Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, says in the short term, there won’t be any jumping of the queue or preferential VIP treatment, but private sales may happen once the rollout is extensive.
“It’s very ethically problematic if sports teams and individuals are vaccinated first,” he told Global News.
“We’re in a global emergency. If you were to absorb several hundred vaccines for a sports team, for example, you could literally be costing other vulnerable people their lives.”
Canada has so far approved two vaccines — by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Pfizer says it is focusing on selling its doses to governments while Moderna did not respond immediately to an emailed request by Global News for comment on any private sales.
The companies have entered into contracts with the federal government, which in turn is allocating the vaccine doses to the provinces and territories.
Coronavirus: Dr. Caroline Quach on COVID-19, vaccines as 2020 draws to a close
Up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are expected to be delivered in December and another 500,000 by the end of January. A total of 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine are also expected by the end of 2020.
Given the limited supply in the initial stages of the rollout, private companies and individuals have a small window of opportunity to get their hands early on the doses, if they wish to do so, said Anita Ho, an associate professor of bioethics and health services research at the University of British Columbia.
So, if you’re a private business owner, a celebrity, professional athlete, frequent traveller or anyone looking to directly purchase the vaccine from the drug makers, for now, you will just have to wait your turn like the rest of the general public.
“I see vaccines as a public good and if we are allowing people to purchase, whether it’s companies or individuals, then we can be exacerbating the existing inequity in Canada already,” Ho told Global News.
Vaccinating the VIPs – is it inevitable?
Earlier this month, the National Hockey League faced some backlash on social media after a report it was planning to privately purchase doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for all parties involved in the upcoming 2021 season.
John Shannon, an NHL insider and long-time hockey reporter, tweeted the report, noting that it’s only an interest of the NHL at this point, “when and if it’s available for private purchase.”
“The league also is adamant that they would not jump the line to do so,” he added.
The NHL has not officially commented on the report.
American pharmaceutical company Pfizer says while it “appreciates the interest” it is focusing on selling the highly coveted and limited doses of its coronavirus vaccine to governments, not private corporations, including the NHL.
In an interview earlier this month with Global News, Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow said: “Right now, we are fully committed and built our global supply plan based upon the contracts that we’ve signed with governments, and so we’re really deferring to the governments to figure out what the best way is to allocate their product.”
More vaccines could mean more opportunity for private sales
Canada is also currently reviewing clinical data from Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca, so more vaccines are in the pipeline.
As there is no law or regulation prohibiting the private sales of vaccines, experts say there is still a possibility of corporations and interested buyers getting the doses directly from the drug makers.
“This is a political, economic and social judgment about the inequities in vaccine distribution, which are going to be apparent where there is a free market economy, where vaccines could be sold for the highest going price to people who have privileged access to them,” Dr. Mark Poznansky, director of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said.
According to Canada’s federal health minister, the Canadian government cannot stop private corporations from buying doses of any approved coronavirus vaccine directly from its manufacturers.
In a weekly COVID-19 briefing in Ottawa on Dec. 11, Patty Hajdu said that Canada does not have any “mechanisms to block corporations from purchasing” a vaccine or vaccine candidate “on a contractual basis.”
Coronavirus: Government can’t stop corporations from buying vaccines for their employees, says Hajdu
Given the scarcity of doses in the initial stage of the country’s rollout, Bowman said the health authorities can enforce regulations to prevent private sales.
“I don’t think there should be any private sales at this point,” he said.
In the United States, more than two million Americans have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines, compared with an estimated 58,818 people in Canada.
Recent reports suggest older Canadians who spend their winters in Florida and Arizona may be able to get vaccinated sooner down south than they would at home.
Martin Firestone, a travel insurance agent in Toronto, told CTV News and the Globe and Mail he has received calls from clients showing interest in making the trip to Florida to get the highly coveted shot.
Meanwhile, Canada is prioritizing the vaccines for front-line health workers, long-term care residents and workers, the elderly and Indigenous communities.
“Nothing any private company or organization can negotiate, if they choose to do so, will in any way impact or slow down the delivery of vaccines to Canadians for free — with vulnerable Canadians at the front of that line,” he said earlier this month.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
B.C.'s COVID-19 updates for Jan. 27 | Columbia Valley, Cranbrook, East Kootenay, Elk Valley, Kimberley, Ktunaxa Nation – E-Know.ca
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, today (Jan. 27) issued the following joint statement regarding updates on the COVID-19 response in British Columbia.
