Tag Archives: shots

Australia abandons COVID-19 vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.

Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination program, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” Morrison said.

Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.

Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.

Australia’s hardline response to the virus largely stopped community transmissions but the vaccination rollout has become a hot political topic — and a source of friction between Morrison and state and territory leaders — after the country vaccinated only a fraction of its four million target by the end of March.

About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison said, noting the speed of Australia’s vaccination program was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other nations, partly because of its low number of infections, which stand at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.

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CBC | Health News

COVID-19 shots for school? What needs to happen to get kids in Canada immunized

Parents and children wanting to know when COVID-19 vaccines could roll out to Canada’s youngest people recently got a glimpse at the answers.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said it is “likely that Pfizer, if all the data is fine, may be the first” vaccine that children and teens could receive.

Pfizer and BioNTech said in a media release on Wednesday that their COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, is safe with “demonstrated 100 per cent efficacy” in preventing the disease in teens aged 12 to 15.

The data hasn’t been peer reviewed or scrutinized by regulators like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada.

In the trial of 2,260 adolescents, there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the group that got a placebo shot and none among those who received the vaccine.

Side-effects were similar to those reported in clinical trials in adults, such as pain at the injection site, headaches, fever and fatigue.

WATCH | Pfizer’s early data on vaccine for kids:

Pfizer-BioNTech says its vaccine is safe and showed 100 per cent efficacy in a clinical trial of 12- to 15-year-olds. Health officials say more data is needed, but parents are optimistic about the results. 2:03

Sharma said Health Canada will review Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine data on younger teens “in a couple of weeks.” Full data, including on children aged six to 12, is expected in months.

Any approvals will only come after the regulator checks the data for safety, efficacy and quality.

Pfizer’s vaccine has been cleared for people as young as 16 in Canada.

Dr. Noni MacDonald, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax who researches vaccine safety, said Pfizer’s research is a “bridging study.”

In a bridging study, researchers check if antibody and cell-based immune responses are equivalent to what’s seen in adults. For Pfizer, they were.

“The results are really very encouraging,” MacDonald said.

Protection for all Canadians

Moderna is also conducting a clinical trial in Canada for children aged five to 11. The results are expected early in 2022. The company also launched a trial in those aged six months to less than 12 in the U.S. in March. 

Johnson & Johnson, which recently won approval for its vaccine in adults in Canada and the U.S., expanded its Phase 2 trial for those aged 12 to 17 and plans to include younger children.

 AstraZeneca launched in similar trial in February

But it’s only when vaccines roll out in the real world to children with diabetes, heart disease and other underlying conditions that answers on effectiveness will be clearer.

“We want to protect everybody in our community, even those who cannot be immunized or will not respond to the vaccine,” MacDonald said. “To do that, we need children, we need teenagers, we need young adults, we need middle-aged adults and we need older people.”

Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie working on COVID-19 vaccines at the VIDO lab in Saskatoon, said she’s excited about how the vaccines could help children return to school and sports.

“Children can be infected with the virus and pass on the virus,” Kelvin said. “Even though we might not see clinical disease in kids or the clinical disease might not be as severe as in adults, it’s really important that children are not able to be part of the transmission chain.”

MacDonald hopes vaccines could be ready for younger teens by September, in time for mass immunization programs in school.

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CBC | Health News

Thousands of Toronto hospital staff haven’t got their COVID-19 shots, memo reveals

Thousands of staff at a Toronto hospital network have still not been vaccinated against COVID-19, prompting an internal email from its president, which has been obtained by CBC News, urging them to get immunized.

Roughly 4,000 employees of University Health Network (UHN) had not registered for their shots by Monday, according to the email sent that day by UHN president and CEO Dr. Kevin Smith.

“While our overall rate of uptake is very good, there are areas and programs where vaccination remains below 50 per cent of people,” Smith wrote.

“We must change this immediately.”

Smith also said he’s worried the hospital network’s supply of vaccines will be greatly reduced in the days ahead as Ontario “expands its list of priorities.”

The plea was made to staff at some of the highest risk for encountering the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the workplace, according to UHN spokesperson Gillian Howard, including those working in the emergency department, intensive care units, inpatient units and COVID-19 units.

Since the email was sent out, Howard said, around 1,000 more UHN workers had registered for their vaccinations, bringing the total to just over 18,000 people who will be vaccinated.

The network has set up a phone line and “vaccine ambassadors” to answer questions from staff, she said.

It was not immediately clear why some employees were slow to register.  

UHN includes multiple hospitals, including Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Cancer Hospital.

Early access

It’s not clear how many staff at other health-care networks and hospitals in the Toronto area have been vaccinated or signed up for their shots.

Women’s College Hospital, a separate facility from UHN, told CBC News around 664 of some 929 eligible staff members, about 71 per cent, have been vaccinated so far.

