Health Canada issued an advisory on Saturday for some people who may want the recently approved Pfizer-BioTech vaccine, as provinces prepared to receive their first doses next week in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The department said Canadians who have allergies to any of the ingredients in the vaccine should not receive it. Health Canada noted that two people in the U.K. reported severe allergic reactions to Pfizer–BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 8, the first day of Britain’s mass vaccination program.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, and the first doses are expected to arrive via UPS by Monday.
The first doses destined for Canada left a factory in the small town of Puurs, Belgium, on Friday. The shipment had stopovers scheduled in Germany and Kentucky.
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Also on Friday, top health officials warned Canadians against complacency in guarding against the respiratory illness as the wait for getting the vaccine continues.
Canada is still on a “rapid-growth” trajectory for COVID-19 cases, and the number of deaths from the respiratory illness could hit nearly 15,000 in another two weeks, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said.
More than 13,250 deaths have been attributed to the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began. The current caseload of more than 448,000 could grow to an estimated 577,000 by Christmas Day, according to federal forecasts.
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Tam said Canada could see an average of 12,000 new cases of infection daily, with increasing hospitalizations and deaths, by the beginning of January “unless significant reductions in contact rates are achieved.”
In Manitoba, eligible health-care workers can start booking appointments on Saturday to receive COVID-19 immunizations in Winnipeg. Vaccinations will be administered from Wednesday to Friday at the University of Manitoba Rady Faculty of Health Sciences campus.
The province is restricting access for now because there is only enough of the Pfizer vaccine to vaccinate about 900 people, according to a memo from Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force issued late Friday.
Tam said that over the past week, an average of 2,900 patients with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals on any given day, including 565 people in intensive care.
Canada is expected to receive up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine before the end of the year.
The co-chair of the federal task force studying COVID-19 immunity is warning that the arrival of vaccines in Canada doesn’t guarantee protection against the novel coronavirus or signal that people’s lives will soon return to normal.
Dr. Catherine Hankins told CBC’s The House that there are still too many unknowns about COVID-19 immunity and the effectiveness of vaccines to quickly move beyond the pandemic measures now in place, such as mask mandates and limits on social and business activities.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 11:05 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 452,612, with 73,462 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,308.
Health officials in British Columbia on Friday reported 737 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths. Friday’s report comes a day after B.C. posted 28 COVID-19 deaths — a single-day high for the province that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry described as “one of the most tragic days we have had yet.”
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Alberta reported 1,738 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, along with 18 deaths. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said on Thursday that new restrictions brought in this week should serve as a warning to Albertans about how serious the pandemic has become.
The health system “is in trouble, and we need to work together to save it,” Hinshaw said.
Public health officials in Saskatchewan announced 246 new cases on Friday. The total of known active COVID-19 cases in the province has now dropped to 4,547, after public health officials deemed another 387 cases as recovered.
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The province said the number of known active cases could be inflated due to a backlog of data review.
Manitoba‘s chief public health officer on Friday said the provincial death rate from COVID-19 has increased by more than nine times since Thanksgiving. Dr. Brent Roussin also announced 447 more infections and 14 deaths.
Ontario‘s health minister on Saturday reported 1,873 new cases of COVID-19. Locally, there are 522 new cases in Toronto, 436 in Peel Region, 185 in York Region and 109 in Hamilton, Christine Elliott said in a tweet.
The province announced on Friday that two more regions will enter lockdown first thing on Monday. Bars, shopping malls and gyms in Windsor-Essex and York Region will be closed, and indoor dining at restaurants will be banned.
WATCH | 2 more regions in southern Ontario set to go into lockdown:
The move comes three weeks after Toronto and Peel Region, the other hardest-hit parts of the province, were placed into the “grey” or lockdown-level zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework. The case counts in those regions have continued to climb steadily since.
The provincial government also said Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will move into the red “control” zone. Ontario reported 1,848 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with 45 additional deaths.
In Quebec, health officials reported 1,898 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and 40 additional deaths.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported three new cases on Saturday.
New Brunswick reported one new case on Saturday after announcing eight new cases on Friday and one death.
Also on Saturday, the provincer’s Edmundston region, or Zone 4, entered its first day in the orange phase of COVID-19 restrictions since the early days of the pandemic.
Public Health made the recommendation to put the zone in the more restrictive phase after an outbreak at the Edmundston Regional Hospital.
Across the North, Nunavut reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. All are in the community of Arviat, bringing the total number of active cases there to 56.
Dr. Kami Kandola, chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories, said in a news release late Thursday that five travel-related cases had been reported in Yellowknife.
Yukon reported no new cases on Thursday and had not yet provided an update on Friday.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday, more than 71.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 45.5 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.6 million.
The United States on Friday authorized the use of a vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, with the first inoculations expected within days, marking a turning point in a country where the pandemic has killed nearly 300,000 people.
Health-care workers and elderly people in long-term care facilities are expected to be the main recipients of a first round of 2.9 million doses this month.
In Europe, another 761 people died of COVID-19 on Friday in Italy, bringing the country’s death toll from the virus to 63,387, just behind Britain’s toll of 63,603 dead, according to Johns Hopkins University.
France registered 13,406 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 2.35 million, and the number of hospitalizations continued the downward trend, data released by the health authorities showed on Friday.
Hospitalizations fell by 256 to 24,975, and the number of patients in intensive care units dropped by 75 to 2,884, maintaining a running slowdown first recorded on Nov. 14.
Several tourists attractions in Paris, including the iconic Louvre and Eiffel Tower, will remain closed during the nation’s second stage of lifting lockdown measures, which will start on Dec. 15.
In Africa, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune marks a year in office on Saturday, but he is nowhere in sight since his evacuation to Germany more than six weeks ago for treatment of COVID-19.
The president’s office issued a statement on Nov. 30 saying Tebboune had left a “specialized” medical facility, was continuing his convalescence and should be returning home “in the coming days.”
The statement compounded the growing mystery surrounding the 75-year-old Tebboune, his whereabouts and his health. The clinic where he was treated was never made public.
Tebboune left for Germany Oct. 28.