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Your questions answered by London's acting medical officer of health – CBC.ca

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It’s been almost three weeks since the discovery of Omicron, the latest variant to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario’s science table shows Omicron has a reproduction rate roughly three times that of Delta — and a doubling time for cases of only three days. Officials around the world are now pivoting to boost protection measures. 

Dr. Alex Summers, the London region’s acting medical officer of health, took your questions Thursday on London Morning. Here’s some of what you had on your mind.

The following has been edited for clarity. 

Q: What are we seeing in the community? 

A: We’re seeing exponential growth driven by the Omicron variant in our community, and I’m saddened and disheartened. We’ve been at this for a long time. But I’m encouraged by the fact that we as a community have rallied against this before, and that we will continue to do so. I also have a lot of sympathy for everyone who’s realizing that yet again, this holiday season isn’t going to feel like it used to in the past, nor like we would want it to. 

Q: When are more vaccines expected in the region? What are the plans to ramp up the mass vaccination clinics? 

A: We’ve been ramping up operations at the mass vaccine clinic all this past week. An additional 7,000 appointments were added between last Friday and Christmas Eve. And as we announced earlier this week, we’re looking at significant additional capacity in early January. 

Our pharmacies in our region are also ramping up. We will see more and more product coming from the province to those pharmacies. So you will soon see a rapid flooding of the region with vaccine. The challenge is demand, obviously, has gone up very quickly, so it is going to be a challenge I think, particularly come Monday, when those 18 and older are eligible for people to find an appointment in the immediate future. We are continuing to add as many appointments as we can, but this is a very, very, very rapid ramp up and only so much is possible. But we’re going as hard as we can. 

Q: My child and I are in self-isolation right now. Should I be booking my third vaccine on Monday? 

A: The most important thing right now for you is to remain in self-isolation. Once you’re out of that self-isolation period, which is 10 days, then it would be appropriate to book a dose as soon as possible for your booster dose. The challenge is that the booster dose will still take five to seven days to get a robust response and so on. If you’ve been exposed before that, the booster dose unfortunately isn’t going to make an impact at this point in time. But if you again stay in safe self-isolation and once you’re out of that, immediately try and book an appointment as soon as possible.

Q: I received the AstraZeneca and Pfizer. What should I expect for a booster? 

A:  You and many others are in a position where you may have received different doses for your first and second. It doesn’t matter which type of vaccine, whether it’s Moderna or Pfizer, you receive for your third dose. Certainly, the difference in the effectiveness and the boost that you will get is marginal to the point that it does not matter. So you can get either Pfizer or Moderna for your third dose. Both will be effective at giving you that boost. 

Q: How long will it take for the booster to be effective? 

A: With all vaccines, we always give the immune system a two-week window to maximize the effectiveness. We do estimate that with this booster dose, early effectiveness is likely at the five to seven day mark after you receive the vaccine, with full protection again at that two week mark. 

Q: My child tested positive in October. Will he test positive on a take-home test now? 

A: We have seen people continue to test positive after having COVID 90 days or more after they had it. So if your child tested positive back in October, I would avoid using those tests right now. He may come back positive and it might just be the residual virus that’s no longer replicating from when he was sick the first time. So I would hold off until after that 90 day mark from when he was diagnosed with COVID. 

Q: What settings have the majority of cases been coming from in recent days in London? Schools, workplaces, private gatherings? 

A: Three weeks ago, we were seeing a majority of our cases from Delta and they were happening in unvaccinated areas and in close social private gatherings. That is now changing. We are seeing cases and we are seeing so many cases that sometimes it’s hard for us to pinpoint exactly where they’re coming from. At this point, we are seeing cases from all walks, schools, workplaces, larger public gatherings that are indoors. 

Certainly any social environment where people are spending a lot of time indoors and potentially without a mask are at high risk. We’ve also seen significant transmission among amateur sports. The hockey tournament world is a blast because of the way that people get to spend time with each other, but it’s also therefore an opportunity for Omicron to spread. So we are going to be again providing additional messages to folks: It’s time to cancel those plans. It’s time to take a pause on certain amateur sports. 

