Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.
Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination program, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.
“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” Morrison said.
Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.
Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.
Australia’s hardline response to the virus largely stopped community transmissions but the vaccination rollout has become a hot political topic — and a source of friction between Morrison and state and territory leaders — after the country vaccinated only a fraction of its four million target by the end of March.
About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison said, noting the speed of Australia’s vaccination program was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.
Australia began vaccinations much later than some other nations, partly because of its low number of infections, which stand at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday tightened guidelines on wearing face masks, recommending that, where COVID-19 is spreading, they be worn by everyone in health-care facilities and for all interactions in poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
In June, the WHO urged governments to ask everyone to wear fabric masks in indoor and outdoor public areas where there was a risk of transmission of the virus.
Since then, a second global wave of the epidemic has gathered pace. In all, more than 63 million people globally have caught COVID-19 and 1.475 million have died of it, according to a Reuters tally.
In more detailed advice published on Wednesday, the WHO said that where the epidemic was spreading, people — including children and students aged 12 or over — should always wear masks in shops, workplaces and schools that lack adequate ventilation and when receiving visitors at home in poorly ventilated rooms.
WATCH | Testing face masks:
We test over 20 different masks and reveal which are the most effective at keeping you safe from COVID-19 and which masks you should avoid. PLUS, how to get a refund on your cancelled flights. 22:30
Masks should also be worn outdoors and in well ventilated indoor spaces where physical distancing of at least one metre can’t be maintained, WHO said.
In all scenarios, masks needed to be accompanied by other precautions such as hand-washing, WHO said.
Depending on the type, WHO said masks can be used either for protection of healthy persons or to prevent transmission.
Medical masks to care for patients
In areas of COVID-19 spread, WHO also advised “universal” wearing of medical masks in health-care facilities, including when caring for other patients.
The advice applied to visitors, outpatients and to common areas such as cafeterias and staff rooms.
Health-care workers could wear N95 respirator masks if available when caring for COVID-19 patients, but their only proven protection is when they are doing aerosol-generating procedures which carry higher risks, the WHO said.
It recommended that people doing vigorous physical activity not wear masks, citing some associated risks, particularly for people with asthma.
The CEO of nicotine vaping company Juul had some surprising advice for people who don’t smoke this week: Don’t use his company’s products.
In an interview with CBS News, Kevin Burns said the company views its core product as a safer alternative to cigarettes, but not something the general non-smoking public at large should be dabbling in.
When asked what his advice is for people who didn’t used to consume nicotine but have recently started vaping because of Juul, his response was blunt.
“Don’t vape. Don’t use Juul. Don’t start using nicotine if you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with nicotine. Don’t use the product. You are not our target consumer,” he said.
WATCH: Juul’s CEO said people with no preexisting relationship with nicotine shouldn’t be using his company’s product: “Don’t vape. Don’t use Juul.” <br><br>Kevin Burns also wouldn’t say if vaping is safer than cigarettes and acknowledged the long-term effects of vaping are unknown. <a href=”https://t.co/rq3cgxJOob”>pic.twitter.com/rq3cgxJOob</a>
The company, which launched its first store in Canada just last month, has courted controversy in recent years because of its booming popularity.
Juul says its electronic cigarettes are safer than conventional cigarettes because they have much lower toxicity levels, but critics say the devices are just making it easier to consume nicotine in the first place.
In the U.S.. vaping nicotine is illegal for anyone under age 21. In Canada, it’s either 18 or 19 depending on the province. But numerous governments and regulators are investigating the company for not doing enough to keep the product out of the hands of minors.
The industry takes in roughly $ 6 billion US in sales a year, about three-quarters of which go to Juul.
The company recently put out new technology that forces retailers to submit a valid proof of age before allowing their product to be sold, a response to criticism Juul is an especially desirable product for minors. Juul says it will stop selling its product to any retailer that doesn’t sign up for the new verification system by 2021.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that 193 teens and adults in 22 states have contracted severe respiratory illnesses after vaping. However, they said a clear-cut common cause of the illnesses hasn’t been identified.
Against that backdrop, Burns’s interview was eye-opening.
“I’m sorry that their kids are using the product,” Burns said of parents who blame the company for their children using its products. “We never intended for our product to be used by them. And I have empathy for them for what they’re going through.”
He said all the products are rigorously tested for toxicity levels and are well within the allowable range.
He also said that on the whole, Juul does a lot more to stop nicotine addiction than to contribute to it.
“I think Juul is absolutely contributing to the decline in the smoking rate in the United States,” he said. “As our share of the cigarette industry has grown in the U.S., we have seen a high correlation of decline in the smoking rates in the United States.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is crying foul over the latest comments by Ottawa’s former ambassador to China, as the government tries to distance itself from those remarks.
