- U.K. regulators say people with history of serious allergic reactions shouldn’t get Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot.
- COVID-19 case detected on Royal Caribbean “cruise-to-nowhere.”
- Alberta tightens COVID-19 restrictions in response to surging infection rates.
- Fly-in First Nation asks for help moving out its elders.
- Manitoba extends restrictions through holidays, with exemptions.
British regulators warned Wednesday that people who have a history of serious allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as the regulators investigate two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program.
The U.K.’s Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is looking into whether the reactions were linked to the vaccine. The two people affected were staff members with the National Health Service (NHS) who had a history of allergies, and both are recovering. Authorities have not specified what their reactions were.
In the meantime, the regulator has issued the warning for anyone who has had a significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food. That includes anyone who has been told to carry an adrenaline shot or others who have had potentially fatal allergic reactions.
“As is common with new vaccines, the MHRA have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday,” Prof. Stephen Powis, medical director for the NHS in England, said in a statement. “Both are recovering well.”
The medical regulatory agency also said vaccinations should not be carried out in facilities that don’t have resuscitation equipment.
Pfizer and BioNTech said they were working with investigators “to better understand each case and its causes.”
Late-stage trials of the vaccine found “no serious safety concerns,” the companies said. More than 42,000 people have received two doses of the shot during those trials.
“In the pivotal phase three clinical trial, this vaccine was generally well tolerated with no serious safety concerns reported by the independent Data Monitoring Committee,” the companies said.
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Documents published by the two companies showed people with histories of severe allergic reactions were excluded from the trials, and doctors were advised to look out for such reactions in trial participants who weren’t previously known to have severe allergies.
Even in non-emergency situations, health authorities must closely monitor new vaccines and medications because studies in tens of thousands of people can’t detect a rare risk that would affect one in a million.
Dr. Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said there is a “very small” chance of an allergic reaction to any vaccine.
The MHRA last week gave emergency authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, making Britain the first country to allow its widespread use.
The U.K. began its mass vaccination program on Tuesday, offering the shot to people over 80, nursing home staff and some NHS workers. It’s not clear how many people have received the vaccine so far.
As part of its emergency authorization for the vaccine, the MHRA required healthcare workers to report any adverse reactions to help regulators gather more information about safety and effectiveness.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 430,925, with 71,906 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,895.
British Columbia reported 566 new cases and 16 more deaths on Tuesday. Hospitalizations rose to 352, the province’s highest point since the start of the pandemic.
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Alberta is imposing strict new measures in an effort to curb soaring COVID-19 infection rates, including a ban on outdoor and indoor social gatherings, a mandatory provincewide mask rule and the closure of dine-in service at restaurants and bars.
The province will also close all casinos and gyms, impose mandatory work-from-home measures and further limit in-person attendance at places of worship, among other measures.
The announcement came as Alberta reported 1,727 new cases and nine more deaths, and set another record with 20,388 active cases. There are 654 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 112 of whom are in ICU, both record highs for the province.
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Saskatchewan reported 183 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, and six more deaths, the highest single-day increase in the province’s death toll since the pandemic began.
Five of the people who died were in their 80s and the sixth was in their 30s.
Saskatchewan now has 406 active cases per 100,000, which is the second-highest in the country, behind only Alberta’s 459 per 100,000.
Manitoba on Tuesday extended sweeping COVID-19 restrictions into the new year, which means holiday gatherings won’t be allowed. At the same time, officials added a number of exemptions to the provincial health order, including lifting a ban on drive-in church services, which some churches have flouted recently.
As well, thrift stores will be allowed to open and sell non-essential items, and acupuncture and osteopathy services will be permitted. The announcement came as the province reported 245 new cases, 13 more deaths and a test positivity rate of 13.3 per cent.
Ontario reported another 1,890 cases of COVID-19 and 28 more deaths linked to the illness on Wednesday.
The number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed infections climbed to 811. Of those, 221 are being treated in intensive care and 129 require the use of a ventilator.
