Tag Archives: health

Men’s curling worlds playoffs to resume after approval from Alberta Health

The men’s world curling championships will return to play on Sunday in the Calgary bubble, as Curling Canada announced organizers had been given the go-ahead by Alberta Health.

More to come.

WATCH | Dr. Isaac Bogoch discusses the situation in Calgary curling bubble:

The infectious disease expert explains how the curling action in Calgary could continue despite positive tests. 4:14

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CBC | Sports News

B.C.’s health minister says it’s time to ‘dig in’ to obey COVID-19 safety rules as cases mount

B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix has defended measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, even as his province set one-day case counts records on Friday and Saturday.

“Right now they’re strict measures and we need everyone to dig in,” Dix said in an interview Sunday. “This is the time to follow those measures.”

Dix along with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry cancelled indoor dining, in-person worship and group fitness classes last week to curb an alarming growth in COVID-19 cases.

Other measures in place since November include restricting indoor gatherings to individual households only and to avoid travel to other health regions.

In early March, the province allowed for British Columbians to gather outside in groups of up to 10 people, following four months of restrictions on social gatherings. 

Surge in young patients

Dix said on Sunday that B.C.’s latest COVID-19 measures were very strict, and did not say if other new measures could be coming in days ahead.

A record 2,090 new cases of COVID-19 for Friday and Saturday were announced in a release from the province on Saturday, but it did not include information about deaths, variants of concern or the number of active cases.

The 1,018 new cases on Friday and 1,072 new cases on Saturday were both single-day infection records.

The release said 90 patients were in critical care, which was up 11 from 79 on Thursday.

Dix said on Sunday that a higher proportion of younger people are becoming ill from the disease.

“I’m not one bit happy about where we are at now,” he said, adding that provincial measures are targeting indoor transmissions.

On Saturday, a tweet from Dr. Kevin McLeod of Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver said hospitals are seeing a surge in young patients needing serious medical intervention for illnesses caused by COVID-19.


Dix said he saw the tweet and said its message was an important one.

“What it says to everybody is this is the time to take care,” he said. “Right now is the time to really follow public health orders whether you’re 25 or 75.”

The minister also said  B.C. had delivered a record number of vaccinations this past week.

A total of 856,801 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. to date, including 87,455 second doses.

Vaccine appointments are currently open for seniors aged 72 and up, Indigenous people over the age of 18 and people that the province has deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable.

People between the ages of 55 and 65 are also eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine in the Lower Mainland while more communities are expected to be added by the end of next week.

No travel, says Dix

Dix has also pleaded with people to stay local this weekend, as he said unnecessary travel has contributed to the rise in infections.


Some officials in tourist destinations in B.C. said over the weekend that they were noticing an influx of visitors.

“My feeling is that the province’s restrictions on indoor dining and the messaging about staying local are getting through certainly to a lot of people, not everybody,” said Tofino Mayor Dan Law.


In the Southern Interior, Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff said it appears that more people are visiting her community this weekend than over the past two weeks, but not as much as a normal year.

She says people coming are doing so to play golf, visit wineries or be at properties they own and are playing it safe.

“We offer Canada’s warmest welcome, that’s our motto, and so it seems unusual. But I appreciate the fact that people are looking after themselves and looking after our businesses and looking after the community by obeying … the health regulations. I don’t see it being a problem.”

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CBC | Health News

EU’s health regulator approves 3 new vaccine manufacturing sites

The European Union’s medicines regulator on Friday said it has approved new manufacturing sites for coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford, in a move that could significantly boost Europe’s supply of the shots and speed vaccination efforts across the continent.

The European Medicines Agency said in a statement that it had approved sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland for the COVID-19 vaccines made by the companies.

The new approvals come amid the 27-nation bloc’s struggles to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination and repeated delivery delays and manufacturing problems.

The EMA said it had approved a factory in Leiden, the Netherlands, to make the active substance for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, bringing the number of such licensed sites to four.

The EU regulator said it was also giving the green light to a site in Marburg, Germany, to make both the active substance and completed vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.

In addition, the EMA said it was granting “more flexible storage conditions” to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — which was cleared on the basis that it needed ultra-cold freezer temperatures for storage and delivery.

