A one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is now approved for use in Canada — and vaccine experts say the shot from Johnson & Johnson could give a major boost to countrywide vaccination efforts while offering a “real solution” to hasten the end of the pandemic.
Health Canada authorized its use and released details during a Friday morning announcement.
The vaccine, made by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is a non-replicating viral vector option and, unlike the three other vaccines previously approved for Canadian use, was tested during clinical trials as a single shot.
So far, Canada is expecting 10 million doses, with options to purchase up to 28 million more if necessary, with most of those shots set to arrive by the end of September.
From a logistical standpoint, Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the benefits are clear.
“You can vaccinate more people in a shorter period of time,” he said. “You don’t have to clog up the vaccine centres with people getting their second dose — it’s one and done.”
The storage requirements are also less stringent than the early freezer requirements for the two mRNA-based vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, with Johnson & Johnson estimating its single-dose option should remain stable for two years at -20° C — and can be stored for at least three months in most standard refrigerators.
Wondering how each of the leading coronavirus vaccines compares? Click here for a closer look at the vaccines Canada is betting on to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“You can way more easily get a vaccine like this into primary care clinics and pharmacies, which means that you can distribute it so much more broadly,” said Bogoch, who is also a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force.
That’s good news in this country and beyond, said Dr. Zain Chagla, a Hamilton-based infectious disease specialist and professor at McMaster University.
“In remote areas of Canada, it’s a big vaccine in that sense that it’s easy to transport and get around, and it’s big for the rest of the world,” he said.
“This is a vaccine that could go into mass vaccine clinics in low- and middle-income countries that could be stored on the back of a motorcycle to make it into a very, very remote setting. That is very, very different than anything we have in that sense.”
WATCH | J&J vaccine good for less accessible, marginalized communities, doctor says:
As a single dose COVID-19 vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson product will be especially helpful for people who sometimes have difficulty accessing health care, says Dr. Lisa Bryski, a retired ER doctor in Winnipeg. 1:23
85% effective at stopping severe disease
But where the vaccine excels at convenience, it may fall short on overall efficacy — though there are a lot of factors at play, and it’s crucial to note the shot is proving highly effective at reducing cases of serious illness.
According to February briefing documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Johnson & Johnson’s shot was both safe and effective in clinical trials, where it reduced the risk of COVID-19 and prevented PCR-test confirmed cases at least 14 days after vaccination.
That effectiveness varied from 72 per cent in the United States to 66 per cent in Latin America and 57 per cent in South Africa, where a new variant has spread.
That’s in contrast to the even more powerful protection witnessed in clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which showed efficacy levels — in terms of preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection — of 94 per cent and 95 per cent respectively after two doses.
Those trials, however, took place before the rise of several concerning variants of this virus. Each company also tested for slightly different outcomes, meaning the efficacy levels aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons.
On Friday, Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco likened it to comparing the scores of golfers who teed off during a calm moment to those who teed off when “winds were howling.”
“While it’s hard to make precise adjustment,” he said in a tweet, “it’s clear that equally good play will result in different scores.”
WATCH | Doctor who helped create Johnson & Johnson vaccine talks about its efficacy:
Dr. Dan Barouch, director, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine he helped to create is highly effective against COVID-19 and new variants of concern. 5:11
Crucially, Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose option did prove 85 per cent effective overall when it came to stopping severe cases of the disease specifically.
The company’s main study also showed that 28 days or more after vaccination, the shot 100 per cent prevented hospitalizations and deaths.
“I think people discount how much practicality means to this vaccine rollout,” Chagla said. “You do see severe illness going down with this vaccine. You see hospitalizations coming down with this vaccine.”
One-dose could offer ‘real solution’
Virologist and vaccinologist Alyson Kelvin, who is working on Canadian COVID-19 vaccine development at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac research institute, said for all vaccine developers, a safe and effective single-dose option has been the ultimate goal.
“Because people will be more interested in taking a vaccine if they don’t have to go back for their second shot, and which means that a vaccine will be more effective at getting to that community immunity that we need,” she said.
