TORONTO — Ontario is developing a web portal for booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments when mass immunization is underway, but experts said Monday that more details of the province’s plan are needed to ensure vulnerable residents don’t fall through the cracks.
The Ministry of Health said Monday that Ontario is developing an online site for vaccine appointments, while a customer service desk will also eventually be available for those not comfortable using the web portal.
A spokeswoman said the scheduling software was launched “in pilot mode” in January and work is underway to have more of it in use at the end of February or in early March.
“These processes ‘front-end’ the scheduling system … to provide a path to booking an appointment based on the province’s eligibility framework,” said Alexandra Hilkene, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott.
The booking system will be part of the province’s vaccine rollout, which on Sunday was updated to identify adults aged 80 and older, seniors in congregate care and Indigenous adults among those next in line for a shot.
Hilkene noted that planning is underway for how adults 80 years of age and older will be vaccinated, with more details to be provided in the near future.
Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said he was “elated” to see the vaccine priority list updated to include those over 80.
According to Health Canada, nearly 70 per cent of deaths from COVID-19 have been people aged 80 and older. Many of Sinha’s patients are part of that age demographic, and he said he’s been inundated with emails from patients and their families asking the same question: “How is this going to work?”
“That’s the million dollar question,” Sinha said by phone Monday.
While some younger seniors may be comfortable making appointments online, Sinha noted many in their 80s and older struggle with technology or may be physically unable to travel to mass vaccination sites now being developed by public health units.
Others do not speak English or French as a first language, which can be a barrier when booking health services, he said.
“I’m most worried about my 98-year-old or 97-year-old, homebound people who are quite isolated, and are high risk,” he said. “This is the opportunity for Ontario to really get that right.”
Sinha suggested utilizing the networks of primary care providers such as community paramedics, nurses and physicians, and teams that already have experience performing community vaccinations.
Dr. Jeff Kwong was part of a team that administered vaccinations in long-term care homes and said vaccinating seniors in their homes, as opposed to making them travel to clinics, should be considered.
“Sometimes it’s the best way because these people may not be able to leave their home very easily,” Kwong said by phone Monday.
It could be done with just one person going to a neighbourhood, Kwong said, suggesting home-care providers would be in a good position to administer the shots as they regularly visit patients already.
Some local public health units are in the process of planning neighbourhood mobile vaccination clinics, the Health Ministry said Monday, though the planning is dependent on vaccine supply.
Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician also at Mount Sinai, said greater clarity is needed on the timing of the broader vaccine rollout — especially considering the province has not yet finished fully vaccinating the highest-priority groups that include long-term care residents, nursing home staff and certain health-care workers.
Vulnerable residents with language and accessibility barriers may take longer to accommodate, Stall said, and those factors must be considered.
“My fear is that we may unintentionally de-prioritize them in our real zeal to try and accelerate our vaccine program,” Stall said.
He added that greater clarity in the vaccination timeline would go a long way to lessening the anxiety among isolated people waiting for their shots.
The provincial NDP also called for more detail in the vaccination rollout plan on Monday, saying too many vulnerable people are still waiting in the dark.
“We need this government to reveal a comprehensive plan, now, and to pick up the pace,” Deputy Leader Sara Singh said in a statement. She also criticized the Progressive Conservatives for lacking a plan to deal with vaccine “queue-jumping.”
Sinha said patients are understanding about the need to prioritize certain groups, but Ontarians need to know where they stand in the process — and the lack of clarity so far, coupled with news of non-medical and executive health-care staff receiving vaccines in some cases, is not good for public trust.
“That’s exactly how you undermine people’s confidence and undermine an effective vaccine rollout,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2021.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
What are the differences between Canada’s approved COVID-19 vaccines? Here’s what we know – Global News
However, while all the vaccines have the same goal — to inoculate the recipient against COVID-19 — the vaccines are by no means identical.
And while Canada’s contracts secure enough doses from the three manufacturers to vaccinate everyone in the country by September, not everyone will be getting the same kind of jab.
Global News has broken down the key details of the three vaccines to help you understand which dose is going into your arm.
What kinds of COVID-19 vaccines are available?
- Pfizer: mRNA
- Moderna: mRNA
- AstraZeneca: adenovirus-based
All of these vaccines use fairly new vaccine technologies, but they don’t all use the same kind.
Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines use mRNA technology, which delivers genetic instructions for our cells to make viral proteins themselves. The body then begins to train itself to fight these proteins, building its immunity to the same protein found in COVID-19.
Coronavirus: The science behind the new Covid-19 mRNA vaccines
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine works differently. It was built using a kind of virus called an adenovirus, which causes colds in chimpanzees. These adenovirus-based vaccines represent a newly approved method of vaccination that has been studied for decades. The adenovirus is altered to carry a gene for the coronavirus protein, which can then train a person’s immune system to recognize the actual coronavirus if it ever enters the body.
How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?
