Tag Archives: protect

Turkey exits European treaty designed to protect women from violence

Turkey withdrew early Saturday from a landmark European treaty protecting women from violence that it was the first to sign 10 years ago and that bears the name of its largest city.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s overnight decree annulling Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a blow to women’s rights advocates, who say the agreement is crucial to combating domestic violence. Hundreds of women gathered in Istanbul to protests against the move on Saturday.

Marija Pejcinovic Buric, the Council of Europe’s secretary general, called the decision “devastating.”

“This move is a huge setback to these efforts and all the more deplorable because it compromises the protection of women in Turkey, across Europe and beyond,” she said.

The Istanbul Convention states that men and women have equal rights and obliges state authorities to take steps to prevent gender-based violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.

Marija Pejcinovic Buric, the Council of Europe’s secretary general, calls the decision by Turkey to leave the Istanbul Convention ‘devastating.’ (Lehtikuva/Mesut Turan via Reuters)

Some officials from Erdogan’s Islam-oriented party had advocated for a review of the agreement, arguing it is inconsistent with Turkey’s conservative values by encouraging divorce and undermining the traditional family unit.

Critics also claim the treaty promotes homosexuality through the use of categories such as gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. They see that as a threat to Turkish families. Hate speech has been on the rise in Turkey, including from Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who described LGBT people as “perverts” in a tweet. Erdogan has rejected their existence altogether.

Exit prompts protests

Women’s groups and their allies who have been protesting to keep the convention intact immediately called for demonstrations across the country on Saturday under the slogan, “Withdraw the decision, implement the treaty.” They said their years-long struggle would not be erased in one night.

Rights groups say violence against and killing of women are on the rise in Turkey, but the interior minister called that a “complete lie” on Saturday.

Activists participate in a protest against Turkey’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women, in Istanbul on Saturday. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

A total of 77 women have been killed since the start of the year, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. Some 409 women were killed in 2020, with dozens found dead under suspicious circumstances, according to the group.

Numerous women’s rights groups slammed the decision. Advocacy group Women’s Coalition Turkey said the withdrawal from a human rights agreement was a first in Turkey. “It is clear that this decision will further encourage the murderers of women, harassers, rapists,” their statement said.

Government claims commitment to issue

Turkey’s justice minister said the government was committed to combating violence against women.

“We continue to protect our people’s honour, the family and our social fabric with determination,” Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul tweeted.

Erdogan has repeatedly stressed the “holiness” of the family and called on women to have three children. His communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the government’s motto is “Powerful Families, Powerful Society.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, shown in February, issued a decree annulling Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

Many women suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husbands or partners, but up-to-date official statistics are unavailable. The Istanbul Convention requires states to collect data.

Hundreds of women and allies gathered in Istanbul on Saturday, wearing masks and holding banners. Their demonstration has so far been allowed, but the area was surrounded by police and a coronavirus curfew begins in the evening.

They shouted pro-LGBT slogans and called for Erdogan’s resignation. They cheered as a woman speaking through a megaphone said, “You cannot close up millions of women in their homes. You cannot erase them from the streets and the squares.”

Turkey signed on first

Turkey — which applied to join the European Union in 1987 but is not yet a member — was the first country to sign the Council of Europe’s “Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence” at a committee of ministers meeting in Istanbul in 2011. The law came into force in 2014, and Turkey’s constitution says international agreements have the force of law.

Some lawyers claimed Saturday that the treaty is still active, arguing the president cannot withdraw from it without the approval of parliament, which ratified the Istanbul Convention in 2012.

But Erdogan gained sweeping powers with his re-election in 2018, setting in motion Turkey changing from a parliamentary system of government to an executive presidency.

The justice minister wrote on Twitter that while parliament approves treaties that the executive branch puts into effect, the executive also has the authority to withdraw from them.

Women lawmakers from Turkey’s main opposition party said they will not recognize the decree and called it another “coup” on parliament, which had unanimously accepted the treaty, and a usurpation of the rights of 42 million women.

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CBC | World News

U.K. scientists worry vaccines may not protect against coronavirus variant found in South Africa

U.K. scientists expressed concern on Monday that COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out in Britain may not be able to protect against a new variant of the coronavirus that emerged in South Africa and has spread internationally.

Both Britain and South Africa have detected new, more transmissible variants of the COVID-19-causing virus in recent weeks that have driven a surge in cases. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday he was now very worried about the variant identified in South Africa.

Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said that while both variants had some new features in common, the one found in South Africa “has a number additional mutations … which are concerning.”

He said these included more extensive alterations to a key part of the virus known as the spike protein — which the virus uses to infect human cells — and “may make the virus less susceptible to the immune response triggered by the vaccines.”

Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at Warwick University, also noted that the variant detected in South African has “multiple spike mutations.”

“The accumulation of more spike mutations in the South African variant are more of a concern and could lead to some escape from immune protection,” he said.

Scientists including BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin and John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, have said they are testing the vaccines against the new variants and say they could make any required tweaks in around six weeks.

Greater concentration of virus particles with variants

Public Health England said there was currently no evidence to suggest COVID-19 vaccines would not protect against the mutated virus variants. Britain’s health ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The world’s richest countries have started vaccinating their populations to safeguard against a disease that has killed 1.8 million people and crushed the global economy.

There are currently 60 vaccine candidates in trials, including those already being rolled out from AstraZeneca and Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm.