Like Chagla, she’s not alarmed by a slightly lower overall efficacy level.
“The goal of the vaccine is to protect people. Keeping them out of hospitals, keeping them from succumbing to disease,” she said.
And Chagla stressed that ultimately, this one-dose option could offer a “real solution” that helps countries like Canada tackle this year-long pandemic and alleviate the current burden on the health-care system from a virus that’s still widespread.
“It may not be the final strategy for vaccination,” he said. “But it’s a pretty good ‘right now’ strategy for vaccination.”
Health Canada has approved the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in Canada
The vaccine is the fourth to receive approval from federal regulators and the first that requires only a single dose. It’s being produced by the U.S. health care giant’s pharmaceutical subsidiary, Janssen Inc.
“As with all COVID-19 vaccines, Health Canada authorized the Janssen one after an independent and thorough scientific review for safety, efficacy and quality,” Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, told a media briefing in Ottawa today.
“After assessing all the data, we concluded there was strong evidence that showed the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks.”
WATCH | Public health officials announce the approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in Canada
Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, announces the approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in Canada. 1:51
Health Canada concluded the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 66.9 per cent and has authorized it for use for adults aged 18 and older.
While the vaccine is less effective than previously approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — both of which had efficacy rates of 90 per cent and above — Sharma said the shot offers strong protection against the threats that matter most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
“The efficacy rate does not mean that following vaccination with a vaccine with 66 per cent efficacy, that you will have a 34 per cent chance of contracting COVID-19,” said Sharma.
“While each of the vaccines Health Canada has authorized has different efficacy numbers, the reality is that you will have a greatly reduced chance of getting COVID-19 with any of the … vaccines that have been authorized.”
One-shot vaccine is easy to store
The Johnson & Johnson approval is expected to accelerate Canada’s vaccine rollout by adding another option to the previously-approved Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines. (A second version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine produces by the Serum Insititute of India also has been authorized.)
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is widely seen as one of the easiest to administer because it requires only one dose and can be stored for long periods of time at regular refrigerator temperatures of 2 C to 8 C.
It’s an adenovirus viral vector vaccine, which uses viral material — genetically engineered to keep it from replicating — to provoke an immune response.
Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson, with options for up to 28 million more.
Joëlle Paquette, director general for vaccines at Public Services and Procurement Canada, said yesterday that doses aren’t expected to begin arriving until April, although the full order of 10 million should be delivered by September.
“At the moment, we are still in discussion with Johnson and Johnson to determine where their doses will be coming from and the delivery schedule,” Paquette said.
Sharma said Health Canada has provided authorizations for manufacturing at two facilities — one in the U.S. and one in Europe.
Regulatory approval in this country follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval last Saturday.
Production problems slowed initial deliveries in the U.S. The United States was supposed to receive 10 million doses as soon as the vaccine was approved, but only four million doses were shipped out March 1.
The U.S. expects to get another 16 million doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June.
Canada has worked with the European Medicines Agency on all its COVID-19 vaccine reviews to date. The agency is expected to make a decision mid-month.
Health Canada on Saturday received additional data required to inform its decision on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine — the same day the shot was approved in the United States.
“We were waiting on some manufacturing data, and that came in yesterday. So we’re starting to look at that,” Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.
“It’s really difficult to predict exactly when we might make a final decision because it really depends on that data. But we’re looking at … the next couple of weeks.”
The data received on Saturday is what health regulators need to ensure that “every dose of the vaccine that comes off the production lines meets quality standards,” Sharma wrote in an email to CBC News.
The approval timeline depends on that information, but it also depends on whether regulators need to discuss any questions that arise with the manufacturer. Work that happens in the final stages of review — including finalizing a risk-management plan for monitoring the vaccine after authorization — must also be completed.
The two-week approval target takes those steps into consideration but doesn’t account for unexpected issues that could crop up, Sharma said.
WATCH | Johnson & Johnson vaccine approval could come in the next couple of weeks:
Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said the agency is waiting on manufacturer data to make a determination on Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, but contingent on that data, approval could come in the next few weeks. 9:23
Single-dose shot makes for easier rollout
In a global trial, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday, was found to be 66 per cent effective at staving off moderate to severe illness and was 85 per cent effective at preventing the most serious outcomes.