BioNTech said in a release that it expects the first batches of vaccines manufactured at the Marburg site will be delivered in the second half of April.

“Currently, 400 BioNTech employees work in Marburg, 200 of them in 24/7 shifts in order to maximize the production’s output,” the company said.

Supply, distribution remain vexing issues

The approval “is expected to facilitate the rapid roll-out and distribution of the vaccine in the EU by reducing the need for ultra-low temperature cold storage conditions throughout the supply chain,” the regulator said.

Last week, an expert committee at the EMA recommended new manufacturing lines at a facility in Visp, Switzerland for the Moderna Inc. vaccine.

WATCH | Ottawa watching EU situation on vaccines carefully:

The federal government says it is ‘concerned,’ but does not expect Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply to be affected by a proposed export restriction by the European Union. It’s less clear if there’d be any impact from a temporary pause on exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India. 2:41

These changes are “intended to scale up production capacity and increase supply of the vaccine for the EU market,” the regulator said.

All COVID-19 vaccines meant for use in the EU must have their manufacturing sites approved by the EMA after a regulatory evaluation.

On Thursday, EU leaders failed to settle a fight about the distribution of COVID-19 shots among member states but pledged to strengthen vaccine export controls and production on EU soil amid a shortage of doses and spikes in new cases.

At the end of the summit, the bloc’s 27 nations were still locked in a dispute over how an upcoming batch of 10 million doses could be allocated to narrow the vaccine gap between member states, and the leaders decided to push the talks to a future meeting of their ambassadors.

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CBC | World News

Public Health Agency was unprepared for the pandemic and ‘underestimated’ the danger, auditor general says

Despite nearly two decades of warnings, planning and government spending, the Public Health Agency of Canada was not ready for the global pandemic and did not appreciate the threat it posed in its early stages, Canada’s auditor general says.

In a hard-hitting review released today, Auditor General Karen Hogan took the country’s primary pandemic response agency to task for failures in early warning, surveillance, risk assessments, data-sharing with the provinces and follow-up on Canadian travellers who were ordered into quarantine.

“The agency was not adequately prepared to respond to the pandemic, and it underestimated the potential impact of the virus at the onset of the pandemic,” said the AG’s review — one of three that looked at the Liberal government’s management of the COVID-19 crisis, which as of Thursday had killed 22,780 Canadians and brought the country’s economy to its knees.

The auditor also reviewed federal COVID emergency benefit programs such as the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) and the Canada emergency wage subsidy (CEWS) to determine whether the benefits reached people in need and whether the government imposed enough controls to limit abuse.

Her most critical comments, however, were reserved for the topic of pandemic preparedness. Hogan said PHAC, which was established to ensure the country was ready for a major outbreak, “was not as well prepared as it could have been” because major contingency plans and issues related to surveillance had not been resolved or dealt with — even though some of them had been pointed out by previous auditors.

WATCH | PHAC caught unprepared, AG says:

Karen Hogan released a series of audits on how the early months of the battle against COVID-19 were handled. 1:38

“I am discouraged that the Public Health Agency of Canada did not address long-standing issues, some of which were raised repeatedly for more than two decades,” Hogan said.

“These issues negatively affected the sharing of health surveillance data between the Agency and the provinces and territories.”

‘Much more work to do’

While the agency took steps to address some of these problems during the pandemic, she said, “it has much more work to do on its data sharing agreements and information technology infrastructure to better support national disease surveillance in the future.”

The report found that the agency’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), a surveillance system that scours the internet for reports of infectious disease outbreaks in other countries, did not issue an alert to provide an early warning when COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China.


A security person moves journalists away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after a World Health Organization team arrived for a field visit in Wuhan, China on Feb. 3. (Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press)

The network, which is part of PHAC, did email a daily report to domestic subscribers, including the provinces, with links to related news articles.

Officials at the public health agency defended the low-key approach by saying that at the end of December 2019, other international sources had already shared news of the virus, making it unnecessary to issue an alert.

The auditor also criticized the risk assessments the agency put together after COVID-19 began spreading around the globe — reports which key leaders used to make decisions on public health measures such as closing the border. She said those assessments were oblivious to the unfolding global crisis.

