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Widespread COVID-19 vaccination the 'best shot' for returning to normal, health officials say – The Globe and Mail

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Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, take part in a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Sept. 1, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canadians will need to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated in large numbers to finally corral COVID-19 before life can return to a semblance of its pre-pandemic state, Canada’s top public health officers said Tuesday.

“Widespread vaccine uptake is the best shot Canadians have in regaining some of what we’ve lost and returning to things that we cherish – things like holding family and friends closely, having community events and living our lives without the fear of contracting the disease,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. Tam and her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, offered that assessment one day after the Trudeau government announced the latest instalment in its plan to pre-buy tens of millions of doses of potential vaccines, signing deals with two American firms.

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The newest deals will allow Canada to buy as many as 76 million doses of a vaccine candidate from Maryland-based biotech company Novavax, and up to 38 million doses of the vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical company Janssen Inc.

An eventual vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19 will go through rigorous testing in Canada before it’s approved here, public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says. The Canadian Press

Last month, the government signed similar deals with U.S. companies Pfizer and Moderna that would give Canada access to up to 76 million more doses.

Dr. Njoo said it is not clear what percentage of Canadians will need to get vaccinated to achieve broad immunity but “the more Canadians that take advantage, the better.”

Both physicians evoked the dark days of forced quarantines, school closures and bans on public gatherings during the measles and polio outbreaks of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

“Most of us are lucky. We have not had to live through these types of measures because of safe and effective vaccines for these diseases,” said Dr. Tam.

“What Canada and the world needs to have for the best shot at normalcy is safe and effective vaccines.”

Dr. Tam suggested that the threshold for effective immunization is a moving target because understanding the science around COVID-19 is itself a work in progress.

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For regulatory purposes, she said, that level has to be continuously evaluated.

“The international consensus is that we should at least look at around the 50-per-cent vaccine efficacy mark,” said Dr. Tam, adding that there simply isn’t a “yes or no” answer.

More will be known when the data from ongoing Phase 3 clinical trials become available, she said.

“It’s a matter of remaining open to the evidence and being flexible.”

Right now, there appears to be low immunity to the disease around the world, “so getting a high enough vaccine uptake is going to be quite important,” said Dr. Tam.

Dr. Njoo said a vaccine could be available some time in 2021, perhaps as early as the spring.

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“We’re very optimistic here in Canada and because there are a number of vaccine candidates being evaluated,” said Dr. Njoo.

“There could be an effective and safe vaccine, perhaps in 2021. We don’t know exactly when. Perhaps in the spring, maybe a little bit later. But it’s a very good thing to stay optimistic.”

As for whether such a vaccine should be mandatory, Dr. Njoo said it is better for people to educated about the benefits of immunization rather than have it forced upon them because that’s the best way to increase the number of vaccinations.

“I think it is more important to maybe change people’s attitudes who may be more reticent about getting vaccinated rather than having regulations to make vaccination mandatory,” Dr. Njoo said.

While vaccines have never been made compulsory in Canada, the practice in hospitals and long-term care facilities that have had outbreaks of respiratory illnesses has been for health care workers to be vaccinated before being allowed to return to work, he noted.

As for testing for COVID-19, Dr. Njoo said the gold standard remains the so-called PCR test, or polymerase chain reaction testing, which relies on a sample collected from a person’s nose or throat.

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Asked about the possibility of a home test for the disease, Dr. Njoo said: “It’s quite complicated but the bottom line is: We’re open to examining all types of testing technologies because the more tools we have in the toolbox in terms of different types of tests available to use in different types of contexts, the better.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has signed agreements in principle with Johnson & Johnson and Novavax to get doses of the vaccines they’re working on to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, if the drugs prove safe and effective. The Canadian Press

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Vancouver Island opens up five ICU beds for COVID-19 patients from Northern Health region – Victoria Buzz

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During a COVID-19 press conference today, BC health officials announced that in order to prevent an overrun ICU in the Northern Health region, they would be opening five ICU beds on Vancouver Island and ten beds in the Lower Mainland.

Also during the conference, on whether Northern BC COVID-19 response could end up similar to what is happening in Alberta, Dr. Bonnie Henry said that BC is not at the same point as our neighbours to the east.

Henry also noted that due to BC’s current COVID-19 response, the province would not be able to handle taking on Alberta residents into their ICU care.