Today, we are reporting 485 new cases, for a total of 65,719 cases in British Columbia.
There are 4,299 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 303 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 74 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.
Currently, 6,520 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 58,778 people who tested positive have recovered.
Since we last reported, we have had 115 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 210 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 45 in the Island Health region, 83 in the Interior Health region, 32 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.
To date, 124,365 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., 4,160 of which are second doses. Immunization data is available on the COVID-19 dashboard at: www.bccdc.ca
There have been four new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,172 deaths in British Columbia. We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have one new health-care facility outbreak at Glenwood Seniors Community and the outbreak at Villa Cathay is now over. There is also an outbreak at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.
We continue to see new community clusters around the province – in the Fernie and Williams Lake regions, and elsewhere. These hot spots show, once again, how easily the virus spreads between us.
One year ago today, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in our province. Since that day, the impact has been severe; people have become seriously ill and died, our lives have been disrupted and health-care workers everywhere have faced challenges at a scale never experienced before.
In response, people throughout the province have stepped up to put normal routines and activities aside, doing all they can to protect our communities, elders and loved ones. Thank you.
When we are tired, it is easy to let things slip and let our guard down. Yet this only gives the virus a chance to spread a bit more. In these days – when COVID-19 vaccinations are starting, but for most of us are still weeks or months away – the actions we take may seem small, but will ave a big impact to stop the virus in its tracks.
“If you are in the grocery store, follow the pathways and arrows and be sure to give people space at the check-out. If you are going to work or school, remember to wash your hands often throughout the day and wear your mask.
The more people you see and the more places you go, the higher the risk is to you and those around you, which is why gatherings of any size are on pause right now. If you are invited over to spend time with a friend, choose to go outside for a walk instead. And, just as important, if you are thinking about travelling beyond your community for anything other than what is essential for work or medical care, stay home.
Let’s encourage those around us to do the right thing and show kindness and compassion to those who appear not to be.
As we have seen over the past year, one case can turn into thousands. But just as important, the effort we put into keeping ourselves and each other safe can also push our COVID-19 curve back down again.
Lead image: Sanitization station at an entrance to the Prestige Inn and Fire and Oak Restaurant in Cranbrook. Carrie Schafer/e-KNOW photo
45 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Island Health – CHEK
British Columbia health officials have reported 485 new cases – including 45 in Island Health – and four deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.
The number of confirmed cases in B.C. climbs to 65,719 while the province’s death toll now stands at 1,172.
Of the new cases, 115 were recorded in Vancouver Coastal Health, 210 were in Fraser Health, 45 in Island Health, 83 in Interior Health, and 32 in Northern Health.
There are currently 4,299 active cases in the province, 303 people in hospital — 74 of whom are in intensive care — and 6,520 people under active public health monitoring due to possible exposure to an identified case.
A total of 58,778 people in B.C. have recovered from COVID-19 and 124,365 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across, 4,160 of which are second doses.
Today’s data was released by health officials in a statement to the media.
More to come
Calgary company begins clinical trials for Canadian-made COVID vaccine candidate – HalifaxToday.ca
A prospective COVID-19 vaccine touted as a made-in-Canada response has begun human clinical trials in Toronto, and the company says it’s already preparing a followup that will target more infectious variants.
Providence Therapeutics of Calgary says if all goes well, it could start manufacturing millions of doses of its first prospective vaccine by the end of the year, guaranteeing a Canadian stockpile that wouldn’t be subject to global supply pressures or competition.
That’s if the formulation proves safe and effective, of course.
Among the challenges of developing a vaccine amid a raging pandemic is the uncertainty of how more infectious variants now emerging will complicate the COVID battle.
Even if successful, by the time Providence Therapeutics releases its vaccine hopeful, much of the country could be in the throes of a more infectious virus that does not respond to this formulation, said company CEO Brad Sorenson.
“We don’t believe that this is going to be resolved by a single vaccine,” said Sorenson, whose biotech also produces a personalized mRNA-based vaccine against cancer.
It’s a challenge now facing Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which have each said its products appear to respond well to the variant initially identified in the United Kingdom, and to a lesser degree, the variant first detected in South Africa.