Failed to appreciate threat

“The agency assessed that COVID‐19 would have a minimal impact if an outbreak were to occur in Canada,” said the audit.

In fact, right up to the point when the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic — on March 11, 2020 — those risk assessments continued to rate the threat to the country as “low.”

It wasn’t until the day after — in response to escalating case counts in Canada and rising concerns among provincial governments — that Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam ordered an upgrade to the risk rating, the review said.


Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo defended PHAC’s response to the pandemic, saying the global crisis was ‘unprecedented.’ (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

 

Health Minister Patty Hajdu defended the decisions during question period on Thursday, pointing to a separate internal evaluation by her department which said the changes made to GPHIN did not impact the federal government’s response to the crisis.

Nevertheless, she accepted the auditor general’s criticism.

“We have reviewed the auditor general’s report, we agree that this country, along with all countries, will need to review our response to the pandemic and make investments in public health, as we have been doing since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Hajdu, who also pledged to hire more public health staff and insisted that gaps are being plugged with $ 690 million in new funds.

Speaking prior to the release of the report, Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said the audit offers a snapshot of a particular moment in the pandemic’s trajectory and the agency has worked hard to address the problems.

“Certainly, this pandemic is unprecedented,” said Njoo. “We haven’t had a pandemic like this … in at least over 100 years.”

A lot of countries around the world are learning lessons, he said, and “I think we’re all learning from each other …”

Drawing a blank on the border

The audit also found out that PHAC and the Canada Border Services Agency did not know whether two-thirds of incoming travellers followed quarantine orders.

“The agency referred few of the travellers for in‐person follow‐up to verify compliance with orders,” said the review.

Part of that problem could be due to the limits of public health information.

“Of the individuals considered to be at risk of non‐compliance, the agency referred only 40 per cent to law enforcement and did not know whether law enforcement actually contacted them,” said the audit.

The auditor said PHAC also fell down on data sharing. The public health agency did have an agreement with the provinces and territories to share data, but it was not fully implemented when the pandemic hit.

The auditor general also said the federal government didn’t do enough to ensure the “integrity” of the Canada emergency wage subsidy program (CEWS).

‘Integrity’ of CEWS program ‘at risk’

CEWS was launched in March 2020 to subsidize up to 75 per cent of wages for workers who were kept on their employers’ payrolls.

To get the program out the door as quickly as possible, the CRA was only able to conduct limited tests before approving payments, said the audit.

“Without effective controls for validating payments, the integrity of the program is at risk and ineligible employers might receive the subsidy,” the audit concluded.

It also said the agency did not have up‑to‑date earnings and tax data for assessing applicants. For example, 28 per of applicants did not file a GST/HST return for the 2019 calendar year.

“We noted that the subsidy was paid to applicants despite their history of penalties for failure to remit and other advance indicators of potential insolvency,” said the audit. “Indeed, the agency held no legislative authority to deny access to the subsidy on the basis of an employer’s history of non‑compliance with tax obligations.”

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CBC | Health News

Health Canada changes AstraZeneca vaccine label to add information about blood clots

Health Canada is updating the label on the AstraZeneca-Oxford and Covishield COVID-19 vaccines to add information about “very rare reports of blood clots associated with low levels of blood platelets,” but says the shot remains safe and that the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risks.

“Health Canada reassures Canadians that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continues to be safe and effective at protecting them against COVID-19 and encourages people to get immunized with any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized in Canada,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday evening. 

It has also issued guidance for health-care professionals and vaccine recipients on the potential symptoms to monitor — including shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling and persistent abdominal pain — or a sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision. 

No reports of clots in Canada 

All of Canada’s current supply of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, which secured separate regulatory approvals from Health Canada.

That version, which is biologically identical to the AstraZeneca shot but manufactured under different conditions, has been branded as Covishield.

WATCH: Recommendations on vaccine not changing, Health Canada says 

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, says federal recommendations on the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are not changing at this point in time. 1:40

Health Canada says there have been no reports of clots following administration of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in this country. 

Several European countries suspended administration of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine following reports of blood clots in a small number of patients. 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week amended its authorization of the vaccine to say there is no overall increase in the risk of blood clots after getting the vaccine but added a warning that a small number of patients had developed rare blood clots in the brain after getting it.

