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Canada to receive 168,000 Moderna vaccines by end of December

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 16th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has signed a contract to receive up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December.

The Moderna vaccine is still in the final stages of its review by Health Canada but Trudeau says deliveries could begin within 48 hours of the department’s experts giving it the green light.

Canada has contracted to receive two million doses from Moderna by the end of March, and 40 million by the end of 2021. But initially the first doses weren’t going to arrive until January.

Now they will start arriving within two days of the vaccine’s authorization by Health Canada. The Moderna vaccine’s less stringent storage requirements will allow remote communities and northern territories to start receiving vaccine for the first time.

Health Canada approved the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech Dec. 9 and injections began in Ontario and Quebec Monday morning, with most provinces on track to deliver their first vaccinations by the end of the week. There are 30,000 doses arriving this week, and Trudeau said 200,000 more will arrive next week.

Because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at ultralow temperatures – between -60 C and -80 C until shortly before injection – it was initially limited to 14 delivery sites in the 10 provinces. Trudeau said by next week there will be 70 sites.

Moderna’s vaccine is stored in regular freezers at about -20 C, which makes it easier to ship and store. Trudeau said the territories and remote communities, which asked not to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because of the cold-chain complexities, will be prioritized for the Moderna vaccine.

In all there should be 417,000 vaccine doses in Canada before Dec. 31, which will be distributed to provinces and territories based on population share, but the territories will get all of their doses from Moderna.

“This is the good news we all needed,” Trudeau said. “This pandemic will end. We will get through this. But for now, we need to be incredibly careful.”

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, told The Canadian Press the department’s review of Moderna’s vaccine is in the final stages. She said the final clinical data from the Massachusetts-based biotech company were received Dec. 11, and the final data on the manufacturing process is expected before the end of the week.

“It does look promising and it does look positive,” said Sharma.

She said she will know better when the manufacturing data comes in how much longer it could be until a decision is made.

Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses – 21 days apart for Pfizer’s and 28 days apart for Moderna’s. Sharma said with the Pfizer vaccine, a recipient’s immune system generates some protection after the first dose, with maximum immunity in place seven days after the second dose.

Pfizer is shipping its doses to Canada from its manufacturing facility in Belgium but Canada has contracted FedEx to bring over the Moderna vaccine from Europe. Health-logistics firm Innomar will use its network of cold-storage facilities to receive the Moderna doses and repackage them for deliveries to the provinces and territories.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the vice-president of logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said a dry-run of the Moderna delivery is taking place Tuesday.

Six million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines are expected by the end of March, enough to vaccinate about three million people. The priority for the first doses are residents and workers in long-term care homes, front-line health workers at high-risk for exposure to COVID-19, people over the age of 80 living independently, and adults in remote Indigenous communities.

The vaccine program will be expanded to others in April, when more doses start arriving. There are also two other vaccines, from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, under review by Health Canada. Sharma said AstraZeneca’s review team is determining if it will request further trials, after the drugmaker discovered some of the patients in the Phase 3 trial didn’t receive the full doses of its vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson submitted its application Nov. 30, so that review is in the very early stages, said Sharma.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for use on people over the age of 16, who are not allergic to any of the ingredients. However pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with compromised immune systems are warned to talk to their doctor before getting it.

Canada’s vaccine advisory panel Wednesday recommended more testing before COVID-19 vaccines are routinely offered to pregnant or breastfeeding women, kids under 16, or patients with compromised immune systems.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is encouraging vaccine-makers to expand clinical trials to include more study of their products in those groups.

But the committee’s experts also say if there is evidence the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the potential risks of COVID-19, it could be offered to pregnant women, kids as young as 12, or people who are immunosuppressed, with informed consent.

The only COVID-19 vaccine authorized in Canada so far is from Pfizer-BioNTech for people as young as 16, but people who are immunocompromised, pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding are advised to talk to their doctors before getting it.

Pregnant women were not specifically included in Pfizer’s clinical trials but almost two dozen women who got the vaccine later became pregnant and reported no complications.

Pfizer tested the vaccine on a small sample of children between 12 and 15 years old in the fall, with no safety concerns reported, and intends to expand trials to children as young as five next year.

Ontario hospitals reportedly told to prepare to clear beds for COVID-19 patients

CARYN CEOLIN | posted Wednesday, Dec 16th, 2020

The head of the association representing the province’s hospital workers warns Ontario hospitals face an “imminent risk of overwhelming conditions” as they brace for a spike in COVID-19 patients.

