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Vaccination no-shows: Why are thousands of appointments going unfilled? – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Vaccinate and vaccinate quickly — those are public health orders across the country.

But in a rollout plagued with confusion, doses have gone unclaimed in some instances despite the urgency and calls from doctors for vaccines to be opened up to workplace hotspots and essential workers.

Last weekend, in Montreal alone, 5,000 appointments were left unfulfilled.

The province called it frustrating, and says it will soon open up eligibility to more groups.

“All those essential workers will have the plan tomorrow as to how that will evolve,” Christian Dube, the province’s Minister of Health, told reporters on Tuesday.

The no-shows are happening all over Canada. Last week, city staff in Toronto were urging people to claim the 7,000 appointments that were still open for the week.

Some experts blame government messaging for the empty appointment slots.

Dr. Amit Arya says confusing rules that often change from region to region and shifting policies around the AstraZeneca vaccine are contributing to the difficulty, and these are challenges government officials need to overcome with better communication.

“It is the biggest public health intervention of our lifetime, actually, the COVID-19 vaccine,” Arya said.

He added that impersonal mass vaccination centres are also among the barriers keeping some away.

Having family physicians on the vaccination front line could help those who are afraid that a vaccine centre won’t address their concerns, he suggested.

“They are not anti-vaxxers or vaccine hesitant, there are just simple questions people want answered in a culturally safe [way], language specific questions they want answered in a respectful way [such as] is it safe to take this vaccine with my medication,” he explained.

With conflicting information on eligibility and other factors bombarding Canadians, it can lead to anxiety around the process.

Especially when scheduling glitches occur.

Beth Moscovic is someone who knows this firsthand. She was eligible for the vaccine, but only until Tuesday according to a special pilot program in a Montreal neighbourhood.

“I had an appointment, but I had booked an appointment at another location last week but I kinda got cold feet and I cancelled it,” she said.

When she showed up for her new time slot on Tuesday, the system had incorrectly registered her as having had a shot already, causing delays.

In other regions, such as Ontario’s Huron-Perth, officials have reported an uptick in people “shopping around” for specific vaccines, making numerous appointments and slowing down the process for others.

Setbacks like these ones are proving costly in the race against variants.

Many essential workers say they are more than willing and anxious to fill empty slots. Moving essential workers farther up the list is something doctors and experts have endorsed, particularly as cases rise due to workplace outbreaks.

A pharmacist in Toronto took matters into his own hands and moved teachers like Jeff Stevens to the front of his line — no appointment needed.

“It is a recipe for disaster and they’re terrified, they’re terrified to go to work,” pharmacist Kyro Maseh told CTV News Toronto.

But for now, under the current rules in the region, he is only able to vaccinate teachers over the age of 55.

According to Ontario’s current plan, huge swathes of essential workers, including teachers, will not get their first shots until mid-May – and even that is on a newly announced accelerated timeline.

And B.C. finally launched its province-wide online vaccination booking system on Tuesday, months into the vaccine effort — one more example of the patchwork rollout that has residents of many provinces seemingly saying ‘no thanks.’  

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Myanmar military sentences 19 to death, says anti-coup protests dwindling

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(Reuters) – Nineteen people have been sentenced to death in Myanmar for killing an associate of an army captain, the military owned Myawaddy TV station said on Friday, the first such sentences announced in public since a Feb. 1 coup and crackdown on protesters.

The report said the killing took place on March 27 in the North Okkalapa district of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. Martial law has been declared in the district, allowing courts martial to pronounce sentences.

The military rulers who overthrew an elected government said on Friday that a protest campaign against its rule was dwindling because people wanted peace, and that it would hold elections within two years, the first timeframe it has given for a return to democracy.

Troops fired rifle grenades at anti-coup protesters on Friday in the town of Bago, near Yangon, witnesses and news reports said. At least 10 people were killed and their bodies piled up inside a pagoda, they said.

Myanmar Now news and Mawkun, an online news magazine, said at least 20 people were killed and many wounded. It was not possible to get a precise toll because troops had cordoned off the area near the pagoda, they said.

Junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the country was returning to normal and government ministries and banks would resume full operations soon.

More than 600 people have been killed by security forces cracking down on protests against the coup, according to an activist group. The country has ground to a standstill because of the protests and widespread strikes against military rule.

“The reason of reducing protests is due to cooperation of people who want peace, which we value,” Zaw Min Tun said. “We request people to cooperate with security forces and help them.”

He said the military had recorded 248 deaths and he denied that automatic weapons had been used. Sixteen policemen had also been killed, he said.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group has said 614 people, including 48 children, had been killed by security forces since the coup, as of Thursday evening. More than 2,800 were in detention, it said.

“We are humbled by their courage and dignity,” a group of 18 ambassadors in Myanmar said of the protesters in a joint statement.

“We stand together to support the hopes and aspirations of all those who believe in a free, just, peaceful and democratic Myanmar. Violence has to stop, all political detainees must be released and democracy must be restored.”

The statement was signed by the ambassadors of the United States, Britain, the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland and several other European nations.

“The suggestions from neighbouring countries and big countries and powerful people in politics, we respect them,” Zaw Min Tun said. He also accused members of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy of arson and said the protest campaign was being financed by foreign money, but gave no details.

Suu Kyi and many of her party colleagues have been in custody since the coup.

Zaw Min Tun said reports that some members of the international community did not recognise the military government were “fake news”.

“We are cooperating with foreign countries and working together with neighbouring countries,” the spokesman said.

Ousted Myanmar lawmakers urged the United Nations Security Council on Friday to take action against the military.

“Our people are ready to pay any cost to get back their rights and freedom,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted lawmakers. She urged Council members to apply both direct and indirect pressure on the junta.

“Myanmar stands at the brink of state failure, of state collapse,” Richard Horsey, a senior adviser on Myanmar with the International Crisis Group, told the informal U.N. meeting, the first public discussion of Myanmar by council members.

The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, had wanted to visit the country but said she has been rebuffed by the generals.

She said on Friday she had arrived in Bangkok, the capital of neighbouring Thailand.

“I regret that Tatmadaw answered me yesterday that they are not ready to receive me,” Schraner Burgener said on Twitter, referring to the Myanmar military. “I am ready for dialogue. Violence never leads to peaceful sustainable solutions.”

 

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Grant McCool; Editing by Nick Macfie and Daniel Wallis)

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Australia abandons COVID-19 vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

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By Paulina Duran

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.

Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination programme, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” Morrison said.

Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.

Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.

Australia’s hardline response to the virus largely stopped community transmissions but the vaccination rollout has become a hot political topic – and a source of friction between Morrison and state and territory leaders – after the country vaccinated only a fraction of its four million target by the end of March.

About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison added, noting the speed of Australia’s vaccination programme was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other nations, partly because of its low number of infections, which stand at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.

(GRAPHIC – Global COVID tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/)

 

(Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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HSBC and Huawei CFO reach agreement on document publication linked to extradition case

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – HSBC and Huawei Technologies’ Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou have reached an agreement in a dispute about the publication of documents relating to U.S. fraud allegations against her, their lawyers told a Hong Kong court.

The judge, Linda Chan, made court orders along the lines of the agreement, she said on Monday. The orders were, however, not immediately available.

The legal dispute reached the Hong Kong court last month after a British judge in February blocked the release of internal HSBC documents relating to the fraud allegations against Meng.

Meng, who has been under house arrest in Canada since being detained at Vancouver airport in 2018, is facing charges of bank fraud in the United States for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei dealings in Iran, causing the bank to violate U.S. sanctions.

Meng, who says she is innocent, was seeking the publication of documents relating to her ongoing efforts to battle extradition from Canada to the U.S.

Responding to Reuters’ request for comment on Monday, a Huawei spokesman and an HSBC spokeswoman said they had reached an agreement, but did not provide any further details.

 

(Reporting by Alun John in Hong Kong and David Kirton in Shenzhen; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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