At the time the EMA couldn’t say if the clots were related to the vaccine. German and Norwegian scientists have since said in a very small number of patients the vaccine is causing an extreme immune response that is leading to the clots. It is a treatable condition, they said.

The EMA reported 18 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, out of about 20 million people who received the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Europe, the United Kingdom, and India, and seven cases of another type of clotting disorder related to very low platelet counts.

Health Canada said it is aware that researchers in Europe have indicated that they have identified a possible cause for these very rare events, but says little information is available about the findings. “Health Canada will be reviewing this evidence when available,” it said in the statement. 

Canada has so far received about 500,000 doses of the vaccine and expects to get 1.5 million more as soon as this week from the United States.

Health Canada says minor and temporary side effects are common after all vaccinations, but that people should seek medical attention if they experience any new or worsening symptoms.


The new label will include information about a small number of clots experienced by patients who received the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

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CBC | Health News

Montreal health agency says communications with family were ‘incomplete’ after woman found dead in ER

Montreal’s West Island health agency has admitted its communications were lacking with the family of a woman who was found dead last month on the floor of a room in the emergency department of Lakeshore General Hospital in Pointe-Claire, Que. 

But the family says that’s not enough.

In a statement emailed to the media this morning, the CIUSSS de l’Ouest de l’Île de Montréal said it has asked the coroner to investigate Candida Macarine’s Feb. 27 death. 

“Although the investigation is still ongoing, the CIUSSS is already able to say that its communications with the family were incomplete, especially at the time of the announcement of the death,” the statement said.

“The CIUSSS team is obviously sorry for the concerns this caused to the family of the deceased,” it continued.

Macarine died in a negative pressure isolation room that nurses in the Montreal-area hospital had warned managers about several times, saying it was difficult to see and monitor patients there.

The day of her death, Macarine’s family was told only that she had died of cardiac arrest. 

Learned circumstances of mother’s death from news report

It wasn’t until they noticed a CBC News story two weeks later about a woman found “dead and ice cold” on the floor beside her bed that they realized that woman was likely their mother.

The family and CBC News have repeatedly requested more information from the hospital during the last two weeks.

The agency finally acknowledged Tuesday that Macarine was the patient who died, and that it had failed to report the circumstances of her death to the family.

WATCH | Placido Macarine shares how it feels to know so little about his mother’s death:

The family of a woman who died at Lakeshore General Hospital in a room that staff had warned managers about for weeks only learned about the circumstances of her death after reading a CBC story earlier this week. 2:19

‘Unacceptable’

The statement comes a day after the family of Filipino heritage held a tearful news conference, accusing the hospital of racism.

In an interview with CBC Tuesday, Candida Macarine’s son Emmanuel Macarine said he wasn’t impressed with the hospital’s statement.

“No, no, I’m sorry, but for me it’s not an apology,” Macarine said.

He scoffed at the hospital’s admission that its communication with the family was “incomplete.”

“Incomplete? Well I don’t know how they tried to communicate with us! Until now, we didn’t receive anything — until after the press conference yesterday,” he said.

Head of CIUSSS offers to meet with family

The health agency intends to act on recommendations from the coroner’s investigation to “ensure that such a situation does not happen again,” CIUSSS said in its statement.

“Moreover, if it is shown that our staff acted inappropriately, the CIUSSS will not hesitate to take the decisions and actions that are necessary in such situations.”

The health agency statement didn’t explain why the family was never told of the circumstances of Macarine’s death.

In an email, a spokesperson told CBC News that the agency would not comment further until the CIUSSS CEO Lynne McVey has had a chance to meet with the family.

“Lynne McVey wrote to family members yesterday and asked to meet with them to offer her support in this difficult ordeal,” the statement said.

‘Cannot trust them anymore’

Emmanuel Macarine said the family has no immediate plans to meet with McVey.

“After all the refusals to our requests to know the truth of what happened to our mom, we cannot trust them anymore,” he said. “I mean, what are they going to say now?”

Macarine said the family would prefer to deal with the coroner’s office.

He said he and some of his brothers and sisters would hold a news conference Wednesday.

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CBC | Health News

Health Canada says AstraZeneca shot is safe as U.S. questions vaccine’s clinical trial data

Health Canada said today Canadians should not be concerned about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine — even as a U.S. regulatory body raises concerns about the company’s clinical trial results.