The Ontario Hospital Association has called an emergency meeting of its board of directors for Wednesday, to determine how to cope with the surging second wave.

Provincial health officials on Tuesday reported 921 people hospitalized with the virus, with 249 being treated in the ICU. That’s more ICU patients than at any other point during the pandemic.

It’s a situation the OHA tells 680 NEWS risks getting more dire, if people gather in person over the holidays.

“In late December and into January, hospitals appear increasingly likely to face a wave of seriously ill COVID patients that will almost certainly disrupt other acute care services and operations,” said the OHA. “This is a far more serious situation than wave one given the need to maintain access to elective surgery.”

This comes as hospitals across the province have reportedly been ordered to be ready to clear beds.

The CBC reports Ontario Health has warned every hospital CEO in the province to prepare to activate their emergency plans within 48 hours if needed.

That’ll mean hospitals in locked down Toronto, Peel and York Region, as well as those in red control zones, could have to make up to 15 per cent of their beds available for COVID patients.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the increasing pressure on Ontario’s hospitals is a result of community spread.

“We continue to closely monitor the evolving situation,” Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement, “and are committed to working with our partners to ensure there is capacity in hospitals across the province to provide care for any Ontarian requiring hospitalization.”

‘Tis the season for mass evictions?

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Dec 15th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, a moratorium on evictions in Ontario was once part of Premier Doug Ford’s plan to “make sure you and your family can stay in your home during this difficult time.” But that moratorium didn’t last forever and the past month has seen a torrent of virtual eviction hearings, with tenants often left frustrated, confused and in tears by the process.

What happened to “no COVID-19 evictions” in Ontario? Why have so many been happening at once? What are the opposition at Queen’s Park and activists on the ground doing to stop it? And what are the real problems with tenant rights in Canada’s largest province?

GUEST: NDP MPP Suze Morrison, Official Opposition Critic for Tenant Rights

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

COVID-19 vaccine prevents illness, not infection: Ontario health officials

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Tuesday, Dec 15th, 2020

While the country celebrates the first COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday as a momentous turning point in the pandemic, Ontario Health officials warn we’re not out of the woods just yet.

In the daily COVID-19 briefing, the province’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health said it is important to note that while studies have shown the vaccine will prevent people from becoming ill, they have not yet shown that it prevents infection.

“Even if somebody gets vaccinated, they may have an asymptomatic infection so they still could be infectious to others,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, adding that studies about the vaccine’s potential to protect against infection are ongoing.

“Even when somebody is vaccinated, they need to protect themselves and others from spreading the infection,” she said.

In addition, Yaffe said it will still be several months before we see widespread benefits of the vaccinations.

“Usually for infectious diseases … 70 to 80 per cent of the population has to be vaccinated for what we call herd immunity,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe. We’re not going to get there with this vaccine until probably the summer [of 2021].”

Yaffe added that spread of infection in the general population will not be prevented until we hit herd immunity and cautioned that public health protocols still need to be followed.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, added that he hopes the arrival of the vaccine will give people experiencing “COVID fatigue” renewed energy to buckle down, follow all necessary measures and get through this difficult time rather than abandon safety protocols.

“You can start to see on the marathon, the finish line coming. [People may feel] ‘I don’t have to keep doing this kind of thing for the next two or three years, I can see that there’s a potential end in sight’,” he said. “I would see it as a chance to say ‘we can do this, lets refocus and get [cases] back down again.”

He added that it is best that the population is vaccinated without “massive outbreaks everywhere” and reiterated the need for strict adherence to public health measures.

“We need to come down off this second wave so we can enter the vaccination phase full-tilt in a low incidence prevalence rate,” he said.

Hamilton mall extends hours in anticipation of shoppers from GTA lockdown zones

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Dec 15th, 2020

Lime Ridge mall in Hamilton will be extending its hours from Tuesday until the end of the year in anticipation of visitors from lockdown zones in the GTA flocking to the area for holiday shopping.

According to a memo issued by owners Cadillac Fairview and obtained by 680 NEWS, the move is to facilitate spreading out traffic in the mall and “allow more time for visitors to shop safely.”

The memo adds that mandatory screenings at entrances will continue everyday and regular hours will go back into effect on Jan. 2.

In a response to an employee’s concerns regarding the new hours obtained by CityNews, a guest services supervisor said the mall will continue to follow all traffic guidelines set forth by public health officials.

They added that the mall has a maximum occupancy of 2,400 and if that number is reached, entrances would be closed and customers would be asked to lineup outside until traffic numbers go down.

