Toronto Mayor John Tory has joined a chorus of Canadian politicians in urging Pfizer-Biotech to produce more COVID-19 vaccine.
Tory followed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, among others, in speaking directly to executives from the pharmaceutical multinational. Tory said he wanted to make a constructive case after the company said it would not be able to fulfil next week’s order to the federal government.
“The best way to go about these kinds of conversations is to make your case as a Canadian, which I did, and as the mayor of the largest city in the country, and to try to make Canada’s case,” Tory said.
Tory said he knows members of Pfizer’s management team from his previous career as a business executive, and that he reached out to them in concert with the federal government.
“I’m trying to help the country’s efforts to try to see if we can’t get more supply,” the mayor said. “I can’t tell you what results my intervention, or anybody else’s, will have.”
Toronto has had to shut down its two vaccination programs until the federal government provides more doses to the city’s public health unit.
An immunization clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre closed after two days of inoculating front-line health care workers. The city also paused a pilot in shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s chief medical officer, said everyone’s frustrated with the shipping delay, because the vaccine offers people hope.
“Having it slowed down and having the change in course is not what we wanted,” De Villa said. “But we expect there will be eventually vaccine coming available and we’ll do our very best.”
De Villa said there were 986 new cases of COVID-19 in Toronto on Thursday and 10 more deaths linked to the virus. The update included 102 cases from earlier in the week that had previously gone unreported because of a technical error.
Councillor Joe Cressy, chairman of the Toronto Board of Health, joined Tory and De Villa at the Thursday afternoon news conference. All three detailed the city’s ongoing efforts to support racialized communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
Toronto, Ontario Health, hospitals, and community health providers have been working to improve access to testing in those neighbourhoods. Toronto reports nearly 271 testing clinics have been booked in more than 20 different city-owned facilities, with 89 more dates to come in January at 12 different sites.
Trudeau’s conversation with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Thursday came the same day the company informed Canada delays to its shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are going to be even worse than previously thought.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander now overseeing the vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said last week a factory expansion at Pfizer’s Belgium plant was going to slow production, cutting Canada’s deliveries over four weeks in half.
In exchange, Pfizer expects to be able to ship hundreds of millions more doses worldwide over the rest of 2021.
Tuesday, Fortin said Canada would receive 80 per cent of the previously expected doses this week, nothing at all next week, and about half the promised deliveries in the first two weeks of February.
Thursday, he said the doses delivered in the first week of February will only be 79,000, one one-fifth of what was once expected. Fortin doesn’t know yet what will come the week after, but overall, Canada’s doses over three weeks are going to be just one-third of what had been planned.
Fortin said some provinces may be hit even harder than others because of limits on the way the Pfizer doses can be split up for shipping. The vaccine is delicate and must be kept ultra frozen until shortly before injecting it. The company packs and ships specialized coolers, with GPS thermal trackers, directly to provincial vaccine sites.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said earlier this week he doesn’t blame the federal government for the dose delays but wanted Trudeau to do more to push back about it.
“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives.
Trudeau informed Ford and other premiers of the call with Bourla during a regular teleconference to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Until Thursday, all calls between the federal cabinet and Pfizer had been handled by Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Ford also spoke to Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow Wednesday.
Trudeau didn’t suggest the call with Bourla made any difference to the delays, and noted Canada is not the only country affected.
Europe, which on the weekend thought its delayed doses would only be for one week after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to Bourla, now seems poised to be affected longer. Italy is so angry it is threatening to sue the U.S.-based drugmaker for the delays.
Mexico said this week it is only getting half its expected shipment this week and nothing at all for the next three weeks. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also reported delays getting doses. Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said more countries were affected but wouldn’t say which ones.
Fortin said Pfizer has promised to deliver four million doses to Canada by the end of March and that is not going to change with the delay. With the current known delivery schedule, the company will have to ship more than 3.1 million doses over 7 1/2 weeks to meet that commitment.
Deliveries from Moderna, the other company that has a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada, are not affected. Canada has received about 176,000 doses from Moderna to date, with deliveries arriving every three weeks.