Toronto General Hospital is one of several sites that belongs to the network. (Sue Reid/CBC)

“However, this number is constantly changing as staff numbers fluctuate and we have many who are awaiting appointments in the coming weeks,” said spokesperson Jen Brailsford in an email. 

“This is also likely an underestimate as these numbers are based on self-reporting to occupational health.”

Toronto-area hospital sites had early access to the province’s vaccination rollout, with thousands of doses given to front-line workers and other staff in recent months.

Despite that, hospital outbreaks have continued. UHN alone is currently reporting three, affecting a handful of staff and patients. 

CBC News has also previously reported on how an estimated one-third of long-term care workers — who have been eligible since December — have not yet gotten their shots. 

A memo from the Ontario Ministry of Long Term Care dated March 8 revealed an estimated 67 per cent of staff in nursing homes across the province have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to over 95 per cent of residents.

UHN’s Dr. Susy Hota says the lack of vaccine uptake during the pandemic’s third wave is disappointing. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

According to public health ethics researcher Alison Thompson, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, hesitancy among health-care workers can lead to “tricky” ethical issues in the workplace, particularly in a hospital setting.

“It basically boils down to a matter of protecting patients and their right to having a safe space for care, and their colleagues being protected … versus their individual charter right to not have to be subjected to some kind of medical intervention against their will and consent,” she said.

‘Not a good track record’ 

Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at UHN, said the lack of vaccine uptake during the pandemic’s third wave is disappointing.

But she stressed that while these are medical professionals, they’re also dealing with the vaccine hesitancy that’s increasingly common among the general population.

“My hospital is huge. We’re like a community in ourselves, like a little village or town,” she said. 

“And there’s a diversity of different roles that people play here. And people come from different backgrounds, and different cultures and have had different past experiences.”

Hota says, from an infection control perspective, figuring out how to combat this hesitancy among health-care workers can be difficult.

“We haven’t been successful in mandating vaccinations in the past; there’s not a good track record,” she continued.

Could mandatory masks or other personal protective gear for unvaccinated workers be an option? It’s not that simple, Hota says.

For one thing, most infections in hospitals are thought to occur when workers aren’t conducting patient care and no longer wearing masks; like chatting in a break room. 

“Masking versus vaccination was tried for influenza, and that didn’t succeed,” Hota added.

Thompson agrees. If each individual employer tries to implement that kind of policy, it’s much less likely to be successful, she said.

“It’s much more effective, probably, if the provincial government were to mandate that vaccines have to be administered for health-care workers, with legitimate exemptions,” she said.

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CBC | Health News

‘Too early’ to say when Johnson & Johnson shots will arrive, minister says

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said today that Canada is ready to deploy a new COVID vaccine from Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen, once it receives regulatory approval from Health Canada — but she couldn’t say how many shots will be available in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccines and related biological products advisory committee will meet Friday to review the clinical trial data for this vaccine. A final U.S. decision on issuing emergency use authorization (EUA) could follow as early as this weekend.

The same FDA committee met in early December to review Pfizer’s vaccine and, a day later, the EUA was issued. Later that month, the FDA committee met to review the Moderna vaccine and an EUA was granted the next day.

Health Canada could make the same decision in a matter of days. The U.S. and Canada have been in synch on past COVID-19 vaccine approvals.

A spokesperson for the department said Health Canada “intends to be as aligned as possible with the decisions of our key regulatory partners, once all of the data required to make a decision has been received and reviewed.”

“Health Canada continues to receive data from Janssen,” the spokesperson told CBC News.

WATCH: Anand provides an update on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine

The CBC’s Tom Parry asks Procurement Minister Anita Anand how many doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Canada will receive after it’s approved by Health Canada. 4:56

Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.

Anand said she had a conversation with executives from Johnson & Johnson last week “to ensure we are on target in terms of those deliveries and to press them on when precisely those deliveries would be arriving in Canada.”

Drug makers ‘reluctant’ to set deadlines without approvals: Anand

Asked if she knows how many doses will be delivered in the second quarter of this year — when Canada’s vaccination campaign is expected to ramp up — Anand said “that is a negotiation that we are currently engaged in and I will provide information relating to the details of those deliveries as soon as I have them.”

Anand said it’s “too early” to say how many doses, if any, Canada will receive in the April through June period.

She said vaccine manufacturers are “reluctant” to provide firm delivery dates with a regulatory review process still pending, but she has assured Johnson & Johnson that “Canada is ready for the deployment and distribution of vaccines” and that those shots will be put to use right away.

Last month, the company confirmed with U.S. officials that it was on track to deliver 100 million doses to the American marketplace by the end of June. “We’re very confident and on track to meet all of our commitments,” the company’s CFO, Joseph Wolk, told CNBC.

Dr. Richard Nettles, vice-president of medical affairs at Janssen, told the U.S. congressional energy and commerce subcommittee today that 4 million doses will shipped to points in the U.S. immediately after it secures an EUA. At least 20 million more will be delivered by end of March, Nettles said.

