Tag Archives: ‘among

Sinclair, Buchanan among 7 Canadian players unavailable for SheBelieves Cup

Canada’s roster for the SheBelieves Cup has been ravaged by injuries and pandemic-related travel issues, with captain Christine Sinclair one of seven players to miss the four-country soccer tournament that starts next week in Florida.

Canada Soccer announced Saturday that Sinclair and midfielder Diana Matheson, who have 500 caps and 205 international goals between them, didn’t make it to camp in Orlando because of injury. And that veteran goalkeeper Erin McLeod and uncapped defender Bianca St-Georges had both gone back to their clubs after picking up injuries at camp.

Adding to the roster woes is the fact that centre back Kadeisha Buchanan (Lyon), fullback Ashley Lawrence and forward Jordyn Huitema (both Paris Saint-Germain) were denied release by their French clubs.

Canada, tied for eighth with Brazil in the world rankings, opens play Thursday against the top-ranked Americans.

The 37-year-old Sinclair has been a constant for Canada. Since her senior debut in 2000, she has played in 296 of Canada’s 341 international matches (86.8 per cent). Since 2007, when she became full-time captain, Sinclair has missed just three camp call-ups.

Priestman, in her first camp at the Canadian helm, opted to see the glass half-full, saying the absences mean opportunity for other players and a chance to assess the depth of the program.

WATCH | Canada coach Priestman targeting podium finish at Tokyo Games:

Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team named a new head coach just nine months out from the upcoming Summer Olympics. Bev Priestman tells Signa Butler her plans for Tokyo and the future of the program. 6:01

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CBC | Sports News

4 UBC Thunderbirds among 16 players taken in CPL-U Sports draft

FC Edmonton took UBC midfielder Thomas Gardner first overall in Friday’s CPL-U Sports draft, one of four Thunderbirds selected in the two-round draft.

Concordia had three players chosen while two each came from the University of Montreal, Mount Royal University and Ontario Tech University.

The 16 players selected will attend pre-season training with the hope of securing a contract. They are eligible for a developmental deal that allows a player to sign with a CPL club while preserving any remaining U Sports eligibility.

The 22-year-old Gardiner was drafted sixth overall in the 2018 draft and 12th overall in 2019, both times by Pacific FC. A native of North Vancouver, Gardner joined the Whitecaps FC residency program in 2011, signing his first pro contract with the USL’s Whitecaps FC 2 in 2015.

FC Edmonton coach Alan Koch, then with the Whitecaps organization, gave Gardner his pro debut in the USL Championship. Gardiner made one appearance for the MLS Whitecaps in a pre-season game against the Portland Timbers in February 2016.

“Tommy is a creative player who we know can play and contribute in the CPL,” Koch said in a statement. “Injury and COVID prevented him from playing in the league previously, and we are excited to welcome him to FC Edmonton.”

WATCH | Coverage of the 2021 CPL – U SPORTS Draft:

Coverage of the 2021 CPL – U SPORTS Draft. 1:01:48

Atletico Ottawa used the second pick on Carleton defender Chris Malekos. Winnipeg’s Valour FC then took six-foot-seven goalkeeper Yuba-Rayene Yesli from the Montreal Carabins.

The 21-year-old ‘keeper, a CF Montreal youth product, spent time with Vibonese Calcio in Italy’s Serie D, helping them earn promotion to Serie C.

“You can’t coach size,” said Valour coach Rob Gale.

York United FC took 19-year-old midfielder Christopher Campoli from Ontario Tech University before Pacific FC chose UBC defender Chris Lee.

Calgary’s Cavalry FC used the sixth pick on midfielder Victor Loturi from Mount Royal University. Loturi spent time with Calvary in 2019.

Carleton forward Stefan Karajovanovic went seventh to HFX Wanderers FC before Concordia defender Garven-Michee Metusala was taken by CPL champion Forge FC to complete the first round.

York took Karajovanovic fifth overall in the 2019 draft.

Valour FC used the 14th overall pick on Carleton defender Tony Mikhael, who has been called up by Lebanon’s under-22 team.

York University defender Reggie Laryea, younger brother of Toronto FC fullback-midfielder Richie Laryea, went 15th overall to Atletico Ottawa. Reggie Laryea has also spent time with the University of Akron and League 1 Ontario’s Sigma FC.