Canada has ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine, with options for up to 28 million more.
The best vaccine for an individual is [the] one that you can get.– Health Canada chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma
“In terms of the committee meeting that the FDA had, we had observers there as well, so all of that helps make for a more efficient review,” Sharma told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
While the vaccine was approved as a one-shot regimen, the company is also testing the efficacy of administering two doses of its product.
“If a vaccine is only only dose, then that makes it easier for administration. You don’t have to do the followup to record people and track them down to get the second dose,” Sharma told Barton. “So all of that helps, but what really helps the most is getting as many vaccines authorized and get that supply in as quickly as possible.”
Not a question of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vaccines
Now that more vaccines are earning approvals, Sharma said a “narrative” has emerged where people assume one shot confers better protection than another.
Efficacy, she said, simply means determining whether “something does what it’s supposed to do.” As far as COVID-19 vaccines are concerned, that means comparing one group of people who receive the shot against another group of people who didn’t and contrasting the number of cases in both groups.
“When we look across all the vaccines, the major five that are under review and authorized, if you look at that subsection that matters most — severe disease, hospitalizations, dying of COVID-19 — all of these vaccines are equally protective,” Sharma explained.
The chief medical adviser cautioned against pitting one shot against another, something she said can only happen in a “head-to-head” trial, which would see two vaccines being tested together in the same trial.
“The best vaccine for an individual is [the] one that you can get. That’s pretty simple,” she said.
“For people who are sitting back and waiting for another vaccine, I would say the longer, and the more people, who do that, the more we’re all going to be sitting at home if we’re lucky to have a home.”
Health Canada’s approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India’s version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca’s product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine.
“I think Canada is hungry for vaccines,” Sharma said in a briefing. “We’re putting more on the buffet table to be used.”
Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms).
Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto’s University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca’s vaccines added to Canada’s options.
“Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it’s still reasonably good,” Hota said.
“What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this.”
Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX.
WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine safety:
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton breaks down how effective the latest vaccine approved by Health Canada will be in the fight against COVID-19. 3:45
Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday.
Here’s a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out.
What’s different about this shot?
The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material.
AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna’s product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.)
The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca’s vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world.
“There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible,” Hota said.
Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca’s vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups.
“We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations to the tune of 84 per cent,” Sharma said.
Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors.
How does it work?
Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader.
In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can’t grow in humans.
Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won’t work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus.
How and where could it be used?
Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities.
“I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination,” said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control.
“The reason why I’m encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally.”
Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19.
There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902 ) in the control group.
No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy.
An analysis of results from 2,000 adults older than 60 years suggested the vaccine was similarly effective and well tolerated in this age group.
Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
Canada is well-positioned to approve Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine soon — and it could be delivered to the country very quickly after that, a BioNTech executive says.
“If I use the U.K. as an example, we got approval at 1:00 am in the morning. We approved [the] release of the vaccine and shipped it within 24 hours,” said Sean Marett, the chief business and chief commercial officer of Germany’s BioNTech, which partnered with the U.S.-based Pfizer to develop one of the world’s most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
“Certainly from the discussions that we’ve had, Canada is in a good position to approve the vaccine shortly,” Marett told CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton on Sunday.
The Pfizer/BioNTech product — which was recently greenlit in the U.K. for emergency use — could receive approval from Health Canada as soon as this coming week. Health regulators are currently reviewing three other vaccines produced by Moderna, AstraZeneca and Jannsen.
“Upon approval, we then release the vaccine and then it is shipped. We’ve already produced the vaccine and reserved doses for Canada,” Marett said on Rosemary Barton Live.
Regulatory approval is a key step before the finer details of the federal government’s rollout plan can be set in motion.
“We are negotiating for more precise delivery dates pending Health Canada approval,” Procurement Minister Anita Anand told CBC’s Vassy Kapelos earlier this week. “It’s for that reason that we’re putting the logistics systems in place so that there is no time lost between approval and then distribution to the provinces and territories.”