- Pfizer: 95 per cent
- Moderna: 94.1 per cent
- AstraZeneca: 62 per cent
Each of the vaccines has been found to be effective in combatting the coronavirus. However, they don’t all offer the same amount of protection.
Pfizer and Moderna have a photo-finish for first place in terms of effectiveness. Clinical trials found Pfizer’s vaccine was 95 per cent effective, while Moderna’s vaccine nipped at Pfizer’s heels with an effectiveness of 94.1 per cent.
The distant bronze goes to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was found to be 62 per cent effective in a two-dose clinical trial.
Tracking the global race to vaccinate against COVID-19
However, researchers accidentally gave a sub-group of participants a half-dose on their first jab of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, followed up by a full second dose. This group saw a leap in the vaccine’s ability to shield them from the virus, with the outcome proving to be 90 per cent effective.
Because this was just a sub-group within the clinical trial, the vaccine was only approved for use in its full, two-dose iteration — which is over 30 per cent less effective than Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines.
Still, at the end of the day, Canadians should feel confident that any one of the three approved vaccines will cut off COVID-19’s claws and protect them from the worst outcomes of the virus.
“If there is a vaccine and it’s been authorized by Health Canada, it means that it’s met standards,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor with the regulatory branch of Health Canada, said on Friday.
She explained that in clinical trials, all the vaccines were found to quash the worst outcomes in coronavirus patients.
“The number of cases of people that died from COVID-19 that got vaccine was zero. The number of people that were hospitalized because their COVID-19 disease was so severe was zero. The number of people that died because of an adverse event or an effect of the vaccine was zero,” Sharma said.
“So in the areas where we’re really looking to prevent serious illness, prevent hospitalizations and of course prevent death, all of these vaccines are good.”
How are the COVID-19 vaccines stored?
- Pfizer: -70°C
- Moderna: -25°C to -15°C
- AstraZeneca: 2°C to 8°C
Just like people, some of these vaccines are pickier than others about the temperature they like to hang around in.
Of the three vaccines, Pfizer is the most particular — and it likes things chilly. This vaccine requires ultra-cold storage, meaning it has to be transported and stored at -70 C. This makes the vaccine tricky to ship to remote regions, where the appropriate infrastructure is far more difficult to set up.
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Enter the Moderna vaccine, which is a little less discerning. While this vaccine still likes the cold, it isn’t quite as particular as the Pfizer jab. The Moderna doses can be stored in a freezer between -25 C and -15 C. That’s why the territories have been guaranteed priority access to this particular vaccine, as it’s much easier to safely transport and store.
This category is also where AstraZeneca’s vaccine truly shines. The doses can be stored at normal fridge temperature — meaning the doses are much easier to both ship and keep.
How many doses of each COVID-19 vaccine are required?
- Pfizer: two
- Moderna: two
- AstraZeneca: two
Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are all two-dose shots — leaving little room for relief for those Canadians who get sweaty palms at the very thought of needles.
Some, including the head of Ontario’s vaccine rollout Gen. Rick Hillier, have pushed for Moderna to be approved as a single-dose vaccine, as the jab has proven to be about 80 per cent effective after the first injection.
However, no clinical trials have been conducted to prove whether that inoculation lasts long-term — and Moderna hasn’t shown any interest in conducting further trials to determine if less effective, one-time vaccine is a safe and effective option.
Who can take the COVID-19 vaccine?
- Pfizer: 16+
- Moderna: 18+
- AstraZeneca: 18+
While Canada is on track to have tens of millions of doses available to Canadians this year, not everyone who may want the vaccine will be able to take it.
Pfizer’s clinical trials were only conducted on those over the age of 16, which means that until further studies are completed in younger age groups, anyone under 16 years old is ineligible for the jab. The same issue comes into play for both Moderna and AstraZeneca, which only conducted their clinical trials on Canadians over the age of 18.
When will kids be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Experts weigh in
Moderna is currently conducting additional studies in children over 12 years old, so teens may be able to access the jabs once that work is done.
However, age isn’t the only limitation those hoping to be vaccinated may face. Anyone who is allergic to the ingredients in the vaccines is not allowed to receive the injections, and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers have been asked to consult their doctors before moving ahead with their vaccinations.
Finally, if you have COVID-19, you can’t get the vaccine until you’re better.
How many doses is Canada getting?
- Pfizer: 40 million doses
- Moderna: 40 million doses
- AstraZeneca: 20 million doses
Out of the three approved vaccines, individual Canadians are most likely to wind up receiving the Moderna vaccine. Canada’s agreement with Moderna is for 40 million doses — although the feds have the option of purchasing another 16 million in addition to that. The 40 million doses are enough to inoculate 20 million Canadians, over half of the population.
Meanwhile, Canada has 40 million Pfizer doses secured in its agreement with the manufacturer. That’s enough to inoculate another 20 million Canadians, which means that between Pfizer and Moderna alone, Canada has enough doses to vaccine every Canadian and then some.
