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Families eager for results as drug companies test vaccines for use on children, teens

On an unusually warm spring morning, a class of seventh and eighth graders exits the doors of Charles Gordon Senior Public School in Scarborough, Ont. They walk single file through the yard, masked and distanced from each other by a strict two metres — a sign of the times in Toronto, where kids only recently returned to in-person schooling after another lockdown.

The day’s lesson is about COVID-19 vaccines, and appropriately, it was being held at an outdoor classroom. Students had been asked to read up on the vaccines and present questions they would like to ask Canadian officials about the inoculations and their distribution.

As vaccines roll out among older adults, many of the questions from this group of students focused on the fact that children aren’t on the current inoculation schedule. Of the vaccines approved in Canada so far, only the Pfizer vaccine has been cleared for people as young as 16 years old, and the other three are currently meant for ages 18 and up.

Their teacher, Tracey Toyama, said the lesson was a natural extension of current events. “They see it every day on social media; they come in, they ask questions,” she said.

“Why are children not more prioritized in terms of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?” asked one girl.

“Why wouldn’t we vaccinate children so that they don’t put those who are vulnerable at risk?” asked another.

Indeed, since most children tend to experience milder cases of COVID-19, they weren’t prioritized in international vaccine trials. Still, kids do get sick and they can pass on the virus.

In fact, more than 157,000 Canadians aged 19 or younger have caught COVID-19. So until both adults and children are inoculated against the virus, it’s unlikely society will be able to go back to normal.


Students at Charles Gordon Senior Public School in Scarborough, Ont., hold some of their classes outdoors during the pandemic. During this lesson, students discuss the questions they would like to ask Canadian officials about the vaccines and their distribution. (Sarah Bridge/CBC)

In recognition of this, a number of vaccines are now being tested on younger people.

Drug maker Sinovac submitted data to the Chinese government this week saying its vaccine is safe for children between the ages of three and 17.

Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson are now testing their COVID-19 vaccines on younger kids, too. Moderna’s trial includes children as young as six months old. Early data from Pfizer on its trials for children aged 12 years and older is expected soon.

Quebec-based Medicago, which is working through Phase 3 adult trials for its plant-based COVID-19 vaccine, says it has plans to move on to younger age groups as data emerges.

According to Nathalie Charland, a senior director with Medicago, the trials will be similar to those they’ve conducted with people aged 18 and up, though children will likely receive half the vaccine dosage.

Along with monitoring each of the test cases to make sure they’re safe, she said, “We will be looking at the immunogenicity of the vaccine candidate to see if what we saw in adults is the same that we see in children.”


Medicago has been conducting clinical trials of its plant-based COVID-19 vaccine on people aged 18 years and older. Nathalie Charland, a senior director with Medicago, says her company has plans to test the vaccine on younger age groups as well. (Medicago)

Dr. Noni MacDonald with Dalhousie University in Halifax said vaccinating children is “incredibly important.”

She said adults were “rightly” prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines because, “children have not been shown to be the big vector of transmitting this virus from one person to another; it’s mostly adults and young people.”

However, MacDonald added, “The problem we have is we know that we need to have the community immunity happen. So, if we have big pockets of children that are not immunized, that community is not immune.”

With variants circulating, she said, the impetus to vaccinate children as soon as possible is strong.

“This is not the end,” she said. “This is a wicked virus and we need to control it in all the ways we can.”

That urgency is especially acute in households where a family member is immunocompromised.

Torontonian Amerie Alvis, 15, has been worried about bringing the virus home to her mom this past year. Her mother, Jaeda Larkin, is a single parent with rheumatoid arthritis.

“What if she does get sick, and I’m all alone?” Alvis said.


Jaeda Larkin, left, and her daughter Amerie Alvis. Amerie has chosen to do online schooling until she is able to get vaccinated, in order to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19. (Sarah Bridge/CBC)

At nearly 16 years old, Alvis should be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine in a few months and said she is “all for it.”

In the meantime, she has chosen to do online schooling rather than go back to class, in order to minimize the risk to herself and her mom. Alvis said she won’t go back until she gets a shot, but she’s hopeful life could look different next fall.

Having lost some relatives in the U.S. to COVID-19, Larkin is similarly keen to see the two of them vaccinated against the virus.

“The thought of risking my daughter or, you know, potentially having her get sick is terrifying to me,” Larkin said.

