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U.N. chief: time for national plans to help fund global COVID-19 vaccine effort – SaltWire Network

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By Michelle Nichols and Stephanie Nebehay

NEW YORK/GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday it is time for countries to start using money from their national COVID-19 response to help fund a global vaccine plan as the World Bank warned that “broad, rapid and affordable access” to those doses will be at the core of a resilient global economic recovery.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and its COVAX facility – led by the World Health Organization and GAVI vaccine alliance – has received $3 billion, but needs another $35 billion. It aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, 245 million treatments and 500 million tests.

At a high-level virtual U.N. event on the program, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the financing gap was less than 1% of what the world’s 20 largest economies (G20) had committed to domestic stimulus packages and “it’s roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every two weeks.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged $100 million to GAVI to help poorer countries gain access to a vaccine and Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive Alex Gorsky committed 500 million vaccine doses for low-income countries with delivery starting in mid-2021.

“Having access to lifesaving COVID diagnostics, therapeutics or vaccines … shouldn’t depend on where you live, whether you’re rich or poor,” said Gorsky, adding that while Johnson & Johnson is “acting at an unprecedented scale and speed, but we are not for a minute cutting corners on safety.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that a vaccine against the virus might be ready before the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, raising questions about whether political pressure might result in the deployment of a vaccine before it is safe.

“We remain 100 percent committed to high ethical and scientific principles,” Gorsky said.

GAVI Chief Executive Seth Berkley said that so far 168 countries, including 76 self-financing states, have joined the COVAX global vaccines facility. Tedros said this represented 70% of the world’s population, adding: “The list is growing every day.”

China, Russia and the United States have not joined the facility, although WHO officials have said they are still holding talks with China about signing up. The United States has reached its own deals with vaccine developers.

‘LONG HAUL’

World Bank President David Malpass said the pandemic could push 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021 and the “negative impact on human capital will be deep and may last decades.”

“Broad, rapid and affordable access to COVID vaccines will be at the core of a resilient global economic recovery that lifts everyone,” he said.

Guterres said that the ACT-Accelerator was the only safe and certain way to reopen the global economy quickly.

But he warned that the program needed an immediate injection of $15 billion to “avoid losing the window of opportunity” for advance purchase and production, to build stocks in parallel with licensing, boost research, and help countries prepare.

“We cannot allow a lag in access to further widen already vast inequalities,” Guterres said.

“But let’s be clear: We will not get there with donors simply allocating resources only from the Official Development Assistance budget,” he said. “It is time for countries to draw funding from their own response and recovery programs.”

U.N. Secretary-General Guterres called on all countries to step up significantly in the next three months.

Billionaire Bill Gates told the U.N. event that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had signed an agreement with 16 pharmaceutical companies on Wednesday.

“In this agreement the companies commit to, among other things, scaling up manufacturing, at an unprecedented speed, and making sure that approved vaccines reach broad distribution as early as possible,” Gates said.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – a co-host of the meeting along with Guterres, the WHO and South Africa – urged other countries to join the global effort, saying the ACT-Accelerator is the best hope of bringing the pandemic under control.

Said Merkel: “We’re in for the long haul and we need more support.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis)

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Canadian ICUs brace for COVID-19 resurgence on top of the flu – CBC.ca

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Intensive care physicians and nurses share their concerns as they brace for an influx of patients that threatens to overwhelm hospitals due to the resurgence of the coronavirus and the flu.

When Canadians successfully flattened epidemic curves during the summer, the goal was to prevent hospitals and intensive care units from facing a crush of too many patients with COVID-19 all at once. Health officials wanted to avoid what happened in hospitals in New York City, where refrigerated trailers were used as temporary morgues.

But the recent surge of new coronavirus cases in all provinces beyond Atlantic Canada has already thwarted surgery plans and led to the cancellation of surgeries such as hip replacements at one hospital in Toronto and postponements in Edmonton.

Dr. Bram Rochwerg, an associate professor at McMaster University and critical care lead at the Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, anticipates a surge of patients with COVID-19, and he worries they won’t be able to accommodate them all as more surgeries resume.

Unlike in the spring, beds and crucial staffing need to be reserved for medical and surgery patients, too. Traditionally, autumn in hospitals means scrambling for health-care workers such as nurses and respiratory therapists to backfill those sick with the cold and flu or who need to stay home to care for sick children.

