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Trudeau says first COVID-19 vaccines will face distribution hurdles in the new year –



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says some COVID-19 vaccine candidates expected in the new year will pose significant logistical and distribution challenges.

Trudeau says he hopes a viable vaccine will be available to Canadians in the spring but notes some of theinitial doseswill require special handling that could complicate distribution efforts.

“We know that some of the first vaccines to come out have extremely high degrees of logistical support necessary — things like freezers that can keep the vaccines down at -80 degrees Celsius for example, which doesn’t lend itself to mass distribution in pharmacies across the country, for example, but later vaccines that will be arriving will be able to do that,” Trudeau said Friday.

“So we have to have a very sophisticated plan to be able to roll out vaccines the right way; the right vaccines in the right place to the right people.”

Earlier this week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization outlined four key groups that should be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Trudeau said those include populations with “a high degree of vulnerability,” such as Indigenous peoples and front-line health workers.

The prime minister’s comments came as Canada recorded more than 255,000confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday, with especially alarming daily totals emerging across the country.

Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced a record-breaking 802 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. On Friday, she reported another 609 infections.

Premier Jason Kenney said the province is at “a turning point” and called on Albertans to stop having house parties.

He also said more contact tracers are being hired.

Because tracers are unable to keep up with new cases, Alberta Health Services said that starting Friday staff would only notify close contacts of infections confirmed in health-care workers, minors and those who live or work within congregate or communal facilities. Others must notify their own close contacts.

Meanwhile, Manitoba health officials increased restrictions in the southern health region, following a similar move recently in Winnipeg.

Restaurants and bars will have to close except for takeout and delivery, and capacity limits will be reduced for religious services and other gatherings.

Provincewide, Manitoba reported 242 new cases and five additional deaths, with a testing positivity rate of 9.1 per cent.

Quebec announced 1,133 new cases and 25 additional deaths while Ontario reported 1,003 new cases and 14 new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 300 cases are in Toronto, 280 in Peel Region and 125 in York Region.

And in Nunavut, the chief public health officer confirmed the territory’s first case of COVID-19 — located in the Hudson Bay community of Sanikiluaq, home to about 850 people.

Trudeau urged the nation to maintain vigilance against further COVID-19 spread, saying “this situation is serious” and now is not the time to let down our guard.

He said surging counts should remind us of loved ones we all must protect. For him, that includes his godfather and uncle Tom Walker, who has been in and out of hospital and had to be readmitted to hospital Thursday.

Trudeau also pointed to increasing evidence of aerosol spread and urged Canadians to do everything possible to reduce outbreaks before the weather turned cold.

“Winter is coming. That means we’re going to have to get into more enclosed spaces, we’re not going to be able to open windows wide in rooms, ventilation is going to become much more important. We need to remember to be careful.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2020.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story; a previous version had Alberta Health Services as Alberta Health Sciences.

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High-risk seniors to get COVID-19 vaccine first in B.C.: provincial health officer – Times Colonist



VICTORIA — Seniors in British Columbia’s long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized against COVID-19 starting in the first week of January with two vaccines, the province’s top doctor says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna will be the first to be rolled out after approval by Health Canada.

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However, Henry said only about six million doses are expected to be available across Canada until March.

“So we won’t be able to broadly achieve what we call community immunity or herd immunity, but that will come,” she said

At least two other companies, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are in the process of submitting data to Health Canada and regulatory agencies around the world in hopes of getting approval for their vaccines.

“Those ones we hope will be available sometime in the second quarter of 2021,” Henry said.

“We hope to have everybody done by September of next year,” she said of the province’s efforts through “Operation Immunize.”

“By the end of the year, anybody who wants vaccine in B.C. and in Canada should have it available to them and should be immunized.”

Henry said B.C. health officials worked with their federal counterparts Thursday on ways to facilitate the delivery of vaccines as they anticipated various challenges that could come up in the immunization process.

More details will be provided about the province’s vaccine plan next week, Henry said.

She reported 694 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, for a total of 35,422 infections in the province.

There have been 12 more deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in B.C. to 481.

Henry noted health-care workers are tired from the pandemic as everyone deals with an “anxiety-provoking time,” but that it’s important to stay “100 per cent committed” to getting through the next few months before vaccines are available.

“We know that our long-term care homes in particular are most vulnerable and we know right now it’s the biggest challenge that we are facing,” she said.

Henry has banned all indoor and outdoor sports teams for adults, saying a team in the province’s Interior recently tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from Alberta.

“What we have seen in the past few weeks to months is that 10 to 15 per cent of cases have been related to physical fitness and sports activities,” she said, an estimate based on cases that have been linked.

Most transmissions of COVID-19 among adult involved in sports have been through social activities related to the gatherings, Henry said.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.

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More COVID-19 cases discovered at Saanich Peninsula Hospital – Times Colonist



A COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital is more widespread than first thought, with more cases discovered Thursday in both staff and patients, says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

As of Wednesday, one staff member and five patients had tested positive for COVID-19 at Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

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Island Health is expected to release an update today.