Marc Berthiaume, the director of the bureau of medical science at Health Canada, said the issues flagged Monday by a U.S. federal health agency relate to the product’s published efficacy rate, not to whether it’s safe to use.

Berthiaume said Health Canada’s decision to authorize the product was not based on any of the clinical trial information U.S. authorities are now probing. He said Canada based its approval largely on data that emerged from AstraZeneca trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil, and on studies published in countries where the shot has been in use for some time.

“I think it would be alarmist to suggest that the results of additional clinical testing could lead to a change in the approval status of AstraZeneca here in Canada,” Berthiaume said.

“The additional information that was collected in the U.S. will be sent to Health Canada in the coming weeks. If there’s a need to readjust, then we’ll do that with Canadians later.”

Millions of people have received the AstraZeneca shot worldwide, including more than 17 million in Britain and the European Union — almost all without serious side effects.

Health Canada ‘concerned’ about vaccine hesitancy  

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said U.S. questions about the efficacy rate change nothing for Canadians at this point. She conceded the barrage of headlines about the AstraZeneca shot are “something of a concern to us” because they could make some Canadians reluctant to take vaccines.

“We’ve said this many times before — that even the most effective vaccine only works if people trust it and agree to receive it,” she said.

“It’s like any other reputation. Once there’s some doubt that creeps into that reputation, it’s that much more difficult to gain that back. The press and the concerns around the AstraZeneca vaccine don’t help.”

WATCH: Health Canada says federal recommendations on AstraZeneca vaccine are not changing 

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, says federal recommendations on the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are not changing at this point in time. 1:40

In a statement released last night, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the U.S. said the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), which keeps an eye on clinical trials, found “outdated information” may have been reported by the company when it released some information yesterday.

The agency said the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant may have released information that gives an “incomplete view of the efficacy data.”

“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible,” the agency said — without stating what sort of data may have been  included improperly.

The statement came only hours after AstraZeneca released the results of its U.S.-based phase three clinical trials, which began last August and wrapped up earlier this month. Phase three is the point in a clinical trial when a vaccine maker gathers more information about safety and effectiveness and studies the effect of different doses on various groups.

The company said its COVID-19 vaccine had a 79 per cent efficacy rate for preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and was 100 per cent effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization. Investigators said the vaccine was effective for adults of all ages, including older people — something which previous studies in other countries had failed to establish.

The product has not yet been authorized for use in the U.S.

Speaking to ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the head of the NIAID, said the monitoring board was surprised by the the better-than-expected efficacy results published by AstraZeneca.

“They got concerned and wrote a rather harsh note to them and with a copy to me, saying that in fact they felt that the data that was in the press release were somewhat outdated and might in fact be misleading a bit, and wanted them to straighten it out,” Fauci said.

The board members pegged the vaccine’s efficacy at between 69 per cent 74 per cent — up to 10 points lower than what AstraZeneca itself reported — and said the company’s decision to issue a press release with better results served to erode public trust.

“We told the company they better get back with the DSMB and make sure the correct data get put into a press release.”

In response to the blowback, AstraZeneca said the efficacy numbers it released yesterday were current as of February 17 — a month before the clinical trial was actually completed. In a statement, the company said it would “immediately engage with the independent data safety monitoring board” and provide the U.S. regulator with “the results of the primary analysis within 48 hours.”

This is just the latest public communications issue the company has faced over the last three months.

Earlier this year, a number of European countries halted vaccinations in response to questions about the product’s efficacy in people over the age of 65, only to restart them after new evidence emerged.

After Health Canada approved the shot for all adults, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended the product be used only on people under the age of 65, citing a dearth of clinical trial data on the vaccine’s effectiveness in older people.

NACI changed course last week after reviewing three “real-world studies,” saying the two-dose viral vector vaccine can and should be used on seniors.

The European Medicines Agency has also had to assure European Union member countries that the product is safe to use after reports of post-vaccine blood clots in a very small number of patients.

The agency concluded that the benefits of protecting against COVID-19 — which itself results in clotting problems — outweigh the risks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has said it’s “possible” the vaccine may be associated with “very rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia” — a condition associated with very low levels of blood platelets. Health Canada has maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.

