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The Latest: Sri Lanka to buy 7 million Sputnik V doses – Bowen Island Undercurrent

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka has decided to purchase 7 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

The government says it will pay $69.65 million for the shots.

Sri Lanka aims to inoculate 14 million people out of the population of 22 million. So far, over 850,000 people have received their shots using the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Sri Lanka has received 1.2 million AstraZeneca doses out of at least 10 million it plans to purchase for $52.5 million. It has also approved China’s Sinopharm shots.

Of the 1.2 million doses, Sri Lanka got 500,000 as a donation from India and bought another 500,000. The other 264,000 came through the COVAX facility.

Sri Lanka has reported 91,017 confirmed cases including 554 fatalities.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Bolsonaro under fire as Brazil hits 300,000 virus deaths

— AstraZeneca confirms strong vaccine protection after US rift

— Hong Kong vaccination drive struggles to gain public trust

— More than three months into the U.S. vaccination drive, many of the numbers paint an increasingly encouraging picture. Seventy per cent of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and COVID-19 deaths have dipped below 1,000 a day on average for the first time since November.

— Mexican officials remain unsure about whether the supposed Russian coronavirus vaccines seized in Mexico last week are real or fake.

— The government of war-torn Syria says it will send emergency oxygen supplies to neighbouring Lebanon, which is experiencing shortages amid a surge of coronavirus infections in both countries.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has ordered at least nine city and town mayors investigated for possible charges after they reportedly jumped ahead of a priority list led by 1.7 million health workers and got injected with COVID-19 vaccine amid a shortage in supply.

President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised meeting Wednesday night with key Cabinet members that aside from the mayors, the son of an actress also got immunized. He expressed fears that the Philippines may lose the chance to get more donated vaccines arranged by the World Health Organization if its conditions would continue to be violated.

“We were told by the WHO country representative, `if you do not follow the list of priority, you might lose the assistance of the WHO,’’’ Duterte said. “It wasn’t followed because I heard even the son of an actress got it. It’s always the favoured few.”

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported to Duterte that just slightly more than 508,000 of a total 1.7 million doctors, nurses and other health workers have been immunized and added that only 1.5 million vaccine doses, all donated by China and the WHO, have arrived in the country so far.

The government program to inoculate about 70 million adult Filipinos has faced delays, supply problems, public hesitancy and widespread criticism. After health workers, the next in line of priority include elderly Filipinos and people with non-COVID-19 illnesses like diabetes and the poor.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s mask mandate will end April 10 after the Republican governor signed a bill that lays out a new timeline for lifting some of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Masks orders will remain in place for schools and gatherings of more than 50 people. Businesses can also choose to require them.

Gov. Spencer Cox signed the measure on Wednesday, the same day that vaccinations opened to all people aged 16 and older.

New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Utah have been on a downward trend since January. According to state data, more than 438,000 of the state’s 3.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated.

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The U.S. has now surpassed 30 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Coronavirus cases nationwide reached 30,001,245 on Wednesday, nearly three months after the country hit 20 million.

COVID-19 related deaths now total more than 545,000.

The new milestone comes as public health experts show cautious optimism three months into the U.S. vaccination rollout. It is believed that 70% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine and COVID-19 deaths are below 1,000 a day on average for the first time since November.

The federal government is dramatically ramping up vaccine production and several states have already expanded vaccination eligibility to people age 16 and up.

More than 124 million cases have been confirmed worldwide.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has signed legislation rewriting state laws for managing the coronavirus pandemic and future emergencies even though she believes it could hinder disaster response efforts.

The measure Kelly signed Wednesday extends the state of emergency for the pandemic until May 28 instead of letting it expire March 31. Kelly cited the extension in announcing her action.

The measure also leaves counties in charge of mask mandates and other restrictions. But in the state’s second most populous county of Sedgwick County, the county commission ended its remaining COVID-19 restrictions. Commissioners had said the measure signed by Kelly makes it more likely it would lose lawsuits over such restrictions.