WATCH | The unknowns of single vaccine dosing:

According to epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos, the efficacy of giving people just one shot, or a half dose of a coronavirus vaccine, is unknown as there is no hard clinical data. 7:16

Scientists say both the variants from South Africa and the U.K. are associated with a higher viral load, meaning a greater concentration of virus particles in patients’ bodies, possibly contributing to increased transmission.

Oxford’s Bell, who advises the U.K. government’s vaccine task force, said on Sunday he thought vaccines would work on the variant from the U.K., but said there was a “big question mark” as to whether they would work on the variant from South Africa.

BioNTech’s Sahin told Germany’s Der Spiegel in an interview published on Friday that their vaccine, which uses messenger RNA to instruct the human immune system to fight the virus, should be able to protect against the variant found in the U.K.

“We are testing whether our vaccine can also neutralize this variant and will soon know more,” he said.

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CBC | World News

Why some say Canada needs to do more to protect essential workers until COVID-19 vaccine arrives

As Canadians await the rollout of the first round of COVID-19 vaccines, experts say Canada needs to double down on protecting essential workers most at risk of exposure to the coronavirus in the coming months. 

Canada will only have a limited supply of vaccines to start, with just 3 million expected to be vaccinated in the first few months of 2021, but the news of COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon could not come at a more critical time.

Over 400,000 Canadians have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began and the situation in our hardest-hit provinces shows no signs of slowing down. 

The percentage of COVID-19 tests across the country that have come back positive during the past week has skyrocketed to 7.4 per cent — up from 1.4 per cent in mid-September and 4.7 per cent in early November. A rising positivity rate can signal that cases are being missed and more people could unwittingly be spreading the virus.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have to get through the tunnel to get there,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont.  

“You also don’t want to be in a situation where you have a raging fire that’s going on and when you’re trying to roll out a vaccine, you’re doing it in a setting where the hospital is overwhelmed and health-care workers are getting sick.”

While much of the focus on public health messaging throughout the pandemic has been focused on individual actions, experts say Canada isn’t doing enough to protect those most in need of support in the coming months. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Alberta positivity rate tops 10 per cent

Of all the COVID hotspots, Alberta has the biggest fire to put out at the moment, and this week asked the federal government and the Red Cross to supply field hospitals to help offset the strain COVID-19 is having on the health-care system.

There, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive hit an astonishing 10.5 per cent on Friday.

COVID-19 cases in Alberta are growing at such an explosive rate they’ve even outpaced Ontario, a province with 10 million more people, for the first time in the pandemic — with cases in Edmonton alone totalling more than those in Toronto and Peel Region combined

“If you think this is a hoax, talk to my friend in the ICU, fighting for his life,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said during a Facebook livestream Thursday.

“If you’re thinking of going to an anti-mask rally this weekend, how about instead send me an email, call me all the names you want, send me a letter, organize an online rally.” 

Yet while much of the focus on public health messaging throughout the pandemic has been focused on individual actions, experts say Canada isn’t doing enough to protect those most in need of support in the coming months. 

Ontario, Quebec see surge in workplace outbreaks

While elderly Canadians are most at risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19, totalling close to 90 per cent of all deaths, essential workers on the front lines are facing a worsening situation.

For the first time in the pandemic, active outbreaks in workplaces in Canada’s biggest provinces have outpaced those in long-term care facilities — accounting for 30 per cent of the outbreaks in Ontario and 40 per cent in Quebec, as first reported by The Globe and Mail

While limited information is available on exactly where the spread of COVID-19 is occurring, Ontario’s ministry of health said in a statement to CBC News the hardest-hit industries include construction, manufacturing, mining, warehousing and transportation.  

WATCH | Essential workers talk about being on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

Essential workers — from grocery store employees to truck drivers — talk about their experiences on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic share how it has affected them and why they do it. 11:43

Because of the disproportionate risk of exposure they face, the union for workers in food retail, manufacturing, long-term care, home care and security said Friday that frontline workers should also be among the first recipients of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Workplaces are a big deal,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University. 

“There are people that need to go to work, unfortunately, for us to support society, and again we have to be willing and able to give them at least some measures of safety in their workplace.”

Paid sick leave key to stopping spread of COVID-19

Chakrabarti says one area that could help address rising transmission rates in workplaces is more paid sick leave for those who are unable to miss work due to COVID-19. 

Unlike policing people’s contacts in their own homes, it’s a problem policy could tackle, he said.

“Workplaces are things that are really important because you can only do so much to keep things safe.” 

If people are going to decide between putting food on their table … or going into isolation … they’re going to show up to work sick.– Dr. Zain Chagla

Chakrabarti says mask wearing and physical distancing aren’t always possible in certain situations in workplaces, especially those that involve workers in close quarters indoors — as evidenced by outbreaks in meatpacking plants, warehouses, and mines.

“Many people are financially unstable and they’re scared because if they do have to go off work, they’ll end up losing income,” he said. Undocumented workers may also be hesitant to speak up about symptoms for fear of being deported

“So you have a lot of these kinds of factors that I think are barriers for people getting tested.”

Chagla says more targeted education, oversight and internal audits to control COVID-19 transmission are needed in high-risk workplaces, in order to ensure compliance and accountability. 

“There’s certainly tons of essential workplaces that will continue to have issues unless people actually intervene and do this type of stuff,” he said. 