Q: When can we anticipate more rapid tests being offered free here in London?

I don’t have a definitive answer. Speaking to the province yesterday, asking when those rapid tests might be arriving in our region, I don’t have clarity on that timeline yet. Apologies. But we continue to advocate to the province for access to those tests in our region. 

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Covid-19: World health officials offer hope that Omicron wave will increase global immunity – Hindustan Times

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  • The encouraging trends after two years of coronavirus misery have brought a noticeably hopeful tone from health experts. Rosy predictions have crumbled before, but this time they are backed by what could be called Omicron’s silver lining. 

Covid-19: World health officials offer hope that Omicron wave will increase global immunity(Bhushan Koyande)
Published on Jan 25, 2022 08:59 AM IST
AP | | Posted by Krishna Priya Pallavi, Delhi

World health officials are offering hope that the ebbing of the omicron wave could give way to a new, more manageable phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, even as they warn of difficult weeks ahead and the possibility of another, more dangerous variant arising.

In the US, cases have crested and are dropping rapidly, following a pattern seen in Britain and South Africa, with researchers projecting a period of low spread in many countries by the end of March. Though US deaths — now at 2,000 each day — are still rising, new hospital admissions have started to fall, and a drop in deaths is expected to follow.

The encouraging trends after two years of coronavirus misery have brought a noticeably hopeful tone from health experts. Rosy predictions have crumbled before, but this time they are backed by what could be called Omicron’s silver lining: The highly contagious variant will leave behind extremely high levels of immunity.

On Sunday, Dr Anthony Fauci talked on ABC This Week about a “best-case scenario” where Covid-19 would fall to manageable levels so the United States could get “back to a degree of normality.”

And on Monday, the World Health Organization issued a statement anticipating an end to the “emergency phase” of the pandemic this year and saying that the omicron variant “offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization.”

Both Fauci and the WHO’s Europe regional director, Dr Hans Kluge, cautioned that new variants are likely to emerge, but with vaccination, new drug therapies and — during surges — testing and masks, the world could reach a less disruptive level of disease in which the virus is, as Fauci put it, “essentially integrated into the general respiratory infections that we have learned to live with.”

In the US, new cases are averaging a still extraordinarily high 680,000 a day, down from an all-time peak of over 800,000 a little more than a week ago.

The places in the US where omicron struck first are seeing the sharpest declines. New cases in the Northeast are nose-diving, while other states — Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Kansas and North Dakota among them — are still waiting for relief.

Falling, too, are new US hospital admissions of patients with confirmed Covid-19. They are averaging nearly 20,000 per day, down about 7 per cent from the previous week, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those numbers include patients who went to the hospital for other reasons and tested positive. But even after accounting for these incidental infections, the trend is hopeful.

One influential model projects that nearly all nations will be past the omicron wave by mid-March, including China and other countries with “zero Covid” policies. The wave will leave behind high levels of immunity — both from infection and vaccination — that could lead to low levels of transmission for many weeks or months.

“What do we end up with at the end of this?” said Dr Christopher Murray of the University of Washington, who developed the closely watched Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model. “We end up with the highest levels of global immunity that we’ve seen in the pandemic.”

The model estimates that 57% of the world’s population already has been infected with the virus at least once.

Another research group, which combines several models and shares the projections with the White House, predicts a strong decline in US infections by April, unless a new variant emerges that can sidestep the growing levels of immunity.

“It would be dangerous to forget that possibility, as it has caught us before,” said Katriona Shea of Pennsylvania State University, a leader of the team that pulls together the models.

She noted, too, that the projections show 16,000 to 98,000 more Americans dying before the omicron wave is through. The US death toll stands at close to 870,000.

“Even if we project a more optimistic future, right now we still have a lot of Covid spreading, a lot of strain in our hospital systems, and our deaths have not yet peaked,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas Covid-19 Modeling Consortium.

“There’s still a lot of pain before omicron has run its course,” she said, but added: “It’s very plausible that omicron will be a turning point in terms of our relationship with this virus.”

