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

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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. Here’s a list of their plans to date:

Newfoundland and Labrador

The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of “advanced age” and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. 

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 in Nova Scotia announced March 2 that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province’s first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23.

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

Health officials said March 3 the upcoming shipment must be used by April 2 and therefore all 13,000 doses will be administered to residents across the province aged 50 to 64 years starting March 15.

The vaccine will be given out at 26 locations in Nova Scotia on a first come, first served basis.

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.

Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be.

New Brunswick 

The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March.

The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees.

The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. 

Quebec 

Quebec started vaccinating older seniors 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.

The government announced late last month it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. 

Quebec announced March 2 it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. 

Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses.

The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said.

Quebec says it will administer the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to seniors, despite Canada’s national vaccine expert panel recommending against its use for people over the age of 65.

The province’s vaccine expert committee is recommending that all approved vaccines be used immediately to prevent deaths and hospitalizations, the Health Department said March 8, adding that the AstraZeneca vaccine “provides more flexibility in immunization efforts, especially for priority groups aged 70 to 79.”

The newly approved vaccine has numerous advantages, the Health Department said, including the fact it doesn’t need to be kept frozen and can be used up to 48 hours after a vial is opened. “Its use will also be favoured for (patients) where mobile vaccination is an optimal strategy to reach them — at home, for example.”

Ontario

Ontario has given its first vaccines to people in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, some health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. 

The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will include a service desk and online portal.

It said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units.
Several regions in Ontario have moved ahead with their plans to vaccinate the general public using their own booking systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments.

The province has also said it will extend the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months.

Toronto began vaccinating police force members who respond to emergency calls on March 1 and has also started offering vaccines to people experiencing homelessness.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will go to residents between the ages of 60 and 64, but has not elaborated yet on how it will be distributed except to say it won’t be through mass immunization sites.

The province has said it will follow the advice of a national panel that has recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older.

The health minister said the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot could be used in correctional facilities, but further details haven’t been released.

Manitoba 

Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. 

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province’s vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady.  

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

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Saskatchewan

The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage.

The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. 

It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. 

Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce.

Premier Scott Moe said Thursday that people will get their second shot up to four months after the first, which falls in line with a recent recommendation from Canada’s national immunization committee.

Alberta 

Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations and the province hopes to hit a major milestone before July.

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

So far, Alberta has delivered 266,000 doses of vaccine. About 176,000 Albertans have been vaccinated, including 90,000 fully immunized with the recommended two doses.

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

The AstraZeneca vaccine will for now be offered to adults aged 50 to 64 who don’t have a severe chronic illness.

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 will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. 

The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign March 1 and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors’ supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff.

Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up.

Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned.

She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

It’s now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says.

Nunavut

The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18.

After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose.

Nunavut’s priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff.

Northwest Territories 

The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated

The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. 

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 March 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Manitobans can now get federal proof of COVID-19 vaccination for travel – Winnipeg Free Press

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Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba chief public health officer, listens to a media question during a COVID-19 update at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG – Manitobans can now get a federal COVID-19 vaccine passport that will soon be required for international and domestic travel.

People can go to the same website Manitoba has used since June to issue provincial COVID-19 passports and instantly download a federal digital QR code.

“You can print it off to carry it with you, if needed, or you can keep it on your phone or electronic device,” Reg Helwer, minister of central services, said Monday.

The provincial passport has been required to get into restaurants, pro sporting events, cinemas and other venues. Helwer said it is still preferable in those cases because it contains less personal health information than the federal one.

The provincial QR code reveals a person’s name and whether they are fully inoculated. The federal one also contains information on what kind of vaccines were given and on what dates, Helwer said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week announced the plan for a national vaccine passport for travel. Starting Saturday, anyone over the age of 12 who wishes to get on a plane or train in Canada will need to prove full vaccination. There will be a short transition period until Nov. 30 to allow the unvaccinated to show a negative molecular COVID-19 test instead.

Data released Monday shows Manitoba remains in the midst of a fourth wave of the pandemic. Health officials reported 464 new COVID-19 cases over the last four days and two additional deaths.

The province’s chief public health officer said the numbers have ticked upward slightly in recent days, which could be tied to increased socializing over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We saw a day on the weekend there with nearly 150 reported cases, so that’s higher than what we’ve typically seen,” Dr. Brent Roussin said.

“We’re going to have to continue to follow those trends. We’re certainly not done with this fourth wave.”