Rollout the ‘biological equivalent of a moon landing’
Marett called the distribution plan for the vaccine the “biological equivalent of a moon landing.”
“You’ve got to get everything exactly right, and that, of course, includes timings,” Marett said, when asked about exact delivery dates. “These things tend to … move around [for] a few days. But so far, from our experience with one country, the United Kingdom, we’ve seen things move pretty smoothly.”
WATCH | Welsh health minister talks lessons for Canada as U.K. prepares to vaccinate:
Welsh Minister of Health Vaughan Gething talks about lessons for Canada as Wales prepares to start COVID-19 vaccinations in 48 hours. 7:18
On Friday, Anand announced a contract with FedEx Express Canada to support the shipment of most vaccines across the country.
But the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate will be delivered by the pharmaceutical company directly because the product needs to be kept at approximately -70 C to remain stable. Ottawa says it’s already secured enough freezers to store up to 33.5 million units of the vaccine.
Marett said transporting and housing products in sub-zero temperatures is a process that’s been “well mapped out.”
“Together with Pfizer, we’ve designed a storage box … in which the vaccine arrives. You can use that as a -70 freezer. You can open the box twice a day and take vaccine out as long as you re-ice it for up to 15 days,” he explained.
Distribution dry runs expected in provinces Monday
Canada has signed a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech to pre-order 20 million doses of the vaccine, with an option to buy 56 million more in the months ahead. Pfizer says the shots are 95 per cent effective based on Phase 3 clinical trial results.
Marett said his company was “completely stunned” by those findings, considering the vaccine was developed in a matter of months as opposed to years.
“Ninety-five per cent efficacy, as defined by do you get [COVID-19] symptoms or not … is, in our view, a startling result,” he said.
Public health officials say that if all goes well, six million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are slated to arrive in Canada within the first three months of 2021. Both vaccines must be administered twice, meaning three million Canadians will be among the first to get a jab.
WATCH | Canadian officials rehearsing for vaccine distribution:
Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin briefed reporters Thursday. 1:55
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the former NATO commander now leading vaccine logistics and operations for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said Friday that every province has now identified specific sites where shots will be received.
Fortin said that dry runs are expected to be carried out in each province on Monday to ensure that those involved in the rollout process are prepared to handle the “very unique requirements” of an ultra-cold vaccine.
The Ontario government says the necessity of frequent travel between the U.S. and Canada is the complicating factor holding up approval for Major League Baseball to play in Toronto during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lisa Anne MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, said MLB’s plan is more difficult to approve because all 30 teams plan to be travelling. The NHL and NBA intend to use hub cities.
Federal and local health authorities in Canada have approved a plan for the NHL to play in either Toronto or Edmonton, but the plan does not involve travel back between the U.S. and Canada.
The NHL is selecting hub cities, most likely two, where all the teams will play.
MLB requires an exemption to a requirement that anyone entering Canada for non-essential reasons must self-isolate for 14 days.
The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to non essential travel until at least July 21.
Several Jays tested positive
Several Blue Jays players and staff recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The team shut down its Dunedin, Fla., spring training facility on June 19 after a player showed symptoms.
The Blue Jays are moving players to Dunedin, where they will be tested and await word from the Canadian government.
The Blue Jays said in a statement Monday that the club has started moving players and personnel to Dunedin to begin the intake screening and isolation process.
The statement said the Jays will then either board a charter flight to Toronto to begin training under a modified quarantine, or remain in Florida to conduct training.
Florida has been ravaged by COVID-19 lately, announcing 9,585 new cases Saturday and 8,585 Sunday.
WATCH | Toronto poised to host MLB, NHL games:
As professional sports leagues are getting closer to restarting, it’s looking like the city of Toronto will be hosting a lot of games. 3:43
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday that “municipal, provincial and federal health folks” have given the team the OK, but they are still awaiting a letter of support from the federal government.
It’s unclear if the Blue Jays would also be playing their home games in Toronto, or if permission is being granted for training only.