UBC defender Jackson Farmer was taken 16th overall by FC Edmonton. The 25-year-old Edmonton native has won one cap for Canada at the senior level and was a youth international at the U-15, U-18 and U-20 level.

The six-foot-two centre back also played for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Charleston Battery and Calgary Foothills.

The league says 17 U-Sports draft choices have made CPL rosters since the first draft in 2018. Cory Bent, taken first overall in the last U Sports draft (2019), played 10 games for HFX Wanderers last season.

1st round

1. FC Edmonton, Thomas Gardner, midfielder, UBC; 2. Atletico Ottawa, Christopher Malekos, defender, Carleton University; 2. Valour FC, Yuba-Rayene Yesli, goalkeeper, University of Montreal; 4. York United FC, Christopher Campoli, midfielder, Ontario Tech University; 5. Pacific FC, Chris Lee, defender, UBC; 6. Cavalry FC, Victor Loturi, midfielder, Mount Royal University; 7. HFX Wanderers FC, Stefan Karajovanovic, forward, Carleton University; 8. Forge FC, Garven-Michee Metusala, defender, Concordia University.

2nd round

9. Forge FC, Jose da Cunha, defender, Cape Breton University; 10. HFX Wanderers, Kareem Sow, defender, University of Montreal; 11. Cavalry FC, Ethan Keen, defender, Mount Royal University; 12. Pacific FC, Victory Shumbusho, forward, UBC; 13. York United FC, Danial Rafisamii, midfielder, Ontario Tech University; 14. Valour FC, Tony Mikhael, defender, Carleton University; 15. Atletico Ottawa, Reggie Laryea, defender, York University; 16. FC Edmonton, Jackson Farmer, defender, UBC.

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CBC | Soccer News

Alexei Navalny’s wife among thousands arrested at anti-Kremlin protests

Police detained more than 2,500 people and used force to break up rallies across Russia on Saturday as tens of thousands of protesters ignored extreme cold and police warnings to demand the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Navalny had called on his supporters to protest after being arrested last weekend as he returned to Russia from Germany for the first time since being poisoned with a nerve agent he says was applied to his underpants by state security agents in August.

The authorities had warned people to stay away from Saturday’s protests, saying they were at risk from COVID-19, as well as prosecution and possible jail time for attending an unauthorized event.

But protesters defied the ban and, in at least one case in temperatures below –50 C, turned out in force. Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally, called on them to do the same next weekend to try to free Navalny from what he called “the clutches of his killers.”

In central Moscow, where Reuters reporters estimated at least 40,000 people had gathered in one of the biggest unauthorized rallies in years, police were seen roughly detaining people, bundling them into nearby vans.

Law enforcement officers push people during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

The authorities said just some 4,000 people had shown up, while the Foreign Affairs Ministry questioned a crowd estimate from Reuters.

“Why not just immediately say 4 million?” it suggested sarcastically on its official Telegram messenger channel.

Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally, put turnout in the capital at 50,000, the Proekt media outlet reported.

Some protesters chanted “Putin is a thief,” “Disgrace” and “Freedom to Navalny!”

U.S., EU condemn ‘harsh tactics’

Navalny’s wife, Yulia, said on social media that she had been detained at the rally. Navalny’s mother, Ludmila, was also at the protest.

Some of Navalny’s political allies were detained in the days before the protest, others on the day itself.

At one point, protesters surrounded a sleek black car with a flashing light used by senior officials, throwing snowballs at it and kicking it. A group of police officers was also pelted with snowballs by a much bigger crowd.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading ‘One for all, all for one’ during a rally in support of Navalny in Omsk, Russia, on Saturday. (Alexey Malgavko/Reuters)

The OVD-Info protest monitor group said that at least 2,250 people, including 855 in Moscow and 327 in St. Petersburg, had been detained at rallies in nearly 70 towns and cities.

The United States condemned what it described as “harsh tactics” used against protesters and journalists and called for Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional” release.

“We call on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a tweet that he deplored the “disproportionate use of force” by authorities, while Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, condemned the “use of violence against peaceful protesters and journalists.”

Navalny, a 44-year-old lawyer, is in a Moscow prison pending the outcome of four legal matters he describes as trumped up. He accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering his attempted murder. Putin has dismissed that, alleging Navalny is part of a U.S.-backed dirty-tricks campaign to discredit him.

Some protesters marched on the prison, where police were waiting to arrest them.

Images of protesters with injuries such as bloodied heads circulated on social media.