“We are not at a breaking point [like Alberta]. We are in a different place. But sadly, as a country, especially in BC, we cannot take people from Alberta into our [BC’s] ICU care,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

This begs the question of where Vancouver Island health services are at.

Earlier this month, Victoria Buzz reported a story about a father pleading for people to get vaccinated after his son was waiting for an ICU bed at the Royal Jubilee Hospital ICU due to what he saw was overrun with COVID-19 cases.

“He [Joel] is in a coma, and they’ve tried bringing him out. He’s still in CCU, and he’s on a ventilator. He’s just waiting for a bed in the ICU,” Roberts said.

“Before he had his episode, I felt that yes, people need to get vaccinated. But this has made that sentiment stronger. Stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about everyone else.”

Victoria Buzz spoke to Island Health to get a better grasp of how Vancouver Island has been handling this fourth wave of the pandemic, and how ICUs in Victoria are holding up.

A representative for Island Health confirmed that they are seeing an increasing impact on hospitals and critical care units amidst the fourth wave.

They said that since the beginning of the pandemic, Royal Jubilee, Victoria General, and Nanaimo Regional General hospitals were the core facilities supporting COVID-19 patients.

Despite occupancy varying day-to-day, last week’s average occupancy of critical care beds was 73%, according to Island Health. In comparison, Alberta’s ICU capacity is 88%.

In order to support additional critical care needs beyond base capacity Island Health has now implemented surge critical care beds and an inpatient unit at Victoria General Hospital for non-critical care patients.

In a statement to Victoria Buzz, Island Health expressed their willingness to do what they can to support the province, but also acknowledged what British Columbians could do as well: get vaccinated.

“In addition to supporting the increasing critical care needs of Vancouver Island residents, we have supported over a dozen critical care patients from other health authorities,” the Island Health representative told Victoria Buzz.

“Our health-care teams need every eligible resident of Island Health to get vaccinated today if they haven’t already, and follow public health guidance, in order to protect our health-care system and our teams.”

As of this publication, 87% of all eligible British Columbians have been vaccinated and there are currently 540 active cases on Vancouver Island.

Of the 353 British Columbians who have been hospitalized from September 6th to September 19th due to COVID-19, 279 (79%) were unvaccinated.

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Quebec man punches nurse in face for giving wife COVID-19 vaccine – Campbell River Mirror

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Police in Quebec say they are looking for a man who is alleged to have repeatedly punched a nurse in the face because he was angry she had vaccinated his wife against COVID-19.

Police say a man between the ages of 30 and 45 approached the nurse on Monday morning at a pharmacy in Sherbrooke, Que., about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.

They say he accused the nurse of vaccinating his wife against her consent and repeatedly punched the nurse before leaving the store.

Police say the nurse had to be treated in hospital for serious injuries to her face.

Quebec’s order of nurses tweeted today that the alleged assault was unacceptable and wished the nurse a full recovery.

Sherbrooke police are asking for the public’s help in finding the assailant, who they say has short dark hair, dark eyes, thick eyebrows and a tattoo resembling a cross on his hand.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: ‘Go the hell home’: B.C. leaders condemn anti-vaccine passport protests

RELATED: ‘Stay away from children!’: Premier denounces protesters who entered Salmon Arm schools

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Sask. children's hospital ICU accepts adults in COVID-19 surge plan – CTV News Saskatoon

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SASKATOON —
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is shuttling some adult intensive care patients to the province’s children’s hospital in the face of surging COVID-19 cases.

“Critical care capacity is under strain and all avenues of support need to be explored to so we can continue to care for extremely ill patients,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said in a news release.

Adult patients requiring an ICU bed will be considered for admission to Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, according to the health authority.

Patients are selected through a clinical review by the adult and pediatric critical care physicians.

Pediatric patients will continue to be prioritized for critical care at the hospital’s PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and no pediatric patients will be displaced, according to the SHA.

The change is effective immediately and is part of a larger SHA surge plan announced Sept. 17 to prepare for a growing number of COVID patients throughout the health system.

The PICU will be able to surge to 18 critical care beds, including six additional flex beds for both pediatric and selected adult patients.

Staffing plans have been developed and continue to be secured for the additional beds, much of which will come through service slowdowns.

The SHA’s normal (ICU) capacity is 79 beds. To increase ICU capacity, the SHA has also added 22 surge beds.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 78 of the 101 available ICU beds were full and two adult COVID infectious patients had been admitted to JPCH.

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