for more than 20 days there is no cause for concern,” PHAC said. “For those who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca less than 20 days, and anyone vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine going forward, you should seek immediate medical attention in the rare event that you develop symptoms starting four days or more after vaccination.”
Some doctors are sounding the alarm over the new data.
“These are not ordinary blood clots, they can cause very serious disease in the brain and they can be fatal,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy told CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Monday.
“Even though they are extremely rare, they’re very serious and it begs an explanation, it begs an investigation to make sure that if you are going to roll it out potentially over a scale of millions and millions of people, you certainly don’t want to put them in harm’s way.”
Gorfinkel said it’s very difficult to track down the “why” of rare possible vaccine side effects like VIPIT.
“Was it just a certain population who is susceptible? Could it have been something in the shipment of those vaccines – a temperature deviation? Is it the genetic makeup of those people? Could it be related to something that’s going on in that immediate vicinity that causes a cross-reactivity with a vaccine or something they are exposed to in that area? This is what you’re talking about with rare side effects,” she said.
Gorfinkel also urged people to do research before panicking and said a lot of the answers for NACI’s decision making lies in the math.
“The numbers that we’re seeing [of VIPIT] are so far and few between that you will be very hard pressed to find a doctor who’s ever seen a case,” she said. “So consider that the World Health Organization estimates this to be one in a million. A regular doctor has maybe 1,500 patients – so how many doctors would it take to get to that million? The answer is way more doctors than I personally even know.”
Gorfinkel said that health agencies may be “worried” about the findings from the Paul Erlich Institute, but said what they “all agree on” is that blood clots are rare.
“It’s extremely rare after getting the shot…but the World Health Organization has landed squarely on the [fact that] benefits outweigh the risks, and the European Medicines Agency has said the benefits outweigh the risks, but why NACI is recommending a pause is a little more complicated and it has to do with math,” she said.
Gorfinkel said that “less than 30 per cent of all hospitalizations” and just over four per cent of COVID-19 related deaths in Canada were among those under the age of 55, which shows that is not the cohort typically dying from the disease.
Because health organizations can only give the vaccine at a certain rate due to supply chains and dosage schedules, Gorfinkel said that NACI is asking the question, “‘can we make do with the vaccines that we have for the population who is most risk right now and still get the information we need for the younger people?’”
But Gorfinkel added that the “numbers change completely” if the World Health Organization’s estimate of one in a million VIPIT cases is correct versus the Paul Erlich Institute’s one in 100,000.
“If it’s as high as one in one hundred thousand, this is where NACI is drawing the line in the sand, and saying they need to look more closely at it,” Gorfinkel said, adding that because cases of VIPIT are so few and Canada’s population so varied the question becomes: “Is that data necessarily even translatable to what’s happening here?…we cannot be sure of that.”
Gorfinkel said some of NACI’s decision making comes to down to the fact that Canada has alternatives to offer instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“NACI’s thoughtfully asking the question, ‘could we not just vaccinate with these others options?’” Gorfinkel said. “This is ultimately why we have Health Canada, why we have NACI and you know, the way it works is Health Canada is a ‘yay or nay,’ is it ‘in or out,’ and NACI does the finer details on it. And generally speaking, the provinces and territories will follow exactly what NACI suggests.”
Despite Monday’s announcement, NACI has 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 that age group.
Canada is expected to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday from the United States.
With files from CTVNews.ca writer Ben Cousins and writer and producer Ryan Flanagan
With average prices up another 14%, Swiss bank UBS warns of housing bubbles in Canada – CBC.ca
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).
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
‘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.”
Two B.C. women file constitutional challenge of vaccine card – CHEK
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.
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.
Stellantis cutting 1800 jobs at Windsor Assembly Plant – CTV News Windsor
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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