In addition they said that property staff regularly walk the mall to remind customers and tenants of the various safety measures in place including physical distancing and masking. Bylaw officers have also been visiting the mall regularly and are happy with their procedures, they said.

Meanwhile, “zone hopping” has become a concern across the province as different regions are in different levels of the province’s reopening framework and residents are driving across zones to shop.

During Black Friday shoppers from lockdown zones in Toronto and Peel regions descended on malls in regions with fewer restrictions leading to huge crowds and lineups.

Adamson BBQ allowed to reopen after owner defied lockdown measures

LUCAS CASALETTO AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Dec 15th, 2020

Toronto officials have lifted closure orders and granted permission for Adamson Barbecue in Etobicoke to reopen for takeout and delivery, but the establishment must first secure a business licence.

This, after its owner, Adam Skelly, defied lockdown measures and hosted patrons for indoor dining for several days in late November.

On Nov. 26, Skelly was arrested and hit with several charges including mischief and obstructing police after breaking health regulations imposed by the city and the province.

He was granted and subsequently released on $50,000 bail a day later.

In a release issued on Monday, officials said Skelly and Adamson Barbeque remains in violation of the City’s business licence requirements.

City spokesperson Brad Ross told 680 NEWS that the 33-year-old is prohibited from being present at his restaurant and must stay 200 metres from it.

“The lifting of the requirements of the Section 22 order would permit the Adamson Etobicoke location to open for takeout, delivery or drive through only as allowed for under the Lockdown Regulation, subject to compliance with the City of Toronto’s business licensing bylaw and passing a DineSafe inspection,” the city said as part of its release.

“Should that location defy the restraining order and the Lockdown Regulation and open for indoor and/or outdoor dining, the owner, the business, and/or its employees and agents could face contempt of court findings.”

According to the city, the failure to operate without a business licence can result in a maximum penalty of $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a corporation.

In early Dec., city officials confirmed that Skelly has never operated under a business licence for his original Leaside restaurant, located at 176 Wicksteed Avenue in East York.

According to York Region’s health inspection records, another location, Adamson Barbecue in Aurora, failed multiple health regulations during its last inspection on Aug. 20 of this year.

Indoor dining has been prohibited in Toronto since Oct. 10 and in-person service on outdoor patios was banned when the city went into lockdown on Nov. 20.

Added: Related:
Added: LIVE outside Adamson BBQ: Adam Skelly demands media leave property

As part of his bail, Skelly must comply with the following orders:

  • Stay 200 metres away from Adamson Barbecue.
  • Not operate or direct any business except in accordance with Ontario’s Reopening Act.
  • No communicating on all social media platforms.
  • Obey the Health Protection Act.
  • Obey orders and law handed down by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams and Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa.

“On Dec. 4, the Province of Ontario sought and received a restraining order against Adamson Barbeque, its owner, and other agents, restraining them from contravening the Lockdown Regulation under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA),” the city said.

“The Lockdown Regulation prohibits indoor and outdoor dining. That restraining order remains in place.”

Mayor John Tory supports the municipal licensing and standards order.

“This is a person who has been a repeat offender in this area,” Tory said. “When you’re a repeat offender it is necessary that more severe consequence should follow if you continue to offend.”

“We’re going to be watching this very closely,” he added.

On the day of his arrest, police said Skelly was allowed access to the back section of the restaurant. Skelly and others broke through parts of the drywall to enter the dining area of Adamson Barbecue and damaged the locks placed on the doors.

Officers also arrested 27-year-old Michael Belito Arana of Markham who faces an assortment of charges, including six counts of assaulting police. The Markham man also reportedly spat in an officer’s face and uttered death threats.

Both men have been issued a summons under ‘Failing to Comply with the Reopening Ontario Act.’

Skelly is set for another court appearance on Jan. 4, 2021.

Psychiatrist to be cross-examined by defence at Toronto’s van attack trial

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Dec 14th, 2020

Warning: Details of the trial are graphic in nature, discretion is advised

The prosecution’s final witness in Toronto’s van attack trial will be cross-examined by the defence today.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Scott Woodside says Alek Minassian knew his actions were morally wrong.

Woodside says Minassian’s desire to gain notoriety demonstrates that he knew the attack would be viewed by the public as a despicable act.

The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

CityNews reporter Adrian Ghobrial is covering the trial, follow his tweets below:

The defence argues Minassian should be held not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018, due to autism spectrum disorder.

Minassian’s state of mind is the sole issue at trial since he has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack.

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