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'This is what we do': Ontario family clinics join COVID-19 vaccine campaign – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination effort took another step forward on Saturday as many family physicians in a handful of public health units began administering shots to specific members of the general public.

The ramped-up immunization drive kicked in days after the province gave the green light to start targeting residents of six public health units between the ages of 60 and 64. Family doctors were cleared to begin administering shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to eligible residents in Toronto, Peel Region, Hamilton, Guelph, Peterborough, and Simcoe-Muskoka.

As he prepared to give 40 patients their shots, at least one doctor said the acceleration of the mass inoculation effort left him “giddy” with excitement.

“This is what we do as family doctors,” said Dr. Sohal Goyal, the lead physician of a family health group in Mississauga, Ont.

“We’re excited to finally be able to contribute. And hopefully, this will mean that all family doctors will be given the opportunity across the province.”

The doctors are currently set to receive a limited supply of roughly 29,500 vaccine doses, but officials have said that figure could increase as more vaccine shipments arrive in Canada.

The Ontario Medical Association is asking residents to refrain from flooding doctors’ offices with phone calls, saying that physicians will contact patients who are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Still, Goyal said, his practice isn’t turning away unsolicited callers, but putting them on a wait list instead.

“We’re trying to look at inventory versus accommodating everyone,” said Goyal, board chair of the Mississauga Halton Primary Care Network. “I just want to protect the community.”

Goyal said he hasn’t encountered much hesitancy after reassuring patients that the AstraZeneca vaccine is both safe and effective, despite reports that some people in the European Union experienced blood clots after getting the shot.

“The question is: Do you want to get it now, or do you want to wait?” said Goyal, noting that immunization experts are urging Canadians to accept any vaccine they can get as soon as possible to reduce the burden COVID-19 places on the health-care system.

“If you talk to patients that way, most of them understand it, and they’re ready to go.”

Family doctors are well equipped to assist with the COVID-19 immunization campaign, delivering a large share of flu shots every season, Goyal said.

Some primary care providers may face challenges integrating their COVID-19 vaccination duties into their already busy practices, he said.

Public health protocols have made delivering care more complicated, and now staff will have to learn to navigate a new vaccine documentation system, he noted.

Over the past week, Goyal said he’d spent hours every night preparing to deliver his first batch of shots. For him, however, the extra effort was more than worthwhile.

“Each of these needles could potentially save a life,” said Goyal, who lost his father to COVID-19 complications in January.

“There’s things we do on a daily basis that are challenging. And this is one where you’re contributing directly to the health-care system and to these individual patients. And there’s nothing like it.”

Another pilot project offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to residents in the same age bracket in pharmacies in three public health units — Toronto, Windsor and Kingston — launched on Friday.

Ontario reported 1,468 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, as well as 11 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the latest count includes 381 new infections in Toronto, 226 in Peel and 168 in York Region.

The province reports that 676 people are being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including 282 patients in intensive care.

Elliott said 1,116,496 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario as of Friday evening.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2021.

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Exclusive-Canada’s Ontario to expand use of AstraZeneca COVID vaccine as epidemic rages

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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to people turning 40 or older this year, according to a government source.

The change will broaden access to vaccines as a third wave of infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals in Canada‘s most-populous province, and should make it easier to use doses that in some cases have been accumulating at pharmacies.

The change will be announced on Monday and go into effect across the province on Tuesday, according to the source. The vaccine has already been distributed to pharmacies but currently can only be given to people turning 55 or older this year.

Ontario announced new public health measures on Friday, promising checkpoints at provincial borders, new police powers and closing outdoor amenities, while leaving many workplaces open. The measures were widely criticized by doctors and public health experts, and the province quickly reopened playgrounds and modified the new police powers.

On March 29, Health Canada said it would review reports of serious blood clots and bleeding in a small number of people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine in other countries, and an independent panel called the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) recommended that it only be given to people 55 and older. All provinces followed that advice.

But NACI’s recommendations are not binding. Last week, Health Canada, the country’s drug regulator, said it had reviewed all available evidence and would not restrict the use of the vaccine, because its benefits outweigh its potential risks. Health Canada said at the time that NACI was reviewing its recommendations.

On Sunday, NACI’s chair told Reuters that the panel would make a new recommendation on Tuesday.

Health Canada said regulators in the UK had estimated the risk of clots to be very small, roughly four in a million people who receive the vaccine. It also said the complication was treatable. Two people have developed it in Canada, and both are recovering.

Several other countries have limited the use of the vaccine to older people. Denmark has withdrawn the shot, and Norway said on Thursday it would take more time to decide whether to resume use.

Ontario reported 4,250 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The Ontario Hospital Association said 59 patients were admitted to intensive care on Saturday, bringing the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs to 737.

Health Canada says those who receive the vaccine should seek medical attention immediately if they experience shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent belly pain, neurological symptoms like severe headaches or blurred vision, or skin bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.

 

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)

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Trudeau mobilizes federal workers to battle COVID-19 in Toronto and rest of Ontario

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he would send federal healthcare workers to help Toronto and the province of Ontario battle a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has forced shutdowns of schools and businesses.

“We are mobilizing federal healthcare workers from across government departments to deploy on the front lines in Ontario and specifically the Greater Toronto area where the situation is most critical,” Trudeau said in a video posted on Twitter.

Other provinces, especially on the Atlantic coast, are working “to determine what human resources and equipment they could free up over the coming days,” Trudeau said, adding that the federal government would cover the costs of that help.

The government will also seek to boost rapid testing, especially for essential workers, Trudeau said.

The government of Ontario, Canada‘s most-populous province and industrial powerhouse, has moved schools online and announced more stringent public health measures on Friday, including shutting the provincial borders to non-essential travel.

On Saturday, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair deployed two mobile health units to set up more hospital beds in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and the prime minister said he stood ready to send the Red Cross to staff mobile vaccination clinics in Ontario if help is requested.

Canada‘s seven-day average of new infections was 8,669, the chief medical officer said on Sunday, a 26% increase compared with the previous seven days. Ontario reported 4,250 new cases on Sunday.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

More than 48 million doses are to be delivered by the end of June, which is enough for all of Canada‘s population of some 38 million to receive at least one shot, with a total of 100 million doses expected by the end of September.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Canada has second case of rare blood clots after AstraZeneca vaccin

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(Reuters) – Canada on Saturday reported a second case of rare blood clots with low platelets after immunization with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in a week, while it said it still recommended the use of the shot.

The person who experienced the very rare event has been treated and is recovering, Canada‘s health ministry said in a statement, adding that the person lives in the province of Alberta.

Based on the evidence available, Canada still maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the potential risks, the statement said.

Canada health authorities “will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely and examine and assess any new safety concerns,” the statement said.

Canada reported a first blood clotting associated with the vaccine on Tuesday, and a day later, after a review, health authorities said they would not restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. That panel is in the process of reviewing its advice.

Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign, but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.

Amid a spiking third wave of infections, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, announced new public health restrictions on Friday, including closing the provinces borders to domestic travelers.

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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