A large protest supporting Navalny was also held in St. Petersburg. (Dmitri Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

The scenes were reminiscent of the months-long unrest in Russia’s neighboring ally Belarus, where anti-government protests flared last August over allegations of voter fraud.

One Moscow protester, Sergei Radchenko, 53, said: “I’m tired of being afraid. I haven’t just turned up for myself and Navalny but for my son, because there is no future in this country.”

He added that he was frightened but felt strongly about what he called an out-of-control judicial system.

Protests across Europe

There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin, which had previously called the protests illegal and the work of “provocateurs.”

State prosecutors said they would look into alleged violence against police officers by protesters.

In Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, nearly 1,000 people demonstrated against Navalny’s arrest. Small demonstrations were also held in Bulgaria, and some 200 to 300 people protested in Paris.

Navalny supporters demonstrate in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Saturday. (Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

Police in Siberia’s Yakutsk, one of the coldest cities in the world, where the temperature was –52 C on Saturday, grabbed a protester by his arms and legs and dragged him into a van, video footage showed.

In Moscow, some journalists covering the protests were detained, drawing a rebuke from the U.S. Embassy.

“Russian authorities arresting peaceful protesters, journalists,” spokesperson Rebecca Ross said on Twitter. “Appears to be a concerted campaign to suppress free speech, peaceful assembly.”

WATCH | Bill Browder calls on Canada and its allies to sanction Russian officials:

Bill Browder, head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, is calling on the international community to take action following the arrest and jailing of outspoken Putin critic Alexei Navalny in Russia. 1:45

There were outages on mobile phone and internet services, the monitoring site downdetector.ru showed, a tactic sometimes used by authorities to make it harder for protesters to communicate among themselves.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was “deeply concerned by the detention of peaceful protesters.”

‘Putin’s palace’

In a push to galvanize support ahead of the protests, Navalny’s team released a video about an opulent palace on the Black Sea they alleged belonged to Putin, something the Kremlin denied. As of Saturday, the clip, with the words “Putin’s palace” in the title, had been viewed more than 69 million times.

Navalny’s allies hope to tap into what polls say are pent-up frustrations among the public over years of falling wages and economic fallout from the pandemic.

But Putin’s grip on power looks unassailable for now, and the 68-year-old president regularly records an approval rating of more than 60 per cent, much higher than that of Navalny.

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CBC | World News

West Virginia lawmaker among dozens of people newly charged over Capitol siege

A West Virginia state lawmaker has been charged with entering a restricted area of the U.S. Capitol after he livestreamed himself with rioters, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Ken Kohl, a top deputy federal prosecutor in Washington, announced the charge against Derrick Evans on a call in which he presented dozens of new charges against members of a mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.

It wasn’t immediately announced if Evans is in custody. Several other state lawmakers across the country travelled to Washington, D.C., for demonstrations this week but it’s unknown if any other elected official joined the mob of Donald Trump supporters attacking the U.S. Capitol.

A growing number of Republicans and Democrats said they want to expel Evans from the legislature if he does not resign. His attorney, John Bryan, said late Thursday that the delegate didn’t commit a crime and doesn’t plan to resign.

Other people who were charged include a man who was photographed in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an Alabama man who had Molotov cocktails and firearms in his truck parked near the U.S. Capitol, Kohl said.

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CBC | World News

Devon Levi an outlier among Canadian junior hockey team goaltenders

Devon Levi’s unexpected emergence as Canada’s starting goaltender fits with an unusual 2021 world junior hockey championship.

Levi, from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., is just the third goalie in the last 40 years of Canadian junior teams to not come from one of the country’s three major junior leagues.

A Junior A star last season with the Carleton Place Canadians and a Northeastern University freshman this season, Levi wasn’t invited to Canada’s summer camp.

He spent more days isolating in a hotel room during selection camp than he did on the ice because two Canadian teammates tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

How Levi spent the 14 days alone in his hotel room is a window into his personality.

He says yoga, hand-eye co-ordination drills, visualization, video analysis and school homework more than filled the time between in-room workouts and team video meetings.

“I honestly packed my day to the point where I couldn’t get everything done,” Levi said.

That constant investment in himself helped elevate Levi to Canada’s starter, says his Carleton Place Canadians coach Jason Clarke.

