March 7, 2022

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for July 12 | CBC News

  • Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • Vaccines not the full solution for keeping Canada’s COVID-19 numbers down, most experts agree.
  • Final report on Canada’s pandemic warning system doesn’t clear up why alert process was changed.
  • Current U.S. situation might not warrant Pfizer’s recent push for booster shots.
  • Explore: ‘A sensory overload of joy’: Hugs make a comeback as a result of Canada’s vaccination progress; one of Canada’s foremost infectious diseases specialists took questions from CBC listeners on Cross Country Checkup on booster shots and masking for kids.

Relatives of Wiwik Haryati, a 59-year-old woman who died because of the coronavirus disease, cry at her funeral at a burial area provided by the government for victims of the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters)

Canada to donate almost 18 million surplus AstraZeneca doses to low- and middle-income countries

Canada is donating 17.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine to help inoculate people in low- and middle-income countries, federal ministers announced Monday.

International Development Minister Karina Gould and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the doses are part of the federal government’s advance purchase agreement with the company and would be distributed through COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative.

“This donation is a result of our proactive approach to securing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines in our initial contracts. With close to 55 million vaccines in Canada, and with the demands of the provinces and territories for this vaccine being met, we are now in a position to donate these excess doses,” Anand said.

Canada had been criticized in some quarters for both taking vaccines from the COVAX pool during a time of low vaccine supply here and also more recently for contributing cash but not vaccines when global leaders called for contributions early last month. Gould at that time said Canada would double its monetary commitment to COVAX, to about $440 million.

Anand said the provinces told the Public Health Agency of Canada that they have all the AstraZeneca they need, which allowed the federal government to make the donation.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was de-emphasized in Canada’s inoculation campaign in favour of mRNA vaccines not long after reports of a statistically small number of recipients experiencing a rare but serious blood clotting condition. But the vaccine has been used extensively around the world, including in Britain, which has been an early leader in vaccinating its citizens.

Ottawa also announced it is partnering with UNICEF on a donation-matching fundraising campaign to encourage Canadians to donate vaccine doses by contributing $10. All donations by Canadians will be matched by the federal government, up to a maximum of $10 million.

The campaign runs until Sept. 6 and people can donate via UNICEF or by texting VACCINES to 45678. Anand and Gould said that if the UNICEF campaign is maxed out, it will provide enough money to vaccinate four million people in countries where inoculation campaigns are struggling to meet demand.

From The National

COVID-19 vaccination rates have started to fall in the U.S. even as the number of cases rise, mostly in areas where vaccine uptake has been low. Officials are trying to incentivize the vaccine, but they say more drastic measures may be needed. 1:58


What Canada needs to do now to capitalize on low COVID-19 levels and keep them that way 

In recent days, Canada averaged fewer than 500 new COVID-19 cases per day, fewer than 750 patients in hospital and just 366 people in intensive care.

Generally speaking, these are positive numbers not seen since September or October of 2020, but with a difference — vaccines were not available to the public then. (See chart further down in this newsletter for national vaccine progress).

Ontario, Canada’s largest province with a population of close to 15 million people, recorded no new deaths from COVID-19 on July 7, for the first time in nine months, and the country’s capital on Monday heralded no new cases for the first time since July 2020.

At least one study indicates that, even in the face of the transmissible delta variant, those who are vaccinated should largely experience mild to moderate illness if they suffer a so-called “breakthrough infection.”

“There is that potential that the vaccinated people are going to be fine. At most, it might seem like they have a cold,” said study co-author Dr. Jeff Kwong, an epidemiologist and senior scientist at the Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

As for the rest of Canadians, simply encouraging the unvaccinated to roll up their sleeves will only go so far to prevent outbreaks in the fall, experts say, and keeping COVID-19 levels low will require a targeted strategy.

A new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the use of both masking and HEPA air filters reduced the risk of COVID-19 exposure in a classroom-like environment by up to 90 per cent.

Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, says that there should be an emphasis on locations where masking is intermittent and people come into close contact indoors: schools — as many kids won’t yet be vaccinated by the fall — office buildings, restaurants and bars.

“We really need to figure out how to make those places safe,” said Fisman. “Vaccines are a lot of it, but with the variants, we’re not going to have this thing disappear as I think many of us had hoped in the spring.”

