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Who have provinces pegged to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks? – National Post

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As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks.

The military commander handling logistics for Canada’s vaccine distribution program says there will be enough vaccine delivered to give a first dose before Canada Day to every adult who wants one.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin says that’s if provinces follow the advice to delay second doses up to four months.

He also cautions that it is dependent on having no production delays again.

Health Canada anticipates a total of 36.5 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India by June 30.

Canadian provinces suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in people under age 55 on Monday, acting on an advisory committee’s concerns about a possible link between the shot and rare blood clots.

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.’s chief medical officer of health, said the risk of developing a serious problem after being immunized is “very, very low.”

She said people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine should look for symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, sudden onset of severe or persistent headache or blurred vision and skin bruising elsewhere than the site of vaccination, developing four to 20 days after vaccination.

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There are approximately 31 million Canadians over 16, and no vaccines are approved for anyone younger than 16.

Here’s a list of the inoculation plans throughout Canada:

Newfoundland and Labrador

Health officials say vaccinations have begun for first responders. They say pre-registration for COVID-19 vaccines has opened for people aged 70 or older and for home-support workers.

Newfoundland and Labrador announced March 3 it was extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months.

Public health officials said the change will help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey said the decision is a game changer for the province’s vaccination prospects.

Nova Scotia

Health officials say people aged 60 to 62 became eligible to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine starting March 18.

Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021.

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The province is planning to use mobile van clinics to vaccinate about 900 people who work at or use homeless shelters in the Halifax area.

Public health is partnering with pharmacists and doctors to provide the vaccines at 25 locations.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, has added front-line police officers to the list of people eligible for vaccination during the second phase of the province’s rollout plan, joining groups such as long-haul truck drivers and hospital workers over the age of 60.

Prince Edward Island

Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some.

The province is offering the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine people ages 18 to 29 who work in gas stations and convenience or grocery stores.

The announcement on March 16 came after the province opened AstraZeneca vaccination appointments a week earlier to young people in the food and beverage sector.

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New Brunswick

Health officials announced March 18 that people 80 and older, health-care professionals who have close contact with patients, and people with complex medical conditions are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

People 80 and over, a caregiver or a family member acting on their behalf can make an appointment for a vaccine at a pharmacy.

The province says all residents of long-term care homes have been offered at least one dose of vaccine. As of March 19, all residents of First Nations communities who are aged 16 or older were given access to their first dose of vaccine.

Quebec

Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on March 1 after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites, including the Olympic Stadium, opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city.

COVID-19 vaccination appointments opened March 10 for residents 70 and older across Quebec. The minimum age is currently set at 65 in Abitibi-Temiscamingue and Cote-Nord. However, Montreal is dropping the age limit to 60.

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Premier Francois Legault says his government’s goal is for all adult Quebecers who want a COVID-19 vaccine to get at least one dose by the province’s Fete nationale on June 24. He also said the province’s vaccination campaign will allow all Quebecers aged 65 and over to be vaccinated with one dose by mid-April.

Quebec, meanwhile, is looking to enlist between 20 and 50 companies across the province to operate vaccination hubs to help accelerate its immunization campaign for people under 60.

Health Minister Christian Dube says he’s hoping the companies can administer a total of one million vaccines.

To be part of the program, companies must commit to vaccinating between 15,000 and 25,000 people over a 12-week period between May and August.

Quebec will provide the vaccines and necessary equipment and run the online appointment portal. The program will begin when residents under the age of 60 become eligible to be vaccinated, with a goal of fully vaccinating 500,000 Quebecers.

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Ontario

Ontario launched its COVID-19 vaccine booking portal and call centre on March 15.

People aged 75 and older can now make appointments and the government has lowered the minimum age to 70 in several regions.

Some public health units are ahead of the province’s schedule for vaccinations, with York and Halton Region offering appointments to people aged 65 and up.

Shots are currently offered in mass clinics and smaller sites, depending on the health unit.

Oxford-AstraZeneca shots are being offered to people aged 60 and older at pharmacies in Kingston, Toronto and Windsor as part of a pilot project that’s set to expand to more locations once more supply becomes available. Some primary care physicians are also offering Oxford-AstraZeneca shots to patients in that age range.