The newly confirmed cases include 517 in Toronto, 471 in Peel Region and 187 in York Region — where hospital CEOs said this morning that their facilities have reached a “tipping point” in COVID-19 admissions.
Ontario is reporting 1,676 cases of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> and nearly 39,200 tests completed. Locally, there are 588 new cases in Toronto, 349 in Peel and 141 in York Region. There are 1,549 more resolved cases.<br> <br>Today’s numbers will be available at 10:30 a.m. at <a href=”https://t.co/ypmgZcdsmV”>https://t.co/ypmgZcdsmV</a>.
Health Minister Christine Elliott on Tuesday said the province is planning to issue some kind of proof-of-vaccination card to those who receive their shots.
Quebec on Tuesday reported 1,564 new cases of COVID-19 and 36 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,313.
Hospitalizations increased to 835, with 114 people in intensive care units, according to provincial data.
In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, leaving the number of cases in the province at 84. P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced four additional cases on Monday, all individuals in their 20s and 30s.
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Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Tuesday. Premier Andrew Furey said on Monday the province would not be rejoining the so-called Atlantic bubble for at least the next month. That means all visitors to the province will be required to self-isolate for 14 days whether they’re from Atlantic Canada or not.
New Brunswick reported five new cases on Tuesday, four of which are in the Fredericton region.
Nova Scotia reported seven new cases on Tuesday, including one at a Dartmouth school.
Across the North, Yukon reported one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 58 — with 10 of those considered active.
Nunavut health officials reported one new case on Tuesday, in the community of Arviat.
There were no new cases reported Monday or Tuesday in the Northwest Territories.
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What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:30 a.m. ET
As of 10:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, there were more than 68.4 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, with more than 44.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a coronavirus tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.5 million.
A Royal Caribbean “cruise-to-nowhere” from Singapore confined nearly 1,700 passengers to their cabins in port for more than 16 hours after a COVID-19 case was detected on board, before allowing some to disembark on Wednesday.
All passengers aboard the Quantum of the Seas vessel had cleared a mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for the virus up to three days before the four-day cruise began on Monday.
Authorities said close contacts of the COVID-19 patient among the 1,680 guests and 1,148 crew members on board had so far tested negative. The passengers had been stuck in their rooms while contact tracing was being conducted.
The Quantum of the Seas returned to Singapore at 8 a.m. local time, and a Reuters witness saw some passengers disembarking at about 8 p.m. All passengers will undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing before leaving the terminal.
Deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the U.S.
“What we do now literally will be a matter of life and death for many of our citizens,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday as he extended restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, including a ban on indoor dining and drinking at restaurants and bars.
While the impending arrival of the vaccine is reason for hope, he said, “at the moment, we have to face reality, and the reality is that we are suffering a very dire situation with the pandemic.”
The United Arab Emirates said Wednesday a Chinese coronavirus vaccine tested in the federation of sheikhdoms is 86 per cent effective, in a statement that provided few details but marked the first public release of information on the efficacy of the shot.
The announcement brought yet another shot into the worldwide race for a vaccine to end the pandemic, a scientific effort that has seen China and Russia compete with Western firms for an effective inoculation. While questions remain about the Sinopharm shot, already at least one country outside China plans to roll it out in a mass-vaccination campaign.
The U.A.E.’s Health and Prevention Ministry announced the results via a statement on the state-run WAM news agency, saying they “have reviewed Sinopharm CNBG’s interim analysis of the Phase III trials.”
“The analysis shows no serious safety concerns,” the statement said, without detailing whether any participant suffered side effects.
The number of households in Israel living under the poverty line has grown by nearly 50% during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an anti-poverty organization’s report published Wednesday. Israel has seen unemployment surge to over 20 per cent since the country first imposed a nationwide lockdown at the start of the outbreak in March. The country’s vital tourism industry has shrunk to virtually nil and thousands of businesses have closed. To make matters worse, the Israeli government has been at loggerheads over passing a national budget, resulting in major cutbacks to social services.