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CBC | Health News

Serious COVID-19 cases on the rise among younger people in B.C., health officials say

An increasing number of younger people in British Columbia are becoming infected with COVID-19 and some are dying, just as vaccines are protecting older populations, the provincial health officer said Monday.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said younger patients who are ending up in intensive care units need more time there, in part because of clusters of cases in some communities.

“We saw that with some of the outbreaks that were happening in First Nations communities where people at a younger age were much more likely to need hospitalization or critical care. And sadly, where we’ve seen younger people die from the virus,” Henry said. 

COVID-19 is spreading through crowded households and workplaces as cases rise among people between the ages of 20 and 39, and up to age 59, she said.

“With a higher number of people in that age group being affected, the probability that somebody is going to end up in hospital at a younger age goes up,” Henry said, adding some people who have been hospitalized have underlying health conditions.

Indoor gatherings, even with people having minimal contact, should be avoided as the variant first identified in the United Kingdom becomes more prevalent, transmitting COVID-19 easily as it spreads, Henry said.

“The only safe place for us to gather now in our small groups, with our friends and families, is outside,” she said of her public health order limiting gathering numbers to 10 and among people who must stick to the same group.

“I’m calling on all of us again to go back to our basics. This is not the time to be getting together even with a small group of friends. This is not the time to have that wedding. Put it off. Put it off to the summer and we will be a different place, a post-pandemic place.

“We are seeing things increasing, whether it’s the end of our second wave or the beginning of the third, it is worrisome.”

Henry said establishments hosting weddings and similar events will be held accountable for putting their employees and others at risk.

She also called on businesses to continue having safety plans in place regardless of whether owners or employees have been vaccinated.

“It takes time for that to come into effect. And it takes time when we have this much transmission in our community,” she said, adding businesses with ongoing transmission could be closed for at least 10 days.

“For all of us, don’t let up now. And if you are blatantly disregarding those public health orders, there are ramifications for that.”

Health officials have been meeting with religious leaders to finalize plans for the resumption of outdoor services with an announcement expected in the coming days, Henry said.

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CBC | Health News

Brazil’s president chooses 4th health minister as hospitals teeter on collapse from COVID-19

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday picked his fourth health minister since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, amid the worst throes of the disease in the country yet and after a series of errors decried by public health experts.

Marcelo Queiroga, the president of the Brazilian Society of Cardiology, will replace Eduardo Pazuello, an active-duty army general with expertise in logistics who landed the position last May despite having no prior health experience.

Earlier Monday, Pazuello acknowledged in a news conference that Bolsonaro aimed to replace him. The first candidate for the job, cardiologist Ludhmila Hajjar, rejected it.

Pazuello’s departure means ushering in Brazil’s fourth health minister during the pandemic, although he has presided over the ministry for the longest period of the three to date. The revolving door signals the challenges for the government of Latin America’s largest nation to implement effective measures to control the virus’ spread — or even agreeing which measures are necessary.

Pazuello’s two predecessors left the position amid disagreements with Bolsonaro, who criticized broad social distancing and supported the use of an unproven anti-malarial drug to treat the disease. He continues to hold those positions, despite health experts’ admonishments and studies showing the drug has no effect on COVID-19.

‘Aggressive’ virus fight

Pazuello proved more compliant. Immediately after taking the job his ministry backed use and distribution of the malaria pill. On several occasions, he said that his boss tells him what to do, and he obeys.

“The conversation [with Queiroga] was excellent. I already knew him from a few years back. He has everything it takes to do nice work, continuing what Pazuello has done up until today,” Bolsonaro told supporters at the entrance of the presidential residence in Brasilia, adding there will be a transition period of up to two weeks with the outgoing and the incoming minister.


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro removes his mask at the presidential palace in Brasilia, on Wednesday. (Eraldo Peres/The Associated Press)

“Pazuello’s work was well done in the management part. Now we are in a phase that is more aggressive in the fight against the virus,” Brazil’s president said.

Brazil has recorded almost 280,000 deaths from the virus, almost all of which were on his watch. The toll has been worsening lately, with the nation currently averaging more than 1,800 deaths each day. Health-care systems of major cities are at the brink of collapse, and lawmakers allied with Bolsonaro have proposed suitable replacements for Pazuello, while threatening to step up pressure for an investigation into his handling of the crisis.