The company has signed deals to produce shots at plants in Indiana, Maryland and Michigan in the U.S. and other facilities in Europe in order to meet its contractual obligations.

The company’s Canadian division has not yet offered similar assurances.

“It is premature to address the supply specifics of our vaccine candidate,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email to CBC News.

“Janssen is continuing to work with Health Canada to complete the rolling submission process,” the spokesperson said.

The Johnson & Johnson product, which requires only one shot instead of two like the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, would be much easier for public health officials to administer as it remains stable in a standard refrigerator for months. 

Unlike those two shots, which are based on mRNA technlogy, the Johnson & Johnson product uses a more conventional viral vector load vaccine technology. Millions of people could develop some sort of antibody protection against COVID-19 with just a single dose.

In U.S. clinical trials, the product was found to be 72 per cent effective in preventing moderate-to-severe cases of COVID-19.

Importantly, the product also demonstrated complete protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death, 28 days post-vaccination.

The company has said the single-shot vaccine has “the potential to significantly reduce the burden of severe disease.”

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CBC | Health News

More Pfizer shots will arrive in 2nd quarter than originally planned: Trudeau

Canada stands to receive more Pfizer doses in the next quarter than expected; a promising development for a country that has been grappling with vaccine shortages for weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today.

The pharmaceutical giant will deliver 10.8 million shots between April and June as the manufacturing supply chain stabilizes after a shaky start to the year, the prime minister added. That’s 2.8 million more shots in this period than the government had originally forecasted.

Trudeau said Pfizer deliveries previously earmarked for the fourth quarter of 2021 have also been shifted earlier, meaning the New York-based company will be able to flow more shots to Canada over the summer months. 6.2 million more doses than planned will be deployed between July and August.

“We will soon share the schedule with provinces and territories so they can prepare to get all those doses into people’s arms,” Trudeau said. “We’ve been continuing to work every single day on getting as many doses as possible, as quickly as possible, into Canadians’ arms. Better days are ahead of us.”

The federal government has also agreed to purchase four million more doses of the Moderna product, Trudeau said, for a total commitment of 44 million shots. Those additional doses will be “arriving over the summer,” he said.

Pfizer and Moderna, the two leading suppliers of vaccines, have been fine tuning their operations in recent weeks to meet insatiable global demand with new COVID-19 variants taking hold.

With these developments, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said 23 million vaccine doses of these two products — enough to fully vaccinate 11.5 million people — will be delivered by the end of June. “More Canadians will be vaccinated more quickly,” Anand said.

The government has already said it expects 3 million people to be vaccinated with the two-dose regime by the end of March. Based on this revised delivery schedule, up to 14.5 million people could get both shots by Canada Day.

In total, 84 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer shots will be delivered by the end of September, up from previous estimates.

The vaccination numbers could be higher still because Health Canada regulators are still reviewing other promising vaccine candidates, including those developed by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen and Novavax.

WATCH: Trudeau provides an update on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on Canada’s Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply. 1:51

Anand said the 20 million doses that Canada has ordered from AstraZeneca will be delivered in the second and third quarters, pending regulatory approvals. Those shots will be shipped from a factory in the U.S.

As procurement agents await Health Canada’s authorization, Anand said Canada is already “negotiating the precise weekly delivery schedule” with AstraZeneca.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said this week the review is in the final stages.

Canada also stands to receive up to up to 1.9 million AstraZeneca shots in the second quarter from Covax, a global vaccine-sharing initiative jointly co-ordinated by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. Those shots will come from a factory in South Korea.

3M people vaccinated in first quarter

The federal government has long promised that it would have 6 million vaccines in country by the end of March.

Pfizer is on track to deliver its promised four million doses while Moderna continues to make “assurances” that it will hit its target of two million shots in Canada by the end of March, Trudeau said.

“We will, of course, continue to follow up directly with the company to make sure that we can get those doses as soon as possible,” Trudeau said of Moderna.

Roughly 1.4 million doses of both shots have been delivered so far.

While Pfizer deliveries have been limited over the last month, owing to plant upgrades at its site in Belgium, the company has said it will send hundreds of thousands of doses to Canada weekly for the foreseeable future.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said more than 400,000 shots will arrive next week.

According to the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada now ranks 47th globally in terms of vaccines administered — well behind allies like the United States and the United Kingdom and some middle-income countries like Turkey and Serbia.

Canada’s vaccination effort has also been outpaced so far by those in Bahrain, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, among dozens of others.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Trudeau has failed to adequately address ongoing vaccine delays and cancelled deliveries, which, he said, has led to Canada’s poor showing globally.

“Canadian businesses continue to shutter, and families are forced apart. Canada needs the government to succeed in getting COVID-19 vaccines, that’s why Canada’s Conservatives will continue to advocate for greater transparency and a real plan to get needles in the arms of Canadians,” he said in a statement.