The measure says anyone aggrieved by local restrictions during a pandemic or other emergency can file a lawsuit challenging them and the case must be heard within 72 hours.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas says it will be receiving only a fraction of the 100,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for COVID-19 that it had expected next week.

The state Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday that it will receive 16,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it had expected 100,000 doses.

The department said production issues mean that the promised doses might not be ready to ship to Kansas until the second or third week of April.

Gov. Laura Kelly had cited the expected arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines last week in announcing that Kansas would make eligible for inoculations all residents from 16 through 64 who have medical conditions that would put them at risk of serious complications or death from COVID-19. The state had been limiting shots to people 65 and older, along with essential workers, as part of a second phase of its vaccine distribution.

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SAO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil has reached 300,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and become the second nation to top that figure. The United States hit the same milestone on Dec. 14, but it has a larger population.

Wednesday’s coronavirus figures from the Brazilian health ministry added another 2,009 deaths to the country’s tally, which local media say is an undercount.

On Tuesday, Brazil hit a single-day record of 3,251 COVID-19 deaths and authorities fear that April could be as grim as March in the country’s overwhelmed hospitals.

Brazil added 100,000 deaths to its tally in only 75 days, a spike health experts have blamed on a lack of political co-ordination, new variants that spread more easily and a disregard for health protocols in many parts of the country.

The Associated Press

































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Transplant programs reviewing policy on recipients being vaccinated against COVID-19 – Squamish Chief

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Transplant centres in Western Canada have stopped short of requiring organ recipients to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but they say conversations about such a policy are ongoing.

Some centres in other parts of the country, including Ontario, are requiring proof of vaccination before a patient is approved for the life-saving surgery.

BC Transplant, located in Vancouver, said COVID-19 vaccination is not required to be eligible for a transplant, but programs in the province are actively reviewing it.

“The transplant programs are strongly encouraging all pre-transplant patients to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as they do with many other vaccine-preventable infections,” the agency said in a statement.

Similarly, Alberta Health Services told The Canadian Press it has long been a requirement that patients preparing for transplant have all vaccines to help maximize their chances of success post-transplant. It notes, however, it’s only a practice guideline at this point.

Saskatchewan has also not made any changes.

“Saskatchewan’s organ transplant teams are strongly supportive of all recipients and donors having COVID vaccinations, and the issue of requiring these vaccinations in recipients is actively being discussed,” Lisa Thomson, a spokeswoman for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said in a statement. 

The Ajmera Transplant Centre at Toronto’s University Health Network recently announced its decision to implement a policy that requires patients who may benefit from receiving a transplant be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before they are listed for solid organ transplant.

However, there may be exemptions for medical reasons or in cases of urgent need of a transplant.

“We all recognize that (COVID-19) is a massive, massive risk factor. The prudent and ethical thing to do to protect patients and to protect each other, and show fidelity and respect to those organ donors, is to require this (policy) to be a price of pass and go,” UHN president and chief executive officer Kevin Smith said in an interview. 

The decision to enact the policy is based on a few factors, according to the organization. 

It said transplant patients are severely immunocompromised because of lifelong treatment to prevent rejection of a new organ. If someone who is immunocompromised gets COVID-19, they are at a very high risk of being hospitalized or placed on ventilation.

Unvaccinated recipients could also pose a risk to other patients post-surgery. Transplant recipients have high health needs after their transplants and require frequent visits to a hospital. These individuals may pose a greater risk of spreading illness, should they get infected, to other immunocompromised patients in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

“Thinking about an outbreak in an environment like that would be just a massacre,” Smith said. 

Infectious disease experts noted this type of policy isn’t new.

“There’s just requirements pre-transplant in order to be eligible for listing. Some of it is complying with some of the medical measures to see if patients would be eligible,” said Dr. Dima Kabbani, an assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta. 

Kabbani added pre-transplant vaccine recommendations are already in place for hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease and influenza. 

Manitoba’s Shared Health said there is no requirement for Manitobans awaiting a transplant to be vaccinated for COVID-19, but noted patients may be required to show proof of vaccinationif there are requirements elsewhere.Kidney transplants are performed in the province while all other organ transplants take place in other provinces. 