Last month, the federal government created Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit to give up to $ 1,000 of support to workers with COVID-19 over two weeks, but Chagla said more could be done. 

“You have to incentivize people to get tested,” Chagla said. “If people are going to decide between putting food on their table and paying their rent, going to work or going into isolation … they’re going to show up to work sick.”

Isolating, outreach better than ‘finger wagging’

Chakrabarti says another way to protect essential workers is through the creation of more dedicated isolation facilities for those recovering from COVID-19. 

“One big place that amplification is happening is in large families,” he said. “So if you have a place for people to have their meals covered and they can isolate away from their family, that’s going to really help to reduce amplification of the cases that we’re seeing in workplaces.” 

Chakrabarti says the “condescension and finger wagging” in public health messaging across the country against individual actions isn’t always effective — especially nine months into the pandemic.

“Community outreach often helps,” said Chakrabati, who is also a member of a recently formed South Asian task force to connect with and inform people in Peel Region.

“I think that a lot of the focus right now is on people. ‘Hey, you stay home, stay home, stop partying,’ that kind of stuff. Whereas we don’t hear a lot of what’s happening in these workplaces.” 

“This is going to be a problem throughout the entire pandemic,” said Chagla. “Because they have to stay open.” 

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CBC | Health News

New FIFA rules to protect female players’ maternity rights

Female soccer players should soon get their maternity rights protected under new employment rules announced Thursday by FIFA.

The governing body of soccer is preparing to mandate clubs to allow at least 14 weeks of maternity leave paid at a minimum two-thirds of a player’s full salary. National soccer bodies can insist on more generous terms.

“Her club will be under an obligation to reintegrate her into football activity and provide adequate ongoing medical support,” FIFA said.

Any club that ended a player’s contract for becoming pregnant faces having to pay compensation and a fine, and being banned from the transfer market for one year.

“The idea is to protect female players before, during and after childbirth,” FIFA chief legal officer Emilio Garcia said on a conference call.

The move is seen as a key step in professionalizing women’s soccer — and respecting players’ family lives — after a successful 2019 World Cup and more investment by elite clubs in having a women’s team.

United States forward Alex Morgan, a World Cup winner last year, signed with Tottenham in September, four months after giving birth to her first child. She played her first game this month.

The rules are expected to be approved by the FIFA Council next month and would take effect on Jan. 1.

Although FIFA’s judicial bodies have not been presented with contract disputes over maternity rights, Garcia targeted getting ahead of potential problems in the fast-growing women’s game.

“We think these rules are part of common sense,” he said of the move, which follow International Labor Organization standards on compensating maternity leave.

At least eight weeks of the 14-week minimum maternity leave must be after the player gives birth.

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CBC | Soccer News

Marketplace tested over 20 different masks. Here’s what will best protect you and others during the pandemic

Wearing a mask is critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but rigorous tests conducted on behalf of CBC’s Marketplace found that while some work very well, others offer little protection from the particles that transmit the novel coronavirus. One type of mask can even spread those particles to others.

Months into the pandemic, there are still no standards for consumer masks. So Marketplace opted to compare more than two-dozen masks to what is commonly considered the gold standard in protecting health-care workers from infectious diseases like COVID-19 — the N95 mask. 

Marketplace purchased the masks in stores and online from a variety of sellers. The masks were also made out of varying materials and featured different designs. 

Marketplace put the masks through the rigorous National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standard test, conducted at a lower air-flow regimen to reflect normal breathing. The test is usually reserved for N95s and personal protective equipment (PPE) intended for health-care workers. A standard NIOSH aerosol test measures filtration efficiency, meaning the quantity of particles the mask filters out as the wearer breathes in. 

An image shows leakage from an ill-fitting mask during Marketplace’s lab test at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. (CBC)

An N95 mask must have a 95 per cent filtration efficiency. 

“This is the benchmark test. And it’s actually useful because it allows us to compare consumer market masks to masks that we know a lot about,” said James Scott, a professor from the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Scott is a specialist in bioaerosols and runs the lab where Marketplace‘s tests were run.

The test pulls a constant breath of air containing tiny salt particles through the mask material. The salt particles are similar in size to particles able to contain the coronavirus that might originate from droplets expelled by an infected person’s breath, cough or sneeze. During the test, samples of air inside and outside the mask are compared to see how effective the mask is at reducing the level of particles.

Previous tests on consumer masks have commonly looked at how masks can help block particles when coughing or sneezing and prevent transmission to others. But the Marketplace test shows that certain materials make some masks better at limiting wearers’ exposure by filtering what they breathe in, Scott said.

“Even fairly low-efficiency masks are actually quite effective at catching much larger particles. But, it takes a really good mask to catch the small ones as well. And we know that the virus will travel not only on the big ones but the small ones as well,” said Scott.

PHOTOS | A closer look at filtration efficiency of mask materials:



Polypropylene fabric masks as good as N95

Marketplace‘s test found some masks are just as good as an N95 when it comes to filtering out those potentially harmful particles, including one made with something called polypropylene fabric. 

A mask with an inner layer of melt-blown non-woven polypropylene and outer layers of cotton. (CBC)

Polypropylene fabric, in this case, is a melt-blown, non-woven plastic fabric. Melt-blown, non-woven polypropylene (NWPP) is commonly used in surgical and N95 masks.