Without available vaccine data for kids under 16, some parents of younger children are hesitant to commit just yet.

Torontonians Barry Ayow and Gina Athanasiou aren’t sure whether they’ll want to vaccinate their two youngest kids, who are 12 and 14 years old, against COVID-19 right away.

“I’m willing to experiment on myself. I’m willing to be a guinea pig. But to volunteer my children to be guinea pigs, that’s a different thing, right?” said Ayow.

At the same time, a sense of duty to their older family members and neighbours is weighing on the couple.

“Will duty outweigh our obligation to our kids to make sure that they’re safe? I don’t know,” said Athanasiou, who has concerns about possible side effects of the vaccines on her kids.

She added, “Maybe we’ll feel more comfortable when we have the studies.”


Barry Ayow, right, and Gina Athanasiou say they’re willing to get vaccinated for COIVD-19, but they aren’t sure whether they want to vaccinate their two youngest children right away. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

Dr. MacDonald said parents can be reassured that a push to vaccinate children won’t be coming “out of nowhere.”

“This is going to be based on evidence,” she said.

In fact, according to MacDonald, information about the COVID-19 vaccines will be more robust than what was initially available for previous vaccines, such as polio.

When the time comes for children to get vaccinated, she said, “literally tens of millions of doses of these vaccines will have been used in the population. We’ve never had that kind of volume whenever we’ve used vaccines in children before when we were starting.”

In a show of hands, about half the students in the Grade 7 and 8 class at Charles Gordon Senior Public School said they themselves would take the vaccine based on what they currently know, with others mostly citing the need for more information on their own age group.

What’s clear from nearly all of them during their classroom discussion, though, is that the stress of the pandemic isn’t just affecting adults.

For seventh grader Isaiah Velez, keeping his family and friends safe is a personal priority, he said, as is putting an end to the pandemic. “I miss going out in public and meeting my friends — a lot,” he said.


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CBC | Health News

Canadian duo Pavan, Humana-Paredes eager for rematch with American rivals

Driving alongside the Atlantic Ocean through Long Beach, Calif., is now a familiar journey for Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.

With Pavan driving and Humana-Paredes riding shotgun, the picturesque ocean view disappears as they turn toward Interstate 405 and speed past gas stations and Mexican restaurants on their way home.

It’s been the routine for the reigning beach volleyball world champions after every match of the Champions Cup, the first beach volleyball event held since COVID-19 brought the world to a halt. And it will continue this weekend in the third and final tournament where many hope to see them in a gold-medal match with American rivals April Ross and Alix Klineman. 

“There are days when we drive home and we’re really disappointed with a certain play or a certain set or how a match went,” Pavan told CBC Sports. “It’s always the alternative rock station on and we usually take some pauses to sing a bit, but we’re usually covered in sand, having some snacks, and chatting.

“And we’ll each talk about the things we personally felt like we didn’t do well or could have done better.”

Even when they win, the conversation doesn’t change much.

WATCH | Back to the beach:

Canadian world champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes describe what its like competing after quarantine. 3:46

“Sometimes we’ll be like, ‘How did we do that? We weren’t on our best game,'” said Humana-Paredes. “It’s hard for us to praise ourselves.”

However, last week’s tournament complicated that dynamic because being critical of their performance is futile: Pavan and Humana-Paredes knew there was no way they’d perform at the level they’re accustomed to and they admit it’s been a bumpy start. So their expectations were set accordingly, looking to ease back into competition and fall back in love with the game, a far cry from their typical goal of winning.

But that’s easier said than done when you’re face to face with your biggest rivals and competing on national television for bragging rights and a sizable cash prize.

“We’re definitely going after it, working our hardest and leaving it all out there but, normally, we’re much more critical and are pushing so much harder,” Pavan said. “And so just finding that balance of understanding and acceptance and that urge to be better.

WATCH | Mad Libs with world champions:

Did you do Mad Libs as a kid? Well, here’s Team Canada athletes playing… with a twist. It’s hilarious. Trust us. 3:10

“It’s been an interesting thing to work through at this time, but I think we’re handling it in the right way.”

They’ve had some brilliant moments and strung together great plays that showed glimpses of their pre-quarantine form. They finished third in week one, second in week two. But even top-three finishes are a vulnerable place to be for the world champions.

