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Why rollout of COVID-19 vaccine could be ‘the most difficult part’ in Canada

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Despite promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates on the horizon worldwide, experts say Canada needs to overcome major hurdles before it can develop rollout strategies to get the right shot into Canadians’ arms.

News that Pfizer’s vaccine candidate has shown promising preliminary results in Phase 3 clinical trials made headlines this week, but specific data on which patients benefited from the trial, which could inform rollout plans, has yet to be released.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country needs “a very sophisticated” rollout plan that will require “high degrees of logistical support.”

But determining who should get a vaccine first is extremely challenging without specific data on who it would help most.

“The rollout is going to be the most difficult part of this vaccine and that’s the part I think everyone is starting to think of today,” Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases specialist at St Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, told CBC’s The National.

“If the vaccine data shows that the highest risk populations also have the highest reasonable benefit here, I think that prioritization scheme works very well and hopefully that’s the target for the first 10 million doses.”

 

Pfizer says initial data suggests its COVID-19 vaccine is 90 per cent effective. Medical experts call it encouraging, but have a lot of questions. 2:05

But who is most at risk of severe illness and transmission of COVID-19 is still in question, meaning Canada might need to develop several contingency plans.

“If we decide to start with health-care workers, it’s going to be a completely different strategy than if we start by vaccinating the elderly in long-term care facilities,” Dr. Caroline Quach, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), said on The Current on Tuesday.

“So it’s difficult currently for provinces and territories to have a good idea and a good understanding of how they need to deploy.”

The federal government has reportedly secured enough syringes and needles for provinces and territories to vaccinate all Canadians who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but Quach says the specific plans are still unclear.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement to CBC News the federal government is working with provinces and territories to approve and distribute a vaccine as quickly as possible.

 

Dr. Caroline Quach says a lack of key data makes it difficult for provinces and territories to have a good understanding of how they need to deploy a potential vaccine. (CBC)

 

“It is anticipated that in the early stages of rollout, supply availability will be limited,” a spokesperson said.

“The quantity and schedule of availability of vaccines will be the subject of ongoing discussion with provinces and territories to manage expectations and plans for delivery.”

The NACI has released preliminary recommendations that prioritize the elderly and others at severe risk of illness: health-care workers, front-line staff and those with lower access to health care including Indigenous populations.

But to know who should be first in line, the NACI and government officials need to know who fell ill in the vaccinated group compared with the placebo group during clinical trials.

Without answers, governments across Canada will need to hedge their bets.

“They may have to work on two to three plans in parallel,” Quach said. “Just in case one of those will be picked as the first strategy.”

Logistical challenges

How to deploy a vaccine across the country, especially to remote communities such as First Nations, is also a key consideration.

Pfizer’s vaccine candidate needs to be stored at –70 C to –80 C, but commercial refrigerators typically go down to –15 C at the most.

Given that strict temperature requirement, Chaga suspects that Pfizer’s vaccine would be distributed much differently than a typical vaccine.

“We’re probably going to have centralized hubs and teams going out from those hubs to do mass immunization campaigns,” he said. “Rather than what we’re seeing with the flu vaccine with pharmacies and physician offices involved with distribution.”

But Quach says unlike influenza vaccines, there may not actually be enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines to make a significant impact — especially early on.

“We don’t have enough vaccines to vaccinate all Canadians,” she said, adding that COVID-19 vaccines could be distributed over the next 12 to 18 months. “The rollout will be slow.”

 

Alyson Kelvin says she’s discouraged by the fact that Canada has not released preliminary plans for the rollout of a potential vaccine. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

 

Lack of plan concerning

Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, says she is eager to see a vaccine rollout plan for Canada.

“We need a good strategy to get that out, we need a strategy to get it to our front-line health-care workers, the people who keep our daily lives running, the grocery store workers, as well as we also need to start thinking about the under-served communities.”

Kelvin says she was discouraged that Canada has not released preliminary rollout plans despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization doing so months ago.

“Just because we have a vaccine doesn’t mean we’re done. We need to think through how we’re going to get this into people’s arms and who should get it first,” she said. “This is going to be a huge undertaking … it concerns me that I haven’t seen a plan.”

Quach says, unlike the U.S.’s minimum requirement of 50 per cent efficacy for a COVID-19 vaccine, Health Canada has not set a bar for approving a vaccine.

“Being close to our neighbour, we are a little bit stuck with what they are going to decide,” Quach said.

Kelvin said the NACI recommendations were a good start, but were not released in a way that’s easy for average Canadians to understand. It’s also not yet clear whether the federal, provincial and territorial governments will follow those guidelines.

“Information will have to be easily accessible to the public, policy makers and stakeholders for the more effective use of a vaccine when it becomes available,” she said.

“Pharmacists and nurses or those approved to vaccinate the public will need accurate information about the vaccine being given and the rollout plan as it is put in place.”