John McCallum, jettisoned as Liberal ambassador in January amid rising diplomatic tensions between Canada and China, cautioned Beijing in an interview not to further escalate the crisis ahead of the federal election in October.
“Anything that is more negative against Canada will help the Conservatives, [who] are much less friendly to China than the Liberals,” McCallum was reported as saying to the South China Morning Post, in a story published Wednesday.
McCallum appeared to be speaking about the potential for more punitive measures that would affect Canadian exports. China has suspended imports of Canadian canola, pork and beef after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December at the behest of American officials.
“This problem will pass,” McCallum was quoted as saying. “It’s important for Canadian business people not just to come to China but to come often … especially when the going is tough.”
McCallum was let go from his post after remarks he made regarding the high-profile Meng extradition case. The longtime Liberal publicly opined that Meng, daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecom giant, had a strong case in fighting extradition to the U.S.
Inviting China to interfere: Scheer
He also stated that any deal to spare Meng from prosecution in the U.S. should include the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Canadians detained in China.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took exception to her former colleague’s comments Thursday while speaking to reporters at an event in London.
“Mr. McCallum does not speak in the name of the Canadian government,” said Freeland. “I think it is inappropriate for any Canadian to be advising any foreign government in ways it ought or ought not to behave to secure any particular election outcome in Canada.”
Scheer was unmoved by the fact that McCallum was no longer speaking in an official capacity.
“Justin Trudeau still has not disavowed John McCallum’s invitation for the Chinese government to interfere in the upcoming election,” the Conservative leader said in a social media post. “The only conclusion to come to is that electing Justin Trudeau would be good for China, but bad for Canada.”
Elle advice columnist E. Jean Carroll accuses U.S. President Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman more than 20 years ago, in her new book that was excerpted in New York Magazine.
The incident is one of six that Carroll, 75, writes about in her upcoming book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, which chronicles attacks on her by “hideous men” during her life.
In the excerpt, Carroll, who had her own TV show in the ’90s called Ask E. Jean, writes that Trump denies anything happened, as he has denied the accusations of sexual misconduct by at least 15 other women. On Friday, Trump again denied the allegation saying, “I’ve never met this person in my life.”
In his statement, Trump called the accusation “fake news” and said there was no evidence.
Carroll alleges her encounter started out friendly when she bumped into Trump at one of the revolving doors to Bergdorf’s in fall 1995 or spring 1996. He says, “You’re that advice lady,” while Carroll recognizes him as “that real estate tycoon.”
Trump tells her he’s there to buy something for “a girl.” He wants her advice on what to buy, and, charmed, she agrees. They begin on the main floor looking at hats, and after some banter over a fur hat Trump sees the escalator and says, “lingerie!” or “underwear!”
At the lingerie department, Trump sees a lacy see-through bodysuit that he wants her to try on. As he coaxes her to the dressing room, she jokes to him that he should put it on.
The moment the dressing room door closed, Carroll claims Trump lunged at her, pushing her against the wall and putting his mouth against her lips.
This is the story behind E. Jean Carroll’s account of her alleged encounter with Donald Trump in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room more than two decades ago <a href=”https://t.co/8GV1bw9cXA”>https://t.co/8GV1bw9cXA</a>
“I am so shocked I shove him back,” she writes in the book. “He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coatdress and pulls down my tights.”
She said that he opened his overcoat, unzipped his pants and thrust his penis inside her. After a struggle, she pushed him off her and ran out of the dressing room, in an incident that lasted about three minutes, she says in the book.
Carrol said there were no attendants in the dressing room area, and she did not file a report with the New York Police Department. She said she told two journalist friends at the time, who later confirmed their accounts to New York Magazine.
She notes that the Donna Karan coatdress she wore that day still hangs on the back of her closet door, unworn and unlaundered.
Chips, soda and frozen pizzas tend to be full of salt, sugar and fat, but now scientists are trying to understand if there’s something else about such processed foods that might be bad for us.
Already, the spread of cheap, packaged foods has been linked to rising obesity rates around the world. Yet advice to limit processed foods can seem unhelpful, given how convenient they are and the growing array of products that fall into the category.
While three recent studies offer more clues on how our increasingly industrialized food supply may be affecting our health, they also underscore how difficult nutrition science and advice can be. Here’s what they say.
What does ‘processed’ mean?
Whether it’s curing, freezing, milling or pasteurization, nearly all foods undergo some type of processing. Even though processing itself doesn’t automatically make food unhealthy, “processed foods” is generally a negative term.
