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Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario’s daily case count continues to climb with 636 new infections and two more deaths; Canada-U.S. land border set to open Monday – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

1:45 p.m.: New Brunswick is reporting 53 new cases of COVID-19 ahead of Monday’s opening of the Canada-U.S. land border.

Officials say travellers entering the province from Maine and other U.S. states will be held to new federal requirements, which include full vaccination against the disease and a negative PCR test result.

Travellers will also need to register their trips with New Brunswick online.

Officials also announced 56 COVID-19 recoveries, bringing the province’s confirmed case count to 473.

Vaccination rates in the province now sit at 85.9 per cent for eligible residents who are fully vaccinated and 92.9 per cent for those who have received at least one dose.

Fifteen patients are in hospital due to the disease, with nine of those in intensive care.

11:45 a.m.: Quebec is reporting 545 new cases of COVID-19 today and three deaths attributed to the virus.

Health officials say COVID-19-related hospitalizations dropped by two from yesterday’s numbers to 227, while the number of people in intensive care declined by one to 50.

The seven-day average for new cases stands at 558.

Of the latest reported infections, 333 were among people who were either unvaccinated or who had only received a first dose within the past two weeks.

Quebec says another 6,285 vaccine doses have been administered, most of which were given in the past 24 hours.

The province’s public health institute says about 91 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received at least one dose, while 87 per cent are considered fully vaccinated with two shots.

11:40 a.m. (updated): Ontario is reporting 636 COVID-19 cases, according to its latest report released Sunday morning, the highest daily increase in a month.

This is about 50 per cent more than last Sunday, and the most since Oct. 9 when the province announced 654 cases.

Two more deaths were also reported.

The Star’s Lloyd Quansah has more details.

10:25 a.m.: The number of new daily COVID-19 infections in Ontario continues to creep up.

There are 636 new cases and two more deaths, the province reported Sunday, with 388 cases for people who weren’t fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status; and 248 in fully vaccinated individuals.

Health Minister Christine Elliott also noted that 88.4 per cent of Ontarians, 12 years old and older, have one dose and 84.9 per cent have two doses. She said 93 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 126 people are in ICU. Not all hospitals report on weekends.

Just last Sunday there were 443 new COVID cases.

8:55 a.m. With the approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, many elementary schools around the U.S. are preparing to offer the shots, which educators see as key to keeping students learning in person and making the classroom experience closer to what it once was.

Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics on campus, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to improving access and helping overcome hesitancy — particularly in communities with low overall vaccination rates.

Still, many school systems are choosing not to offer elementary schools as hosts for vaccination sites after some middle and high schools that offered shots received pushback.

More than 250 families signed up for vaccinations that began Thursday at elementary schools in Duluth, Minnesota, which organized clinics immediately after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final signoff to Pfizer’s kid-size COVID-19 shot for children ages 5 to 11. Superintendent John Magas called the vaccines a “game changer.”

Read more from The Associated Press.

8 a.m. The southbound lanes on the road to North America’s post-pandemic recovery will finally reopen Monday as the United States ends nearly 20 months of controversial COVID-19 exile and allows fully vaccinated travellers to cross the Canada-U.S. land border.

As of midnight, non-essential traffic will resume moving in both directions for the first time since March 2020, when both countries imposed sweeping but selective restrictions in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus — the first widespread border closure since the 9/11 terrorist attacks 20 years ago.

After nearly two years, however, the excitement isn’t exactly palpable.

“We’re on the other side of this, hopefully, but if the border were to ever close again, they really need to realize that families are essential,” said Kim Patchett, who lives with her husband Barry in Saugeen Shores, Ont., west of Owen Sound on the shores of Lake Huron.

Read more from The Canadian Press.

7:45 a.m. Ann Harkness is champing at the bit to start her annual migration.

For 13 years, the retired teacher and her husband, Steve, taunted the winter freeze by packing the car up each fall and driving south to Winter Haven, Fla., from Kingston, Ont., to while away the cold Canadian months until the spring thaw tempted them home again.

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to that routine. For the first time in more than a decade, the Harknesses stayed home for the winter.

But this year, with winter fast approaching and the U.S. border finally opening to non-essential travellers Monday, Harkness and an estimated one million snowbirds like her are hearing the call of the mild again.

“We’re very excited to be able to go this year. Absolutely,” she said. “Everybody’s fully vaccinated, we’re ready to go. As soon as that border opens up.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Steve McKinley.

7:25 a.m. President Joe Biden is pushing forward with a massive plan to require millions of private sector employees to get vaccinated by early next year. But first, he has to make sure workers in his own federal government get the shot.

About 4 million federal workers are to be vaccinated by Nov. 22 under the president’s executive order. Some employees, like those at the White House, are nearly all vaccinated. But the rates are lower at other federal agencies, particularly those related to law enforcement and intelligence, according to the agencies and union leaders. And some resistant workers are digging in, filing lawsuits and protesting what they say is unfair overreach by the White House.

