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What's behind the drop in COVID-19 cases in Canada and other parts of the world? – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada is experiencing a drop in new COVID-19 cases, which is mirrored in countries like the U.S. and India, and experts are trying to understand the exact reasons behind the downward trend.

According to CTV News’ COVID-19 tracker, 7,137 new cases were reported on Jan. 3. Compare that with Wednesday’s numbers – 2,606 new cases – and the drop seems stark.

Ontario, which has been in a state of lockdown for several weeks, logged fewer than 900 new cases Wednesday, numbers that have not been seen since October 2020.

With vaccine supply chains disrupted and several provinces’ rollout plans faltering, scientists have been attempting to decode the downward trend.

Toronto infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says the drop in cases can be attributed to many things, but especially Canadians’ good behaviour – including abiding by lockdown rules.

“No one likes lockdowns, they’re terrible and devastating, but they work,” Bogoch said on CTV’s Your Morning Thursday. “If you have a lot of cases in an area with a lot of people and you lock it down you are going to see cases go down and we see this time and time again.”

Bogoch said other measures, such as people wearing masks indoors, are “extremely helpful” in bringing new cases down but we “can’t discount the seasonality” of COVID-19 being a factor in fewer virus transmissions.

“We still don’t know enough about it, but that may be a factor,” he said.

In the United States, records were shattered in early January for daily new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths – right on the heels of holiday travel. But since then, new cases and hospitalization rates have plummeted and doctors in that country also partially attribute that trend to good pandemic behaviour and some evidence of what one expert called “population immunity.”

“One, we came off of really high numbers from the holidays,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN.

“Second, there is pretty good evidence that people are doing a better job of social distancing and mask wearing. Third, I think in a lot of communities, we’ve had so much infection that you have some level of population immunity. Not herd immunity, but enough population immunity that it is causing the virus to slow down.”

India has also reported a dramatic fall in new cases, down from a peak of nearly 100,000 a day to 11,000 a day – which has left some experts stumped.

Bogoch said a lot of the same public health measures are at play there.

“Masks are widely used in India, and in fact there are fines if you don’t wear a mask,” he said. “So I think there are a lot of public health measures being used there.”

Bogoch also pointed out that as the virus has swept through many areas of India, especially in lower socio-economic communities, there may be “pockets of herd immunity.”

“Not the whole country, but pockets of immunity within the country because so many people have been infected with this virus – we have that data from serology studies,” he said, adding once again that experts can’t discount the concept of seasonality.

While the World Health Organization said in its latest update that the number of global COVID-19 infections has fallen by 16 per cent in one week – resulting in half a million fewer cases reported – some parts of the world, including Europe, are still very much in the grip of the pandemic due to the spread of coronavirus variants.

News of the U.K. starting human challenge trials – in which researchers intentionally give participants COVID-19 to study the virus – have been making waves. But Bogoch said he is wary of embarking on that scientific process at the moment.

“We don’t have a cure. We have treatments which are fine but no cure,” he explained. “We know that younger people who are included in clinical trials are unlikely to die because they’re young, but people are still getting pretty sick – and in addition we know there are long-term symptoms from this virus.”

Bogoch pointed out that vaccines are already being updated without human trials, so he was not “entirely sure” why the clinical trials are ongoing.

“You can get some interesting answers from them, like how much virus it actually takes to infect someone – so there is some amazing data you can glean from clinical trials, but I don’t think I am a fan of human trials for COVID-19 until there are good cures available,” he said.

Bogoch warned that even with the positive news of the number of new daily cases dropping, Canada and other countries need to approach the next few months with caution, especially due to variants.

“We have to respect the variants of concern, we don’t know enough about them, we know that some are more transmissible – we saw one COVID-19 mutation get married to another COVID-19 mutation – we still don’t know how that will work, that’s the recombinant virus,” he said. “While we have to be open-minded to new data, as things are reopening we need to approach with caution so we don’t get a third wave.”

——–

With files from CNN

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Canada receives largest COVID-19 vaccine shipment to date | News – Daily Hive

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Canada has received its largest number of COVID-19 vaccine doses to date as February draws to a close.

At a press briefing on February 25, Major-General Dany Fortin said that 643,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have been distributed across the country this week alone.

Fortin said that a total of 440,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine would be delivered each week in March, which will round out the company’s first-quarter commitment of 4 million doses.

Moderna, which sends vaccines to Canada every three weeks, is expected to deliver 466,000 doses the week of March 8, and another 846,000 doses the week of March 22.

These next two deliveries will complete the company’s first-quarter commitment of 2 million doses.

“This is all good news for Canadians who are hoping to get vaccinated,” he said. “As we head into spring, we are collectively gearing up for what we call the ramp-up phase.”

Fortin revealed that Pfizer has begun to finalize weekly shipment numbers for the second quarter of the year.

The company is expected to send approximately 769,000 vaccine doses each week for the first two weeks of April.

While numbers for subsequent weeks are still being confirmed, Fortin said a total of 10.8 million Pfizer doses should arrive in Canada between April and June.