The consumer mask Marketplace tested with an inner layer of melt-blown, non-woven polypropylene fabric and outer layers of cotton had filtration efficiency rates as high as an N95. Scott said the combination of multiple materials contributed to the strong result. 

“This is a really good example of multiple layers of different materials combining to make something greater than the sum of the parts,” said Scott.

An example of a blue three-ply surgical-type mask Marketplace tested. (CBC)

Blue three-ply surgical-type masks

One of the two-ply, high thread count cotton masks Marketplace tested. (CBC)

Blue three-ply surgical-type disposable masks also reported some of the highest filtration efficiency rates in the Marketplace test, which was of no surprise to Scott, as most contain that melt-blown, non-woven polypropylene fabric. 

“It’s this interwoven matrix of fibre. Air needs to travel around each one of those fibres and it meets the next fibre and it needs to bend its path. So as it does that, those fabrics pull out lots and lots of particles,” said Scott.

Two-ply and three-ply cotton masks 

Marketplace also tested a number of cotton masks, including a two-layer, 100 per cent cotton mask, and a three-layer, 100 per cent cotton mask. More layers of cotton didn’t necessarily mean a better mask. The three-layer cotton mask Marketplace tested did not perform well, but the two-layer cotton mask did. 

One of the three-ply cotton masks Marketplace tested. Thread count unknown. (CBC)

There was also a noticeable jump in filtration efficiency in cotton masks made with a higher thread count.

Masks made with 600 and 680 thread count cotton had filtration efficiencies almost twice that of the other cotton masks tested. Scott said the weave of a fabric is critical when it comes to catching those potentially harmful particles. 

When it comes to cotton masks, Marketplace‘s test suggested the tighter the weave, the better. 

Scott points out that manufacturers of consumer masks are not currently required to disclose details about thread count, and without that information it’s difficult to say for certain what contributed to some cotton masks’ poorer performance. 

Valve masks, like the one seen here, are not effective at blocking COVID-19. (CBC)

Masks to avoid

Scott said consumers should avoid wearing valve masks. While they are useful for protecting someone from inhaling paint fumes or when working in a wood shop, they do not help control the spread of the virus.

The reason is simple. 

“Air only moves through the filter part of the mask when air comes in. It doesn’t move through the filter to exhale. It moves through the valve,” he said. “So there’s nothing to intercept those particles that you may be shedding into the environment.”

Although valve masks are not recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada, some members of the federal security force at Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa were seen wearing them. (CBC)

Transport Canada has banned the wearing of valve masks, as has Via Rail, and airlines such as Air Canada. Toronto, Ottawa Public Health, Hamilton Public Health and the BC CDC all recommend against the use of valve masks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said: “Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended, because they don’t protect others from COVID-19 and don’t limit the spread of the virus.” 

Despite this, some members of the federal security force at Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa, mandated to provide physical security for parliamentarians, employees and visitors to the parliamentary precinct, have been wearing valve masks while on duty.

One of the rayon masks Marketplace tested. (CBC)

In an email, the Parliamentary Protective Service told Marketplace: “The masks issued by the Parliamentary Protective Service (the Service), despite having a valve, meet the criteria outlined by PHAC regarding the appropriate use of non-medical mask or face covering. The Service has since replenished its stock with masks that do not include a breathing valve.”

Other masks to avoid

The neck gaiter-style mask and bandanas were among the poorest performing when it came to filtration efficiency rates. Scott said the thin, porous materials they are made from is likely the reason they did a poor job filtering out any potentially harmful particles, which is made worse by their loose fit.

A two-layer, 100 per cent rayon mask was also among the worst performing masks Marketplace tested for filtration efficiency. 

One of the gaiter-style masks Marketplace tested. (CBC)

Lack of standards, testing for consumer masks

Physician and infectious diseases specialist Monica Gandhi from the University of California, San Francisco expects mask requirements to be around for the foreseeable future, at least until there is enough of a safe and effective vaccine. 

“I have become more and more convinced that they are one of the most important pillars of pandemic control,” said Gandhi. 

As Marketplace‘s research has found that consumer masks protect the wearer in addition to others, public health agencies recently updated their guidelines to include that messaging.

Last week, Health Canada quietly updated its mask-wearing guidelines, adding “to protect yourself and others.” On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control went further, updating its recommendations in favour of masking by outlining a number of studies that point to masking as drastically reducing transmission of the disease for both the wearer and others.

WATCH | How masks protect not only others, but the wearer, too:

An infectious disease specialist cites research that suggests wearing a mask can lead to less severe illness from COVID-19 by limiting how much of the virus someone inhales. 0:35

“This is an incredibly exciting update from the CDC since messaging that allows the public to know that masks protect you as well as others will be more powerful in convincing skeptics that masks are important in public spaces to slow down spread and disease from COVID-19,” Gandhi said. 

She also made note of research released in September that suggested wearing a mask can lead to less severe illness from COVID-19 by limiting how much of the virus someone inhales.

The CDC did not cite the study in its bulletin. However, Gandhi said there is accumulating data behind this hypothesis.

Regardless, she said: “Stressing that a mask protects you is getting out the same message we have been trying to convey for the past many months of the pandemic — that wearing a mask gives you a sense of control over your own destiny and protection. It is an important message.”

WATCH | These are the most effective face masks:

Marketplace put more than two dozen consumer masks to the test to see which ones do a better job at protecting you and why. 2:12

With rigorous standards in place for medical-grade masks in Canada and around the world, Scott anticipates standards for consumer masks are likely coming as a consequence of the pandemic.