Moderna has promised two million doses by the end of March.
Both vaccines require first doses and then boosters several weeks later for full effectiveness. Together Pfizer and Moderna intend to ship 20 million doses to Canada in the spring, and 46 million between July and September. With no other vaccines approved, that means Canada will get enough doses to vaccinate the entire population with two doses by the end of September.
Is a single COVID-19 vaccine dose enough for those previously infected? – Global News
A new letter by two Canadian experts published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) last week stated that with a 92.6 per cent efficacy, the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine was “highly protective.”
During a news conference on Feb. 18, Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that according to early data, the indicators are that there is a “good level of protection” after just one dose.
How COVID-19 vaccination plans are evolving in Quebec, Ontario
France’s health authority, H.A.S., has gone one step further in recommending that everyone who has been previously infected with COVID-19 receive a single shot, instead of the two-dose regimen prescribed by vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna.
The recommendation made on Feb. 12 says the single booster shot should be given three to six months after COVID-19 infection.
The reasoning, according to H.A.S., is that people who have had a confirmed infection should be considered protected for at least three months by post-infection immunity, whether the disease was symptomatic or not.
“It is an interesting approach to take,” said Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
“And you would expect that natural immunity will give you .. a more broad response (than the first dose) because it is the original virus that is causing it.”
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 80-90% effective after 1st dose
A spokesperson for H.A.S. told Global News that the French health minister has yet to make a decision on the recommendation. For now, France is giving two shots for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.
Amid shortages in vaccine supplies and a rush to control the pandemic, some experts say this strategy is worth considering as it could potentially save precious doses.
Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of infectious diseases at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said a single dose of vaccine in someone previously infected is “reasonable while we continue to have a short supply of vaccine globally.”
Two small studies in the United States by Mount Sinai and the University of Maryland showed a single dose in people who had COVID-19 provided at least the same amount of protection as two shots in people who haven’t been infected. The data has not yet been peer-reviewed.
“You could treat getting COVID-19 as like getting your first dose of vaccine,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.
A single dose could serve as a booster to get the “prime long-term response,” he told Global News.
“You could definitely save on vaccine supply with these mRNA vaccines by only giving those individuals a single dose moving forward.”
Some Canadian provinces have decided to delay giving the second dose, which some experts have called a “risky approach” and “a gamble.”
Last week, New Brunswick health officials said the province will delay the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those who are considered to be at a lower risk.
In mid-January, Quebec announced that it was pushing the time between the two doses to a maximum of three months in an attempt to vaccinate more seniors faster with a first injection.
Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna propose intervals of 21 and 28 days, respectively.
Why is Health Canada taking so long to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine?
In its recommendation for the previously infected, France’s H.A.S. says people who have proven immunosuppression, which makes them more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 illness, should be given the two doses.
It also says people who catch the virus in the days after a first dose is given should not receive a second shot within the usual timeframe, but within three to six months after infection.
According to the data from the clinical trials, Pfizer’s vaccine, which is 95 per cent effective, can offer partial protection as early as 12 days after the first dose.
Kao said the immediate protection after the first dose and second dose is quite similar.
However, it still remains to be seen what the long-term immune response will be after the first dose.
“We really don’t know how long that protection is going to last,“ said Kao.
“The second dose is really there to give you that long-lasting immunity.”
Quebec public health experts support delaying second COVID-19 dose
Data analysis by Canadian experts published in the NEJM found a 68.5 per cent vaccine efficacy beginning seven days after Pfizer’s first dose and a 92.6 percent efficacy two weeks after a single shot.
Based on the evidence so far, Chagla says it is premature to roll out the single-dose strategy on a wide scale and that more research was needed on that front.
“If you could prove that works, you really do save a significant amount of vaccine … and you really can change your vaccine strategy almost overnight if you can implement something like that.”
— With files from Global News’ Linda Boyle
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
OPEC Considers Production Increase At March Meeting – OilPrice.com
OPEC+ will discuss the possibility of increasing its oil production levels at the next meeting, OPEC+ sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
The group is set to meet on March 4, where it will discuss raising output as much as a half a million barrels per day starting in April, the sources said.
