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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 recentrecommendation from Canada’s national immunization committee.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
Austrian government proposes law to legalise assisted suicide
Austria’s federal government has submitted a draft law to make assisted suicide for seriously ill adults legal, the federal chancellery said in a statement on Saturday.
The new law lays out the conditions under which assisted suicide will be possible in the future, following a ruling by Austria’s Constitutional Court last December according to which banning assisted suicide was unconstitutional because it violated a person’s right to self-determination.
“Seriously ill people should have access to assisted suicide,” the federal chancellery said in the statement.
The new law allows chronically or terminally ill adults to make provisions for an assisted suicide.
They have to consult two doctors who have to attest the person is capable of making his or her own decisions. A delay of 12 weeks also has to be respected that can be reduced to two weeks for patients in the final phase of an illness.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Christina Fincher)
Namibia suspends use of Russian COVID vaccine after S.Africa flags HIV concerns
Namibia will suspend the rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, its health ministry said on Saturday, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.
Regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector – which Sputnik V does – can lead to higher susceptibility to HIV in men.
South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates.
Namibia’s health ministry said in a statement that the decision to discontinue use of the Russian vaccine was “out of (an) abundance of caution that men (who) received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV,” adding it had taken SAHPRA’s decision into account.
The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia’s decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research.
“Sputnik V remains one of the safest and most efficient vaccines against COVID-19 in use globally,” the institute told Reuters, adding over 250 clinical trials and 75 international publications confirmed the safety of vaccines and medicines based on human adenovirus vectors.
Namibia said the suspension would take effect immediately and last until Sputnik V receives a World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing. But it will offer people who received a first dose of Sputnik V a second to complete their immunisation course.
Namibia received 30,000 doses of Sputnik V as a donation from the Serbian government, but only 115 had been administered as of Oct. 20.
Namibia has also been using COVID-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinopharm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, acquired through a mix of procurement deals and donations.
So far it has only fully vaccinated around 240,000 of its 2.5 million people, reflecting African nations’ difficulties securing enough vaccines amid a global scramble for shots.
(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa in Windhoek and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Alexander Winning and Ros Russell)
Britain reports highest weekly COVID-19 cases since July
Britain recorded the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 since July over the past week, government figures showed on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down the prospect of a return to lockdown.
Some 333,465 people in Britain tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days, up 15% on the previous week and the highest total since the seven days to July 21.
Daily figures https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk showed there were 44,985 new cases on Saturday, down from 49,298 on Friday. Daily death figures were only available for England, and showed 135 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test.
Deaths have risen by 12% over the past week, and the total since the start of the pandemic now stands at 139,461, the second highest in Europe after Russia.
While vaccination and better medical treatment have sharply reduced deaths compared with previous waves of the disease, hospitals are already stretched and Britain’s current death rate is far higher than many of its European neighbours.
Government health advisors said on Friday that preparations should be made for the possible reintroduction of measures to slow the spread of the disease, such as working from home, as acting early would reduce the need for tougher measures later.
Johnson, however, said he did not expect a return to lockdown.
“We see absolutely nothing to indicate that is on the cards at all,” he said on Friday.
(Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Christina Fincer)
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