The outbreak is “still confined,” but additional testing is ongoing, said Henry. The hospital remains closed to admission, but the emergency department is still operating. Patients who need to be admitted will be taken to Victoria General Hospital.

Saanich Peninsula Hospital and West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni both reported outbreaks on Tuesday.

Units involved at Saanich Peninsula included acute-care and palliative care, but given the small size of the hospital, the entire acute-care facility is under outbreak status.

The health care worker who tested positive is self isolating, while two patients were discharged to recover at home, and three were transferred to Royal Jubilee Hospital, a COVID-19 designated hospital.

On Wednesday, Island Health said it hadn’t determined whether the infections occurred in the community or in hospital. The infected health care worker did not have contact with all of the patients who tested positive.

The outbreak at West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni on Wednesday was confined to the medical-surgical B-wing.

One staff member and one patient tested positive for COVID-19. The health care worker is isolating at home, while the patient was transferred to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, one of three COVID-19 designated sites.

In both outbreaks, Island Health says it has implemented precautions, including enhanced cleaning and contact tracing, infection control, testing and personal protective equipment.

On Thursday, Island Health recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19, out of a total of 694 new cases in the province: 114 in Vancouver Coastal, 465 in Fraser Health, 10 in Island Health, 82 in Interior Health, and 23 in Northern Health.

There are now 9,103 active cases in the province, with 325 people in hospital, including 80 in intensive or critical care. The province also announced 12 new deaths on Thursday, for a total of 481 in the province to date.

Henry said Thursday that B.C. health officials are planning to begin vaccinations against the virus in the first week of January.

Henry expects the province will have two vaccines in January, February and March — one from Pfizer and the other from Moderna.

“Our planning construct is to be ready to start the first week of January and to hope to have everybody done by September of next year,” said Henry.

Initially, there will not be enough for everybody, she said. But vaccines from other manufacturers, if approved by Health Canada, are expected in the second quarter of 2021.

“So, we expect there’ll be a good lot of people who will be immunized by the summer, and through the fall next year, but by the end of the year, anybody who wants vaccine in B.C. and in Canada should have it available to them and should be immunized.”

Vancouver Coastal Health’s Dr. Ross Brown, heading the province’s vaccine program, and B.C. Centre of Disease Control experts have participated in a “table top” exercise with provincial and federal counterparts to walk through how to facilitate vaccine delivery and anticipate challenges or roadblocks, said Henry.

The vaccines will first be given to people who are most at risk from severe illness, and to health-care workers.

“We know that we will have limited amount at first, so we won’t be able to broadly achieve what we’ve been calling community immunity, or herd immunity, right off the bat, but that will come,” said Henry. “Our first priority will be to make sure that we’re protecting those who are most at risk. We know that this our seniors and elders in our communities, and long-term care homes in particular, and in hospitals, here in British Columbia.”

There are 56 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living homes — involving 958 residents and 559 staff — and eight in acute care.

Health orders ban social gatherings, require masks in public spaces and ask residents to stop all non-essential travel. There are also new restrictions on adult team sports and contact in sport for kids, on top of an existing ban on all indoor high-intensity fitness activities.

In the past few weeks, 10 to 15 per cent of new COVID-19 cases have been related to physical fitness and sport activities, said Henry.

Asked about delays in posting of new orders after they are announced, Henry said last-minute changes are sometimes needed in wording for legal reasons, and she asked people to be guided by the “intent of the orders.”

In B.C., 35,422 people have been infected with COVID-19 and 24,928 have recovered.

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B.C. to unveil COVID-19 vaccine plan next week; reports 694 new cases and 12 deaths –



B.C. health officials are reporting 694 new cases of COVID-19 in the province today, for a provincial total of 35,422 total cases of the virus since the pandemic began.

There were another 82 new cases in Interior Health, which has now had

Active cases provincewide are now at 9,103 – a new record – with 325 people in hospital, 80 in ICU.

Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, also reported 12 more deaths for the second straight day – the tenth straight day the province has seen double-digit deaths from the virus – taking the death toll to 481 people

Dr. Henry says they will unveil a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan next week, noting an emergency response committee has been set up. Yesterday, she said that the does not expect immunization to be mandatory in the province, but will be strongly recommending that workers in certain industries get the vaccine when it is available.

The first people to get the vaccine will be the most vulnerable, Henry said today, noting that includes seniors, particularly those in long term care facilities, along with health care workers.

“We know we will have limited amounts at first, so we won’t be able to achieve herd immunity right away, but that will come,” she said, noting she expects the first doses of the vaccine to arrive in the coming weeks. “For now, we must all stay strong.”

“I recognize that this sacrifice is one that all of us are taking. I know that we have seen sacrifices from people everywhere in B.C.”

Henry said the committee is currently anticipating any challenges and roadblocks that may come up so it can be addressed as soon as possible.

There are now 10,849 people isolating after being exposed to the virus, and 24,928 people are considered to have recovered – roughly 70 per cent of the total.

More to come

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