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Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

LAURAN NEERGAARD THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Sep 20th, 2021

Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with kids now back in school and the extra-contagious delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.

For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose — a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press.

The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, he said.

“I think we really hit the sweet spot,” said Gruber, who’s also a pediatrician.

Gruber said the companies aim to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for emergency use in this age group, followed shortly afterward with applications to European and British regulators.

Earlier this month, FDA chief Dr. Peter Marks told the AP that once Pfizer turns over its study results, his agency would evaluate the data “hopefully in a matter of weeks” to decide if the shots are safe and effective enough for younger kids.

Many Western countries so far have vaccinated no younger than age 12, awaiting evidence of what’s the right dose and that it works safely in smaller tots. But Cuba last week began immunizing children as young as 2 with its homegrown vaccines and Chinese regulators have cleared two of its brands down to age 3.

While kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Cases in children have risen dramatically as the delta variant swept through the country.

“I feel a great sense of urgency” in making the vaccine available to children under 12, Gruber said. “There’s pent-up demand for parents to be able to have their children returned to a normal life.”

In New Jersey, 10-year-old Maya Huber asked why she couldn’t get vaccinated like her parents and both teen brothers have. Her mother, Dr. Nisha Gandhi, a critical care physician at Englewood Hospital, enrolled Maya in the Pfizer study at Rutgers University. But the family hasn’t eased up on their masking and other virus precautions until they learn if Maya received the real vaccine or a dummy shot.

Once she knows she’s protected, Maya’s first goal: “a huge sleepover with all my friends.”

Maya said it was exciting to be part of the study even though she was “super scared” about getting jabbed. But “after you get it, at least you feel like happy that you did it and relieved that it didn’t hurt,” she told the AP.

Pfizer said it studied the lower dose in 2,268 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids. The FDA required what is called an immune “bridging” study: evidence that the younger children developed antibody levels already proven to be protective in teens and adults. That’s what Pfizer reported Monday in a press release, not a scientific publication. The study still is ongoing, and there haven’t yet been enough COVID-19 cases to compare rates between the vaccinated and those given a placebo _ something that might offer additional evidence.

The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that sometimes occurs after the second dose, mostly in young men. The FDA’s Marks said the pediatric studies should be large enough to rule out any higher risk to young children. Pfizer’s Gruber said once the vaccine is authorized for younger children, they’ll be carefully monitored for rare risks just like everyone else.

A second U.S. vaccine maker, Moderna, also is studying its shots in elementary school-aged children. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger tots as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.

Western University students set to walk out of class to protest ‘culture of misogyny’

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 17th, 2021

Students at Western University are set to walk out of class Friday to protest what they call a “culture of misogyny” on campus after a series of sexual assault allegations surfaced in recent days.

The students say they will also be speaking out about the London, Ont., school’s handling of those allegations.

Western and London police have said four women have come forward with formal complaints about being sexually assaulted on campus recently.

Police are also investigating allegations made on social media of mass drugging and sexual assaults at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence on campus during orientation week.

The force has said no one has come forward with a formal complaint on those online allegations.

Western announced yesterday that it will require students in residence to take training sessions on sexual violence and consent as it works to address what it describes as a problematic campus culture.

The measure is part of a new action plan that will also see the university hire 100 new “safety ambassadors” — a mix of upper-year undergraduates and graduate students who will work overnight in residences.

The school also plans to create a task force that will take “a comprehensive look” at student safety.

Today’s event is expected to see students walk out of their classes at noon.

Elections Canada ‘clerical error’ leaves Ontario man questioning vote-by-mail system

ERICK ESPINOSA | posted Friday, Sep 17th, 2021

An Ontario man was left questioning the mail-in ballot process after the kit he received contained a different ballot.

Craig and his wife joined 1.2 million Canadians this year in requesting a vote-by-mail package for the federal election. When their kits arrived from Elections Canada, they opened them together only to discover that the instructions did not match the ballot.

“The instructions enclosed with the ballot specifically state that I am to ‘clearly print on the ballot the first and last names of the candidate of my choice,’” he tells CityNews. “It goes on to state ‘do not write anything else on the ballot.’”


As it turns out, the ballots they both received were the normal ballots that already contained the candidate’s names. “There are no instructions in the package on how to complete a regular ballot,” he says.

Concerned that the ballots could be spoiled, Craig contacted Elections Canada for clarity.

“I got through to the first person and explained what the problem was. He said that was a mistake and we will send you out the proper two ballots but would have to get in touch with our regional office.”

However, the regional office told the Pickering resident to ignore the instructions and fill out the ballots as one normally would.

That left him questioning the process. “I said, well it doesn’t really have a lot of integrity to it, does it?”

According to Matthew McKenna of Elections Canada, it’s believed to be a clerical error on their end.

“After the nomination process closes, and the regular ballots are printed, electors voting by special ballot at their local Elections Canada office will often be given a regular ballot to use, instead of the special ballot where they need to write-in the name of the candidate of their choice,” he explained.