“We’re all worried about it,” Rochwerg said. “You see the provincial [COVID-19] numbers creep up day by day. We see that critical care numbers [of ICU patients] creep up.”

ICU nurse Patty Tamlin prepares to work with COVID-19 patients in Toronto. Cardiac arrests in hospital are now treated as protected code blues requiring full PPE, which can be fatiguing to wear. (Byron Piedad)

The challenge, Rochwerg said, is to find a balance between adding restrictions to protect vulnerable populations such as residents in long-term care homes while preserving crucial aspects of society.

Lessons learned

Rochwerg also pointed to several lessons physicians worldwide have learned to help take better care of patients critically ill with COVID-19 during the resurgence.

“We should treat them like we would any other patient,” he said. “Sometimes, you just need [to insert] a breathing tube.”

When patients are on a ventilator, it takes the skilled hands of four to six hospital staff, including a respiratory therapist who regularly checks the breathing set up and tubing to ensure the airway is protected, as well as nurses to safely turn or “prone” them onto the stomach to improve ventilation.

WATCH | COVID-19 resurgence raises hospital capacity concerns:

There is growing concern that Ontario hospitals and ICUs, especially in Ottawa and Toronto, may not have enough capacity for COVID-19 patients after weeks of rising infections. 1:55

The importance of getting patients up and out of bed, including those on ventilators when possible, as well as excellent nursing care and other day-to-day supportive care can’t be minimized.

“Supportive care is not the sexy part of it, but it’s so crucial,” Rochwerg said.

It gives patients’ bodies time to heal themselves, he said.

Fear of flood of sick patients

Patty Tamlin, registered nurse working in critical care at a hospital in Toronto’s east end, said she’s also concerned about the coming cold-and-flu season.

“One of the biggest concerns is you may be overrun by patients,” Tamlin said.

A nurse tends to a patient suspected of having COVID-19 in the ICU at North York General Hospital in Toronto in May. It can take up to six staff to safely turn a patient on a ventilator onto their stomach. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Her message to Canadians? “Tell everyone to get their flu shot.”

In the spring, the Ontario government created more beds for patients needing long-term ventilated care at a rehabilitation hospital. Even if administrators find more space for more beds, adding temp agency nurses can only go so far, she said.

“It’s going to be a long time,” Tamlin said. “It’s fatiguing … to have this constantly on our head all the time about COVID on top of our regular work.”

Experience, though, has helped ICU staff to prepare for a resurgence of COVID-19 patients.

“The more you do something, the more comfortable you are with going in and out of a room,” for example, to perform CPR during a “protected code blue” for cardiac arrest when wearing full personal protective equipment, which can be exhausting. The masks, gowns and gloves need to be donned and removed carefully to avoid health-care workers contaminating themselves.

Dr. Eddy Fan, medical director of the Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) program at Toronto’s University Health Network, said the increase in COVID-19 cases so far is “manageable.”

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is like an artificial heart and lung machine to support the sickest patients. People with COVID-19 who were intubated at hospitals across Ontario and didn’t improve with conventional therapy were transported to Toronto General for ECMO. 

Still, Fan said, “We’re going to need to brace ourselves for another potential flood of very sick patients.”

During the spring, patients were transferred to Toronto General, but family members could not visit. Fan said cutting off patients from their relatives harmed morale not only among loved ones, but it pained people working in the hospital, too.

Dr. Eddy Fan is medical director of the Extracorporeal Life Support program and a scientist at Toronto General Hospital Research Institute. Fan said doctors now recognize how similar COVID-19 is to other viral infections, as well as some important differences. (Submitted by Eddie Fan)

But influenza season also typically brings patients with lung failure who may need ECMO.

“Their families ask questions like ‘they’re dying of the flu?'” Fan said. “COVID is no different as a viral infection. We see even young patients come with very severe lung failure requiring ECMO.”

During Toronto’s first wave of COVID-19, the team successfully treated a 22-year-old with ECMO.

While respiratory failure from COVID-19 can resemble that of the flu, doctors say the scale is much larger.

Dr. Gregory Haljan, head of Surrey Memorial Hospital’s critical care department in British Columbia, said influenza has vaccines and medical treatments to shorten symptoms and improve death rates. COVID-19 doesn’t, aside from corticosteroids for severe cases.

When Haljan and his co-authors across the Lower Mainland looked at 117 people with COVID-19 who were admitted to ICU between Feb. 20 and April 17, they found the mortality rateranged from one in six to one in 10.