The Opposition Conservatives have been pushing the government to release the contracts it signed with manufacturers. Anand has rejected these demands, saying it would violate confidentiality clauses.

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CBC | Health News

Canada inks deal to produce millions of COVID-19 shots domestically

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today a plan to produce millions of COVID-19 shots at a plant in Montreal starting this summer, securing a domestic supply of vaccines as the global market contends with delivery delays and protectionist measures.

The National Research Council-owned Royalmount facility will churn out tens of millions of doses of the product developed by Maryland-based Novavax, Trudeau said. That company submitted its vaccine to Health Canada for regulatory approval last Friday.

“This is a major step forward to get vaccines made in Canada, for Canadians…. We need as much domestic capacity for vaccine production as possible,” Trudeau said. “We won’t rest until every Canadian who wants a vaccine has received one.”

Novavax has said its protein-based COVID-19 vaccine product produced an efficacy rate of 89.3 per cent in late stage clinical trials, with strong protection against the strain of the virus first reported in the U.K., which has shown to be more resistant to other vaccine candidates.

Canada agreed to purchase shots from Novavax — a biotechnology company that has been at the forefront of developing new vaccines against influenza — last August. The government has since upped that purchase agreement with a commitment to buy at least 52 million doses of the two-dose product.

Last summer, Trudeau announced more than $ 125 million to upgrade the National Research Council (NRC) facility to produce vaccines domestically and avoid the global scramble for shots.

At the time, Trudeau said the factory could produce hundreds of thousands of shots starting in November. But the project ran into problems when it was determined the facility didn’t meet exacting good manufacturing practices (GMP) required for such a site.

The work on upgrading the NRC facility has continued and it’s now expected to be ready to produce COVID-19 shots sometime this summer, the prime minister said, with a production capacity of approximately 4,000 litres per month, which is equivalent to approximately two million doses of a vaccine.

When complete, the facility will be able to make viral vector, protein subunit, virus-like particle based vaccine doses, but not mRNA shots like those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The Novavax product is of the protein subunit variety.

The announcement comes at a time that Canada’s inoculation campaign is facing a series of delays and disruptions. The two primary suppliers, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, have been beset with manufacturing issues that have resulted in lower shipments to Canada.

The European Union has also introduced new export controls that could result in some shipments being delayed or cancelled altogether because Canada’s current supply of shots comes from plants in Europe.

The protectionist push threatens to derail deliveries in the short term, although International Trade Minister Mary Ng has said she has received verbal assurances from European leaders that Canada’s supply will not be affected.

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CBC | Health News

COC has spoken to federal government about COVID-19 shots for Canadian Olympians

The Canadian Olympic Committee has spoken to the federal government about having Team Canada vaccinated prior to going to the Tokyo Olympics. 

In an interview with Ian Hanomansing, host of The National, COC boss David Shoemaker said he’s told the government it is the International Olympic Committee’s “desire” to have the team vaccinated ahead of the Games, scheduled to begin on July 23.

“We’ve spoken to the government and relayed the IOC’s desire for us to have our team vaccinated prior to going to Tokyo. They’ve recognized that we’ve got a need,” Shoemaker said. 

“Certainly when athletes and all Canadians want to travel internationally under these circumstances, a vaccine would be preferable.”

The full interview can be seen Friday night on The National at 9 p.m. ET. 

Two days ago, Shoemaker took to Twitter regarding the vaccination issue, saying:

“As for vaccines, frontline workers and vulnerable individuals must continue to have prioritized access to Canada’s supply. We continue to plan on the assumption that vaccines may not be widely available to our athletes prior to the Games.” 

When asked by Hanomansing after his response about where Shoemaker felt Canadian athletes would fall in the vaccination queue, Shoemaker wouldn’t speculate.

“Those most vulnerable, the frontline workers, have to come first and then we’ll see. But it will depend on so much, including what’s available and how quickly the provinces have been able to vaccinate Canadians,” he said. 

WATCH | COC boss speaks to The National:

In an interview airing on Friday’s The National, Canadian Olympic Committee President David Shoemaker tells Ian Hanomansing they have discussed the International Olympic Committee’s desire to have athletes vaccinated for the Tokyo Olympics with the Federal government. 0:52

Pound suggests Olympians jump vaccine queue

Shoemaker’s comments come just weeks after longtime Canadian IOC member Dick Pound suggested athletes must be given priority access to the coronavirus vaccine. That suggestion did not sit well with a number of Canadian Olympic champions.

“I want to represent Canada in Tokyo. I want to continue to inspire the next generation of young boys and girls. But I need my community to be safe first and that means a measured, risk-based vaccination plan,” 2016 Olympic gold-medal wrestling champion Erica Wiebe tweeted earlier this month.

Speculating that there would be no public outcry if athletes jumped the queue, Pound argued that, “the most realistic way” of ensuring that the Tokyo Olympics could safely forge ahead was for athletes to be prioritized.