‘Doing it publicly’

“The challenging part is normally when we’re going through this process, we’re not doing it publicly,” said Pavan. “This is a typical, early season look for us, but nobody ever sees that. They usually see the finished product.

“So that’s been really challenging to deal with because we know it’s there, we just haven’t been able to train enough to let it shine through.”

But with their mental game prepared and momentum on their side, Pavan and Humana-Paredes plan on finishing on top in this weekend’s tournament. If they make the gold-medal match they’ll likely face Ross and Klineman who have dominated this event, winning their first two tournaments and beating the Canadians each time they’ve met.

WATCH | Canadian pair loses in AVP finals: 

Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes dropped a straight sets loss to Alix Klineman and April Ross in Wilson Cup final. 1:06

“Sarah had a really great moment on camera,” said Humana Parades, smiling. “We were coming off a technical time out, it was 11-10, and Sarah said ‘You know we’re playing at a zero out of 10 right now and it’s still a close score.’ And she was so right, we were not playing our best and we were still able to compete.”

“That’s almost more frustrating than being at a good level and being close, so we’re using that as motivation. The fire inside me is burning and I’m sure it is inside Sarah too.”

The Canadians say the key to staying competitive with the Americans, who are making very few mistakes, is managing their serve. 

“It’s disappointing when we don’t lay them at the level we want to,” said Pavan. “But we’re really lucky because our coach is there with us every step of the way and he’s gathering so much information, noticing what changes they’ve made against us and what we need to do to take it to the next level.

“We’re using this as an opportunity, we absolutely want to beat them because we don’t want to lose to them three times in a row.” 

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CBC | Sports News

Canada’s Erin McLeod eager to make return to NWSL, comfortable with precautions made for return

Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod smiles each time she hits the pitch to train with the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League, though she could never have imagined she’d be playing under these circumstances. 

The NWSL announced this week it will resume play with a 25-game tournament next month, making it the first North American team sport to return to competition during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“My initial reaction was ‘I love to play,'” said McLeod, a warrior for Team Canada through four FIFA Women’s World Cups and two Olympic Games, winning bronze in London 2012. “Health is everyone’s main concern right now and it’s nice to know there’s the opportunity to play competitively while being in a really safe environment. 

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with the medical side of things and the attention to detail. A lot of mixed emotions for sure, but if you know me, I feel like I’m five years old again. I’m always excited to play soccer when I can.” 

The 37-year-old native of St. Albert, Alta., is one of 16 Canadians plying their trade in the nine-team NWSL. Among the others include longtime national team stars Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns FC), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash) and Diana Matheson and Desiree Scott (Utah Royals FC).  

The Challenge Cup, which will run June 27 through July 26, will see all teams stay and play in facilities on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah. Each team will play four group stage games, with the top eight teams continuing to a single-elimination format. Games will be televised and streamed by CBS and its online and broadcast affiliates. And like most professional sports making their return, there will be no fans in the stands for games.

WATCH | The latest plans for sports returning to play:

Sports around the world are formulating plans to get back to action, Rob Pizzo rounds up the latest news from each.  3:20

All players and team personnel will be tested for COVID-19 before leaving for Utah, and will be regularly screened thereafter. The league is covering the cost for 28 players and seven staff members from each team to travel to Utah and there are talks to have five substitutions per match to combat fatigue.

Players can opt out of the tournament if they have concerns about their safety. There are salary guarantees and insurance for all players — regardless of whether they play or not.

Since being shuttered like the rest of the sports world on March 11, the NWSL and its commissioner Lisa Baird, the players’ association and a 15-doctor task force have been putting together a robust protocol for a return to play.  

It ramped up this past week with small-group training, with any player or staff undergoing testing before participating. No more than eight players can be in attendance at one time. Players have a set arrival time, they must wear their masks upon entry and go through symptom and temperature screening. Coaches, athletic trainers, sport scientists, team physicians and equipment managers can be on-site as essential staff. Everything is sanitized before and after each session. 


Utah’s Rio Tinto Stadium will be empty of fans when it plays host to the semifinals and finals of the NWSL’s Challenge Cup tournament in July. (Getty Images)

“It isn’t too different, except three-quarters of your team is missing,” McLeod said with a laugh. “Considering everything, I think this club has done a really good job of keeping as much normalcy as possible.” 

Once a team has completed five days of small-group sessions, they can move onto full squad training as of Saturday using the same precautions. 

