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Top doctor says COVID-19 infections among younger people rising in B.C. – The Tri-City News

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VICTORIA — An increasing number of younger people in British Columbia are becoming infected with COVID-19 and some are dying, just as vaccines are protecting older populations, the provincial health officer said Monday.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said younger patients who are ending up in intensive care units need more time there, in part because of clusters of cases in some communities.

“We saw that with some of the outbreaks that were happening in First Nations communities where people at a younger age were much more likely to need hospitalization or critical care. And sadly, where we’ve seen younger people die from the virus.”

COVID-19 is spreading through crowded households and workplaces as cases rise among people between the ages of 20 and 39, and up to age 59, Henry said.

“With a higher number of people in that age group being affected, the probability that somebody is going to end up in hospital at a younger age goes up,” she said, adding some people who have been hospitalized have underlying health conditions.

Indoor gatherings, even with people having minimal contact, should be avoided as the variant first identified in the United Kingdom becomes more prevalent, transmitting COVID-19 easily as it spreads, Henry said.

“The only safe place for us to gather now in our small groups, with our friends and families, is outside,” she said of her public health order limiting gathering numbers to 10 and among people who must stick to the same group.

“I’m calling on all of us again to go back to our basics. This is not the time to be getting together even with a small group of friends. This is not the time to have that wedding. Put it off. Put it off to the summer and we will be a different place, a post-pandemic place.

“We are seeing things increasing, whether it’s the end of our second wave or the beginning of the third, it is worrisome.”

The province has recorded 1,785 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday, including 166 more cases of variants of concern, predominantly the one first identified in the United Kingdom. 

Another 16 people have died, for a total of 1,437 deaths since the pandemic began.

Henry said establishments hosting weddings and similar events will be held accountable for putting their employees and others at risk.

She also called on businesses to continue having safety plans in place regardless of whether owners or employees have been vaccinated.

“It takes time for that to come into effect. And it takes time when we have this much transmission in our community,” she said, adding businesses with ongoing transmission could be closed for at least 10 days.

“For all of us, don’t let up now. And if you are blatantly disregarding those public health orders, there are ramifications for that.”

Health officials have been meeting with religious leaders to finalize plans for the resumption of outdoor services with an announcement expected in the coming days, Henry said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said about 540,000 doses of vaccine have been administered as the province uses the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to prioritize workers most at risk of contracting COVID-19 while its parallel age-based plan is ahead of schedule.

People in their 70s are currently eligible to book appointments.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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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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