Players would arrive in Toronto on Wednesday with camp officially beginning Friday.
An abbreviated 60-game regular season would begin either July 23 or 24 and last 66 days.
WATCH | Multiple members of Blue Jays organization test positive:
Several Toronto Blue Jays players and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, a source has told The Canadian Press. 4:35
Players arriving at camp this week must undergo an immediate temperature check and two COVID-19 tests — a diagnostic PCR test that can show if somebody is actively infected, and a blood-drawn antibody test that can determine if somebody has had the virus and recovered.
MLB announced its plans for an abbreviated season last week, saying most teams would play in their home ballparks and travel for games against division rivals and teams in the corresponding divisions of their opposite league.
Toronto would play the bulk of its schedule (40 games) against fellow American League East teams — 10 games each against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles — and the remaining 20 games against the National League East’s New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies.
The 2020 MLB season was supposed to begin March 26, but spring training was halted on March 13 due to the pandemic.
The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a 22-team format for restarting the league season in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, another major step toward getting teams back onto the court and playing games again.
The format calls for each team playing eight games to determine playoff seeding plus the possible utilization of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference post-season fields, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league had not yet revealed the vote result publicly.
It is the most significant step yet in the process of trying to resume a season that was suspended nearly three months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. There are numerous other details for the league to continue working through — including finalizing specifics of what the testing plan will be once teams arrive next month at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex and the calculating the financial ramifications of playing a shortened regular season.
Another person, also speaking to AP on condition of anonymity because the details of the ongoing talks have not been publicly released, said the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA are continuing to work on a “lengthy” medical protocols document. The details of that document will be shared with teams once those discussions are completed, said the person, who added that teams should receive them in plenty of time for them to prepare for their arrivals at the Disney-ESPN complex.
If all 22 teams that are going to Disney play their allotted eight games before the post-season begins, the NBA would play 1,059 games in this regular season. That means 171 regular season games would be cancelled, which could cost players around $ 600 million in salary.
Those 22 clubs would play somewhere between 71 and 75 regular season games if the Disney portion of the schedule is completed, down from the customary 82-game slate. The teams who didn’t qualify for the restart will see their seasons end after having played somewhere between 64 and 67 games.
But one of the biggest hurdles is now cleared, and if things go according to plan an NBA champion for a season unlike any other will be crowned in October. The season could go into that month if the league goes ahead with its plan for the same playoff rules as usual, that being every round utilizing a best-of-seven format.
Teams are likely to be allowed to open training camps in late June before arriving at the Disney complex around July 7. Once there, camps will continue and teams will likely have the chance to have some scrimmages or “preseason” games against other clubs before the regular season resumes.
WATCH | Sports weigh risk, reward ahead of potential returns:
CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin details the various return to play scenarios unfolding across the professional sports landscape. 2:52
Thursday’s move by the board of governors — one that came, coincidentally, on the same day this season’s NBA Finals would have started if these were normal times — was largely a formality. The NBA considered countless restart options after suspending the season on March 11, whittled that list down to four possibilities last week and from there the 22-team plan quickly began gaining momentum.
The 22-team plan includes all teams that were holding playoff spots when the season was stopped, plus all other clubs within six games of a post-season berth.
Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and reigning NBA champion Toronto had already clinched playoff berths. Now with only eight games remaining for each team, it means that eight other clubs — Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston — have post-season spots secured, and Dallas virtually has one as well.
That leaves nine teams vying for three remaining playoff berths. In the East, Brooklyn, Orlando and Washington are in the race for two spots. In the West, Memphis, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix will jostle for one spot.
WATCH | When and how could sports return?:
Sports around the world are formulating plans to get back to action, Rob Pizzo rounds up the latest news from each. 3:20
If the gap between eighth place and ninth place in either conference is four games or less when the shortened regular season ends, those teams will go head-to-head for the No. 8 seed. The team in ninth place would have to go 2-0 in a two-game series to win the berth; otherwise, the No. 8 seed would advance to the post-season.
Thursday’s decision also means that the seasons for Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte are over. The Knicks will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the third-longest current drought in the league behind Sacramento and Phoenix — who still have chances of getting into the playoffs this season.
