Connect with us

Health

Trudeau warns COVID-19 vaccine passports raise 'questions of fairness' – BarrieToday

Published

 on


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed caution Friday over the use of “vaccine passports,” suggesting they could unfairly impact some people if used to decide who can go to a concert or dine at a restaurant.

While Trudeau acknowledged that proof of a COVID-19 inoculation would not be out of place for travellers who already face similar requirements for other vaccines when embarking on international jaunts, he said such a scheme for everyday activities in Canada raises “questions of equity.”

He said some Canadians cannot be vaccinated because of medical conditions, and noted people who are not prioritized for shots will have to wait much longer than others.

“These are things that we have to take into account so that yes, we’re looking to try and encourage everyone to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, but we’re not discriminating and bringing in unfairness in the process at the same time,” Trudeau said while announcing Pfizer vaccine deliveries will soon reach one million doses per week and extend into early May. 

Health Minister Patty Hajdu noted discussions are underway with international partners about how vaccine passports could be used. 

She said it’s important to make sure Canada is not left behind if the world makes this a new travel requirement.

But conversations around how passports could be used within Canada are a provincial matter, said Hajdu, noting provinces already oversee similar vaccination proofs required by some schools and certain health-care settings.

“Those are all largely provincial decisions and of course they’re very difficult ones,” she said.

“But certainly I know provinces and territories are deliberating about those kinds of decisions that are coming their way as more people become vaccinated.”

Quebec officials said last month that the province was studying the possibility of a vaccine passport, prompting government critics to urge a rigorous examination of the ethical consequences.

The notion is drawing more attention as countries increasingly look towards a post-COVID world.

Israel offers a “green pass” to vaccinated citizens and those who have recovered from COVID-19 so that they can resume activities otherwise prevented by pandemic precautions.

But that country is well ahead of Canada’s vaccination rollout with more than half the population covered by two doses.

In Canada, more than 2.7 million doses have been administered so far.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said close to 600,000 doses were given out over the past week, the highest since the rollout began.

Trudeau said Pfizer’s updated delivery schedule was “going to make a big difference” in coming weeks, repeating a pledge to dramatically ramp up supply in the coming months.

He said Canada can expect to receive at least one million COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses per week from March 22 to May 10.

The influx is more than double the 444,600 doses expected next week and is on top of vaccine deliveries from Moderna, expected to bring 846,000 doses the week of March 22. 

Over the past week there has been an average of more than 3,050 new COVID-19 cases and 31 deaths reported daily. 

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said more than 2,050 patients were treated in hospital each day, including about 540 in critical care.

She added there were now close to 3,000 variants of concern cases, with the B.1.1.7. variant accounting for more than 90 per cent.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province had reached a critical stage of the pandemic as a spike in cases forced officials to move one southwestern region into lockdown Monday.

The province said the Sarnia-Lambton region would have to abide by tighter restrictions while the Northwestern Health Unit will move into the second-strictest “red” category of a colour-coded pandemic framework. 

In Saskatchewan, health officials encouraged older residents in Regina to stay home as variant cases jumped in the capital, days after the province eased a ban on household visits.

However, in Manitoba, the government announced people will be allowed to gather with friends on restaurant patios starting Saturday. The province is also going to allow household members who sit together in religious services to remove their masks, as long as they are distanced from others and are not singing.

Njoo touted the nation’s progress following a week of remembrance in which the world marked the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.

But Njoo also warned that “racing towards the finish” could cost us hard-won successes. 

British Columbia recorded its first day without a death due to COVID-19 in months. Health officials eased limits on outdoor gatherings on Thursday, and on Friday urged residents to ensure the 10 people outside don’t come indoors.  

Public opinion research published last month by the Public Policy Forum found mixed support for vaccine passports.

Research author Peter Loewen found just a slim majority of support in an online survey, and greater hesitancy over how such information would be recorded and verified.

Loewen noted appeal lies in offering increased safety for people accessing services, slower transmission of the virus and greater incentives for vaccination.

But he acknowledged questions of fairness, as well as hurdles to figuring out how to issue and verify passports.

In total, Canada has seen 899,757 cases of COVID-19, including 22,371 deaths and more than 30,670 active cases reported across the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March, 12, 2021.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs

Published

 on

By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

Continue Reading

Health

In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers

Published

 on

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.

Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.

Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”

Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.

Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.

“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”

Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.

‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.

Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.

“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.

Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.

Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.

The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.

Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.

“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

Continue Reading

Health

Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare

Published

 on

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.

“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.

The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.

Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.

Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”

Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.

($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Continue Reading

Trending