 

The federal government has taken a very aggressive vaccine buying approach and has already bought millions of doses of Pfizer’s vaccine with the hope it works. And governments are already planning how to distribute vaccines when they’re available, including who will go first. 1:47

Source:- CBC.ca

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The cost of down payments in Canadian cities skyrocketed in 2021, new data shows – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Skyrocketing housing prices in 2021 are driving up how long it would take for homebuyers to save for a down payment, new data shows.

The National Bank of Canada (NBC)’s latest report found that during the second quarter of 2021, housing affordability has worsened by the widest margin in 27 years. The report examined housing and mortgage trends in 10 cities across the country.

To save up enough for a down payment for an average home in Canada, it would take just short of six years – or 69 months – if you saved at a rate of 10 per cent of their median pre-tax household income.

This marked a notable jump compared to the 57 months of saving at that same rate this time last year.

And, if you live in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, it could take decades – assuming you put away 10 per cent of your before-tax household income.

Here’s a breakdown of how much time it would take to save up for a down payment for an average home or condo, if you saved a tenth of your pre-tax income:

Vancouver

  • Standing head and shoulders above the other cities, it would take a staggering 34 years – or 411 months – of saving to be able to afford a home here.
  • The average home here costs $1.47 million.
  • It would take just under five years – 57 months — to save up enough for a down payment on an average condo in Vancouver.

Victoria

  • An estimated 28 years, or 338 months, of saving to make a down payment for a non-condo home, with the total price of a representative home set at $1.03M.
  • It would take 47 months of saving to afford a condo down payment.

Toronto,

Toronto

  • To save enough for a down payment for a home here would take 26.5 years – or 318 months.
  • The average home here costs approximately $1.2 million.
  • To afford a condo down payment here would take just under five years, or 56 months.

Hamilton

  • At a 10-per-cent saving rate, you’re looking at 6.5 years of saving up to afford a down payment for a home — and around four years to afford a condo in this city.

Ottawa/Gatineau

  • Trying to save up a home down payment in Canada’s capital could take a little over four years.

Montreal

Montreal

  • Saving up a tenth of your pre-tax earnings for 3.5 years would mean you could afford a down payment on a representative home in Montreal
  • The total price tag of a non-condo home sits at $492,777.
  • Trying to afford a condo here could take you just a little more than two and a half years of saving.

Calgary

  • You’d need to save up for just under three years – or 34 months – to afford a home here, or about half that time to afford a condo.

Edmonton

  • Potential homebuyers were looking at 2.5 years – or 30 months – of saving if you’re looking to make a down payment on a non-condo home.
  • The average total cost of a non-condo home was $428,600.

Winnipeg

Winnipeg

  • Affording a down payment on a $370,000 home could take homebuyers about 2.3 years worth of saving.
  • Home buyers needed 18 months to save up a down payment on a condo.

Quebec City

  • The price of a representative home in Quebec’s capital is $330 742 and it would take the average Canadian household just over two years – or 28 months — to save up a down payment.

Researchers also found mortgage payments now make up 45 per cent of the income for a representative household, slightly above the average amount (43 per cent of income) needed in 1980.

NBC noted that during most of the past two years, income growth and lower interest rates have been conducive to improving affordability.

But 2021 has been a stark contrast, the bank said, with home price increases outpacing income growth and mortgage interest rates also rising.

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Countries making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory

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A sharp upturn in new coronavirus infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant and a slowdown in vaccination rates have pushed governments to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups.

A growing number of countries also stipulate that a shot, or a negative test, will be needed for dining out, among other activities.

Here are some countries’ vaccine mandates:

AUSTRALIA

Australia decided in late June to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels.

It has also made vaccinations obligatory for Paralympic athletes heading to Tokyo because unvaccinated members on the team could pose a health risk.

BRITAIN

It will be mandatory for care home workers in England to have coronavirus vaccinations from October.

English nightclubs and other venues with large crowds will require patrons to present proof of full vaccination from the end of September.

CANADA

Canada‘s Treasury Board Secretariat said on July 20 it was considering whether COVID-19 vaccines should be required for certain roles and positions in the federal government, according to CBC News.

FRANCE

The French parliament on Aug. 2 approved a bill which will make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health workers as well as require a bolstered health pass in many social venues.

The government said on July 19 that the planned 45,000 euro ($53,456) fine for businesses that do not check that clients have a health pass will be much lower, starting at up to 1,500 euros and increasing progressively for repeat offenders. Fines will not be imposed immediately.

GREECE

Greece on July 12 made vaccinations mandatory for nursing home staff with immediate effect and healthcare workers from September. As part of new measures, only vaccinated customers are allowed indoors in bars, cinemas, theatres and other closed spaces.

INDONESIA

Indonesia made COVID-19 inoculations mandatory in February, with the capital Jakarta threatening fines of up to 5 million rupiah ($357) for refusing.

ITALY

A decree approved by the Italian government in March mandates that health workers, including pharmacists, get vaccinated. Those who refuse could be suspended without pay for the rest of the year.

HUNGARY

Hungary’s government has decided to make vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told public radio on July 23.

KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan will introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for people working in groups of more than 20, the health ministry said on June 23.

LEBANON

Lebanon is to limit entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches to people holding vaccine certificates or those who have taken antibodies tests, the tourism ministry said on July 30. Non-vaccinated employees of these establishments would be required to conduct a PCR test every 72 hours.

MALTA

Malta banned visitors from entering the country from July 14 unless they are fully vaccinated.

POLAND

Poland could make vaccinations obligatory for some people at high risk from COVID-19 from August.

RUSSIA

The Russian capital has unveiled a plan https://bit.ly/2TWsroN requiring 60% of all service sector workers to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15, according to the Moscow Times.

Moscow residents no longer have to present a QR code demonstrating they have been vaccinated or have immunity in order to sit in cafes, restaurants and bars from July 19.

SAUDI ARABIA

In May, Saudi Arabia mandated all public and private sector workers wishing to attend a workplace get vaccinated, without specifying when this would be implemented.

Vaccination will also be required to enter any governmental, private, or educational establishments and to use public transportation as of Aug. 1.

Saudi citizens will need two vaccine doses before they can travel outside the kingdom from Aug. 9, state news agency SPA reported on July 19, citing the ministry of interior.

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry said on July 7 it was making vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over.

UNITED STATES

U.S. President Joe Biden announced on July 29 that all civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and travel limits, a source familiar with the matter said.

New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require, from Sept. 13, proof of vaccination for customers and staff at restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses as the country enters a new phase of battling the Delta variant.

New York will require state employees to be vaccinated or get tested weekly, a mandate that will go into effect on Sept. 6, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will require their workers to get the vaccine or get tested weekly, Cuomo said on Aug. 2.

New Jersey state health care workers and employees who work in jails must by vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face testing twice a week.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said that all state employees would be ordered to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.

Denver municipal employees and people working in high-risk settings in the city will be required to get vaccinated, Mayor Michael Hancock said on Aug. 2.

($1 = 0.8418 euros)

 

(Compiled by Paulina Cwikowska, Dagmarah Mackos and Oben Mumcuoglu; editing by Milla Nissi, Steve Orlofsky, Joe Bavier and Nick Macfie)

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U.S. to outfit border agents with body cameras in major oversight move

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The United States will require thousands of border agents to wear body cameras, according to three officials and government documents, a major operational change that could increase oversight of agents and also help capture criminal activity.

The cameras are expected to be rolled out in parts of Texas and New Mexico during the summer and expanded in the fall and winter to Arizona, California, and Texas’ busy Rio Grande Valley, which all border Mexico, according to a recent government assessment of how the devices could impact privacy. Agents in Vermont along the U.S. border with Canada will also be equipped with cameras, the assessment said.

U.S. border authorities plan to deploy a total of 7,500 body-worn cameras, with 6,000 in the field by the end of the year, a border agency official told Reuters.

Pro-immigrant activists will likely welcome the increased oversight that cameras could bring to an agency some have criticized for excessive use of force and institutional racism. But a union for border patrol agents also supports cameras, saying they could assist criminal investigations and help show that agents act professionally.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have called on border patrol agents to use the cameras to improve accountability in the wake of several high-profile fatal shootings by law enforcement over the past decade.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, stressed that agents should have access to the footage, including when an agent is accused of wrongdoing.

Border Patrol’s parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, which presents a unique challenge for video footage collection and storage.

Recordings of illegal activity, use of force or agent misconduct could be used as evidence in investigations or prosecutions, the privacy assessment said.

The cameras could offer new insight into the policing of the southern border, where migrant arrests have risen to 20-year highs in recent months and encounters sometimes take place in remote areas.

In cases where footage could be used as evidence in a criminal case, it could be retained for up to 75 years, according to the privacy assessment. Footage that does not have value as evidence would be destroyed within 180 days.

After a bipartisan group of lawmakers spearheaded efforts to secure funding for bodycams, CBP awarded a total of about $21 million to Axon Enterprises Inc [AXON.O] for body cameras and to connect the cameras to a cloud-based storage system, according to the agency official.

The devices are the size of a deck of playing cards and will be affixed to the front of agents’ uniforms, the official said.

Axon declined to comment on the rollout.

CBP conducted a small pilot of body cameras in 2015, but ultimately opted not to deploy them then.

An agency assessment at the time said the cameras would likely reduce the use of physical force on the job, but cited a number of reasons not to adopt the devices, including cost and agent morale.

Gil Kerlikowske, who was CBP commissioner at the time, said another consideration was that the cameras “did not hold up particularly well” in the field, where they could be knocked off in the brush or mucked up with dust and dirt.

Body cameras have become more commonplace since the 2015 effort. The U.S. Department of Justice said in June that its agents would be required to wear cameras when serving search and arrest warrants.

Kerlikowske said many law enforcement officers support the idea, too.

“There are now police officers who won’t go on the street without their body camera,” he said. “They want that video image.”

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington, editing by Ross Colvin, Aurora Ellis, Mica Rosenberg and Diane Craft)

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