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Why COVID-19 boosters weren't tweaked to better match variants – CTV News

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More COVID-19 booster shots may be on the way — but when it’s your turn, you’ll get an extra dose of the original vaccine, not one updated to better match the extra-contagious delta variant.

And that has some experts wondering if the booster campaign is a bit of a missed opportunity to target delta and its likely descendants.

“Don’t we want to match the new strains that are most likely to circulate as closely as possible?” Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts Medical Center, an adviser to the Food and Drug Administration, challenged Pfizer scientists recently.

“I don’t quite understand why this is not delta because that’s what we’re facing right now,” fellow adviser Dr. Patrick Moore of the University of Pittsburgh said last week as government experts debated whether it’s time for Moderna boosters. He wondered if such a switch would be particularly useful to block mild infection.

The simple answer: The FDA last month OK’d extra doses of Pfizer’s original recipe after studies showed it still works well enough against delta — and those doses could be rolled out right away. Now the FDA is weighing evidence for boosters of the original Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“It’s less churn and burn on the manufacturing” to only switch formulas when it’s really necessary, said FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks.

But Pfizer and Moderna are hedging their bets. They’re already testing experimental doses customized to delta and another variant, learning how to rapidly tweak the formula in case a change eventually is needed — for today’s mutants or a brand new one. The tougher question for regulators is how they’d decide if and when to ever order such a switch.

What we know so far:

CURRENT VACCINES ARE WORKING EVEN AGAINST DELTA

Vaccines used in the U.S. remain strongly effective against hospitalization and death from COVID-19, even after the delta variant took over, but authorities hope to shore up waning protection against less severe infection and for high-risk populations. Studies show an extra dose of the original formulas revs up virus-fighting antibodies that fend off infection, including antibodies that target delta.

MIGHT A DELTA-SPECIFIC BOOSTER WORK EVEN BETTER?

Vaccines target the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. Mutations in that protein made delta more contagious but to the immune system, it doesn’t look all that different, said virus expert Richard Webby of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

That means there’s no guarantee a delta-specific booster would protect any better, said University of Pennsylvania immunologist John Wherry. Waiting for studies to settle that question — and if necessary, brewing updated doses — would have delayed rolling out boosters to people deemed to need them now.

Still, because delta is now the dominant version of the virus worldwide it almost certainly will be a common ancestor for whatever evolves next in a mostly unvaccinated world, said Trevor Bedford, a biologist and genetics expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

A delta-updated vaccine would “help to provide a buffer against those additional mutations,” he said. Bedford is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports The Associated Press Health and Science Department.

TWEAKING THE RECIPE

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a piece of genetic code called messenger RNA that tells the body to make harmless copies of the spike protein so it’s trained to recognize the virus. Updating the formula merely requires swapping out the original genetic code with mRNA for a mutated spike protein.

Both companies first experimented with tweaked doses against a mutant that emerged in South Africa, the beta variant, that has been the most vaccine-resistant to date, more so than the delta variant. Lab tests showed the updated shots produced potent antibodies. But the beta variant didn’t spread widely.

Now the companies have studies underway of fully vaccinated people who agreed to test a booster dose tweaked to match delta. Moderna’s studies also include some shots that combine protection against more than one version of the coronavirus — much like today’s flu vaccines work against multiple influenza strains.

The mRNA vaccines are considered the easiest kind to tweak but some other vaccine makers also are exploring how to change their recipes if necessary.

WHY STUDY UPDATED SHOTS IF THEY’RE NOT YET NEEDED?

Moderna’s Dr. Jacqueline Miller told an FDA advisory panel last week the company is studying variant-specific boosters now to learn if they offer advantages, and to be ready if they’re needed.

And Penn’s Wherry said it is critical to carefully analyze how the body reacts to updated shots because the immune system tends to “imprint” a stronger memory of the first virus strain it encounters. That raises questions about whether a subtly different booster would prompt a temporary jump in antibodies the body’s made before — or the bigger goal, a broader and more durable response that might even be better positioned for the next mutations to come along.