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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Factbox-Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus

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Britain said on Tuesday it needed to recruit 6,000 more people onto a trial of Merck‘s COVID-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir to inform how the drug can be rolled out more widely.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.

AMERICAS

* The U.S. health regulator revised the emergency use authorisations for COVID-19 antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly to limit their use, as the drugs are unlikely to work against the Omicron variant.

* Brazil had 83,340 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 259 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

* Chile, which already boasts one of the world’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, has agreed to purchase 2 million vaccine doses from Moderna, Chilean interim health minister Maria Teresa Valenzuela said.

* A New York judge struck down the state’s mask mandate, one week before it was due to expire, ruling the governor overstepped her authority in imposing a rule that needed to have been passed by the state legislature.

EUROPE

* The head of the World Health Organization warned that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of COVID-19’s acutest phase, exhorting nations to stay focused to beat the pandemic.

* Germany extended its current pandemic measures as the experts panel appointed by the government has warned the Omicron variant could bring critical infrastructure in Europe’s biggest economy to a breaking point.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* South Korea’s daily count of new coronavirus cases topped 8,000 for the first time, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly despite the recent extension of strict social-distancing rules to slow infection.

* Japan is set to more than double the number of regions under enhanced coronavirus curbs on Tuesday, even as it sought to modify strategies to contend with the infectious Omicron variant that has fuelled record numbers of cases.

* About two dozen cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among the crew of an Australian warship expected to arrive in coronavirus-free Tonga on Wednesday to deliver humanitarian aid, Australian authorities said.

AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST

* Israel’s health minister said he did not think Israel will offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to most people after the government made it available to over 60s and other high-risk groups.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Omicron can survive longer than earlier versions of the coronavirus on plastic surfaces and human skin, Japanese researchers found in laboratory tests.

* A third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson increases antibody levels significantly in those who have previously received two doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac shot, a study has found.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Australia’s core inflation flew to its fastest annual pace since 2014 in the December quarter as fuel and housing costs led broad-based price pressures, a shock that will stoke market speculation of an early hike in interest rates.

* South Korea’s economy expanded at the fastest pace in 11 years in 2021, helped by a jump in exports and construction activity, tempering declines in capital investment and a slow recovery in the coronavirus-hit service sectors.

* A measure of Australian business confidence has swung into the red as a surge in coronavirus cases hit consumer spending and played havoc with staffing, though sales overall were proving resilient so far.

 

(Compiled by Sherry Jacob-Phillips; Edited by Shounak Dasgupta)

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Sinovac regimen gets strong boost from Pfizer, AstraZeneca or J&J COVID shots – study

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A third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson increases antibody levels significantly in those who have previously received two doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac shot, a study has found.

The study found that CoronaVac received the strongest boost from a viral vector or RNA shot, including against the Delta and Omicron coronavirus variants, researchers from Brazil and Oxford University said on Monday.

China-based Sinovac’s vaccine uses an inactivated version of a coronavirus strain that was isolated from a patient in China. It is currently approved in more than 50 countries including Brazil, China, Argentina, South Africa, Oman, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey.

“This study provides important options for policymakers in the many countries where inactivated vaccines … have been used,” said Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and study lead.

However, another study in December found that Sinovac’s two-dose shot followed by a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine showed a lower immune response against the Omicron variant compared with other strains.

Viral vector vaccines such as the ones developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford and J&J use a weakened version of another virus to deliver genetic instructions for making proteins from the virus against which protection is sought. Pfizer and BioNTech’s mRNA vaccines deliver a genetic transcript with instructions for making viral proteins to teach the body how to defend against infections.

A third dose of CoronaVac also increased antibodies, but the results were better when a different vaccine was used, according to the latest study that included 1,240 volunteers from the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Salvador.

Antibody levels were low before the booster doses, with only 20.4% of adults aged 18-60 and 8.9% of adults aged over 60 having detectable levels of neutralising antibodies. These were seen to significantly increase across every booster vaccine regimen, according to the study, which was published in the Lancet medical journal on Friday.

 

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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