To more precisely identify the processed foods of most concern, scientists came up with a system that groups foods into four categories. It’s far from perfect, but the system says highly processed foods are made mostly of industrialized ingredients and additives, with little to no intact whole foods.
Sodas, packaged cookies, instant noodles and chicken nuggets are some examples of highly processed foods. But also included are products that can seem wholesome, like breakfast cereals, energy bars and some yogurts.
What’s wrong with processed foods
Cheap packaged foods are everywhere including checkout lines, gas stations and vending machines, and a very small four-week clinical trial might deepen our understanding of why that’s likely fuelling obesity rates.
Researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health found people ate an average of 500 extra calories a day when fed mostly processed foods, compared with when the same people were fed minimally processed foods. That’s even though researchers tried to match the meals for nutrients like fat, fibre and sugar.
What frustrates me is when the message is, ‘Change the way you eat,’ without thinking about why people eat the way they eat.– Sarah Bowen
The 20 participants were allowed to eat as much or as little as they wanted, and were checked into a clinic so their health and behaviour could be monitored.
That’s not all the bad news.
In another study based on questionnaires, researchers in France found people who ate more processed foods were more likely to have heart disease. A similar study in Spain found eating more processed foods was linked to a higher risk of death in general.
Processed foods gobbled faster
Beyond the fact they taste really good, there might other reasons why it’s so hard to stop eating foods like cheese puffs and ice cream.
When fed minimally processed foods, people in the clinical trial produced more of a hormone that suppresses appetite, and less of a hormone that causes hunger. The reason for the biological reaction isn’t clear. Another finding: People ate processed foods faster.
“Those foods tend to be softer and easier to chew and swallow,” said Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health who led the study.
Hall noted the source of nutrients might make a difference. Fibres from whole fruits and vegetables, for instance, may be better for making people feel full than the types of fibre added to packaged foods such as cookies, yogurt and even soda.
For the French study, author Mathilde Touvier also noted the largely unexamined effects of the “cocktail” of additives used to make the various processed foods we eat.
All three studies come with big caveats. The U.S. study was tiny and individual behaviour varied widely: Some ate about the same amount of calories on both diets, and others ate far more on the processed diet.
Meals in the two diets were rated as being similarly pleasant, but Hall noted it’s possible participants were saying what they thought they should. The processed food diet included foods like salted nuts and whole milk, compared with unsalted nuts and lower-fat milk for the unprocessed diet.
With the French and Spanish studies, there could be other habits and environmental factors that explain the differences in health risks. The studies also didn’t reflect the broader population. In the Spanish study, participants were college graduates and relatively younger. And though processed food was tied to a greater risk of death, the total number of deaths was still relatively small.
What should you eat?
Even without the latest studies, advice to limit processed foods probably makes sense to most people. Minimally processed foods tend to be richer in nutrients and more difficult to overeat, since they’re not as widely available and convenient.
Still, following that advice can be hard, especially if for people with limited time and money to spend on food.
“What frustrates me is when the message is, ‘Change the way you eat,’ without thinking about why people eat the way they eat,” said Sarah Bowen, a professor who studies food and inequality at North Carolina State University.
Another challenge is the broad spectrum of processed foods, and distinguishing which ones might be better or worse as companies continually re-engineer products to make them seem more wholesome. So while the newest studies may give us more reasons to avoid industrialized foods, they also underscore the difficulty of coming up with solutions.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
What would you do to keep teens from vaping? Health Canada wants to know.
On Thursday, the federal agency issued a national plea for help with what has become a runaway public health problem.
The phenomenon took less than a year to reach what Canada’s chief medical officers this week described as an “alarming number of youth vaping in Canada.”
Rewind to last spring and the picture was completely different. Back then, many Canadian kids still hadn’t seen the new high-tech vaping gizmos that could almost perfectly mimic the nicotine hit of a cigarette, with the stealth of a computer accessory and a bonus zest of fruit flavours.
The seismic shift in the nicotine market occurred quietly last September when the Juul vape stick was officially launched in Canada, quickly dominating with an innovative delivery system using nicotine salts that give a faster nicotine hit to the brain than older vaping products.
Tobacco companies seized the moment. Tobacco giant Altria purchased a share in Juul, and British American Tobacco, the parent company of Imperial Tobacco Canada, launched its own version — Vype — also with nicotine salts in a variety of fruit flavours.
We now truly have a product that can compete with cigarettes in both a good and bad way.– Prof. David Hammond, University of Waterloo
It’s the first time in the history of nicotine use that a non-burning product can match the inhalation experience of a traditional cigarette.