‘He’s an undersized goaltender nobody knew about’

“The only way I can describe Devon Levi is like he’s married, 35 years old and has two kids, except he’s only 19,” Clarke told The Canadian Press on Monday.

“He’s just a very focused, mature individual who just wants to get better every day.

“He’s an undersized goaltender nobody knew about,” Clarke continued. “If you don’t have the internal fortitude, the discipline, the focus, investing time in yourself rather than spending time then I just don’t think you’re going to be able to get to the next level.”

Canada (2-0) faces Switzerland (0-2) on Tuesday in Pool A. All 10 participating teams are walled off from the general public and playing games in an empty Rogers Place because of the pandemic.

The six-foot 189-pound Levi was chosen in the seventh round (212th overall) by the Florida Panthers in October’s NHL entry draft.

He grew up idolizing Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who backstopped Canada to world junior gold in 2007.

Levi’s mentor since his draft day is another Canadian goaltending star, however.

He’s conversed with recently retired NHL veteran Roberto Luongo, who works in Florida’s goaltending department.

Levi was born two years after Luongo backstopped Canada to a silver medal at the 1999 world junior tournament in Winnipeg.

Luongo went on to win 489 of his 1,044 career NHL games and win an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2010.

“He’s talked to me multiple times,” Levi said. “The biggest message he told me that really stuck out to me was ‘enjoy the moment. There might be a lot of pressure, but you only get to live that pressure once and pressure is privilege.’ He said he looks back on his experiences at the world juniors to this day and enjoyed it like crazy.

“Talking to him is a huge honour, especially after everything he’s done in the NHL. It’s unbelievable to be able to talk to a guy like that and to get his input.”

Levi stood out during intrasquad games

In his one season of Junior A hockey, Levi was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s most valuable player.

He led Canada East to a silver medal and was named tournament MVP of the 2019 World Junior A Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C.

But goaltenders from the Western, Ontario and Quebec major junior leagues predominantly get chosen to play for Canada.

Levi joins college goalies Colton Point (2018), who is another Carleton Place Canadians product, and David LeNeveu (2003) as outliers over the last four decades.

Levi has yet to play a game for Northeastern because the pandemic delayed Hockey East’s collegiate season.

He was on Hockey Canada’s radar for summer camp, but wasn’t invited.

“It’s a tough evaluation watching a Junior A game and projecting what guys can do in the best junior tournament in the world,” Canadian head coach Andre Tourigny said.

“We had the mindset that we’d have time when the season starts to see him play and go from there, and if we want to invite him at Christmas we can do so.

“But when the season got cancelled, now we were more in the mindset that if we really want to know what he can do, we need to invite him.”

Levi and other U.S. college players summoned to selection camp quarantined for 14 days upon return to Canada, and then went right back into isolation mid-camp because of the positive tests for the virus.

Levi stood out enough in what practices and intrasquad games there were — he posted a 36-save shutout the day before Canada’s roster was announced — to get the pre-tournament start against Russia.

He didn’t face a barrage of rubber in tournament wins over Germany and Slovakia. Levi maintained his concentration over quiet stretches in games to make athletic saves when needed.

He’s given up one even-strength goal on 27 shots.

“So far, he did not do anything to put a doubt in our heads that’s for sure,” Tourigny said.

Canadian winger Dylan Holloway will play Tuesday after sitting out Sunday’s 3-1 win over Slovakia with an upper-body injury.

Defenceman Braden Schneider returns to Canada’s lineup after serving a one-game suspension for checking a German forward in the head.

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CBC | Sports News

4 pregnant women among 20 migrants dead after boat sinks off Tunisia

Four pregnant women were among 20 migrants whose bodies were found off Tunisia’s coast after their smuggling boat sank, Tunisian authorities said Friday, as search efforts continued for 13 others believed missing.

Nineteen of the 20 migrants who died in Thursday’s sinking were women, according to Mourad Torki, the court spokesperson for the Sfax region in central Tunisia. 

The boat, overloaded and in poor condition, was carrying 37 people — three Tunisians and others from sub-Saharan Africa, Torki said.

Coast guard officials and local fishermen retrieved the bodies and brought them to shore and transferred them in white body bags to a nearby hospital where autopsies were carried out.

Four migrants were rescued, Torki said: one remained under medical supervision Friday, and another fled the hospital.

Coast guard boats and navy divers were searching for the 13 missing but found no new bodies or survivors on Friday, amid strong winds and high waves in the area.