Marketplace asked Health Canada why there is still no guidance on packaging for consumers with respect to mask performance, or best practices for manufacturers looking to make better masks.

Health Canada said that although it has not set out or endorsed any standards for face coverings, it is actively monitoring the development of standards for face coverings and may revise its position when new information becomes available.

Tips for finding the right mask

What to look for.

  • Start with something that fits you properly. Scott said a mask should fully cover your nose and chin, and be as tight fitting as possible around the rest of your face. If your glasses or sunglasses fog up when you are wearing your mask, you should choose another.

  • Scott suggests consumers look for masks made with multiple layers, and that at least one of them be cotton, preferably the highest thread count you can find.

The average person does not need the same level of protection as a health-care worker on the front lines, Scott said, noting that any mask is better than no mask at all.

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CBC | Health News

‘We have a whole globe to protect’: Pandemic vaccine research speeds up

At least 70 research teams, including some in Canada, are racing to develop potential pandemic vaccines within a year — an accelerated pace in an unprecedented search for an end to humanity’s lockdowns.

So far, the number of vaccine developers that have shifted from lab studies in animals to early-stage clinical trials in human volunteers can be counted on one hand. But scientists are hopeful they can speed up the research and bypass some of the usual red tape that slows down the vaccine approval process.

In a pandemic, no one has immunity to the virus because it is new. The goal of a vaccine is to expose our immune system to part of the virus so our antibody fighters can prepare to attack the virus that causes COVID-19.

Dr. Scott Halperin, of the Canadian Immunization Research Network, said it’s important to have multiple versions of the vaccine that achieve the same purpose but work in different ways.

“Hopefully there’ll be five, six, seven, eight successful vaccines, because we have a whole globe that we need to protect,” the Halifax-based physician and researcher said. 

The first phase of clinical trials focuses on safety, with about 30 to 50 volunteers testing out different doses of shots.

A critical next step is Phase 2 trials in a larger number of people to look for signs that the jabs meet the goal of protecting against infection.

China’s CanSino Biologics is beginning the second phase of testing a vaccine candidate, adapted from the company’s Ebola research, according to China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. Another vaccine candidate is in Phase 1.

Normally, it takes up to 10 years to go from the vaccine lab to the arms of patients, says Dr. Scott Halperin, of the Canadian Immunization Research Network. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

In the U.S., Pennsylvania-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals began a Phase 1 trial last week of its vaccine candidate that uses the DNA sequence extracted from the key spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The idea is to train the person’s immune system to seek out the telltale crown, or corona of spikes that gives the coronavirus its name.

“It’s like an FBI poster,” said Inovio’s president and CEO, Andrew Kim. “Anytime you see any signature, something that looks like this spike, go pounce on that with the full force of your immune system.”

The big ‘if’

Earlier this week, the first person received a second dose of another potential U.S. vaccine from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna Inc.

NIH infectious disease chief Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Associated Press there are “no red flags” so far and he hoped the next, larger phase of testing could begin around June.

If SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate widely into fall, it might be possible to complete larger trials in human volunteers sooner than the 12 to 18 months he originally predicted.

“Please let me say this caveat: That is assuming that it’s effective. See, that’s the big ‘if,” Fauci said. “It’s got to be effective and it’s got to be safe.”

A potential vaccine from researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. is also listed as Phase 2, although doses for the trial are still being made.

Normally, it takes from seven to 10 years to go from the lab to the arms of patients, Halperin said. 

“What’s mainly being accelerated are the various administrative steps, not the safety steps,” he said.

WATCH | What mathematical simulations tell us about how the pandemic will play out

What mathematical simulations tell us about how the COVID-19 pandemic will play in the real world. 5:04

Halperin said Canadian researchers hope to have some potential vaccines in clinical trials within the next four to six weeks.

Jonathan Kimmelman, a biomedical ethics professor at McGill University in Montreal, is watching how both scientific and ethical standards are maintained while the pandemic vaccine trials progress at breakneck speed.

“My concern is that, in the fear and in the haste to develop a vaccine, we may be tempted to tolerate less than optimal science,” Kimmelman said. “That to me seems unacceptable. The stakes are just as high right now in a pandemic as they are in non-pandemic settings.”

To show how long the process can take, Kimmelman points to the example of the ongoing search for an effective HIV vaccine than began in the 1990s

Before healthy people worldwide receive a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the risk/benefit balance needs to tip in favour of the vaccine’s efficacy in offering protection over the potential risks, he said. The balance still exists even in the face of a virus wreaking an incalculable toll on human health and society.

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CBC | Health News

Health workers say Sask. system failing to protect elders, vulnerable adults from neglect and abuse

A Saskatchewan patient — unable to care for themselves due to cognitive impairment — was kicked and punched down the stairs at home. Another was left on the floor for several days with no food or medication. 

These are real situations described by Saskatchewan health care workers who say they are powerless to help when legal caregivers are abusing or neglecting people with intellectual disabilities.

“People in the community would be highly shocked,” said Dr. Lilian Thorpe, a geriatric psychiatrist in Saskatoon. 

“Abuse is the far end … the more common thing is more neglect and a care provider just not being able to respond.”

Dr. Thorpe said that although a legal avenue exists for authorities to intervene, those steps are not necessarily being taken. 

