Pfizer and BioNTech say they’ve won permission Wednesday for emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine in Britain, the world’s first coronavirus shot that’s backed by rigorous science — and a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic.
The move makes Britain one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population as it tries to curb Europe’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak.
Other countries aren’t far behind: The U.S. and the European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc. British regulators also are considering another shot made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
British media have reported that hospitals in England have been told to get ready to start doing vaccinations for medical workers as early as next week.
Pfizer said it would immediately begin shipping limited supplies to the U.K. — and has been gearing up for even wider distribution if given a similar nod by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decision expected as early as next week.
But doses everywhere are scarce, and initial supplies will be rationed until more is manufactured in the first several months of next year.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla called the U.K. decision “a historic moment.”
“We are focusing on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world,” Bourla said in a statement.
While the U.K. has ordered enough Pfizer vaccine for 20 million people, it’s not clear how many will arrive by year’s end. Adding to the distribution challenges, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. Two doses three weeks apart are required for protection.
The U.K. government says frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be first in line to get vaccinated, followed by older adults.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned “we must first navigate a hard winter” of restrictions to try to curb the virus until there’s enough vaccine to go around for the U.K.’s.
Every country has different rules for determining when an experimental vaccine is safe and effective enough to use. Intense political pressure to be the first to roll out a rigorously scientifically tested shot coloured the race in the U.S. and Britain, even as researchers pledged to cut no corners. In contrast, China and Russia have offered different vaccinations to their citizens ahead of late-stage testing.
Final tests still to be completed
The shots made by U.S.-based Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech were tested in tens of thousands of people. And while that study isn’t complete, early results suggest the vaccine is 95 per cent effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease.
The companies told regulators that of the first 170 infections detected in study volunteers, only eight were among people who’d received the actual vaccine and the rest had gotten a dummy shot.
“This is an extraordinarily strong protection,” Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s CEO, recently told The Associated Press.
The companies also reported no serious side effects, although vaccine recipients may experience temporary pain and flu-like reactions immediately after injections.
But experts caution that a vaccine cleared for emergency use is still experimental and the final testing must be completed. Still to be determined is whether the Pfizer-BioNTech shots protect against people spreading the coronavirus without showing symptoms. Another question is how long protection lasts.
The vaccine also has been tested in only a small number of children, none younger than 12, and there’s no information on its effects in pregnant women.
Canadian home sales see a record December — and a record 2020 – CBC.ca
National home sales set an all-time record in December, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Friday.
Sales were up 47.2 per cent compared to December 2019, the largest year-over-year increase in monthly sales in 11 years.
The spike in sales from November to December, 7.2 per cent, was driven by gains of more than 20 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Greater Vancouver.
It was a new record for the month of December by a margin of more than 12,000 transactions.
For the sixth straight month, sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019.
It was also a record for the entire year.
Average home price up 17%
Almost 552,000 homes traded hands over Canadian MLS systems — a new annual record. It was an increase of 12.6 per cent from 2019 and 2.3 per cent more than the previous record year, 2016.
The actual national average home price was a record $607,280 in December, up 17.1 per cent from the final month of 2019.
The CREA said that excluding Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, two of the most active and expensive markets, lowers the national average price by almost $130,000.
Many of the areas with the biggest price gains last month were in Ontario, including Belleville, Simcoe, Ingersoll, Woodstock and the Lakelands region, where prices were up more than 30 per cent from December 2019.
Areas with more modest price growth included Calgary and Edmonton, where prices rose 1.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.
TD expects sales and prices to cool
“What a fitting end to a surprisingly strong year,” TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said in a note to clients. “Relative strength in high-wage employment, record low mortgage rates, rising supply of homes available for purchase and solid demand for larger units all supported exceptional sales and price growth last year.
“Looking ahead, we’re expecting sales and prices to cool somewhat from their robust pace in the first quarter. However, December’s surprisingly strong performance makes hitting our forecast a tougher proposition.”
Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s senior economist, said in a statement that Canada faces a “major supply problem” in 2021.
“On New Year’s Day there were fewer than 100,000 residential listings on all Canadian MLS systems, the lowest ever based on records going back three decades,” he said.
“Compare that to five years ago, when there was a quarter of a million listings available for sale. So we have record-high demand and record-low supply to start the year. How that plays out in the sales and price data will depend on how many homes become available to buy in the months ahead.”
Quebec confirms it will delay second vaccine dose for CHSLD residents and staff – Montreal Gazette
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On Feb. 15, Quebec will begin vaccinating seniors ages 80 and over who live at home.
Health officials told the Montreal Gazette this week that they aren’t ready to release details about the next phase of vaccination plan.
Public health authorities say they’re closely monitoring seniors in CHSLDs who have received the first dose to make sure it’s still effective weeks later, said Richard Massé, a public health epidemiologist.
Massé defended Quebec’s decision to ignore a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Vaccination, which said if provinces delay administering the second dose due to logistical or epidemiological reasons, it should be given with 42 days of the first dose.
On Thursday, Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health, which includes the Chief Medical Officer of Health from each province and territory, also weighed in on Quebec’s plan, saying if the second dose is extended beyond 42 days, “the impact on people vaccinated must be closely monitored.”
Wife of Nunavut man who died from COVID-19 pleads with people to get vaccinated – CTV News
IQALUIT, NUNAVUT —
The wife of a Nunavut man who died from COVID-19 after contracting it in his community is urging the territory’s residents to get vaccinated.
Diane Sammurtok’s husband Luki died in December after being flown from his home in Arviat to a southern hospital.
Sammurtok called in to Arviat’s local radio station and pleaded with people to get the vaccine.
A recording of the call was played at a news conference today and broadcast over radio and television.
Speaking through tears and sobs, Sammurtok said she doesn’t want anyone to go through what she did.
Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat, had tears in his eyes as he listened and his voice shook as he addressed the media.
Savikataaq urged people to stop spreading misinformation about the vaccine and said he will get it when it’s his turn.
Vaccination clinics are underway in four Nunavut communities this week and are tol roll out in four more next week.
There are no active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.
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