Perhaps no one is happier to be on the field right now than McLeod. She’s back in the NWSL after spending the past few seasons in Europe with various clubs in Germany and Sweden. 

Last year was a tough one for her because of injuries. A foot injury ruled her out of contention for a spot on Canada’s 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup squad. It was initially thought to be plantar fasciitis but was later diagnosed as tarsal tunnel syndrome, which caused severe pain and swelling in her foot. 

“I’m so grateful that I can walk without being in so much pain. I guess the one thing that this virus has made you think about is that there are no guarantees. So everyday I show up for training and put my boots on, I’m so grateful for that moment.” 

While COVID-19 has been the chief concern, so has the overall health of the players including the possibility of an increase in injuries. 

It’s an intense schedule and the teams have just five weeks to get ready for it. Teams could play as many as seven games in a span of 29 days. On average there would be three days rest between games. 

Players had expressed concerns about the compressed timeline and that almost all of the games would be played on artificial turf at Zions Bank Stadium. The semifinals and final will be on grass at Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of the Utah Royals.

With a month to go before the showcase, McLeod is enjoying getting to know her teammates.

“Everyone has been super welcoming and very professional. It’s also nice to be the new kid, you know, being a little nervous, not knowing where you fit in. I think it’s good to feel those things every once in a while,” she said. 

“This is such a unique circumstance. Optimally you want to gel as much as a team, amp up in a way that’s calculated and safe and smart. A lot of people haven’t played for about a year. I expect to see a lot of growth game to game once the tournament starts.” 

And as for whether Canadian soccer fans may see McLeod add to her 118 caps with the national team, perhaps even for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics, that’s up in the air. She’s one of four goalkeepers in a talented group that includes Kailen Sheridan, Sabrina D’Angelo and Stephanie Labbe. McLeod says she’s taking it day by day. 

“Right now, I’m considered an option,” she said of Tokyo. “The Olympics have been such a big part of my heart, my passion, my drive, but I’m in a place where I’ve done the time, I’ve done a lot of things I’m very proud of, so what happens from now on is kind of just the icing on the cake. I would love to go, who wouldn’t want to go. 

“If I could wear the Maple Leaf on my chest one more time I would definitely be up for that.”

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CBC | Soccer News

Leslie Grossman Says Amanda Bynes Is 'Very Eager To Get Back Into Acting'

It’s been over a year since Amanda Bynes first declared her intention to return to show business, and the actress’ friend and former co-star, Leslie Grossman, says she can’t wait to start working on projects once again.

Grossman recently sat down with Busy Philipps on her E! late night talk show, Busy Tonight, and the American Horror Story actress shared an update on Bynes’ journey back to stardom.

“I met her when she was 16 years old and you don’t know what you’re gonna get when you meet a young star of a show, it could be a nightmare. [But] from the get go, [she was] the sweetest, the funniest, the most hard working, and just a wonderful person,” said Grossman, who starred opposite Bynes for four seasons on the early 2000s sitcom What I Like About You.

“That show was a really fun and good time in my life, and we had such a good time doing that,” Grossman recalled fondly.

While Bynes endeared a tumultuous few years, which included painful and public struggles with addiction and mental health issues, the actress revealed in June 2017 that she was clean and sober and ready to get back to acting.

This past November, Bynes elaborated on her various struggles and her desire to reclaim her life in a lengthy and candid sit-down interview with Paper magazine, where she seemed to have really come to terms and moved past many of the problems she’d been fighting for years.

“She’s doing fantastic, she really is,” Grossman, 47, shared. “She looks beautiful, and she’s very eager to get back into acting, which I think she’ll have no problem with. I think everyone wants to see her doing something.”

The Popular star said that Bynes is also still “really committed to doing fashion,” which is a passion the star has had for years, and something she went to college to study after taking a step back from her acting career.

Ultimately, Grossman said she has a lot of sympathy for how Bynes had to deal with her painful and personal battle under the intense scrutiny of the public eye, and she’s excited for how her friend has managed to turn things around.

“I think all of us have had tough times in our lives, and we haven’t had to do it in front of the glare of a camera,” Grossman shared. “I’m very, very proud of her, I really am. She’s doing great.”

For more on Bynes’ surprising, brutally honest interview with Paper magazine — in which she gets very open about the extent of her past drug use and her career’s lowest moments — check out the video below.

Busy Tonight airs Monday through Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on E!

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