Wiebe wasn’t buying it. 

“I think the Olympic movement stands in its purity for a lot more than just putting athletes on stage to entertain the world,” she said. “The most important people that need to get the vaccine are front-line workers; those most at risk and people in long-term care homes — they are the ones that need to be prioritized.” 

Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics Kyle Shewfelt also scoffed on the suggestion athletes should get vaccines before others.

“They’re already healthy, they’re in an age bracket that hasn’t been shown to be super vulnerable to fatal outcomes from this disease,” said the Calgary native. 

“From a moral standpoint, it doesn’t sit right [with me].”

WATCH | Olympian DeBues-Stafford talks importance of vaccines:

Jacqueline Doorey speaks with Canadian middle distance runner Gabriela DeBues-Stafford to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine, how it can affect the Olympics, and whether athletes deserve to cut the line. 5:51

Israel, Denmark will vaccinate their athletes

Several countries, including Israel and Denmark, have already said they would vaccinate their athletes and staff against COVID-19 ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The Belgian Olympic Committee (BOIC) has asked its government for “400 to 500” vaccines for Olympic athletes and their entourage to travel to the Tokyo Games but insists it is not asking for preferential treatment.

The British Olympic Association, as well as the United States Olympic Committee, have made it quite clear athletes will not be jumping the queues to get vaccines and that the priority remains with the most vulnerable.

As for the IOC, President Thomas Bach has said that although participants will be encouraged to get vaccinated, it will not be mandatory.

“The health and safety of all participants is paramount. And we’ll be guided by the Chief Medical Officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee and public health officials here in Canada on how we make those determinations,” Shoemaker said.

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Canada won’t receive any Pfizer shots next week — here’s what you need to know about the vaccination campaign

Canada’s vaccination campaign is off to a slow start — and news this week that deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech product will be reduced dramatically over the next month has further complicated the national rollout.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), has said Pfizer will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium to boost capacity.

The announcement is already prompting some provinces to warn that they will have to curtail appointments in the weeks ahead as they direct the existing supply of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to patients who need their second shots.

Why is Canada getting less vaccine than anticipated?

Pfizer is grappling with unprecedented global demand for its vaccine as the world scrambles to inoculate patients against the deadly novel coronavirus.

While the company had projected it could manufacture up to 1.3 billion shots this year alone, it is now shifting gears to pump out even more.

The company is making upgrades to its Belgian plant so that it can manufacture up to 2 billion doses this year to meet the insatiable demand. In order to complete those upgrades, some production lines will have to be idled and Pfizer won’t have enough vials to go around in the short term to meet its previously promised delivery schedule.

“Pfizer and BioNTech are working relentlessly to support the further rollout of the vaccination campaigns worldwide by not only expanding their own manufacturing capacities but also by adding further suppliers as well as contract manufacturers to increase total manufacturing capacity,” the company said in a news release announcing the disruptions.

A driver pulls his truck out of the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. (Valentin Bianchi/AP Photo)

Fortin has said that, starting next week, Canada’s deliveries will be reduced by up to 50 per cent over a four-week period, punting as many as 400,000 doses to a later date.

While the company has another manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., the Belgian plant alone is supplying Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom. U.S. deliveries will continue uninterrupted.

Will Canada, the EU and the United Kingdom be equally affected by these disruptions?

No. Announcing the delays last week, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she expects Pfizer will treat all countries equally as it reduces shipments with an eye to restoring service in February.

But Pfizer isn’t treating every customer the same way. While Canada will receive zero doses next week, the company said it “will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the European Union beginning the week of January 25.”

Pfizer has promised the EU that it will then “increase delivery beginning week of February 15, resulting in our ability to deliver the fully committed quantity of vaccine doses in the first quarter and significantly more in the second quarter.”

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 7, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

When asked why Pfizer will not make the same commitment to Canada, Anand said that she expects the company to treat all countries equitably — but could not say why Canada has been singled out.

“This was very disappointing and I spent the weekend on the phone with Pfizer executives and my team. We reiterated firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said at a press conference Tuesday.

Pfizer did not respond to specific questions about why it is showing more favourable treatment to the EU. In an emailed statement, the company said the details of its agreements with governments are “confidential.”

“Multiple countries around the world will be impacted in the short term in order for us to quickly enable increased production volumes afterwards,” the spokesperson said. 

The U.K. delivery schedule is less clear. The government there has said it is “in close contact” with all suppliers so that it can achieve its target of immunizing all those over age 70 by February 15.

So how many doses will Canada receive over the next number of weeks?

It’s hard to say for sure. Fortin had said Canada would see a 75 per cent drop next week in deliveries — but then had to correct that forecast after learning Canada wouldn’t receive a single dose.

Just last week, Fortin had been expecting delivery of 208,650 doses to the provinces every week for the rest of this month. Fortin also said Canada is expected to receive 366,000 Pfizer doses per week in February.