‘Terrible situations’ 

In 2018 a Joint Ethics Committee for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) called for better legislated protections for vulnerable adults, such as people with cognitive impairment from brain injury, intellectual impairment and conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease.

Under the current system, an individual can appoint a “proxy” person to make healthcare decisions on their behalf when they can no longer do so themselves. If a proxy has not been appointed, that responsibility will lie with a next of kin. 

But Dr. Thorpe said that when health care workers see that person making decisions that lead to perceived harm, neglect or abuse, there is no effective mechanism for a public body to take over guardianship of the patient.

“It’s really traumatizing for staff because the staff … there would be social workers and nurses that are seeing somebody coming in and out in really, really terrible situations and they are stuck,” said Dr. Thorpe. 

Dr. Lilian Thorpe says better protections are becoming increasingly important as more vulnerable people are living at home rather than in care. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

The 2018 report said several incidents of this nature occurred every year. 

“It’s easy to blame the care provider, the family member, but often those people are in really difficult situations themselves so they might have addictions or mental health issues of their own,” said Dr. Thorpe. 

“They’re trying to do the right thing but they eventually may lose it and do something that’s not in that person’s interest.” 

The SHA said the report was a working document. 

“This report has not been presented to [SHA] leadership for discussion yet nor have its recommendations been endorsed by SHA. Once SHA leadership has a chance to review the report, a decision will be made whether to pursue its recommendation.”

Other provinces, such as Ontario, have independent boards set up to consider complaints about family members caring for vulnerable patients. The board in Ontario has the authority to hold hearings to review a substitute decision maker’s compliance with the rules. 

Dr. Thorpe said Saskatchewan needs a similar system with an independent board — a system purpose-built to handle these types of situations. 

The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee in Saskatchewan said any interested party, including the Public Trustee, can apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for a new decision maker to be appointed for the patient. 

They can’t protect themselves, they don’t recognize they are being abused, they can’t get away from it.– Elliot Paus-Jensen, Saskatoon Council on Aging

CBC requested an interview with the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) but received a written statement. 

“Typically, another family member or the health authority are in the best position to bring such a Court application as they have the necessary medical information and/or knowledge of the person’s wishes,” said the statement.

“The Public Guardian and Trustee could also bring such an application under Section 22 of the Act and may request to be appointed as personal guardian under The Adult Guardianship and Co-decision-making Act with authority to make the health care decision.”

Dr. Thorpe said PGT staff told her that although they would like to assist, they do not have the resources to handle non-financial cases. 

She said SHA is reluctant to take these matters to court because the process can take years.

“Then if one was to override it, who then looks after that person?” said Dr. Thorpe. 

Saskatchewan legislation does allow two health care workers to take over guardianship in cases where there is no next of kin.  

Dr. Thorpe said the need for change is becoming more urgent as more people receive care at home rather than in facilities. 

She pointed to the closure of the Valley View Centre for people with intellectual disabilities in Moose Jaw, Sask. The province said 36 new group homes were opened to house former residents of the home. 

Dr. Thorpe said an increasing number of people are choosing not to have children, adding that dealing with these situations can be more complicated in rural areas.

The 2018 report recommends a new system to facilitate further evaluation of complaints and advocacy for changes to the legislation. 

Dr. Lilian Thorpe says the system is failing to protect vulnerable adults in Saskatchewan. (Matthew Garand/CBC News)

Dr. Thorpe said a change in the Saskatchewan legislation should coincide with the creation of an independent board to consider complaints and decide if intervention is really needed. 

“The decisions are difficult because oftentimes a person has been living in a difficult situation but may choose to go back there,” said Dr. Thorpe. 

“So where do we balance their safety versus their autonomy?”

Elliot Paus-Jensen, a former geriatric social worker and a volunteer for the Saskatoon Council on Aging, was part of an elder abuse task force formed in 2005. She said the PGT told her office at the time they did not have the resources to take action in non-financial cases.

Paus-Jensen said she personally witnessed a case of elder neglect. A mother who had been looking after her son, who suffered a brain injury, became unable to care for herself when she developed dementia.

The son in turn became the mother’s carer. 

“He would give her his [benzodiazepines] and he didn’t understand — it calmed him down, why wouldn’t it calm her down?” Paus-Jensen said.

“He did other things that really put her at risk and she at one point almost died.”

Fortunately the woman had a medical assessment and health workers were able to intervene.

Incidents not being tracked

Paus-Jensen said there is no way of knowing how many cases of abuse or neglect are occurring under these circumstances because it is not being tracked. 

“One of the big things in abuse is isolation, physical isolation, social isolation,” she said.

“So we don’t know that it’s happening and it’s only found out if somebody is in really bad shape and they end up in emergency or somehow come to the attention of someone.”

Paus-Jensen pointed to the case of New Brunswick woman Kathleen Grant, whose 45-year-old daughter was convicted of failing without lawful excuse to provide the necessaries of life.

Kathleen, who was in her daughter’s care, died days after she was found with gangrene and rotting flesh and wounds from sitting in a chair in urine and feces for what could have been months. She was only found after her daughter called 911 saying her mother was not feeling well.

Paus-Jensen said she has no doubt there are people in Saskatchewan who are currently being abused or neglected by their carer.

Elliot Paus-Jensen is a former social worker in geriatrics and a volunteer for the Saskatoon Council on Aging. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

The province has introduced new measures to protect vulnerable adults in recent years, Paus-Jensen said.