And with the Hawks not moving on, it also means Vince Carter has almost certainly played the final game of his 22-year NBA career — the longest in league history.
Carter, the first player in NBA history to appear in four different decades, has steadfastly insisted that he is retiring after this season. He appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) usually builds spacecraft, but the team unveiled a medical ventilator recently that it had designed in just 37 days. The device, designed specifically for COVID-19 patients, could be the difference between life and death as hospitals around the world run low on this critical equipment. NASA now says that the FDA has granted an Emergency Use Authorization, allowing the device to be used in hospitals.
The new strain of coronavirus has spread across the globe, resulting in more than 3 million confirmed infections and over 200,000 deaths. The virus attacks the lungs, with the most common symptoms being cough and fever. However, some patients develop difficulty breathing that can progress to severe respiratory distress. Because these patients can’t breathe on their own, they need ventilators to pump air into their lungs, but hospitals are short on the necessary equipment.
The device, known as VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), is not as durable or versatile as traditional medical ventilators. However, it’s cheaper and easily repairable. The team expects VITAL machines to work for several months without a major failure, whereas other devices might work for years. However, hospitals should be able to modify and repair VITAL on-site rather than sending them off to specialized technicians.
JPL had VITAL tested in late April at the Icahn School of Medicine with a human patient simulator. After that, JPL submitted a request to the FDA for the Emergency Use Authorization. Now that VITAL has approval, someone has to build it. JPL made prototypes for testing, but it’s not set up to manufacture thousands of the devices. For that, it will turn to the private sector.
The Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships at Caltech manages JPL projects for NASA, and it has opted to offer VITAL with a free license to manufacturers. The staff is currently searching for partners that have the capacity to build VITAL respirators rapidly for use in hospitals. There’s a website with information about the device and instructions on how to apply for a license. The agency has asked for applications by May 4th so it can award licenses on May 7th. It’s possible VITAL machines could be in hospitals within several weeks. Meanwhile, we haven’t heard a peep about Tesla’s car-based ventilator since early April.
SpaceX can move forward with its plans to build rockets in Los Angeles following a unanimous vote by the LA City Council. The 12-0 vote paves the way for Elon Musk’s spaceflight company to use a large tract of land at the Port of Los Angeles to conduct research and build components for the upcoming Starship rocket. This spacecraft could eventually take humans to the moon and Mars.
Residents of LA will be either relieved or saddened to hear that SpaceX’s activities at the Port of Los Angeles will not include launching giant rockets. It will only conduct research, design, and construct the rockets in LA. Still, this will be a big time-saver for SpaceX — the new facility will be close to the company’s LA headquarters. Until now, most work on the Starship has taken place at the SpaceX test facility in Texas.
SpaceX first leased the site in 2018, agreeing to pay $ 1.7 million in annual rent. The contract also includes a provision whereby SpaceX can expand its site from 12.5 acres to 19 acres. So, the LA operation can grow along with the Starship program, and Musk is hoping it’ll grow quite large indeed. SpaceX backed out a lease two years ago when it decided to do the initial Starship development in Texas, but this move brings Starship production closer to home.
The Starhopper prototype hovering at SpaceX’s Texas facility.
The Starship is SpaceX’s next-generation vehicle, intended as a way to reach new destinations in the solar system and to replace the Falcon 9 for short-range trips. SpaceX has even pitched the Starship as a super-fast method to get from one place to another on Earth. The Starship has been tested in a limited form as the “Starhopper” vehicle, which proved the company’s new Raptor engines work as intended. The next step is an orbital test flight, which should take place later this year.
Musk seems most interested in the Starship as a way to get people to and from Mars — technically, he’s more into the going-to-Mars part. He envisions the Starship ferrying colonists to the red planet where they will live out their days and build a new human society. He says a ticket to Mars will cost a few hundred thousand dollars, but there will be loans available to those who come up short. Although, maybe don’t accept a billionaire’s offer to work off a large loan on another planet. That’s a sci-fi dystopia waiting to happen.