OPEC+ members are currently suppressing oil production by more than 7 million barrels per day, but with oil prices now on the rise and the markets getting the idea that the market could be tightening, OPEC+ may consider loosening the reins.
The last Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee Meeting of OPEC+ met in the first week of February ended without many surprises. For the month of February, another 75,000 bpd was added to the quotas—65,000 bpd to Russia and 10,000 bpd to Kazakhstan. For the month of March, production quotas were eased again by another 75,000 bpd—again to Russia (65,000 bpd) and Kazakhstan (10,000 bpd).
But Saudi Arabia had announced in January that in February and March, it would voluntarily cut an additional 1 million bpd from its quota.
Saudi Arabia has not committed to cutting this additional million barrels beyond March, so it’s very possible that this OPEC+ meeting will end with an additional 1.5 million barrels added into the mix: an additional 500,000 bpd added to the production quotas, and an additional million bpd from Saudi Arabia.
The oil markets have improved in recent weeks, with crude oil inventories in the world’s most visible oil market, the United States, finally returning to its five-year average. The price of Brent oil has rebounded to more than $67 per barrel, with WTI traded above $63 as of Wednesday afternoon. This is the highest level oil prices have seen in over a year.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.
Potential COVID exposure at multiple businesses and on Halifax Transit routes – HalifaxToday.ca
Nova Scotia Health Public Health is advising of potential exposure to COVID-19 at one location in Western Zone, four locations in Central Zone and various Halifax Transit routes. In addition to media releases, all potential exposure notifications are listed here: http://www.nshealth.ca/covid-exposures.
Anyone who worked at or visited the following locations on the specified dates and times should immediately visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.
Regardless of whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms, those present at the following location on the named date and time are required to self-isolate while waiting for their test result. If you get a negative result, you do not need to keep self-isolating. If you get a positive result, you will be contacted by Public Health about what to do next.
- Callister’s Country Kitchen (7076 Highway 1 Coldbrook) on Feb. 15 between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 1.
- Hop Scotch Dinner Club (1537 Barrington St, Halifax) on Feb. 19 between 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
For the following locations, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate while you wait for your test result. If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result.
- Bishop’s Cellar (1477 Lower Water St, Halifax) on Feb. 19 between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
- Sobeys Timberlea (65 Market Way Ln, Timberlea) on Feb. 21 between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 7.
- Superstore Sackville (745 Sackville Dr, Lower Sackville) on Feb. 21 between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 7.
Various Halifax Transit bus routes:
- Route 159 Portland Hills from Portland to Scotia Square on Feb. 18 between 5:30 p.m. between 6:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 4.
- Route 61 Auburn/North Preston from Portland to Scotia Square on Feb. 18 between 5:30 p.m. between 6:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 4.
- Route 14 Leiblin Park from Scotia Square to Mumford on Feb. 18 between 5:30 p.m. between 6:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 4.
- Route 1 Spring Garden from Mumford to Scotia Square on Feb. 19 between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
- Route 159 Portland Hills from Scotia Square to Portland on Feb. 19 between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
- Route 61 Auburn/North Preston from Portland to Scotia Square on Feb. 20 between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 6.
- Route 14 Leiblin Park from Scotia Square to Mumford on Feb. 20 between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 6.
Do not go directly to a COVID-19 assessment centre without being directed to do so. Please book an appointment online and do not go to a pop-up rapid testing location.
Currently, anyone who traveled outside Nova Scotia or PEI is expected to self-isolate alone for 14 days after arriving. If a person returning from non-essential travel outside Nova Scotia or PEI is unable to isolate alone, then everyone in the home where they are self-isolating will have to self-isolate as well.
When Nova Scotia Health Public Health makes a public notification it is not in any way a reflection on the behaviour or activities of those named in the notification.
All Nova Scotians are advised to continue monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and are urged to follow Public Health guidelines on how to access care. Up to date information about COVID-19 is available at novascotia.ca/coronavirus
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