NO RULES YET FOR MAKING A SWITCH

“What is the tripping point?” asked Webby, who is part of a World Health Organization network that tracks influenza evolution. “A lot of what is going to need to go into that decision making is just going to be learned by experience, unfortunately.”

Bedford said now is the time to decide what drop in vaccine effectiveness would trigger a formula change, just as is done with flu vaccines every year.

That’s important not just if a dramatically worse variant suddenly develops. Like many scientists, Bedford expects the coronavirus to eventually evolve from a global crisis into a regular threat every winter — which might mean more regular boosters, maybe even yearly in combination with the flu shot.

Timing between shots matters, too, Wherry noted.

“Your boostability may actually improve with longer intervals between stimulation,” he said. While scientists have learned a lot about the coronavirus, “the story’s not finished yet and we don’t know what the last chapters say.”

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Ontario man who accidentally transferred $19000 to stranger's account left for weeks without solution – CTV Toronto

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An Ontario man says he has been fighting to get back $19,000 for months after making a “simple mistake” while trying to transfer money between two of his bank accounts.

Milton, Ont. man Roberto Guardado said he had just purchased a new home and in September was trying to transfer money from his Bank of Montreal (BMO) account to his CIBC account so that he could make the down payment.

He said he called BMO to arrange the wire transfer, figuring it would be the easiest way to move the funds to CIBC.

Guardado said he has two bank accounts with CIBC, one for his personal savings and one for business. He was trying to transfer the money into the savings account.

He said while making the transfer, he correctly read out his CIBC savings account number, but mistakenly gave the transit number of his CIBC business account.

The five-digit transit number helps the bank identify which branch the money is being sent to.

The mistake resulted in Guardado’s money being sent to a stranger’s CIBC account, he said.

CIBC

“I noticed the money went out but it didn’t go into my CIBC account,” Guardado told CTV News Toronto. “So I went home that day and I started looking on my computer and then I realized I gave the wrong transit number.”

He said he immediately called BMO, who told him they would launch an investigation. 

Despite calling the bank every few days for an update, he said it took five weeks before he got any answers.

Guardado said he was told that his $19,000 was deposited into someone else’s account and the person had withdrawn it. 

He said both BMO and CIBC told him nothing further could be done to retrieve his money.

“I couldn’t believe I made the mistake,” Guardado said. 

Guardado said he called the police, but was also told that because he initiated the transfer there was nothing to investigate.

BMO

“The police told me that because it’s not considered fraud they can’t do anything about it,” he said. 

‘JUST A SIMPLE MISTAKE’

Guardado said that while he fully admits the error was his fault, he doesn’t understand why the bank couldn’t help him quickly reverse the transfer.

“It was just a simple mistake and my money ended in someone else’s account,” Guardado said.

Because of the lost money, Guardado said he had no choice but to back out of the sale of his new home. 

Shortly after CTV News Toronto contacted CIBC and BMO about Guardado’s situation, he said he received a call from the banks telling him his $19,000 would be returned to his account. 

CIBC spokesperson Trish Tervit confirmed on Saturday they had resolved the issue with Guardado. 

“It’s important that when transferring funds between financial institutions that the sender ensures the recipient account number is correct as misdirected funds may be difficult to recover,” Tervit added. 

Guardado said CIBC told him this is a “unique situation” that is being resolved on a one-time basis. 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from BMO said they had a “good conversation” with Guardado, but couldn’t comment further for privacy reasons. 

While this stressful two-month chapter is now over for Guardado, he said banks “have to come up with a better system” for when people make mistakes.

“It was a stupid mistake on my part, but the process to fix it has to be easier,” he said. “I was so stressed that I lost weight and I couldn’t sleep. It was bothering me so much.”

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Cargill beef-processing plant in High River, Alta. narrowly avoids strike action – CBC.ca

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Employees at Cargill’s beef-processing plant in High River, Alta., have voted in favour of a new labour contract, narrowly avoiding strike action and a possible lockout.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 (UFCW), which represents workers at the plant, said Saturday that workers chose to accept the new contract offer, with 71 per cent voting in favour.

In a statement, UFCW said it was not an easy decision for staff at the plant, and called the contract vote a “bittersweet victory.” 

