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World isn't ready for coronavirus outbreak, says Canadian WHO expert – Vancouver Sun

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OTTAWA — The world is not ready for the global spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the renowned Canadian epidemiologist who led a team of experts to China to study the virus on behalf of the World Health Organization.

Dr. Bruce Aylward returned from a two-week mission to China, including the city of Wuhan where the spread of the coronavirus began, urging other countries to get ready for a potential outbreak within their own borders as soon as possible.

“This virus will show up,” he warned at a briefing Tuesday.

“This is going to come soon, potentially. You’ve got to be shifting to readiness, rapid-response thinking.”

Aylward led a team of 25 world experts, who operated independently of the WHO and their associated institutions.

There are more than 80,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide and 2,700 people are known to have died from it, the vast majority of them in China.

The team found that countries should be looking to China for expertise in how to manage and treat the illness now known as COVID-19, noting that country has taken an aggressive approach to testing, containing and treating people who contract the coronavirus.

China has all but locked down whole cities of millions of people in an attempt to keep COVID-19 from spreading and has instituted door-to-door checks of people’s temperatures to find sick people and order them into mass treatment centres.

Despite the massive outbreak in China, Aylward said China has seen some success repressing the spread of the virus, with the number of new confirmed cases on the decline.

But he warned the spread of the virus to other countries seems inevitable, and they will need to tackle it with the goal of tracing every case and stopping chains of transmission.

He urged all countries to make sure hospitals increase their bed capacities and have enough ventilators for the very sick. He said they should also prepare to quarantine large numbers of people who come into contact with those who have confirmed cases of the disease.

“There’s nothing on that list that countries can’t do,” he said.

Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday that Canada is already ahead of many countries because it has a pandemic plan in place and federal authorities have been co-ordinating with provincial health care providers about the COVID-19 response for months now.

Still, Canada has so far been focused on containing sick people coming in from abroad and must now start to prepare for the possibility of local spread.

“As it appears that containment is less and less likely to be successful globally, we turn our attention to our domestic preparedness,” Hajdu said.

The health minister had a warning of her own, for all Canadians.

“It’s important for Canadians to realize that this may cause disruptions in their lives. It might mean that if someone is ill in their family that people may have to be isolated, that businesses may have to have contingency plans,” she said.

Aylward’s final report, which includes findings about how the disease is transmitted, has not yet been released. It had been submitted to the WHO and Chinese authorities, who will be responsible for releasing it to the public.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2020

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UK study finds mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provide biggest booster impact – Fiji Times

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LONDON (Reuters) -COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna that use mRNA technology provide the biggest boost to antibody levels when given 10-12 weeks after the second dose, a new British study has found.

The “COV-Boost” study was cited by British officials when they announced that Pfizer and Moderna were preferred for use in the country’s booster campaign, but the data has only been made publicly available now.

The study found that six of the seven boosters examined enhanced immunity after initial vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, while all seven increased immunity when given after two doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

“A third dose will be effective for many of the vaccines we’ve tested and in many different combinations,” Professor Saul Faust, an immunologist at the University of Southampton and the trial’s lead, told reporters.

The study, published late on Thursday, found that a full dose or half dose of Pfizer or a full dose of Moderna gave a strong boost to both antibody and T-cell levels, regardless of whether the person initially received Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

“All four of the vaccination regimes most widely deployed in the UK lead to essentially the same levels of immunity and are likely to be equally effective,” said Professor Eleanor Riley, immunologist at the University of Edinburgh. She added that a policy change in booster gaps was also supported by the data.

“These data support the JCVI (vaccine committee) decision earlier this week to bring forward booster doses to 3 months after the second vaccination.”

When AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and Curevac were given as boosters, they increased antibody levels for either initial vaccine, albeit to a smaller degree, the study found. However, while Valneva boosted antibodies in people initially vaccinated with AstraZeneca, it did not provide a boost for Pfizer.

The COV-Boost study pre-dated the spread of the emergent Omicron variant of concern, and Faust said he had shared samples with the UK Health Security Agency to generate data on Omicron.

The study did however find that booster shots also helped to generate a broad T-cell response against the Beta and Delta variants, which may play a key role in longer-term protection.

A separate study by Imperial College London into how initial exposure to SARS-CoV-2 shapes immune responses, also published late on Thursday, similarly found a good T-cell response to both Alpha and Delta after infection followed by vaccination.

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Dutch former queen Beatrix tests positive for COVID-19

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Dutch former queen Beatrix, 83, has tested positive for COVID-19, the royal information service RVD said in a statement Saturday.

Princess Beatrix, as she has been known since her abdication in 2013, got tested after coming down with “mild cold symptoms”, the statement said.

“The princess is at home in isolation and adheres to the rules of life for people who have tested positive,” it added.

The Netherlands has been experiencing a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is threatening to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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‘I was shocked’: Mother, child mistakenly given COVID-19 vaccine instead of flu shot – Comox Valley Record

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A Manitoba mother says a routine appointment for her and her three-year-old to get flu shots ended in frustration and mixed messages after they were each mistakenly given an adult dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Jenna Bardarson is calling for policy changes at the province’s vaccination centres to make sure that doesn’t happen to another family.

The shots were administered on Nov. 24 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon.

Bardarson says that shortly after she and her daughter, Dali, got their shots, the health worker who had given them excused herself to speak with a supervisor. When the worker returned, she told them she had made a mistake and given them both the adult Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My immediate concerns were, of course, would my daughter be OK and also who could I speak to about this,” Bardarson said in online social media messages Friday to The Canadian Press.

Once she got home, Bardarson made multiple calls to different departments with the regional medical authority, hoping to speak with someone about the error and her concerns, she said.

She said no one was able to provide her with the answers or information she needed. “The conversations with various Prairie Mountain Health members have been frustrating, to say the least.”

Bardarson said she already had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and was due for her booster shot next month. Her daughter is too young to be eligible.

Health Canada last month approved a pediatric version of the Pfizer shot for children ages five to 11, but it has not yet approved a vaccine for those under five.

Bardarson said she and her daughter had headaches and sore arms the following day. Her daughter had no appetite and was throwing up.

Manitoba Health confirmed the mistake in a statement and said staff from Prairie Mountain have reached out to the mother to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation.

“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” it said.

“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”

Bardarson said the health region has not provided her with updated information on the investigation and would not discuss any consequences the health worker may have faced.

Manitoba Health said no further action would be taken against the worker, because she immediately recognized the error and told a supervisor.

For Bardarson, that’s not enough.

“I by no means want her fired; however, there should be some sort of measures in place for harm reduction.”

Bardarson suggested taking away the worker’s injection privileges or enhanced supervision during vaccinations.

She said she would also like to see areas at vaccination centres separated by vaccine types, instead of having different vaccines offered in the same booth.

Manitoba Health could not say if others have been given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake, but acknowledged that medication errors, although rare, do occur. It added that Bardarson was provided with information about the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, which in this case it says are low.

Health Canada said it is not in charge of immunization monitoring and could not comment on whether similar mistakes have occurred in other parts of the country.

– Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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