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Vaccine should protect against new virus variant, Henry says – The Daily Courier



A new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has not yet been detected in B.C. or anywhere in Canada, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says.

And she said that research so far indicates that COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the new variant of the coronavirus.

“These changes don’t seem to cause more severe disease and don’t seem to interfere with the ability of vaccines to give people protection,” Henry said Monday.

Vaccine shipments have now been made to all health regions across B.C. and inoculations in areas outside the Lower Mainland will begin shortly, Henry said.

The new variant, which has prompted many countries, including Canada, to temporarily shut down air travel with Great Britain, appears to have changes that can quicken its spread, Henry said.

“It does seem to mean that the virus can transmit more easily,” she said. “That’s something we’re trying to figure out and understand.”

The shut-down of air travel between Canada and the U.K. will give scientists here time to fully assess whether the new variant of COVID-19 has spread to this country, Henry said.

“We want to get a better handle of where this might have been, and what measures we need to take to ensure that it doesn’t get introduced and spread widely here in Canada,” she said.

From Friday through Monday, a total of 1,667 new cases of COVID were confirmed across B.C., including 189 in the region served by Interior Health. Total case counts in B.C have now topped 47,000, with the vast majority of those who were infected having recovered.

However, 41 more deaths, mostly elderly people who had been in long-term care homes, were reported between Friday and Monday, making the toll since the onset of the pandemic 713.

A total of 341 people are currently being treated in B.C. hospitals for COVID-19, with 80 patients in intensive care.

Seven of the deaths announced Monday were in the Interior Health region, bringing the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in this part of the province to 17.

“Today is our most tragic report since the beginning of this devastating pandemic,” IH president Susan Brown said. “Some passed peacefully in long term care while others were in hospital.”

Four more COVID-19-related deaths at McKinney Place were reported Monday.

That lifted to seven the total number of fatal cases at the Oliver long-term care home since Dec. 15, according to Interior Health.

The agency also announced the total number of cases had increased to 73 – including 53 residents and 20 staff – up from 56 as of Friday.

Interior Health said previously the relatively open design of the dated facility, which had 61 residents as of Dec. 11, has contributed to spread of the virus.

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COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while BC cases decrease – Nanaimo News Bulletin – Nanaimo News Bulletin



Dr. Bonnie Henry is calling it a precipice, a plateau from which the novel coronavirus could spring upwards, or decline.

New cases in B.C. have hovered around 500 per day, but on Vancouver Island, numbers have anything but plateaued.

While B.C. is showing a gradual decline in new cases, Island Health is smashing through new highs weekly. The Island took 10 months to reach 1,000 cumulative cases. Three weeks later, that total has already reached 1,458.

What’s behind the exponential increase? Vancouver Island’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Richard Stanwick isn’t sure.

But whatever the cause, the Island is seeing double digit case counts every day in January. The region has registered 25 or more new cases 11 times. Ten of those totals came in the past three weeks.

Contact tracing teams have gone all out — as of Jan. 26, the region had 753 people isolating after being identified as close contacts, and 217 people confirmed as positive. Total cases are still manageable, hospitals are not at capacity.

In fact, Vancouver Island has been able to offer support to Northern B.C., an area that is bursting at capacity for beds.

Most of the current Island cases are within the Central Island region, between the Nanaimo hospital outbreak, some school exposures, and Cowichan Tribes which has had more than 150 cases. The First Nation’s membership is sheltering in place until at least Feb. 5.

Indigenous people are four times more likely to experience the worst effects of COVID-19, Stanwick said.

“This is open to speculation as to why, whether they are under-housed, or a is there a propensity to it? The simple fact is unfortunately they are more vulnerable to the effects,” Stanwick said.

It’s one of the reasons First Nations communities are included in priority vaccinations along with long-term care and assisted living residents and workers.

RELATED: Cowichan Tribes confirms first death from COVID-19

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

“The good news is that we have finished immunizing all long-term care clients who have wished to be immunized as of [Jan. 24], and are working hard to complete all of our assisted living by mid-week,” Stanwick said.

But we’re far from out of the woods, even with positive first steps.

“It’s only the first dose they’ve gotten, and this is where I cross my fingers and my toes. It takes 14 days to get a good immune response mounted by the body. So we’re still vulnerable for two more weeks. There is a possibility we could still see outbreaks in our long-term care and assisted living facilities.”