Speaking to the press this week, Fortin conceded those numbers are no longer accurate.

“Those numbers remain to be confirmed by Pfizer Canada. In fact, we have regular conversations with them and we hope and we expect to have clarity on those numbers,” Fortin told reporters at a public health briefing.

Is Canada still on track to get 4 million doses of the Pfizer product by the end of March?

The government has said yes. While the deliveries may change, the government insists its medium-term targets are more certain.

By the end of the first quarter, Canada is expecting four million doses from Pfizer and another two million doses from Moderna — enough to vaccinate some 3 million Canadians with these two-dose products.

WATCH | Canada affected by Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine production delay in Europe:

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand made the announcement to reporters in Ottawa on Friday. 2:38

But these delays mean that many people will be kept waiting much longer for shots than they originally anticipated. While deliveries might return to a more normal flow, it will be difficult for provinces to pump through hundreds of thousands of patients in a short timeframe to reach vaccination targets.

The delivery hiccup also could push off the vaccination campaign for the general population, which had a start date of April 1.

Pharmacies have said they could vaccinate as many 2.5 million people per week if all 11,500 community pharmacies in this country are mobilized, but the lack of supply has delayed their participation in the effort.

Data released by PHAC Thursday suggest 10 million more people could be fully vaccinated between April and June, for a cumulative total of 13 million people inoculated since the start of the campaign.

And if other vaccines apart from the Pfizer and Moderna products are approved over that time period, 10 million more patients could complete the vaccine regime by the end of June, for a combined total of 23 million.

The PHAC data also suggest that 36 million Canadians can be vaccinated by the end of September, if all goes well and there aren’t any significant delivery disruptions in the interim.

What is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doing about this Pfizer delay?

While the prime minister of Israel has had more than a dozen calls with the CEO of Pfizer, and the president of the European Union has personally reached out to the company’s leadership, Trudeau has said that Anand is the lead on this file.

“I can assure you that Minister Anand is talking almost daily with Pfizer and the other vaccine companies to ensure that we get as many doses as possible, as quickly as possible, and that work will continue,” he said. “We will not rest, we will not slow down.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and his Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, second left, attend the arrival of plane with a shipment of Pfizer coronavirus vaccines at Ben Gurion Airport, near the city of Lod, Israel, on Jan. 10, 2021. (Motti Millrod/AP Photo)

When pressed by Vassy Kapelos, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, to state whether Trudeau has personally contacted Pfizer to ask for more doses, Anand would only say that she has been in “close communication” with the prime minister.

Some observers have said Trudeau should ask U.S. President Joe Biden to temporarily float Canada some vaccines from the Michigan plant as a sign of goodwill — especially after Biden rescinded the presidential permits for the Keystone XL pipeline.

So how are the provinces reacting to all this?

Not well. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said the delivery delays will be very disruptive. The province also has said the temporary stoppage could mean its goal of immunizing all long-term care residents in the province by Feb. 15 won’t be achieved.

“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives. “I would not stop until we get these vaccines.”

On Wednesday, Ford called Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow to discuss the situation.

“He reiterated the serious impact these cancelled shipments will have on Ontario and sought answers as to why Canada isn’t receiving vaccines as quickly as other countries,” Ford’s office said in a media statement after the call.

Ford also has suggested Biden should “help out its neighbour” by releasing some shots to Canada.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday the province is putting a temporary hold on the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure it has enough vaccine to provide a second dose to people who have already received their first shot.

“By pausing first appointments, we can ensure enough vaccine is allocated for committed second-dose appointments,” Kenney said.

How is Canada doing compared to the rest of the world?

Canada has administered some 700,000 shots – roughly 1.7 per cent of the population has received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna products. In Ontario, about 40,000 people have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

The United States has vaccinated three times more people per capita than Canada.

The U.K., too, has been a world leader in getting shots into the arms of patients. Nearly 7.5 per cent of the British and Northern Irish population has so far received at least one dose.

Canada’s vaccination effort has also been outpaced to date by those in Bahrain, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

But according to the latest data collated by the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada has administered more shots per capita than G7 partners like Germany and France, and middle-income countries like Argentina and Costa Rica.

“I had a lovely conversation with Angela Merkel yesterday morning in which she sort of complained to me that every day she gets it from the German media that they’re not doing as well as Canada,” Trudeau told reporters Tuesday.

“I think a lot of people are comparing stories from country to country and trying to figure out how we can all move quicker.”

The EU authorized the Moderna product for use two weeks after Health Canada regulators gave that vaccine the necessary approvals, which could account for the slower start to vaccination campaigns in countries like Germany.

What about the other promising vaccine candidates?

Health Canada regulators are still reviewing clinical trial data for both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson products. Canada has placed orders for doses from these companies but a delivery schedule is far from certain, given that the regulatory review is still underway.