Tunisian authorities said they have intercepted several migrant smuggling boats recently but that the number of attempts has been growing, notably between the Sfax region and the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Migrant smuggling boats frequently leave from the coast of Tunisia and neighbouring Libya carrying people from across Africa, including a growing number of Tunisians fleeing prolonged economic difficulties in their country.

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CBC | World News

Canada’s Jenna Hellstrom among 6 players waived by NWSL’s Spirit

The National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit have waived six players, including Canadian international Jenna Hellstrom.

The 25-year-old forward from Sudbury, Ont., joined the Spirit in December 2019, playing six games during the 2020 season.

Hellstrom has won four caps for Canada and was part of the Canadian team at the 2019 World Cup in France.

She left Kent State as the school’s all-time leader in goals (37), assists (33), points (107), game-winning goals (107), shots (232), shots on goal (115), multiple goal games (6) and multiple assist games (5).

Hellstrom also played club football in Sweden for FC Rosengard, Djurgardens IF, Vaxjo DFF and KIF Orebro.

The Spirit also waived defender Brooke Hendrix, midfielder Jaye Boissiere, and forwards Meg McCool, Jessie Scarpa and Crystal Thomas.

Washington currently has 15 players under contract, including Canadian goalkeeper Devon Kerr.

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CBC | Soccer News

Test positivity rate among Manitoba’s First Nations hits 25%, with 829 COVID-19 cases in past week

The number of COVID-19 cases among First Nations people in Manitoba continues to skyrocket, with 829 new cases recorded in the past week alone.

The five-day test positive rate among First Nations people was at 25 per cent Friday, the Manitoba First Nations Pandemic Response Coordination Team said in its latest update — nearly double the provincewide rate of 13.8 per cent announced the same day.

More than half of the COVID-19 patients in Manitoba’s intensive care beds are First Nations people. In total, there were 91 First Nations patients in hospital due to COVID-19 as of Friday, the team said in its weekly update.

Provincewide, there are currently 297 people in hospital, with 40 people in intensive care due to COVID-19.

Since the start of the pandemic, 59 First Nations people in Manitoba have died after contracting the illness, including 12 since Dec. 4.

The new cases in the last week bring the total number of First Nations people in Manitoba who have tested positive for COVID-19 to 4,239. 

Nearly half of those cases have been in the Winnipeg region, and more than 1,200 have been in the province’s north. 

Over the weekend, isolation units had to turn people away in some communities because they were totally full, said Melanie MacKinnon, who leads the pandemic response team established by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

She implored people to follow public health orders as health teams continue to be stretched extremely thin.

“The idea of a lot of people or additional supports coming in to help us, and we’re not changing our behaviour, needs to be really reconsidered,” she said during the AMC’s weekly Facebook live update. 

“That’s not going to be our reality. Everybody is completely stretched and the holidays are coming. We have to really rally for our health system right now.”

Shamattawa update 

Meanwhile, the chief of Shamattawa First Nation, where at least a quarter of the 1,300 people in the community have tested positive, says he’s awaiting approval of his request for more military personnel to be sent to help. 

Medics and rangers landed in Shamattawa on Wednesday to conduct an assessment in the northern First Nation. The team’s commanding officer made a request for a further 60 to 70 Armed Forces member to help fight the community’s outbreak.

A military team has arrived to help deal with the escalating COVID-19 crisis in Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba, where some 300 people have tested positive in a community of about a thousand people. 1:39

Chief Eric Redhead said he’s now waiting for a formal request for services to be approved by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

“We hope to know shortly,” he said during the Facebook live. 

As of Thursday, Redhead said 313 community members have tested positive, but he thinks that number is likely much higher. The community hasn’t been able to transport people to and from the clinic safely, because members of the local pandemic response team are either isolating or have tested positive.

“So we know the number is significantly higher, but because we’re not able to do the large number of tests we have in the past, we’re just seeing increment growth. But I think today we have a plan, we have some more people coming out of isolation,” Redhead said. 

“I think we’re going to see more people tested and see those numbers climb dramatically.”

On Friday Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said that more than 100 of the 447 new cases announced in Manitoba were confirmations of rapid tests done recently on Shamattawa First Nation.

A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said discussions remain ongoing between Shamattawa and provincial and federal authorities about where and how the military can be best utilized, but no further decisions have been made at this point. 