The First Nations Health Authority has set a goal of delivering vaccinations to all First Nations on the Island by the end of March. That process is well underway.

What really worries Stanwick is the rising number of people who have no clue where they contracted the virus. It makes contact tracing nearly impossible, and makes it a lot harder to control the spread.

Take the U.K. variant for example; one Central Island resident caught it while travelling. They passed it to two others, but all three people followed quarantine rules and the strain died there.

The South African variant — which has not yet been found on the Island — is of unknown origin at this time.

“It’s when it surprises us that’s where we worry the most,” Stanwick said.

Vancouver Island’s positivity rate is another concern. Dr. Henry regularly says the goal is to keep it at 1 per cent or below, but the Island is almost at 4 per cent right now.

“We’re still looking at a few months out for wide vaccinations. We are so close, I’d hate to see us backslide into the same situation as the U.K., going into full lock down,” he said.

“The orders [Dr. Henry] puts in place have worked. They’ve gotten us where we are, we’ve just got to hang in a little longer.”

In the meantime, Stanwick said Vancouver Island Health Authority is assigning environmental health officers to identify places where standards are not being met. It’s not a hunt to issue fines, he said, but an effort to help people understand what Work Safe requirements are. However, they are issuing fines to people unwilling to comply.

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Central Island continues dominating COVID-19 case counts, active cases dip across B.C.



There is a data discrepancy between Island Health and the province, based on the timing of COVID-19 results. NanaimoNewsNOW reports local verified data from Island Health.

A joint statement released by the provincial health officer and health minister revealed 407 new COVID-19 cases across B.C.

There number of active COVID-19 cases dropped by more than 130 to 4,260 cases are considered active in the province, a drop of 132 from the day prior.

Hospitalization rates dipped slightly, while people receiving intensive care rose by three to 71.

An additional 14 people passed away due to COVID-19 for a total of 1,168 since the pandemic began.

“Our greatest source of transmission comes from when we spend time with those outside of our household, work or school bubble. That is why staying small and equally important, avoiding all unnecessary travel, is what we need to do right now,” the joint statement read.

It announced 122,359 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., of which 4,105 are second doses.

On Twitter: @NanaimoNewsNOW

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How other provinces are rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine – CTV News Winnipeg



Manitoba public health officials are expected to release a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan Wednesday, which could include a timeline for when the general population can expect a jab.

“If you know there is a plan and you know how it’s going to roll out, it gives you a lot more confidence,” said Health Sciences ICU physician Dr. Dan Roberts.

The rollout in other provinces may provide some clues as to what Manitobans can expect.

British Columbia released its four-phase plan last week. Like Manitoba, health-care workers, long-term care residents and Indigenous people in remote and isolated communities are first priority.

Phase 2 includes people who are over 80 and weren’t immunized in the first phase, Indigenous people over 65, and vulnerable populations who lives in group settings.

Phases 3 and 4, which are expected to begin in April, include mass immunizations and is based largely on age.

Ontario has released a three-phase plan. 

Phase 2 is expected to begin in March and opens the eligibility to essential workers and people with chronic health conditions. The Ontario government plans to begin vaccinating the general public in August.

The Manitoba government said it would have released a schedule soon if it wasn’t for the pause in vaccine shipments affecting the entire country.

“The delay (in the rollout) was so we had time to review and make sure nothing in our plan would be disrupted,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, Manitoba’s COVID-19 Task Force Medical Lead on Monday.


Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said despite the delay, the province could have provided more details.

“(Determining) what week and which month we can expect, under the conditions is very difficult. But what stands out with Manitoba is that is has defined (Phase) one and nothing beyond that,” said Bowman.

Roberts also would have liked to see more information out sooner

The Winnipeg physician has been pushing the province for more transparency on the rollout and said he had a meeting with the new minister of health and seniors care Heather Stefanson last week.

This past weekend Roberts toured the vaccine super site at the RBC Convention Centre. 

“I was very relieved to hear the actual details of the plan they’re putting together and they actions they were taking.” 

“At the end of the meeting they asked me for advice, I said, ‘provide some transparency.’ The medical community and the public need to hear what you’re doing to doing. They’re anxious to see this government get on a solid footing, to start over again and roll out the vaccine in a timely fashion,” he said. 

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