The country’s top court is also investigating Pazuello for alleged neglect that contributed to the collapse of the health-care system in Amazonas state earlier this year. That probe will now be sent to a low court judge.

Weeks later, in a particularly embarrassing episode, his ministry accidentally dispatched a shipment of vaccines intended for Amazonas state to neighbouring Amapa state, and vice versa, after confusing the abbreviations for each state.

Vaccine delays

Finally, Pazuello has faced intense criticism for Brazil’s slow vaccine rollout. According to Our World in Data, an online research site that compares official government statistics, only 5.4 per cent of Brazilians have been vaccinated. Almost all were shots from Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac, which Bolsonaro repeatedly cast doubt upon.

Pazuello’s health ministry also delayed its decision to purchase the vaccine from Sao Paulo state’s government until it was left with no other option to start immunization in January.

The only vaccine deal Pazuello had signed at the time, for 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab, has brought few shots to the arms of Brazilians so far. His ministry has since scrambled to cobble together agreements with other suppliers, recently concluding deals to acquire the Pfizer and Sputnik V shots.


Marilene de Oliveira Paixao checks the temperature of students entering the EMEF Sylvia Martin Pires public school in Sao Paulo on March 8. (Andre Penner/The Associated Press)

Pazuello said in the news conference that he would not resign, and insisted there will be continuity with whomever assumes his position.

Cardiologist Hajjar had already revealed that Bolsonaro interviewed her to replace Pazuello. She told television channel Globo News that science has already ruled against treatments Bolsonaro and his legions of supporters continue to champion, like drugs to fight malaria and parasites, and that the country needs to adopt more restrictive measures on activity. She said she declined the position.

“He needs to choose someone he trusts, who is aligned with him, his ideas, his vision, and with the government’s desire. And I’m certainly not that person,” she said.

Hajjar forecast between 500,000 and 600,000 total deaths, not to mention long-term consequences, unless Brazil changes course.

Queiroga has already called Bolsonaro “a great Brazilian.” His social media channels have not made any criticism of the president’s handling of the pandemic and pushed for a quick vaccine rollout.

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Canadian star Ryan Reynolds reveals he’s ‘Bruce’ from viral Ottawa Public Health tweet

Ryan Reynolds has a confession to make: He’s “Bruce” the Ottawa Public Health intern who accidentally sent out a tweet on Super Bowl Sunday that congratulated the winner of the big game without removing the placeholder text. 

At least, that’s according to a tweet from the OPH account.


After the Super Bowl this year, the Ottawa Public Health (OPH) twitter account sent out a post congratulating the winner. 

Just one problem, the name of the winning team was missing, and the tweet seemed to imply that an employee named Bruce may have hit send too early.


The post got thousands of likes and interactions from people who believed that Bruce had really messed up. 

The next day, OPH piggybacked on its popularity with a thread explaining that the post wasn’t a mistake — rather it was a deliberate opportunity to discuss how to think critically about information online.


“Btw, we’re so touched by the outpouring of support for dear Bruce (who doesn’t exist, btw). It’s nice to see such kindness out there. Be critical of what you see online. Misinformation has consequences that go far beyond the wellbeing of ‘Bruce,’ ” read the final tweet in the thread. 

Enter Reynolds, the Golden Globe-nominated star of Hollywood blockbusters like Marvel’s Deadpool franchise, and an active, generous Twitter user.

According to an email from OPH, the actor has been following them since before the pandemic and reached out earlier this week to compliment their work. 

They got to talking and OPH pitched him the idea for a video where he admits to being Bruce the intern. He agreed and shot it for free.

In the video, Reynolds suggests he tweets for OPH from time to time, but simply forgot to finish that particular post.

While he said there’s nothing he can do about his mistake now, what people can do is stick to the COVID-19 basics, such as hand-washing, masking, distancing and getting vaccinated when it’s their turn.

“We were, to say the least, delighted when Mr. Reynolds agreed to participate,” OPH said. “We appreciate that Mr. Reynolds took the time out of his busy schedule to help us share this important public health message.”

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