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CBC | Health News

Cautious Russians weigh the risks of being among the 1st in line to try Sputnik V vaccine

As Russia’s mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign got underway this week, thousands of Russians rolled up their sleeves and volunteered to be among the first to get their arms jabbed with a dose of Sputnik V.

Many others, however, appear to be holding back to see how things turn out for those who did.

“People are worried because they don’t understand how the vaccine is made, and they see a lot of controversy in the media,” said Dr. Yevgeny Timakov, a Moscow-based infectious disease specialist.

“Most of my patients — about 80 per cent — want to get vaccinated, but of those … [only] 20 per cent are ready to do it right now,” he told CBC News in an interview.

His observations reflect what might be a broad public hesitancy to take a vaccine that has been developed, approved and delivered to the public in a record-shattering time frame.

Dr. Olga Moskova gets vaccinated against the coronavirus. She told CBC News that while the vaccine may not yet be perfect, getting it is ‘the right thing to do’ for now. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

What Timakov is hearing from his patients echoes the findings of a public opinion survey done by the independent Lavada Institute in October. It suggests vaccine distrust among Russians has increased as the pandemic has worsened, with 59 per cent of those surveyed suggesting they are unwilling to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness.

Another survey published around the same time by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported that more than 70 per cent of Russian did not plan to get vaccinated. 

Still awaiting full Phase 3 results

Russia’s vaccine, whose name is meant to invoke memories of Soviet-era success in space, was the first in the world to be registered in August and since then, tens of thousands of health care workers, teachers, military personnel and others with government connections have taken it.

However, the vaccine’s initial success was championed on the basis of results involving a small sample of less than 100 volunteers.    

Subsequent results derived from larger Phase 3 trials have validated those early findings, but Sputnik V’s developer has yet to publish those full results like Western vaccine developers have done.

Pfizer/BioNTech published its safety data yesterday as part of its approval process with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Vials of Sputnik V at BIOCAD, a biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg. While some in the West have criticized the lack of transparency around the Russian vaccine’s development, others say the underlying science is sound and in line with other COVID-19 vaccines. (Anton Vaganov/Reuters)

“People are wary of vaccination and are waiting for the end of clinical trials and [to] see that the vaccine works. All this they will see in time,” said Timakov, who supports the vaccine and is encouraging Russians to take it.

Its maker, the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, has said it hopes more than two million Russians can be vaccinated by the end of the month although it’s unclear if that target can be met.

Russia repeatedly promised a national vaccination program throughout the fall, but production delays kept pushing the start date back.

‘The right thing to do’

CBC News visited one of the 70 hospitals and clinics in the Moscow area that began administering the vaccine this week as part of the national immunization program.    

Many of those who signed up to be among the first to get inoculated were health care workers, at higher risk of contracting the virus.

“You need to get vaccinated because you need to keep working,” said Dr. Olga Maskova.

Like everyone else who received the vaccine, Maskova was handed an information sheet listing the possible short-term side effects, including chills, fever and skin irritation.   

‘My role as a doctor is to explain the risks there will be if they don’t take the vaccine,’ says Natalia Kuzinkova, head physician at Clinic No. 68 (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

“I’m absolutely convinced that this is the right step,” she said. “Later, the vaccine might be perfected, and maybe there will be other vaccines, but I think this is the right thing to do at this time.”

Sputnik V is an adenovirus-based platform that uses a modified common cold virus to trigger the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against the coronavirus and requires a booster shot 21 days after the first injection. 

It’s a similar process to the one used by Oxford University and AstraZeneca for its vaccine. 

India, South Korea, U.A.E. sign on for Sputnik

Western experts have been split on the Russian vaccine, with some bemoaning the lack of transparency of the trials and the reliance on early data to draw sweeping conclusions about its effectiveness.    

Others, however, argue the science behind the vaccine is proven, and it will likely make an important contribution to fighting the virus globally once it is in widespread use.

Natalia Kuzinkova, the chief doctor at Clinic No. 68, the facility CBC News visited, said she understands there may be reticence to be among the first to get vaccinated but that the risks of waiting are far greater.

“My role as a doctor is to explain the risks there will be if they don’t take the vaccine,” she said. “Yes, I hear the opinions,  but my responsibility is to tell them that if they haven’t been sick yet, they could still get sick and die.”

The Kremlin has fought an intense global public relations campaign to sell its vaccine to COVID-weary customers abroad but also to demonstrate Russian superiority in an area that was once a point of pride for the former Soviet Union: vaccine production.