Jessica Bailey, 35, is living with stage five kidney disease and awaiting a transplant in Saskatoon. 

The government has postponed surgeries as the province deals with a devastating fourth wave of COVID-19.

Bailey said she is not in favour of requiring recipients to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She said she is double vaccinated but believes recipients should still have the choice on whether they want the vaccine. 

She does encourage patients who may be on the fence to look at the bigger picture.

“If you can get a transplant just by getting the vaccine, go and do it. Pick and choose your battles,” Bailey said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 15, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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Health Unit Gearing Up For Flu Shot Program – ckdr.net

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With the colder months not far away, the Northwestern Health Unit is preparing for their annual flu shot program.

“The Northwestern Health Unit will begin to offer the flu vaccine in November and we will inform the public when they can start booking appointments,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kit Young Hoon. “As always the influenza vaccine will also be available at many pharmacies and from other health care providers.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada only reported 79 lab confirmed cases of influenza in 2020 compared to 54-thousand cases just the year before.

The drop is largely attributed to strong public health measures and lockdowns due to COVID-19, but officials say there could be more documented cases this year.

“Influenza vaccination were relatively high last year so we’re working off a similar assumption for this year that they will be high,” says Dr. Young Hoon. “I believe we will have enough vaccine to provide to whoever wants to be vaccinated and we’re prepping to have a relatively high rate this year.”

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U.S. to lift curbs from Nov. 8 for vaccinated foreign travelers – White House

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The White House on Friday said it will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nationals effective Nov. 8, ending historic restrictions that barred much of the world from the United States.

 Restrictions on non-U.S. citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by then-President Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries, without any clear metrics for how and when to lift them.

Curbs on non-essential travelers at land borders with Mexico and Canada have been in place since March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reuters first reported Friday’s announcement of the Nov. 8 starting date earlier in the day.

U.S. airline, hotel and cruise industry stocks rose on the news, including American Airlines, up 1.9%; Marriott International Inc, up 2.2%; and Carnival Corp, up 1.3%.

The United States had lagged many other countries in lifting such restrictions, and allies welcomed the move. The U.S. restrictions have barred travelers from most of the world, including tens of thousands of foreign nationals with relatives or business links in the United States.

The White House on Tuesday announced it would lift restrictions at its land borders and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. They are similar but not identical to requirements announced last month for international air travelers.

Unvaccinated visitors will still be barred from entering the United States from Canada or Mexico at land borders.

Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Reuters last week the United States will accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.

The White House, which held a meeting late Thursday to finalize the Nov. 8 date, still faces some remaining questions, including how and what exemptions the Biden administration will grant to the vaccine requirements. Children under 18, for example, are largely expected to be exempt from the requirements, an official said.

U.S. Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow said in a statement that the Nov. 8 date “is critically important for planning – for airlines, for travel-supported businesses, and for millions of travelers worldwide who will now advance plans to visit the United States once again.”

The White House announced on Sept. 20 that the United States would lift restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries in early November. It did not specify the date at the time.

Starting Nov. 8, the United States will admit fully vaccinated foreign air travelers from the 26 so-called Schengen countries in Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. The unprecedented U.S. restrictions have barred non-U.S. citizens who were in those countries within the past 14 days.

The United States has allowed foreign air travelers from more than 150 countries throughout the pandemic, a policy that critics said made little sense because some countries with high COVID-19 rates were not on the restricted list, while some on the list had the pandemic more under control.

The White House said last month it would apply vaccine requirements to foreign nationals traveling from all other countries.

Non-U.S. air travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding a flight, and will need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Foreign visitors crossing a land border will not need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

The new rules do not require foreign visitors or Americans entering the country to go into quarantine.

Americans traveling overseas must still show proof of a recent negative COVID-19, and unvaccinated Americans will face stricter COVID-19 testing requirements. They will also be subject to restrictions in the countries they plan to visit, which may include quarantines.

The CDC plans to soon issue new rules on contact tracing for international air travelers.

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by John Stonestreet, Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)

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