March 2, 2022

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Jan. 20 | CBC News

Buddhist monks wearing face masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus, take a test for the liturgical Pali language at Wat Molilokayaram in Bangkok, Thailand. (Sakchai Lalit/The Associated Press)

PM wants to see more kid vaccinations, but inoculations in that age group aren’t speedy in many countries

Justin Trudeau expressed concern Wednesday at a news conference in Ottawa about the rate of vaccination among children aged five to 11.

While the prime minister stopped short of last week’s entreaty, when he told kids to “ask your parents to get vaccinated,” he continued to press the issue.

“We know as we get back to school, as kids are re-engaging, parents are worried about the health of their kids,” Trudeau said. “The vaccination rate for those five to 11 is too low in Canada, which means not only are our kids more vulnerable, but also all of society, teachers, grandparents.”

CBC News has also reported in recent days on concerns about the recent pace of child vaccination rates.

“We have plateaued for the last three weeks or so,” Marisa Cicero, a social worker who’s a member of the Ontario Children’s Vaccine Table, said last week.

Let’s dig into the numbers.

Two months to the day after the vaccine was first approved for this group, fewer than half of all eligible Canadian kids (48.35 per cent) have had at least one shot. The national number belies disparities in children’s rates that are greater than what has been seen with adult rates between provinces — for example, as of last week, 70 per cent in the age cohort in Newfoundland and Labrador had received a COVID-19 dose compared to 38 per cent in Alberta.

It’s important to remember that not all countries are vaccinating small children yet, and while the World Health Organization hasn’t discouraged the practice per se, the UN health agency considers getting first shots into the arms of vulnerable adults in the developing world a much higher priority.

In the U.S., which approved the Pfizer vaccine for those five to 11 about a month earlier than Canada, just 27 per cent of those in that age group have received at least one shot, according to Jan. 12 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The earlier American approval date means 18 per cent there have received two vaccine shots, compared to just slightly more than three per cent in Canada. Both Health Canada and the CDC have said these kids can get a second dose any time after a three-week interval, although Canada’s national vaccine advisory committee says shots can be spread for as long as eight weeks.

Israel, a global leader in getting vaccines in adult arms, has inoculated about 25 per cent of children five to 11 with one dose since a November launch. Spain — which has encountered relatively little vaccine hesitancy during the pandemic compared to other countries — has a one-shot rate for the same age group since a December approval of 41 per cent, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week.

Britain hasn’t even recommended vaccines for those five to 11 unless they have specific health issues, and the one-shot rates of each of France, Italy and Greece for all kids under 18 — which is how the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control currently breaks down its age data — are less than 35 per cent in each case. Those kinds of numbers for the larger age group mean it’s highly unlikely that the inoculation pace for the five-to-11 cohort is outstripping Canada’s.

Comparing the national rate in Canada two months after authorization compared to same time period for the adolescent group 12 to 17 is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but here’s the data in any event: In mid-July, some 67 per cent of Canadian adolescents had received a first vaccine dose.

But few medical experts expected a similar type of uptake, given that before the Omicron variant arrived, serious child COVID-19 cases were relatively small in number and not comparable to the number of flu and respiratory virus cases seen annually for kids in pre-pandemic years.

Even with Omicron, “among children there continues to be low rates of intensive care admission,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Wednesday.

Infants under the age of one — who are not eligible to be vaccinated — are seven times more likely to be hospitalized than older kids, according to PHAC data, although hospital admissions among this cohort still remain low overall.

It’s understandable that the government would want to encourage higher uptake among the small children to help commuities form a “protective cocoon,” in Tam’s words on Wednesday. The uptick in child hospitalizations in December and January compared to previous waves is overwhelmingly skewed to the unvaccinated, doctors across Canada have told CBC News.

As well, there’s undoubtedly frustration among health officials given that there’s anecdotal evidence here in Canada and elsewhere that the rare reports of myocarditis in adolescents after vaccination have made some parents of younger kids hesitant.

Recent data compiled by scientific advisers for the CDC found that myocarditis is extremely rare among vaccinated five- to 11-year-olds. The researchers identified just 12 reported cases as of Dec. 19 out of the 8.7 million doses administered in the U.S. by that date, a rate of occurrence statistically insignificant. In a Jan. 14 report, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said there have been reports of myocarditis in this country — most have occurred in males 12 to 29 years of age after a second dose of an mRNA vaccine — but these cases have been “mild and [were] resolved quickly.”