Few Western governments, with the notable exception of Hungary in the European Union, have thus far expressed an interest in the Russian vaccine. However, dozens of nations in other parts of the world, including India, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, have signed agreements to buy it.

The Sputnik V vaccine arrives at Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Budapest in November. Hungary is the only EU country to express interest in the Russian vaccine thus far. (Matyas Borsos/Hungarian Foreign Ministry/Reuters)

Process moving too fast, say some

While some of the concerns over the virus are clearly rooted in the adversarial nature of the relationship between Putin and his counterparts in Europe and North America, they have also been amplified by Russia’s own bragging about the vaccine’s success and the timing of proclamations that appeared designed to one-up announcements by Western vaccine makers.

The CBC News team in Moscow visited the Kuznetsky Most pedestrian mall a few blocks from the Kremlin to ask people at random if they planned to sign up for the vaccination.

Most told us they would not.

“I don’t trust this vaccine,” said Artyom Bagamayev. “The trials usually take many years, but here, it’s just a bit too fast.”

“In the past, it was an arms race, but now, it’s a biological one, a vaccine race.”

Natalia Panfilova agreed.

“You can’t produce an effective vaccine in such a short period of time and test it and say it’s effective,” she said. “I don’t understand if it works or if it doesn’t work or how effective it is.”

A medical worker receives their Sputnik V vaccination. Phase 3 trials of the vaccine are not yet complete. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC )

Putin not yet vaccinated

The potential for vaccine hesitancy is clearly not unique to Russia, but it may be accentuated by a longstanding lack of trust in the country’s health care system.

Hospitals in many parts of the country are being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, and social media has been inundated with videos shot by patients showing deplorable conditions.

So far during this second wave of coronavirus cases, Russian authorities in most cities, including the capital, Moscow, have been reluctant to invoke lockdowns because of the heavy economic toll it might inflict on an already struggling economy.

The severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 500 deaths a day, also makes getting a large public buy-in to the vaccine program even more essential if the virus is to be brought under control.

While many prominent Russians have been shown on TV getting their vaccinations, the most prominent person in the country, and the vaccine’s biggest cheerleader, so far has not.

The Kremlin says Putin has not taken the two doses of COVID-19 and has not yet offered a time frame on when he will do so.

WATCH | Why some Russians are wary of getting the Sputnik V vaccine:

Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine is now being administered to the general population despite still being in Phase 3 trials. One Russian doctor says only 20 per cent of his patients want to be first in line to get it because of concerns over safety and efficacy. Some in the West have also been skeptical, but scientists in the U.K. have said the results of the Sputnik trials have been consistent with those of other vaccines. 2:01

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CBC | World News

Fever, loss of taste or smell among telltale COVID-19 symptoms in Canadian kids

New research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found that one-third of children who tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 had no symptoms, but in those that did, loss of taste/smell, headache, fever and nausea/vomiting were most strongly associated with positive cases.

Other flu-like symptoms — including cough, runny nose and sore throat — were the most prominent symptoms in positive cases, but the study suggests they couldn’t be used to accurately predict which cases were positive because they were also most prominent in cases that tested negative.

The study, published Monday, was by researchers at the University of Alberta who analyzed 2,463 test results from children in the province between April 13 to Sept. 30. They compared symptoms of those who tested positive (1,987) with those who tested negative (476).

Eight per cent of kids with positive COVID-19 tests had loss of taste/smell, versus one per cent of kids who tested negative. And four per cent had nausea or vomiting, versus less than one per cent of those who tested negative.

Headache was a symptom in 16 per cent of positive cases, compared to six per cent in negative cases, and 26 per cent of positive cases had fever, compared to 15 per cent of negative cases. 

Symptoms in hospitalized kids differ

Dr. Finlay McAlister, one of the authors of the study, says those symptoms were associated more with having coronavirus rather than some other virus.

He said cough, runny nose and sore throat were equally common symptoms in kids who didn’t have coronavirus but may have had another virus.

Symptoms of fever or chills, cough and runny nose in this study (19 to 26 per cent) were less frequent than in studies conducted in hospital settings. The authors of the study suggest that was because this was a community-based cohort and cases of disease were likely more mild than those seen in hospitals.

Children aged four and younger were more likely to test negative, and teenagers (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to test positive.

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CBC | Health News