The upcoming deadline is the first test of Biden’s push to compel people to get vaccinated. Beyond the federal worker rule, another mandate will take effect in January aimed at around 84 million private sector workers, according to guidelines put out this past week.

If the mandates are a success, they could make the most serious dent in new coronavirus cases since the vaccine first became available, especially with the news this past week that children ages 5-11 can get the shot making an additional 64 million people eligible. But with two weeks remaining until the federal worker deadline, some leaders of unions representing the employees say that convincing the unvaccinated to change their mind is increasingly challenging.

Read more from The Associated Press.

7 a.m. As COVID-19 ravaged Hungary in April, Budapest resident Akos Sipos received his second vaccine dose, believing he was doing the right thing for his own health and to help end the pandemic.

But Sipos, 46, soon discovered that the vaccine he received, Russia’s Sputnik V, disqualified him from traveling to a number of other countries where it hadn’t been approved. The nations include the United States, which is pushing forward with a new air travel policy that will make Sipos and many like him ineligible to enter.

“I thought it’s better to get Sputnik today than a Western vaccine at some uncertain future time,” Sipos, who works as a search engine optimization specialist, said of his initial decision to receive the jab. “But I couldn’t have known at that time that I wouldn’t be able to travel with Sputnik.”

Starting Monday, the United States plans to reopen to foreign travelers who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. But there’s a catch: non-immigrant adults need to have received vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or which received an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization.

That leaves many hopeful travelers across the globe who have taken full courses of vaccines widely used in other parts of the world — Sputnik V and the China-produced CanSino jab, in particular — scrambling to get reinoculated with shots approved by U.S. authorities.

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'I was shocked': Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Vancouver Is Awesome

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WINNIPEG — A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family. 

The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.

Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.

Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.

She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”

Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.

Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five. 

Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.

Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.

“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.

“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”

Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced. 

Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor. 

For Bardarson, that’s not enough.

“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”

Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations. 

She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.

Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.

Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.

___

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

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press


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Vaccine makers could make Omicron-specific booster, says Fauci

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COVID-19 vaccine makers have contingency plans to deal with the Omicron variant that include a combination vaccine against the original version and the variant as well as a variant-specific booster dose, a top U.S. health official said on Friday.

The U.S. government is working with Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J on multiple contingency plans, infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci told reporters at a White House briefing.

“One is to rev up the production of the vaccines that they already have. The next is to make, for example, a bivalent, where you have the vaccine against both the ancestral strain and the new variant, and the other is to make a variant-specific boost,” said Fauci.

“They are now assuming they may have to do that and are being prepared for that,” he added.

Data from a National Institutes of Health study strongly suggest that existing boosters provide cross protection against a number of variants, including Omicron, Fauci said.

“Although we haven’t proven it yet, there’s every reason to believe that if you get vaccinated and boosted that you would have at least some degree of cross protection, very likely against severe disease, even against the Omicron variant.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with local authorities to investigate suspect cases of the Omicron variant in states other than those where cases have already been reported, Director Rochelle Walensky said at the briefing.

There have been cases of Omicron detected in about 40 countries, she said, but the Delta variant remains the dominant strain in the United States.

“I know that the news is focused on Omicron. But we should remember that 99.9% of cases in the country right now are from the Delta variant. Delta continues to drive cases across the country, especially in those who are unvaccinated,” she said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Dan Grebler)

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FDA adds strict safety warnings on arthritis drugs from Pfizer, AbbVie and Lilly

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The U.S. health regulator has added its strictest warning to the labels of drugs from Pfizer, Eli Lilly and AbbVie belonging to a class of anti-inflammatory treatments called JAK inhibitors, citing risk of serious health issues and death in patients 50 and over, the drugmakers said on Friday.

The addition of the warning on the labels follows the agency’s review of Pfizer’s Xeljanz after initial results from a February trial showed an increased risk of serious heart-related problems and cancer in some patients being treated with the drug.

Xeljanz, which brought in worldwide sales of $2.44 billion for Pfizer in 2020, is approved in the United States for the treatment of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease.

AbbVie’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Rinvoq and Pfizer’s Xeljanz are now recommended for use only in patients, who have had inadequate response or intolerance to one or more TNF blockers, which are another class of drugs used against inflammatory conditions.

The Food and Drug Administration’s boxed warnings on the labels of Rinvoq , Xeljanz and Lilly’s Olumiant flags the risk of cardiovascular death and stroke in high-risk patients who are aged 50 and above, and are current or past smokers.

Additional information about the risk of some types of cancer and death was also added to their labels.

The marketing applications for Rinvoq’s expanded use in atopic dermatitis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and ulcerative colitis remain under review by the FDA, AbbVie said.

 

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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