The U.K. approved the AstraZeneca vaccine on Dec. 30.

The product from Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen, has not been approved for use anywhere in the world. Some countries are eager to secure doses of this vaccine because it only requires one shot.

The company has not yet presented publicly any final data on its effectiveness, although some early results, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, are promising.

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CBC | Health News

‘Wartime president’ Trump isn’t calling all the shots in U.S. battle against COVID-19

U.S. President Donald Trump’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” coronavirus guidelines — mostly advice to stay home if you’re sick and avoid social gatherings — would have expired by now had he not extended them to April 30.  

“We have reason to believe that it’s working,” Vice-President Mike Pence announced at Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing. He held out the revised one-page bullet point guidelines — “30 Days to Slow the Spread” — and solemnly explained that by extending them, the president was asking the American people to follow the advice for another 30 days.

It’s understandable the White House would try to appear on top of this most formidable challenge of the Trump presidency — especially after repeatedly downplaying the severity of COVID-19 when it first showed up in the U.S. more than two months ago.

The evidence is documented in Trump’s televised statements and his own Twitter feed. He said the outbreak was under control when it wasn’t. He said tests were available for all who needed them when they weren’t.

Now deep into the COVID-19 crisis, with more than 211,000 confirmed infections in the U.S. and more than 4,700 deaths, Trump is finding the levers of presidential power aren’t always perfectly aligned with what’s required.

The White House guidelines are much weaker — advisories, really — compared to the state laws now directing the behaviour of more than 265 million Americans.

In Virginia, for instance, Gov. Ralph Northam proclaimed on Monday a statewide stay-at-home order until June 10 — a decree that is much stricter, more confining and six weeks longer than the White House guidelines, and with the actual force of law behind it.

Just as Virginia’s new rules kicked in, Maryland and the District of Columbia announced their own similar orders that effectively shut down all sectors of their economies that are not essential to the health and welfare of the citizenry. More than half the states in the U.S. now have something like that in place, including California, New York and parts of Texas.

Cyclists ride through a nearly empty Times Square in New York earlier this week. New York has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

At Trump’s daily White House press briefings, he claims he is a “wartime president” battling an “invisible enemy,” as though he were in command of the fight against the coronavirus. He is not. No single person nor branch of government is.

He might like to have more authority. Trump is keenly aware that a bustling economy with a hot stock market is the cornerstone of his re-election plan. Just last week, he was clearly itching for people to get out of their homes and back to work by Easter lest the economy grind from a slowdown to a stop between now and November.

But it is the individual states that decide whether to impose or lift the shelter-in-place decrees across the country, not Trump — and he can’t change that, say legal scholars citing both the constitution and court precedents.

“No, the president cannot simply order state and local governments to change their policies,” says University of Texas law professor Robert Chesney, writing in the Lawfare blog.

Constitutionally legitimate federal laws do supersede state and local laws, he says, but there isn’t a federal law that fits these circumstances. Without one, “it does not follow that President Trump can therefore override state and local rules on matters like shelter-in-place.”

Still, Trump does bring some unique powers to the fight against COVID-19. At the end of January, for instance, Trump barred entry by foreign nationals travelling from China — the original epicentre of the outbreak — to the US. Only a president has the authority to do that.

Limits of president’s power

Both the public health and the economic health of the country are, to a large degree, in the hands of all governments — federal, state and local.

State governors estimate both their economic and health-supply needs in the battle against the virus and make demands on the federal government for funds and the co-ordination of scarce supplies of equipment — but again, the president is often not the decisive player.

Sometimes that’s by choice. Trump has told states to look after themselves in the marketplace for medical equipment.

“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” he reportedly told governors in a conference call last month.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference last Tuesday against a backdrop of medical supplies at the Jacob Javits Center that will house a temporary hospital in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Cuomo has received widespread praise for his handling of the health crisis in New York. He has called on the federal government to play a leading in procuring medical supplies and equipment. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)

And the states complain that this essentially puts them in a bidding war with each other for equipment the federal government could buy and distribute.

Sometimes when the president does want to take charge he’s overruled by lawmakers.

Take, for example, his initial emergency funding plan a few weeks ago.

Trump proposed to Congress a $ 2.5-billion bill to combat the coronavirus. Congress came back to him with a rewritten bill for more than $ 8 billion instead.

“I’ll take it,” Trump said, and, really, how could he not? But the message was clear: Congress wouldn’t just rubber-stamp urgent funds based on the president’s say-so. It recalculated the scope of the emergency and decided for itself what was needed. 

And from that eventually followed the $ 2-trillion relief package negotiated by the White House, House Democrats and Senate Republicans. A key part of the bill gives Congress oversight of how the money is spent, something the White House had resisted in the hope it could dole out some of the money as it pleased. Congress didn’t allow that.