The current child vaccination rate could be seen as slightly disappointing if one puts a lot of stock into a major survey that was done pre-authorization. An Angus Reid survey in October found that 51 per cent of respondents with kids aged five to 11 were ready to have them immunized once a vaccine was approved, a level we haven’t hit yet two months into the campaign. For the record, some 18 per cent of parents responded that they would do so eventually and 23 per cent of parents were opposed to ever vaccinating their kids five to 11.

Ontario’s top public health doctor, who recommends the vaccine for children, seemed to express empathy last week for parents still waiting. As with many things vaccine-related in the pandemic, it sparked a round of impassioned debate.

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Polarized debate over public health measures sees politicians facing angry protesters at their homes

Protesters opposed to public health measures such as wearing a mask or abiding by lockdowns and vaccine mandates have increasingly turned to holding intimidating and aggressive protests at the homes of Canadian politicians.

An RCMP spokesperson told CBC News in an email that the Mounties have “seen an increase in the number of incidents that either occurred or were planned” at politicians’ residences or constituency offices.

As the pandemic nears its two-year mark, politicians are but one target of the aggressive protests; front-line health-care workers and patients seeking care have also been intimidated by sometimes violent anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown advocates.

Former Liberal environment minister Catherine McKenna was the target of abuse and intimidation while in office.

“People yelling and screaming … at your home, or when you’re just out, I think it is next-level. That’s not why I got into politics,” she told CBC News. “I will say it was a very unappealing feature of politics, and that’s why I still speak out about it because I want good people to go into politics.”

She said she wants to see the security budget for members of Parliament increased to ensure they are safe and that public life continues to attract good people.

But the demonstrations are taking on lower levels of government as well.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek called it “unnerving” to see signs characterizing her as a Nazi at a protest. In Ontario’s Niagara region, the public health officer and a regional councillor have been targeted outside their work hours.

Prime Minister Trudeau on Wednesday said there are no plans to expand Bill C-3 to cover politicians across the country, for now. Bill C-3 makes it an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison for those found guilty of intimidating health-care workers and patients trying to access medical care.

Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor of international relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, said that while politicians may be reluctant to pass laws limiting public expressions of opposition to government policy, they could take action against social media platforms.

“Social media organizations … are pumping out a lot of disinformation, a lot of hate, a lot of anger, encouraging bounties, to follow people around and try to catch them breaking the rules,” she said.

While there appears to be an increase in Canadian incidents, it has been an acute feature of the American pandemic experience from nearly the beginning. In an in-depth New York Times investigation three months ago, the newspaper identified more than 500 health officials at various levels of government who left their jobs in the preceding 18 months. Many were said to be demoralized after facing abuse and threats from members of the public.

Read the full story

Vaccination plus infection offered most protection during Delta surge, U.S. study shows

Protection against the previously dominant Delta variant of the coronavirus was highest among people who were both vaccinated and had survived a previous COVID-19 infection, according to a report published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report also found those who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday.

Protection against Delta was lowest among those who had never been infected or vaccinated, the CDC report continued.

For the study, health officials in California and New York gathered data from May through November, which included the period when the Delta variant was dominant. It showed that people who survived a previous infection had lower rates of COVID-19 than people who were vaccinated alone.

That represented a change from the period when the Alpha variant was dominant, Dr. Ben Silk of the CDC and one of the study’s authors, told a media briefing.

“Before the Delta variant, COVID-19 vaccination resulted in better protection against a subsequent infection than surviving a previous infection,” he said.

Silk said the agency position is that “vaccination is still the safest way to protect yourself against COVID-19.”

Acquiring immunity through natural infection carries significant risks. According to the study, by Nov. 30, 2021, roughly 130,781 residents of California and New York had died from COVID-19.

In addition, even with significant levels of acquired immunity, the U.S. is suffering a toll during this Omicron wave that has few if any peers among G7 and European Union countries. For the last seven-day report, the U.S. was averaging more than 782,000 cases, 20,600 hospitalizations and 1,729 COVID-19-related deaths per day. The numbers represented increases ranging from 25 to 37 per cent over the previous week.

Full story

The latest numbers by province/territory in the Omicron wave

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