Moderna said earlier this week it plans to test two booster vaccines aimed at the variant associated with South Africa.
Sorenson said Providence is already internally testing a vaccine candidate that targets the variants, and he hoped to begin clinical trials by the end of the year.
“We believe that there’s going to be a need to be in a position of readiness to be able to respond as these variants are coming up, and to be able to make sure that we have that capacity.”
That doesn’t mean Providence is changing production runs just yet.
Sorenson said the immediate focus is to establish the safety and efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed PTX-COVID19-B and designed in the early days of the pandemic last March.
It uses messenger RNA technology and focuses on the spike protein located on the surface of a coronavirus that initiates infection, similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products.
The trial involves 60 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 25 who will be monitored for 13 months, with the first results expected in February.
The subjects are divided into four groups of 15, three of which will get three different doses. The fourth group gets a placebo.
Sorenson said immediate pandemic efforts should be focused on the novel coronavirus currently devastating many parts of the country.
“It’s a matter of capacity. Right now these variants are there, they’re concerning, and we’re keeping a close eye on it, but that’s not predominantly what the needs of the population are,” said Sorenson.
“Right now the needs of the population are still tied to the primary spike protein virus that’s out there and is ravaging around the world.”
Sorenson said his next vaccine candidate takes a broader approach by attempting to elicit a T-cell response, thereby creating a longer-term vaccine “and cover what we believe would be a lot more variants.”
“We have to prove it out, but we believe that if we are successful that it will allow for a much more durable immunity and a much broader immunity.”
The other goal is to prepare for large-scale manufacturing in Calgary, if all goes well with the trials and approval process.
Sorenson said doses for the Phase 1 trial are being made in Toronto, but the plan is to commercially manufacture the completed vaccine through a contract with the Calgary-based Northern RNA Inc.
That won’t be up and running by the end of the year, Sorenson allowed, so the short-term plan is to send raw materials made in Canada to a plant in the United States that would make the commercial product.
Eventually, the whole process would be completed in Canada, he said.
“We’re building the entire chain within Canada, so we’re not going to run into a problem where this particular input into the vaccine is unavailable,” he said.
Much of this also depends on financial support from the federal government, Sorenson added.
While the National Research Council of Canada has backed Phase 1 trials, Sorenson said he’s awaiting word on further support. He’d also like Ottawa to back Providence’s efforts to address the new COVID variants.
“They’ve already recognized the importance of mRNA technology. What they don’t realize is the power of mRNA technology to be responsive to these challenges that are coming up,” he said.
“Hopefully the politicians and the people that cut the cheques and write the policies that give direction to the bureaucrats will hear that and we’ll start seeing a more concerted approach that looks at a fuller picture.”
Pending regulatory approval, Sorenson said a larger, international Phase 2 trial may start in May with seniors, younger subjects and pregnant people, followed by an even broader Phase 3 trial.
The Providence project is just one of several Canadian efforts underway to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
The biopharmaceutical company Medicago, based in Quebec City, began clinical trials on its plant-based candidate last July. If successful, the company has said manufacturing would take place in Durham, N.C., until it can complete a large-scale manufacturing facility set for Quebec City.
And last month, Health Canada gave the green light to the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan to launch its Phase 1 clinical vaccine trial.
Infectious disease expert Jason Kindrachuk, who works with VIDO but is not involved with its vaccine candidate, said a varied vaccine strategy will be key to controlling the pandemic.
“Vaccines are not necessarily a one-size-fits-all and maybe with this pandemic, people are getting a greater appreciation for some of the logistical hurdles of trying to transport vaccines. Cold chain storage is not something most people knew about or thought about prior to COVID and everybody in the community now I think has heard about it,” said Kindrachuk, a visiting scientist from the University of Manitoba and Canada Research Chair.
“This is something that, in regards to vaccine development, we really have to put a lot of thought into as a research community because of the fact that we have to make vaccines that are accessible for the communities that are ultimately going to be treated with them.”
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott acknowledged Tuesday that appetite was strong for a homegrown answer but noted Providence was still a considerable ways from offering a viable option.
“First it has to go through the appropriate approval process, go through Health Canada to make sure that it’s going to be satisfactory and safe and efficacious,” said Elliott.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021.
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
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