According to McKenna, this is done to make the process simpler for the elector. When they do this, their ‘regular’ ballot is still sealed in the series of security envelopes so that the secrecy of their vote is maintained.

“In this case, it sounds like the regular ballot was accidentally included with the elector’s vote-by-mail kit, instead of a special ballot,” says McKenna. “As long as the marked ballot was sealed inside of the security envelopes, it will still go into a ballot box (inside of the inner envelope, indistinguishable, at that point, from the other ballots) for counting on election night.”

Craig discovered online that the vote-by-mail kits in British Columbia contained a different set of instructions compared to Ontario’s. Instructions that, if received with either a ‘special ballot’ or ‘normal ballot’ would provide proper guidance to the voter.

 

“It’s a little thing, but for anyone with a comprehension issue it could be a deal breaker for voting, or getting the vote counted,” he says, asking why things would be done differently between the two provinces.

“It struck me as in if I can’t understand it, what’s somebody who isn’t familiar with the processes, maybe voting for the first time, what are they going to do with it?”

It turns out the type of ballot received wasn’t the only issue for Craig and his wife.

“The ballot wouldn’t even fit in the envelope. We ended up having to cut the edge off as it was about 1/8th of an inch too big.”

Craig wasn’t the only one to reach out to CityNews regarding issues with their mail-in ballot.

“My kit is missing the crucial ballot,” wrote Tony Giverin. “This is the piece of paper that is inserted into envelope A. Is this an isolated case or did others receive the same incomplete kit?”

McKenna says that election workers work hard to ensure that processes are followed precisely to avoid any confusion among electors, but errors do happen from time to time.

“We apologize to this elector for any inconvenience or concern.”

Two NDP candidates resign following anti-Semitic online comments

LUCAS CASALETTO | posted Thursday, Sep 16th, 2021

Two NDP candidates have resigned after their anti-Semitic comments on social media caused an intense backlash.

The party confirms that the two candidates – Dan Osborne from Nova Scotia and Sidney Coles from Toronto – have stepped down.

Federal party leader Jagmeet Singh addressed the resignations during a campaign stop in southwestern Ontario.

“I want to be very clear: their comments were completely wrong and have no place in our party,” Singh said in Essex, Ont., on Wednesday.

“Those messages were completely unacceptable, and the right decision was made.”

Osborne was reported to have Tweeted to Oprah in 2019 asking if Auschwitz was a real place, referring to the Nazi-run concentration camp in Poland during the Second World War.

“I want to offer an apology,” Osborne said in a subsequent tweet Sunday.

“The role of Auschwitz and the history of the holocaust is one we should never forget. Antisemitism should be confronted and stopped. I can’t recall posting that, I was 16 then and can honestly say I did not mean to cause any harm.”

Coles was reported to have posted misinformation about Israel being linked to missing COVID-19 vaccines. Both Coles and Osborne’s Twitter accounts have since been deleted.

“Those comments were wrong, and I’m encouraged to see a clear apology and a complete withdrawal of those comments,” Singh continued.

“In addition, they’re talking about the importance of getting training. Antisemitism is real. We’re seeing a scary rise in antisemitism, and we are unequivocally opposed, and we’ll confront it.”

Yesterday, Singh had said it was enough that the two apologized for their past Anti-Semitic remarks.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) issued a statement on the matter, saying “FSWC exposed and denounced Coles’ tweets in which she repeatedly accused Israel of misappropriating U.S. supplies of the coronavirus vaccine.”

“Coles apologized after the organization called on the candidate to issue a retraction and detailed apology for her false and offensive remarks that hurt members of the Jewish community,” wrote FSWC in a press release.

“We are relieved the candidates have stepped down and committed to participating in antisemitism education, and we thank NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh for his leadership in ensuring this outcome,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of policy at FSWC.

“Amid rising Jew-hatred in this country, all political parties and leaders must send a message, loud and clear, that antisemitism will not be tolerated in any shape or form.”

Today, the three main party leaders are in Eastern and Central Canada, a day after a new poll suggested the already close federal-election race is getting even tighter.


With files from the Canadian Press

 

Where the Parties Stand: Truth and Reconciliation

THE BIG STORY | posted Thursday, Sep 16th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, we asked our listeners what their key issues were in this election, and this week we’ll tackle the top five. Every day we’ll go deep on the major party platforms with an expert immersed in that field. Today, truth and reconciliation. A few months ago, when news of hundreds of unmarked graves at residential schools was horrifying Canadians, it seemed unimaginable that dealing with Canada’s legacy of racism and implementing meaningful reconciliation would not be a leading issue in the next election. Now here we are and … is it?

Every party has a plan to tackle the darkest element of Canada’s history and culture — but what are those plans, and how do they sound to Indigenous people who have been promised so many things, and let down so many times? And speaking of that: How many boil-water advisories are still in effect, and why should any party that has held power in the past four decades be taken seriously on this issue while they remain?

