Daniel Coombs, an epidemiologist the University of British Columbia, said he’s surprised to see the presence of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island, which has had relatively limited spread of the virus.
The virus that causes COVID-19 has been mutating throughout the months of the pandemic but this new variant, called B.1.1.7, has been mutating quicker than expected. It has multiple spike protein mutations that have made it 70 per cent more transmissible than previous variants, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Coombs said it remains to be seen how the new variant will affect B.C.’s R rate, which is the number of people to whom one infected person will pass on the virus.
The U.K. government said last week the new variant could increase the virus reproduction R rate by 0.4, from 1.1 to 1.5. B.C.’s R rate is currently 0.9.
Coombs said the R rate is determined by how contagious the disease is and the behaviour of people, so public health measures like social distancing and a ban on social gatherings can keep transmission down.
B.1.1.7 was spreading for months in the U.K. undetected, Coombs said. Canada, he said, has the benefit of more knowledge and research to influence individual behaviour and government policies.
He also pointed out that B.C.’s daily COVID-19 case numbers have been trending downward, which has not been the case in the U.K.
“It does remain to be seen if it will spread more rapidly in Canada or in B.C.” Coombs said.
The variant has caused record numbers of COVID-19 infections in the United Kingdom, and Canada has put in place a ban on all flights arriving from the U.K.
However, the variant has spread to other European countries, as well as Australia and Japan, and without a wider ban on international flights, it will likely continue to spread in Canada, Coombs said.
If the U.K. strain does prove to be highly transmissible in Canada, it will mean the process of vaccinating enough people to stop the spread of COVID-19 will take longer, Coombs said. That could mean the country will need at least 70 per cent of the population to receive the virus to create herd immunity, he said.
B.C.’s Ministry of Health has not announced new COVID-19 restrictions in light of the presence of the new variant.
Alberta adds 12 COVID-19 deaths, falls under 10K active cases for first time since mid-November – CTV Edmonton
Alberta’s active COVID-19 case count fell below 10,000 on Friday for the first time in more than two months as the province reported 643 new cases and 12 more deaths.
The deaths bring the number of coronavirus fatalities to 1,512. Active cases total 9,987, the lowest count since November 14.
Hospitalizations continue a general downward trend as the number of COVID-19 patients fell by 40, to 691. The number of patients in intensive care units fell by four to 115. It’s the first time the province has had fewer than 700 coronavirus patients in hospital since Dec. 7.
The province administered 13,019 tests with a 4.97 per cent positivity rate.
More than 97,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to Albertans.
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, will return for an in-person update on Monday.
COVID-19 Bulletin #322 – news.gov.mb.ca
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B.C. looking into possibility of mixing and matching, further delaying COVID-19 vaccine doses – CTV News Vancouver
B.C. announced its full COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan through September on Friday, and while it relies on regular shipments of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, officials are looking into the safety of mixing doses between the two.
Dr. Bonnie Henry explained during a morning news conference about vaccine rollout that discussions have been ongoing across the country, especially after a recent delay in Pfizer shipments.
The top doctor said Canadian health officials are in contact with their counterparts in the U.K., where some second doses of the vaccine are being delayed by as much as three months.
“We’re trying to understand the impact that has on effectiveness of the vaccine,” she said.
Henry said there has been “some permissive language” around using the same type of vaccine. In other words, she explained, because both Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines, there’s a better chance they could be interchangeable.
“But that is a last resort. It’s only if the original vaccine is not available,” she said. “We’re still looking at the best advice on that and whether it’s better to delay the second dose for longer or to provide the second dose with the alternate product.”
One example scenario Henry gave is if an individual is at the 42-day mark after receiving their first Pfizer dose but there is no longer any Pfizer vaccine available, health officials are discussing what they would do in that instance.
“We would have to make a decision about whether we use available doses of Moderna or whether we extend and wait for Pfizer to become available. So that’s the situation we’re not yet in, but that we may be facing,” she said.
“Right now we don’t have good information to inform one or the other of those decisions.”
Henry said there is little data on the matter right now, but added there’s been weekly discussions on the topic with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, with another call planned for this weekend.
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