The country is still working with Moderna to finalize the company’s shipment dates and dosage numbers for the second quarter.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that 2.9% of the country has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.1% have been given two doses.

“We are on track to have [a] significant increase into the spring, and again into the summer,” Fortin said.

“The projection is that we have seen 88 million vaccines, of both approved products, in-country by September.

To date, 1,682,106 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across Canada.

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'Good to go': Canadian pharmacies ready for next phase of vaccine rollout – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Canada’s pharmacies say they’re primed and ready to start administering COVID-19 vaccines at their facilities across the country, as government officials prepare for the next phase of vaccine rollout.

Shoppers Drug Mart President Jeff Leger says he’s informed all levels of government that once given the green light, the company’s more than 1,300 locations and an additional 500 Loblaw pharmacies, would need just 48 to 72 hours to get their sites prepped for mass inoculations.

“Our stores have already been thinking about it, we’ve got the processes in place. We can move very quickly and we can move large volumes of people through our network,” Leger said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.

He said a smooth rollout is contingent on provinces using a framework similar to that used during flu season.

“As long as we’re adhering to the same principles that we’ve done for flu vaccination…we’re good to go,” said Leger. “At the height of flu season we did as many as half a million in one week, we think we could do much more than that – really the constraint was supply.”

He added that this network of pharmacies can manage the finicky ultra-cold storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine. Leger says he’s also confident the company’s large roster of pharmacists will be able to draw the now-approved sixth dose from vaccine vials using low dead space syringes – though he said they’re still waiting on the shipments of those syringes from provincial governments.

“The supply of those syringes, our understanding [is that] they’ll be coming from the federal supplies and provincial supplies so as long as the supply of those low dead space syringes hold up then there shouldn’t be a problem for that,” he said.

This comes as Health Canada announced its highly-anticipated approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate on Friday, now the third vaccine given a formal stamp of approval in Canada. The federal government has secured 20 million doses of this vaccine, set to arrive between April and September, plus an additional 1.9 million doses before the end of June from the global vaccine sharing network COVAX.

The federal government also maintains the country is still on track to meet is six million dose target of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

While the details of how and when pharmacies will be incorporated into vaccine rollout plans differ by province, Joelle Walker, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, said all have signaled use of the facilities at some point to reach the broader public.

“Pharmacies are very conveniently located. Most Canadians live within five kilometres of a pharmacy which makes them very accessible to people who can’t travel to major centres to get vaccinated,” she said during a phone interview with CTVNews.ca on Friday. “Most Canadians see their pharmacists more than any other provider and so it just makes them an obvious choice.”

Some provinces, including Alberta, have already laid out plans detailing how pharmacies will assist in administering vaccines. Forty-one Shoppers Drug Mart stores and Real Canadian Superstore locations in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer will be offering in-store shots to Albertans 75 and older as early as next week.

“This is a step that just makes sense. As anyone who has gotten a flu shot knows, pharmacists have a lot of experience in delivering vaccines. They have played an important role in our seasonal flu program for many, many years and they have the skills, they have the experience and they have the infrastructure in place to be an important part of our immunization program,” said Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday.

Many other provinces list pharmacies as designated vaccination sites in phase two, which for most is expected to begin in April.

Walker said she’s encouraged the federal government to work more closely with provinces to establish some level of national consistency on pharmacy involvement.

“It [would] make it easier for pharmacists to communicate that information to patients. Many people are saying ‘oh you know, in Alberta it’s over 75’ and not necessarily knowing that will be different in other provinces,” said Walker.

“That kind of consistency of information would really help bring that confidence to Canadians that there’s a process in place.”

As for tracking the second dose of any of the three approved vaccines, Walker said pharmacies are particularly well-equipped with this function as they remind Canadians daily to refill their prescriptions.

“The refill system in pharmacies is designed to do exactly that, to make sure their patients come back when they’re supposed to to pick up their refills.”

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Canadian firm develops biodegradable mask that's ready for production – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A private non-profit Canadian organization and its partners have created an eco-friendly biodegradable mask that is ready for manufacturing and public use, an innovation it says is the first of its kind in the world.

FPInnovations, a research and development centre that supports the Canadian forestry sector, said in a press release on Friday that the masks, which took only a few months to develop from research to market, are fully biodegradable, from the mask filtering materials, to the elastic ear loops and nose pieces.

“The development of a biodegradable mask clearly shows that stimulating the bioeconomy can contribute to a cleaner environment in Canada,” Stephane Renou, president and chief executive of FPInnovations said in a statement.

The project was highlighted by both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan.

“We need to keep wearing our masks to keep each other safe. And now you can wear one without worrying about damaging the environment … This is Team Canada at its best,” O’Regan said in a video posted on Twitter.

A key element that makes this mask appealing is that its components can be easily assembled and produced on existing commercial mask-converting machines, the group behind the $3.3 million project said.

Third party labs have assessed the masks, it added, saying it “would set the standard” for non-medical grade masks for its filtration capabilities, breathability and biodegradability.

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