GUEST: Jaida Beaudin, Indigenous journalist, currently at the Waniska Research Centre

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Canada’s inflation rate surged in August

CLAIREFENTON | posted Wednesday, Sep 15th, 2021

OTTAWA —  The Consumer Price Index rose 4.1 per cent in August on a year-over-year basis, the fastest pace since March 2003, according to Statistics Canada.

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.4 per cent in August compared to July.

This is a developing story

More than 150,000 people in Canada experience ‘long COVID’ symptoms: report

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Sep 15th, 2021

More research is needed to understand the so-called “long COVID” condition and the burden it poses on the health-care system, a science advisory group said in a report Tuesday.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, a group that provides guidance to the province on the pandemic, said the post-COVID-19 symptoms affect about 10 per cent of those infected and can last from weeks to months.

“There is under-recognition both for the public but also among clinicians of this condition because it is hard to define and quantify and because we don’t have a lot of information around it,” said Fahad Razak, the lead author of the report.

A conservative estimate suggests about 150,000 Canadians who contract the novel coronavirus experience long COVID-19 symptoms, Razak said. In Ontario, between 57,000 and 78,000 people are affected.

The most common of more than 200 different symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, general pain or discomfort, anxiety and depression.

Razak said individuals experiencing such symptoms have difficulty performing daily activities and require increased health-care resources.

“The burden will not only be on the health system, it will also be on other parts of society because a lot of the disabilities are not just about medical care, it’s about the fact that individuals can’t go back to work, it’s that they need a supportive home, it’s difficulty with work and family life,” he added.

The World Health Organization has reported that approximately one in four individuals who were infected with the virus experience symptoms of long COVID for at least one month. Meanwhile, one in 10 people experience symptoms that last beyond 12 weeks.

The Ontario science advisory group said more research is needed on risk factors for long COVID. Vaccination reduces the chance of developing the post-COVID-19 condition, Razak said.

To date, nearly 84.5 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 78.2 per cent have two doses.

Razak said the latest report from the science advisory group looked at data from the earlier waves of the pandemic and did not take variants of the virus — like Delta and Alpha — into account.

“We don’t have the data yet to know the impact,” he said. “The worry is that those variants are clearly more infectious so we’re potentially running into a problem where we’re going to see even higher rates of the post-COVID condition.”

There is limited Canadian data on health-care use patterns for patients with long COVID, including emergency department visits and hospital admissions, the science group said. A pan-Canadian study is currently being done to examine these patterns for long COVID-19 patients.

BC proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in effect, Toronto workplaces with similar mandates

JAIME PULFER, MICHELLE MORTON | posted Tuesday, Sep 14th, 2021

To stop the spread of COVID-19 during the fourth wave of the pandemic, more workplaces are stepping up in Toronto.

The Toronto Police Service is now policing the vaccination status of all employees, including in uniform and civilian, who now have to show proof of COVID vaccination as of Monday. The force announced the mandatory vaccination policy for officers and staff last month.

It’s the same for City of Toronto employees, all staff are required to be fully vaccinated by October 30th, but are required to tell the City if they’ve been vaccinated by September 13th.

Those municipal employees who choose not to disclose their vaccination status, or are not vaccinated by Monday, will be required to attend mandatory education on vaccines.

On September 20th, this will be the reality for all TTC employees.

All TTC employees must report their vaccination status a week Monday, and must have their first dose by September 30th, and be fully vaccinated by October 30th.

But, the City and TTC said employees who can provide proof of a medical reason for not being immunized would be exempt from the vaccine policy.

Starting Monday the 13th in B.C., you have to show proof you’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to get into any non-essential business. Premier John Horgan says double doses will be mandatory starting October 24th.

This move is something that is gaining traction across the country.

Next Wednesday, Ontario’s proof of vaccination program takes effect, which is already happening in Quebec and Manitoba.

Justin Trudeau, Erin O’Toole tied as election campaign hits final bend

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Sep 14th, 2021

OTTAWA – A new poll shows a complete deadlock between Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives with less than one week left in the federal election.

The poll conducted by Leger in collaboration with The Canadian Press shows both parties tied with the support of 32 per cent of decided voters, with the NDP in third place with 20 per cent.

A similar poll conducted two weeks ago had the Conservatives ahead with 34 per cent compared with 30 per cent for the Liberals and 24 per cent for the NDP.

The polls cannot be given a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

The leaders are back on the campaign trail today after spending yesterday sharpening their attacks, with O’Toole painting his opponent as privileged and entitled — saying while Trudeau was “partying,” he was doing search-and-rescue missions in the military.

Trudeau accused O’Toole of engaging in “personal attacks,” and insisted his own actions could not be compared to the Tory leader’s, even while arguing O’Toole has “proxies” in the anti-vaxxer movement, without providing concrete evidence.

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