In 2013, the Health Care Directives and Substitute Health Care Decision Makers Amendment Act allowed caregivers to make decisions on specific day-to-day treatments on behalf of patients who can’t. 

In 2019, the Saskatchewan government made amendments to The Marriage Act to nullify marriages where one person was deemed to not have the capacity to consent to the nuptials.

Paus-Jensen said better protections for vulnerable adults should be the next step.

“They can’t protect themselves, they don’t recognize they are being abused, they can’t get away from it,” she said. 

“They need third parties to say, ‘hey, you were pushed down the stairs because of your injuries … it’s not right, you’ve got bed sores galore.'”

In the meantime, Dr. Thorpe said she is finding ways to assist as best she can. She said getting the PGT to take over financial control — in cases where that is appropriate — is one way of getting better access to help the vulnerable person. She said a family member who has been relying on that money for income will often back off once that happens.

“Then we’re able to deal with that person, have that person placed appropriately now,” she said.

“That’s better than nothing, but it still means there’s nobody overseeing the health care of that person.”

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Government falls short on pledge to better protect kids against abuse in sport

Six months since a CBC investigation revealed widespread problems of sexual offences by coaches in amateur sports in Canada, signs of the promises made by the federal government to deal with it are hard to find.

The investigation revealed that at least 222 coaches across the country had been convicted of a sexual offence from 1998-2018 involving more than 600 victims under the age of 18. 

One of the centrepieces of the promises made in March by federal Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan was the launch of a toll-free number and website that kids or parents could contact to report or seek advice about potential abuse.

CBC News checked the websites of nearly 50 of Canada’s largest sports organizations and found only 27 of them mention the helpline. On some sites it was prominently displayed, but in many cases it was difficult to find. Some sites have simply published a reference to the initial government announcement. 

Those that had no mention of the helpline at all include organizations representing some of Canada’s largest participatory sports, like hockey, soccer, figure skating, gymnastics and basketball.

“We’ve done what we can,” Duncan told CBC News when asked why the helpline hasn’t received the prominence that was promised. “There’s more to be done to raise the profile,” she said. 


“I am responsible for the national sport organizations. In order to work down to the club level I have to work with my sport ministerial colleagues across the country. That’s what I have done.”

In a follow up email from Duncan’s office, her press secretary wrote, “Sport Canada has reached out on a number of occasions to all of the sport organizations we fund, and will continue to work with them to raise awareness of the helpline in the coming months.”

60 calls to helpline

CBC also reached out to dozens of local sports organizations across the country. None of the people who answered on behalf of the clubs said they had heard of the helpline or been given any new direction about how to deal with concerns about abuse.

Jesse Harrison is part of the Leaside Baseball Association, a midtown Toronto club where nearly a thousand children play baseball. Harrison first spoke to CBC News in February about what he saw as the lack of communication from larger sports organizations about how to handle concerns about abuse. In spite of the pledge from sports ministers at the provincial and federal level to do more, he says he’s heard nothing from Baseball Ontario or Baseball Canada.

“We haven’t seen any of those ideas or guidelines come to us directly,” he says. “And, really, the conversation has stalled. So it’s difficult to pursue in a more meaningful way if we’re not getting anything in return.”

The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC), the agency that runs the helpline, says it has not distributed any promotional posters to date but has a social media campaign planned for the fall. The SDRCC says 60 people have contacted the helpline since it was established.

Jesse Harrison is part of the Leaside Baseball Association, a midtown Toronto club where nearly a thousand children play baseball. He’s says he’s heard nothing from Baseball Ontario or Baseball Canada about new guidelines for dealing with issues of abuse. (Leaside Baseball Association)

Sandra Kirby, a former Olympic rower and University of Winnipeg professor who has done extensive research on the problem of abuse in sports, says the solutions that have been proposed are simply “missing the boat.”

Kirby says the helpline is “only as good as your ability to get out into the hearts and minds of the athletes in sport.”

“We have all of this information out there — nobody in sport could say that they don’t understand this is an issue — and yet sport organizations themselves seem moribund to do anything,” Kirby said, “partly out of fear and partly out of they just simply hope it’s going to go away or it’s going to be in somebody else’s sport and not theirs.”

‘Off the radar’

Only days after CBC News published its initial investigation in February, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for sport, physical activity and recreation stood with Duncan at a meeting in Red Deer, Alta., and signed a declaration promising to make safe sport a priority.

Days after CBC News published its initial investigation in February, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for sport, physical activity and recreation stood with federal minister Kirsty Duncan at a meeting in Red Deer, Alta., and signed a declaration promising to make safe sport a priority. (Terry Reith/CBC)

CBC reached out to those same ministries to ask what steps they’ve taken, and found approaches differ from province to province. Most said they are still working on developing additional safe-sport policies.

In the meantime, 22 more coaches in Canada have been charged with sexually abusing a minor since the CBC News investigation. Those cases involve 12 different sports. 

Duncan defended the federal government’s response, pointing to jurisdictional issues that prevent her from forcing changes at the provincial and local level.

“There is always work to be done,” she said. “I started a conversation in this country that had never happened 18 months ago — and you can imagine the pushback. People didn’t want to talk about this.”