In comparison, the first studies from China and Italy showed mortality rates as high as one in two or one in three.

A clinician demonstrates how to use a device applied to the finger to monitor oxygen levels over a video conference. Virtual hospitals to keep patients safe at home help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. (Women’s College Hospital)

Safety ‘our primary focus’

Haljan credited having time to prepare, Dr. Bonnie Henry’s “outstanding” leadership as the provincial health officer, the support of British Columbians, hard work and luck.

“We never got overwhelmed,” he said.

To prevent being overwhelmed, Haljan said the hospital and its health region focused on basics, including:

  • Engaging patients in the community and long-term care homes through a virtual hospital to keep patients safe at home.
  • Improving communication with centralized repositories of information to avoid mixed messages.
  • Adapting as the science changes.

“It can be a challenge in that things change very, very slowly because safety is our primary focus,” said Haljan, who works at one of the hospitals caring for among the highest volume of patients in the emergency department, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

“Research is how we keep change safe.”

Haljan said that includes research  not only on vaccines and drugs but also measuring patterns and assessing them in areas such as delivering health services.

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Flu vaccine available soon at public health clinics – Smithers Interior News

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It’s that time of the year again. Flu shot clinics are starting to be offered in the Bulkley Valley. Avoiding the flu is especially top of mind for most people as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is still being passed around.

Northwest Medical Health Officer and Acting Northeast Medical Health Officer Dr. Raina Fumerton said this year it is more important than ever to get the flu shot, not only to protect yourself but others around you and healthcare workers.

“There is no COVID vaccine yet,” she said. “But we do have a safe and effective flu vaccine and that will help to take influenza out of the mix of the respiratory season. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is important to get vaccinated against the flu.”

She is expecting more people than normal to roll up their sleeves this fall.

“People are anxious about having multiple circulating viruses around and knowing that there isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19, at least knowing that they can do something to reduce their risk of influenza and help reduce the potential for a co-infection of influenza and Covid at the same time.”

Dr. Fumerton hasn’t heard any predictions about the upcoming flu season and if it will be a banner year or not but also has not been made aware to anticipate anything unusual.

She added there are some ways to stay healthy this season.

“Aside from getting the flu shot, which I recommended anyone who is six months or older do — unless there is some sort of medical contraindication, the best way to protect yourself is get that shot, stay home if you are sick, follow all the health precautions including washing your hands.”

Beginning the week of November 2, the seasonal influenza vaccine will be available through Northern Health during flu clinics to be held in the gymnasium of Smithers Christian Reformed Church on Walnut Street. There are different days depending on age and last name. For a full list of details visit immunizebc.ca

Some pharmacies in Smithers have already started giving out the vaccine.

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Ottawa Public Health flu shot clinics open, new appointments available at 9 a.m

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OTTAWA —
Ottawa residents will be able to roll up their sleeves and get the flu shot starting today at Ottawa Public Health clinics across the city.

The health unit will also release more appointment slots for the flu shot at 9 a.m., after the first seven days were booked within 18 hours last week.

Flu shot clinics will operate by appointment-only at six locations across the city seven-days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The flu shot clinic locations are:

  • Notre-Dame-Des-Champs Community Hall, 3659 Navan Road, Orléans
  • Ottawa Public Library-Orleans Branch, 1705 Orléans Blvd., Orléans
  • Lansdowne – Horticulture Building, 1525 Princess Patricia, Glebe
  • Mary Pitt Centre, 100 Constellation Dr., Nepean
  • Chapman Mills Community Building, 424 Chapman Mills Drive, Barrhaven
  • Eva James Memorial Centre, 65 Stonehaven Drive, Kanata

All six flu shot clinic locations will be appointment only, and no walk-up appointments are available.

Last Thursday, the health unit launched the appointment system to book a slot at the six clinics for the first seven days of the flu shot clinics from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4. Nearly 10,000 people booked an appointment for the first seven days within 18 hours.

Approximately 1,500 spaces are available daily at the six flu shot clinic locations.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told reporters this week that new appointments will become available to book online starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The flu shot clinics will continue until everyone gets the flu shot that wants to get a flu shot.

Ottawa Public Health’s goal is to have 70 per cent of the population receive the flu shot this fall and winter.

For more information about the flu vaccine and to book an appointment, visit www.ottawapublichealth.ca/flu

Source:. – CTV News

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