The province extended its public health orders for another three weeks, with one minor change for a handful of communities just outside Winnipeg.

The communities include Niverville, Ritchot and Headingley. They are part of the southern health region, where vaccination rates are generally low and retail capacity has been capped at 50 per cent.

Starting Tuesday, those communities will be lumped in with Winnipeg and have their capacity limit lifted. Roussin cited their proximity to Winnipeg and high vaccination rates compared to other areas in the southern region.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021.

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Factbox: Countries respond to heart inflammation risk from mRNA shots

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Some countries have halted altogether or are giving only one dose of COVID shots based on so-called mRNA technology to teens following reports of possible rare cardiovascular side effects.

Europe’s drug regulator said in July it had found a possible link between a very rare inflammatory heart condition and COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

However, the benefits of mRNA shots in preventing COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks, European and U.S. regulators and the World Health Organization have said.

Here are some of the steps some countries are taking:

CANADA

The Public Health Agency of Canada said data suggested that reported cases of rare heart inflammation were higher after Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine compared with the Pfizer/BioNTech shots.

DENMARK

The Danish Health Agency said on Friday that it was continuing to offer Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to under-18s, and that a statement on Wednesday suggesting a suspension had in fact been a miscommunication.

FINLAND

Finland paused the use of Moderna’s vaccines for younger people and instead would give Pfizer’s vaccine to men born in 1991 and later. It offers shots to those aged 12 and over.

HONG KONG

A panel of health experts advising the Hong Kong government has recommended in September children aged 12-17 should get only one dose of BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of heart inflammation as a side effect.

NORWAY

Norway will hold off giving children aged 12-15 a second dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 until it has gathered more research. On Oct. 22 the health ministry said there was no urgency given that children have a low risk of falling seriously ill from COVID-19.

On Sep. 2 Norway decided on giving one dose of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to children aged 12-15.

SWEDEN

Sweden has extended the pause of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine beyond the original Dec. 1 deadline for people aged 30 and younger due to rare heart-related side-effects, the public health agency said on Oct. 21.

The agency said earlier in October that data pointed to an increase of myocarditis and pericarditis among youths and young adults vaccinated with Moderna vaccine Spikevax, and paused the use for all born 1991 or later.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa will start vaccinating children between 12 and 17 using the Pfizer vaccine, the health minister said, as the country looks to ratchet up inoculations ahead of final year examinations.

On the advice of its vaccine advisory committee the government would only give teenagers a single shot of Pfizer’s normal two-shot regime due to concerns that it may affect the heart.

UNITED KINGDOM

Britain has been offering all 12-15-year-olds a first a shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Second doses would not be offered to the age group until at least spring when there may be more data from around the world.

 

(Compiled by Antonis Triantafyllou; Editing by Joanna Jonczyk-Gwizdala and Tomasz Janowski)

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Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy undermining financial hub status – industry group

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A financial industry group warned on Monday that Hong Kong‘s zero-COVID policy and strict quarantine requirements for international travellers threatens to undermine the city’s status as a financial hub.

The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) said a survey of members, including some of the world’s largest banks and asset managers, showed 48% were contemplating moving staff or functions away from Hong Kong due to operational challenges, which included uncertainty regarding when and how travel and quarantine restrictions will be lifted.

Hong Kong has some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the world and is virtually COVID-19 free, however unlike regional rival Singapore, which is slowly re-opening its borders, the Chinese-ruled city has no public plan for opening up to international travellers.

Local leaders say their focus is removing restrictions on travel from Hong Kong to mainland China, which also has strict entry restrictions. At present travellers from Hong Kong to the mainland must still undergo quarantine.

“Hong Kong’s status as an (international financial centre) is increasingly at risk along with its long-term economic recovery and competitiveness as a premier place to do business,” Mark Austen chief executive of Asifma wrote in open letter to Hong Kong’s financial secretary Paul Chan.

The letter made a series of recommendations including publishing “a roadmap for exiting Hong Kong’s ‘zero-case’ based COVID-19 strategy beyond solely the immediate goal of opening borders with China”, as well as prioritising vaccinations.

Hong Kong has reported just over 12,300 cases since the start of the pandemic, mostly imported, and 213 deaths.

Regional rival Singapore is expanding quarantine-free travel to nearly a dozen countries, but authorities are grappling with how to do so while averting a surge of Covid-19 cases among older people and those with weak immune systems.

 

(Reporting by Alun John; Editing by Michael Perry)

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