A man wears a face mask while the USNS Comfort and New York’s Empire State Building are seen from Weehawken, N.J. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Most health services are provided at the state and local level, but as commander-in-chief, Trump has sent a hospital ship to New York and another to Los Angeles. Again, a unique authority put into action by the president.

He has also, after much urging from governors, used the Defence Production Act. The act gives the president power to direct private companies to manufacture whatever is needed. Trump used it last week to order General Motors to speed up production of the ventilators used at hospitals. GM says it was already doing the best it could.

In some ways, the most powerful tool of the presidency is what President Theodore Roosevelt dubbed the bully pulpit — the platform of the office itself. A president’s voice is the loudest and most influential in the country. It can excite people and inspire them to action; it can calm people and bring them together; it can lead a national conversation. It can also fail to do any of that.

At the moment, Trump is cautioning Americans, telling them the worst is yet to come and that limiting the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. to 100,000 might be a win.

“We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks,” he said at Tuesday’s briefing.

But the record tells an even grimmer story of Trump downplaying the coronavirus threat in the U.S., declaring the outbreak all but over before it had really begun, and dismissing contrary views as a “hoax.”

It is a record that suggests precious time was squandered.

His opponents have already strung together clips of Trump’s bursts of misinformation and posted them online as election-style ads. They will presumably play them from now until November.

And no, Trump doesn’t have the power to stop that either.

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CBC | World News

No lead is safe as jaw-dropping shots making for memorable Brier

Just when you thought you watched the best shot of the Brier, another best shot of the Brier appears.

That’s how this year’s championship in Kingston, Ont., has gone. And there’s still so much more to come.

Canada’s top men curlers have provided some of most electrifying shots you’ll ever see.

Coming into the event, many had called this year’s Brier field the best ever — they’re certainly living up to it.

It’s been a nonstop barrage of jaw-dropping granite throwing greatness that has fans and players wondering what they just watched and how it could possibly happen.

And it’s meant no lead is safe and no top team is safe.

While there are sure to be more highlight reel moments as the rest of the competition plays out, here’s a look back at the top three Brier moments to this point.

Gunnlaugson’s double runback double takeout for the win

Down 8-6 against Prince Edward Island in the final end, Manitoba skip Jason Gunnlaugson wasted no time lining up the angles on a number of rocks, confident that if he hit all the granite exactly in the right spot he’d end up with a scintillating shot and score of three for the victory.

Gunner, as he’s called, said that if he hit the first yellow P.E.I. stone, it would careen back onto his red rock in the top-twelve foot, that rock would then scream back toward two yellow P.E.I. rocks around the button, double them out and leave him sitting three red rocks.

Easy, right?

Jason Gunnlaugson’s incredible shot on his last rock in the 10th end lifts Manitoba over P.E.I.’s Bryan Cochrane 9-8. 1:19

Gunnlaugson settled in the hack and then blasted out toward the mass of granite.

He yelled wildly — and then just like he drew it up, hit every rock perfectly giving him an improbable win.

The shot is one of the best you’ll ever see. So too was Gunner’s celebration. He jumped into the air, hugged his teammates and pumped his fist.

A fitting reaction to one magical curling shot.

Matt Dunstone’s blast for 4

Rarely does a curling team surrender four points in the final end.

But that’s exactly what happened to British Columbia against Saskatchewan on Monday at the Brier.

Down 8-5 with one end to play, Saskatchewan mounted a stunning comeback. They managed to jam the house with yellow stones setting up Dunstone for some late-game heroics.

Down by the 3 in the final end, Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone scores 4 with a runback triple to beat B.C.’s Jim Cotter 9-8.8 1:30

The Saskatchewan skipper fired his last yellow rock down the ice toward his own yellow rock in the eight foot — that rock smashed into a B.C. stone.

B.C.’s red rock then went zooming back into two other red rocks.

When all the granite settled, four yellow Saskatchewan stones were sitting in the house giving Saskatchewan a remarkable 9-8 victory.

Dunstone pumped his fist wildly after the shot, making for another memorable curling celebration.

Koe’s wicked triple for the win

How many times has Kevin Koe wielded curling sorcery with his last rock to escape defeat?

The answer is too many times to count.

And he did it again on Tuesday afternoon at the Brier against Wild Card’s Mike McEwen.

Down 2-1 in the final end with the hammer, Koe could have played it safe and draw for a single point and take his chances in an extra end.

Defending champion Kevin Koe beats wild card Mike McEwen 3-2 with a wondrous shot in the 10 end at the Brier. 1:01

Instead, true to Koe form, he decided to play a seemingly impossible triple to score two for the victory.

The four-time Brier champion rifled his yellow rock toward the red Wild Card stones in the house, hitting every red rock on the perfect angle and removing every McEwen stone for victory.

Unlike Gunnlaugson and Dunstone’s bombastic celebration, Koe’s reaction was much more subdued.

Just what you’d expect from Kevin Koe.

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CBC | Sports News