Trudeau confirms Pfizer vaccine delivery schedule, reiterates promise of COVID-19 vaccines for all Canadians ‘who want one’ by September
As for the agreement with AstraZeneca, Canada has purchased 20 million doses — enough to vaccine another 10 million Canadians. That means that between the three agreements, Canada has enough doses to inoculate 40 million people, which is more than the entire population, within the year.
Should Canada opt to purchase more of any of the vaccines, there’s no guarantee they’d arrive any faster than the initial 80 million doses. Any additional doses would be entirely dependent on the manufacturer’s production capacity, which is under serious strain as every country battles to get the vaccines.
Either way, Canada’s current vaccine agreements point in an optimistic direction: every Canadian who wants a vaccine should be able to access one in 2021.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
COVID-19 Ontario: Province logs more than 1,200 new cases, 28 deaths – CTV Toronto
Ontario is recording more than 1,200 new COVID-19 infections, marking the fourth straight day of case counts increasing.
On Friday, provincial health officials logged 1,258 infections of the novel coronavirus, as well as 28 more deaths linked to the disease.
Before that, the province recorded 1,138 new cases on Thursday, 1,054 on Wednesday and 975 on Tuesday.
Daily case counts have hovered slightly above or below the 1,000 mark for much of the past few weeks.
The province’s seven-day average for number of cases recorded is now 1,114, down from 1,206 one week ago.
Of the new cases logged Friday, 362 are in Toronto, 274 are in Peel Region and 104 are in York Region.
York Region moved back into Ontario’s colour-coded reopening framework on Monday, allowing gyms and restaurants to reopen with strict public health measures in place.
Toronto and Peel Region remain under a stay-at-home order until at least March 8.
There were 64,049 COVID-19 tests completed in Ontario in the last-recorded 24-hour period. The test positivity rate now stands at about 2.3 per cent, according to the Ministry of Health.
Friday’s count brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario 298,569, including deaths and recoveries.
With the 28 new deaths confirmed by health officials on Friday, the province’s death toll is now 6,944. None of the new deaths included residents of the province’s long-term care system.
According to the province, there are at least 683 patients infected with the novel coronavirus in Ontario hospitals as of Friday. Of those patients, 284 are in the intensive care unit (ICU) and 193 of those 284 patients are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.
At this time last week, there were 689 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Ontario, 269 of which were in the ICU and 190 were on a ventilator.
On Friday, health officials deemed 1,007 more cases of the disease to be resolved, bringing Ontario’s number of recovered patients up to 281,331.
There are currently 10,294 active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, down from 10,550 one week ago.
Variants of concern in Ontario
Health officials confirmed Friday that 28 more cases of the U.K. variant, also known as B.1.1.7, have been found in Ontario, bringing the province’s total count to 477.
There is now a total of 14 confirmed cases of the South African variant, known as B.1.351, in Ontario after three new cases were logged by officials on Friday.
No new cases of the Brazilian variant, known as P.1, were recorded Friday, keeping the province’s total infection count at two.
Modelling data released by the province on Thursday suggested that the highly-contagious COVID-19 variants are expected to make up about 40 per cent of all Ontario cases by the second week of March, leading to a likely increase in daily infections and hospitalizations.
Vaccinations across the province
Meanwhile, 643,765 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario thus far, including 21,805 administered in the previous day. The vaccine requires two doses. In Ontario, 258,014 total vaccinations have been completed as of Friday.
NOTE: The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.
B.C. has COVID-19 under control but variant spread could lead to more restrictions – News 1130
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It doesn’t look like B.C.’s COVID-19 restrictions are going to be relaxed anytime soon, and the province’s top doctor warns that there’s even a chance British Columbians will need to clamp down further.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is holding the line on COVID-19, even though there’s been a slight uptick. However, the spread of variants continues to be top of mind for health officials.
“What I have been concerned about and what we’ve seen in other countries is that when variants of concern start building, that we can see rapid take off and rapid growth. And then we would need to consider is there other ways, other measures we need to take to stop those situations where transmission is happening,” she said Thursday.
“That’s why we’ve been paying attention to workplaces. Why we’re working with WorkSafeBC to get out there into workplaces. Why you’ve seen some of the measures we’ve been taking in places like Big White and Whistler to address the transmission events that are happening there. Paying attention to places that aren’t following adequate safety plans so that we can prevent that from happening,” Henry added.
She says the outcomes in other places around the world where variants of concern have taken hold make it clear she may have to consider stricter measures if that happens here.
With concerns that public health could be stretched thin as it was late last year, Henry admits a number of factors need to be taken into consideration before deciding whether public health orders can be eased or not.
“We have tried all along here in B.C. to keep as much open as we can safely and so keeping that balance means making sure we’re following the safety plans. Making sure we’re not making those exceptions for ourselves that lead to increased risks,” she added, pointing to a recent outbreak at a Port Moody pub which resulted in more than 300 people being affected.
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