Ontario focused its early vaccine effort on those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, some health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings.

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The province has said the rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units.

Other currently eligible people include front line health-care workers, Indigenous adults and chronic home health-care recipients, and some health units have started vaccinating people experiencing homelessness.

The interval between vaccine doses has been extended to four months in Ontario.

Manitoba

Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people aged 64 and older and First Nation people aged 44 and older. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months.

Manitoba has now given at least one dose to more than 10 per cent of people aged 18 and older.

This week immunization teams are going to more than 100 congregate living facilities to provide vaccines. More than 11,100 doses have already been administered to people living in these locations.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province’s vaccine task force, has said all adults in the province could have the first dose of a vaccine by the end of June if supplies are steady. There are supersites in cities where people can get vaccines and pop-up clinics have begun in rural and northern Manitoba communities for people who are eligible.

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The province has also announced AstraZeneca is only being used for people 55-64 as more information is being sought around some adverse symptoms in younger populations. These are available through medical clinics and pharmacies. Health officials say there have not been any cases of these effects in Manitoba or Canada.

Health officials say the province has capacity to deliver 20,000 doses each day, but are currently hindered by limited supply. Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force says the province’s current supply of vaccine has been spoken for and will be used by April 5. The task force says a shipment of 28,000 Moderna vaccines has been delayed for at least a week. The province, however, is expecting 40,000 doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine per week and 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine next week.

Manitoba has already indicated it would opt for a four-month interval between doses.

The military has also been deployed to northern Manitoba to help vaccination efforts in 23 remote First Nations.

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To date, 248,180 doses of vaccine have been delivered to Manitoba.

Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is booking vaccinations for residents 62 and older. The minimum age drops to 50 for people living in the Far North.

Those deemed to be medically vulnerable and those who have underlying health conditions can also get a shot, but have to wait to receive a letter first. Priority health-care workers are also on the list.

The province plans to open more drive-thru vaccination clinics once it receives its next shipment of Oxford-AstraZeneca shots.

Alberta

Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said the province expects to offer all Albertans 18 and over a first dose of vaccine by the end of June.

On March 15, residents aged 65 to 74, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis aged 50-plus, were allowed to begin booking. The province had originally not expected to begin this stage of vaccination until April.

On March 30, the Alberta government was to begin offering shots to some 945,000 people with underlying health conditions. That includes people with certain lung, kidney, liver and heart diseases, people treated for cancer in the past year, those with severe mental illness and substance use disorders, and pregnant women.

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Initially, Albertans born in or before 1963 will be able to book appointments through pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer.

Starting April 5, Alberta Health Services sites will begin taking bookings for those with eligible health conditions born in or before 1959.

More birth years will be added as more vaccine supply arrives.

After that, vaccines will be available to more health-care workers and people with jobs in certain congregate living settings, such as jails and homeless shelters. Meat plant workers will also qualify in this phase.

Alberta has also said it will follow other provinces by extending the time between the first dose and the second to four months.

British Columbia

British Columbia has decided to bump up its age-based vaccination plan by offering Oxford-AstraZeneca shots to Lower Mainland residents between the ages of 55 and 65.

The move comes after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a pause on use of the same vaccine for anyone under 55 on the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization over concerns about rare blood clots.

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Beginning Wednesday, those between 55 and 65 can call their local pharmacy and book an appointment. Drop-in service may also be an option at more than 150 participating pharmacies.

The province had previously accelerated the timeline for the COVID-19 vaccine by allowing people who are “extremely clinically vulnerable” and some seniors to book their shots earlier than expected.

That means people at higher risk from COVID-19 due to existing medical conditions, including transplant recipients and those with cancer and severe respiratory conditions, can register for their vaccine.

Nunavut

Nunavut has opened vaccinations to anyone 18 and older.

The territory expects to finish its vaccine rollout of first and second doses by the end of April.

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories is also providing vaccine to those 18 and older and expects to finish its rollout by the end of April.

Yukon

Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March.

Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2021.

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Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs

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By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

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In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.

Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.

Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”

Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.

Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.

“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”

Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.

‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.

Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.

“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.

Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.

Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.

The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.

Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.

“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

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Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.

“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.

The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.

Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.

Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”

Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.

($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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