Workers had raised safety concerns after a COVID-19 outbreak at the plant in 2020 affected more than 900 people. The outbreak, which forced Cargill to temporarily close the plant — one of Canada’s largest — is linked to three deaths.

The union says the new contract includes procedures to ensure worker health and safety, benefits, and new rights for sick employees. 

After the two sides held talks on Tuesday, UFCW’s bargaining committee agreed to recommend the new offer to its members, Cargill spokesperson Daniel Sullivan said. Workers voted between Thursday and Saturday.

The union released parts of the proposed offer to CBC earlier in the week. The contract included $4,200 in retroactive pay for many Cargill union members; signing, holiday and COVID-19 bonuses; and a $5 wage increase.

Workers prepare beef to be packaged at the Cargill facility near High River, Alta. The plant is the site of what became the largest COVID-19 outbreak in North America last year. (Name withheld)

UFCW had said the plant’s roughly 2,000 workers would strike Monday unless an agreement was reached.

The union also they brought in tents, floodlights and heaters for the possible strike, while nearby fields were levelled to provide parking.

Cargill had also planned to lock out all UFCW union staff as of 12:01 a.m. Monday, according to a statement from the company’s vice-president of labour relations, Tanya Teeter, which was obtained and made public by the union.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that is comprehensive, fair, and reflective of their commitment to excellence at Cargill and the critical role they play in feeding families across Canada,” Jarrod Gillig, the company’s president of business operations and supply chain for North America protein, wrote in a statement to CBC Saturday.  

“As an organization that leads with our value to put people first, we truly believe this ratification is in the best interests of our employees and we are eager to move forward to build a stronger future – together.”

Reforms still needed: Union

“We also look forward to the citizens of Alberta joining with us in calling for reforms and restructuring in the meatpacking industry,” UFCW President Thomas Hesse wrote in a statement Saturday. 

“Workers have been ripped off. Ranchers have been ripped off. And we’ve all been ripped off at the supermarket counter. Government failed to protect these workers, as well as failing to protect Alberta ranchers and consumers. Change must occur.” 

The Cargill plant processes up to 4,500 head of cattle per day, accounting for about one-third of Canada’s beef.

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Job growth in Canada exceeded expectations in November – Canada Immigration News

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Published on December 4th, 2021 at 08:00am EST

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With employment soaring beyond predictions and unemployment dropping to near pre-pandemic levels, new labour force data suggest that Canada is on its way to a full economic recovery.

This past November, Canadian employers added 154,000 jobs to the economy. Last month’s growth exceeded analysts’ predictions of 38,000, which was closer to October levels. The gains pushed employment a full percentage point higher than pre-pandemic levels. Also, unemployment dropped to 6%, which is within 0.3 percentage points of what it was in February 2020.

Data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey reflect labour market conditions during the week of November 7 to 13. Proof-of-vaccination policies and other public health measures were largely similar to those in October.

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Labour shortages persist despite employment gains

Hiring in November was driven by the private sector both in full-time and part-time positions. Even so, Canada is still experiencing labour shortages across sectors like hospitality, retail, and health care. In September, there were roughly one million job vacancies across the country.

Most government COVID-19 financial assistance measures ended in late October. Some analysts say it may have pushed people to accept job offers. Among these measures was the Canadian Recovery Benefit for individuals, which had been accused of discouraging people from returning to work. The Conference Board of Canada says the lack of wage growth was an even greater disincentive, especially in low-wage service industries.

“November’s job growth suggests the withdrawal of the [Canadian Recovery Benefit] may have pushed some workers back into employment though alone this will not be sufficient to address the significant labour shortages affecting several industries,” writes economist Liam Daly.

RBC economist Nathan Janzen wrote that despite the surge in employment there were still “exceptionally low” levels of workers in the service sectors.

“Employment in accommodation & food services edged up 5k from October but is still more than 200k below pre-shock levels,” Janzen wrote. “Travel and hospitality spending has been rebounding, but with the unemployment rate now substantially lower, it is increasingly clear that there are not enough remaining unemployed workers out there to re-fill all of those jobs any time soon.”

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