Sandra Kirby, a former Olympic rower and University of Winnipeg professor who has done extensive research on the problem of abuse in sports, says the solutions that have been proposed so far are simply ‘missing the boat.’ (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Kirby says the commitment to forcing change, from the club level to elite sport, needs to be stronger.

“How the provinces do it and how the clubs do it has not been addressed in any way,” Kirby says. “What we need is partnership from the provinces to step up and help with the local and the provincial level. But the national promise has not been realized.”

Harrison and others hope the momentum for real change hasn’t been lost.

“I feel like it’s a relatively easy thing to begin to address and start those conversations. But it’s definitely fallen off the radar, off the topic list, for sure.”

If you have information to share on this story, please contact Lori Ward at lori.ward@cbc.ca or Jamie Strashin at jamie.strashin@cbc.caYou can also send anonymous tips through CBC Secure Drop.  

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Senators Ask FCC to Rethink 5G Spectrum Auction to Protect Weather Forecasts

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All the wireless services we now enjoy require careful licensing and regulation to prevent interference. That’s why the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and similar agencies in other countries carve up the electromagnetic spectrum into blocks and auction them to companies. The FCC began a new round of auctions earlier this year focusing on the upper microwave band, which could be valuable for delivering 5G mobile service. However, two US Senators are asking the FCC to delay issuing the licenses until it can verify 5G networks won’t scramble weather forecasting services.

At issue here is the auction for 24.25 – 24.45 GHz and 24.75 – 25.25 GHz bands. These frequencies are perilously close to the 23.6 – 24 GHz bands both NASA and NOAA use to monitor the weather. The navy wrote an internal memo in late March asking that the FCC take a second look at mitigating problems with interference from the eventual 5G signals.

The memo was made public along with a request by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). According to the Navy memo, the ability of NASA and NOAA to detect water vapor via adjacent frequencies could be partially or completely blocked in some cases. The report says that measurements in urban areas will be most seriously impacted as that’s where carriers are expected to deploy those high-frequency 5G bands first. This could have impacts on military and space launch operations where weather prediction is essential, as well as severe weather forecasting.

A 5G cell site in Minneapolis on a light pole.

The Navy memo asked the FCC to tighten the out-of-band interference from 5G bands by reducing the “bleed-over” limits to -57dB, much lower than the current standard. It also suggested the FCC continue to monitor the actual impacts of 5G deployment in the 24GHz range.

In spite of the Navy memo, the FCC has gone forward with the auction. Wyden and Cantwell have sent a series of questions to FCC chair Ajit Pai, demanding answers by June 11. They want proof that 5G in the 24GHz band won’t affect weather forecasting at 23.8GHz, as well as analysis of the risk to expensive weather forecasting infrastructure. The pair also wants information on how the FCC decided to move forward with the auction after objections from NASA and NOAA.

US carriers are currently rolling out so-called millimeter wave networks in the same general frequency range. These signals support very high bandwidth, but propagation is poor. That means a lot of high-power cell towers that could interfere with weather forecasting. It will be a few years before any carrier can roll out 24GHz support, so hopefully, there’s time to get all the issues worked out.

Now read:

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How you protect your heart (and health) heading into Daylight Saving Time

You're probably already dreading putting your clock ahead when daylight saving time starts this Sunday and plenty of research shows that's not without good reason.

Several studies have found springing ahead comes with a slew of negative consequences, including decreased productivity and a spike in traffic accidents.

A 2014 study out of the University of Colorado found a 25 per cent increase in the risk for heart attacks the Monday after daylight saving time starts.

It also noted a corresponding decrease in the risk for heart attacks at the end of daylight saving time in the fall.

Dr. Tami Martino, director of the Centre for Cardiovascular Investigations at the University of Guelph, said there can be negative effects anytime our bodies become out of sync with the environment.

That's because the circadian clock, the 24-hour cycle that's encoded in our DNA, is a fundamental part of our health.

The daily cycle

"Essentially every single cell in our body is connecting with just light. It's connecting our bodies to the outside universe, to the sun and the sky, and sort of syncing us with the environment," Martino said.

"Studies by our group and lots of others show that when that happens — we call that circadian dyssynchrony — or when we get light at the wrong time, it's hazardous to our health."

Everything from cortisol levels to blood sugar and metabolism is tied to the cycle of light and dark, Martino said.

Her research has also found patients recovering from heart attacks heal better when their day-night cycles aren't interrupted.

It's easy for the body to get out of sync, though.

"Maintaining normal sleep and circadian rhythms, not being on your phones, not getting the blue light from your computers at night would be one thing that would keep your body a little bit in sync in the first place, even before you add this added effect of daylight saving time on top," she said.​

No more changing clocks?

The growing body of research on this issue has prompted places around the world to reconsider daylight saving time.

The European Commission put forward a proposal in 2018 to end the practice, and a private member's bill to eliminate daylight saving time in November 2019 is currently before the Manitoba legislature.

There are already some places in Canada that won't be setting their clocks ahead this Sunday. Saskatchewan is currently the only province where all municipalities don't observe daylight saving time.

In Ontario, there are three towns where the clocks stay the same year round.

Dennis Brown, the mayor on Atikokan, said there have been multiple attempts to get the northwestern Ontario township to adopt daylight saving time. So far, they haven't stuck.

"I know it's not perfect, because it does cause some confusion, you know for patient care at the hospital, administrative problems with outside visitors and that kind of thing," he said.

"But people, you know, the majority want it to stay the way it is."

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