Read more analysis on the situation

Canada’s pandemic warning system was understaffed and unready when COVID hit, review finds 

The final report on what went wrong at that key moment with Canada’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) — a multilingual monitoring system that scours the internet for reports of infectious diseases — was released Monday.

The report ordered by Liberal Health Minister Patty Hajdu found that, among other details, surveillance was not well co-ordinated in the four years leading up to the arrival of the novel coronavirus. That was partly because a key position — chief health surveillance officer — had been left vacant since 2017 and was due to be eliminated.

The report says the internet-based GPHIN surveillance system had experienced a turnover in critical staff and the network had never regained the positions cut in the course of the former Conservative government’s deficit-reduction action plan.

In 2019, authority to issue alerts was taken away from the GPHIN team and vested with the vice-president of the agency. The question of who ordered this significant policy change was never answered.

The closest the panel got to an explanation for this decision was the observation that senior leadership overseeing GPHIN — mostly people with no public health background — were worried about optics.

“The panel has heard on several occasions that some senior leaders were concerned about alerts being interpreted as official Government of Canada positions on events happening internationally, or that some alerts may have been premature or unnecessary,” the report says. “These are valid concerns to raise. But, in isolation, this confusion should not be the premise upon which PHAC alters its approach to international surveillance.”

The panel makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving GPHIN — including a call for a clearer mandate, better technology and more collaboration with private sector partners controlling sophisticated health surveillance systems.

Read more about the report

More data needed as Pfizer looks to COVID-19 boosters, experts say 

Pfizer officials were meeting with U.S. federal health officials on Monday after saying late last week that they would soon ask American and European regulators to authorize a booster dose of their vaccine made with Germany’s BioNTech because of an increased risk of infection after six months.

In interviews with Reuters, some leading vaccine experts questioned Pfizer’s rationale and said that more data was needed to justify a booster, especially as many countries struggle to administer the initial vaccine doses needed to protect their citizens.

“It’s disappointing that with such a complicated decision they took such a unilateral approach,” said Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center who is overseeing U.S.-government-backed COVID-19 vaccine trials.

Several experts say a booster shot would be warranted if there is a substantial increase in hospitalizations or deaths among vaccinated people. That has not been the case so far in the United States, where the overwhelming majority of severe illness occurs in unvaccinated people, he said.

Pfizer board member Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC he believed “boosters will likely be an option for older individuals who were vaccinated a while ago heading into the fall and winter.”

In a statement, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada said that the health regulator had “not received a submission from Pfizer for the approval of a COVID-19 booster shot.”

The World Health Organization said on Monday that rich countries should not be ordering booster shots for their vaccinated populations while other countries have yet to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

Read more about the debate

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.


Black Widow brings back box office gold for U.S. movie theatres

Black Widow, starring Scarlet Johansson, had been slated for a spring 2020 opening in theatres worldwide, but the pandemic caused a significant delay for the release. (Marvel Studios)

Even with an option to watch Black Widow at home, the first Marvel movie released in two years generated an estimated $80 million US in ticket sales in North America, part of a worldwide gross of $215 million US, the largest domestic opening weekend since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in 2019.

“This was a pretty monumental weekend for the industry,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s senior media analyst. “Black Widow played well on big screens and small screens. And it actually strengthens the case for movie theatres.”

Currently, 81 per cent of North American theatres are open, and most are operating at full capacity. Overall the films shown this weekend, which included F9 of the Fast and Furious franchise, grossed a total of $117 million US.

That’s the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that a moviegoing weekend overall has surpassed $100 million US.

The major chains in late May said they would no longer require the fully vaccinated to wear masks inside the viewing rooms, citing improvements in ventilation, but moviegoers aren’t generally being asked to provide proof of vaccination status.

The haul on this continent from in-person viewing at cinemas is almost entirely American. In Canada, theatres in general have only recently opened to customers, usually with capacity limits, or are nearing a reopening.

The Movie Theatre Association of Canada has pushed for cinemas to reopen for months, decrying what it says has been a lack of consultation from government about restrictions on capacity.

Read more about the weekend box office

Find out more about COVID-19

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