“We now truly have a product that can compete with cigarettes in both a good and bad way,” said David Hammond, a public health professor at the University of Waterloo who studies nicotine use.
Tobacco-industry dream and public-health nightmare
Canada’s own tobacco industry documents released through the courts reveal that industry executives have long dreamt of a day when a new product might come along that would “act as an acceptable alternative to both cigarettes and quitting.”
“Perhaps we could develop cigarettes that would not have to be lighted with a flame … that would burn without smoke … and that would not leave butts. Ridiculous? Perhaps,” wrote one industry executive in 1976.
“But so was Jules Verne’s idea of an underwater vessel called Nautilus or of a manned trip to the moon. We could give it a try.”
Before youth start smoking again, this is where we really want to get the message out so we are not pulling youth back into smoking.– Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada
Today, new tobacco documents reveal that the realization of this dream has triggered a nicotine renaissance.
“Back in a growth industry” is how British American Tobacco (BAT) described the current market in a presentation to investors last month, as “new categories attract more consumers and generate more revenue growth.”
In one graph, the company reports that less than half of BAT’s new vaping customers are smokers switching to vaping. The majority are new users who have never tried vaping before.
“They are adult consumers who classify themselves as not using vapour before, and therefore new to this category, but it is a little one-dimensional in the sense it doesn’t tell you the whole picture,” BAT spokesperson Annie Brown said in an email to CBC News.
Brown said the data doesn’t reveal whether the new users are former smokers who might be returning to nicotine use through vaping instead of smoking.
The BAT presentation describes the emergence of “poly-usage” — a cigarette in the morning, a vape at the office during the day — and, after dinner, perhaps another one of the new “potentially reduced risk products” (PRRPs), which include vapour devices, heated tobacco devices that use tobacco to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol, and new forms of nicotine pouches for the mouth.
Added up, BAT reports that “usage occasions are increasing.”
A slide from a British American Tobacco presentation to investors describes “poly-usage,” where customers use different nicotine-delivery products in various situations throughout the day. (British American Tobacco )
“Context is important here, too,” said Brown. “PRRPs are a very different experience to smoking, and therefore, if adult smokers are to transition from cigarettes to using PRRPs (which, based on the science available to date, is potentially a good thing), then it is important that there are opportunities to use these products to drive consumer acceptance of them as alternatives to cigarettes.”
‘Poly-usage’ a new health challenge?
For public health officials, “poly-usage” creates a new health policy challenge.
Canada’s chief medical officers of health said this week that vaping while still using cigarettes “has little benefit in reducing health risks.”
In the same statement, the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health called for “aggressive steps to protect our youth from these products.”
“Before youth start smoking again, this is where we really want to get the message out so we are not pulling youth back into smoking, renormalizing smoking,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in an interview.
All of this might have been different if Health Canada had chosen to regulate vaping more strictly when the new federal vaping law came into effect last May. Before then, it was illegal to sell any vaping product containing nicotine.
After the law took effect, it was still illegal to sell vaping products to anyone under 18. But by Christmas, high schools were removing bathroom doors to discourage in-school vaping. Teachers were seizing vape sticks in class.
Meanwhile, regulators are scrambling to catch up in the midst of a data vacuum, because research surveys that track youth smoking and vaping in Canada aren’t due to report for months.
David Hammond is a University of Waterloo professor who studies tobacco use. (Craig Chivers/CBC)
At the University of Waterloo, Hammond has one of the only up-to-date snapshots of the Canadian vaping scene. His data still hasn’t been publicly released, although he has shared it with Health Canada. The numbers show that youth vaping has risen dramatically and that it might even be linked to an increase in youth smoking.
“Our study raises the question that we could be going in the wrong direction on smoking rates,” Hammond said. “But I don’t think it needs to be a major piece of this story, because there’s enough reason to act on vaping alone.”
Hammond’s data mirrors results from U.S. surveys that prompted the FDA to declare a youth-vaping epidemic.
And now, federal health officials seem to be having a regulatory change of heart.
“Canada’s important public health achievements are at risk of being eroded, if nicotine dependency through vaping becomes normalized among young people, particularly among those who would not otherwise have tried smoking,” Health Canada said in the consultation document released on Thursday.
So what’s the plan?
So far, Health Canada has launched some scary ads warning young people about the risks of a lifelong nicotine addiction. In February, it proposed a series of new rules for the promotion and sale of vaping products.
And now the agency is asking Canadians how they feel about even tougher rules that could ban certain flavours and reduce nicotine in vaping products. The public consultations are open until May 25.
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