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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on March 11

Canada's first 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca are being administered just this week, and officials in several provinces said Thursday they don't intend to stop the rollout.

Canadian health officials watching probes of AstraZeneca vaccine, but see no sign it causes blood clots

Vials labelled "AstraZeneca COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken March 10, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

The latest:

There's no evidence that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine caused blood clots in people inoculated with it in Europe, according to Canadian health authorities, who are keeping an eye on the investigations there. 

At least nine European countries hit pause on their use of AstraZeneca's doses — some entirely, and others only on specific batches — pending further investigation, though none suggested there is a link between the clots and getting the vaccine.

"Health Canada is aware of reports of adverse events in Europe following immunization with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and would like to reassure Canadians that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks," the agency said in a statement Thursday evening. 

"Health Canada authorized the vaccine based on a thorough, independent review of the evidence and determined that it meets Canada's stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements."

Canada's first 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca are being administered this week. Officials in several provinces said Thursday they don't intend to stop the rollout.

"At this time, we have no information to suggest that this vaccine poses more risks than any other," said Dr. Horacio Arruda, director of public health in Quebec.

Canadian supply coming from from India, not Europe

Carlo Mastrangelo, the head of corporate affairs, communications and sustainability at AstraZeneca Canada, said the company has completed a new safety review of 10 million patients who received the vaccine. It uncovered "no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.

"In fact, the observed number of these types of events are significantly lower in those vaccinated than what would be expected among the general population," he said.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton, said he has been inundated with calls from family doctors who are supposed to start inoculating patients this weekend.

Chagla said he will give the vaccine to patients this weekend as planned, because he trusts that Health Canada, which is constantly monitoring safety reports, would step in if there was any concern.

Health authorities in Denmark, which halted AstraZeneca vaccinations Thursday after an undisclosed number of blood clots were reported, said they stopped using the vaccine to be extra cautious, not because there was a connection.

Chagla said if a link is found, it may be specific to one batch of the vaccine, which also has to be examined. Canada's doses, he noted, are currently coming from the Serum Institute of India, while Europe is getting its doses from facilities in the EU.

Health Canada stressed that no link has been established. 

"To date, no adverse events related to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, or the version manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, have been reported to Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada."

The European Medicines Agency is probing the issue, but said 30 blood clots in more than five million patients who received the vaccine is not out of step with the normal rate in the general population.

WATCH | Dr. Isaac Bogoch talks about Denmark's decision to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine : 

'No cause for alarm' after Denmark pauses AstraZeneca vaccinations, says specialist

World

3 months ago
2:16
There's no reason to be overly worried after Denmark said it was temporarily stopping inoculations with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to investigate a small number of blood clots, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch. 2:16

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province won't discontinue AstraZeneca, but is working with Health Canada to follow the evidence.

"We are continuing with our AstraZeneca inoculations and we know that several million doses have already been administered around the world with no adverse effects," she said.


What else is happening in Canada

As of 6:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 899,762 cases of COVID-19, with 30,666 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,371.

WATCH | Doctors discuss habits we should keep after the pandemic:

Doctors discuss habits we should keep post-pandemic

Canada

3 months ago
2:07
Cleaner hands, virtual medicine and Canadians' resilience are some of the things doctors on the front line would like to see continue once the coronavirus pandemic recedes. 2:07
 

Canada marked the one-year anniversary today of the "global pandemic" declaration made by the World Health Organization regarding COVID-19.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other political leaders addressed the House of Commons on Thursday with statements on this national day of observance to commemorate those who've died from the novel coronavirus.

"For families and close ones, each death has a before and an after," Trudeau said.

The government has also asked Canadians to think about the health-care and other essential workers who have been on the front lines treating our illnesses, cooking our food, cleaning our stores, schools and workplaces, and delivering countless items to us.

WATCH | Canada marks one year since the pandemic was declared:

Federal leaders mark the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic

Power and Politics

3 months ago
1:40
Party leaders spoke in the House of Commons this morning to mark a national day of observance. 1:40

In Quebec, health officials reported 738 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths on Thursday. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 563, with 111 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

Ontario on Thursday reported 1,092 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 680, with 277 patients in the province's intensive care units.

Meanwhile, Sudbury, about 400 kilometres northwest of Toronto, will move into lockdown on Friday after a large spike in COVID-19 cases. The government said it's placing the region in the strictest category of Ontario's pandemic restrictions framework to curb the spread of more contagious COVID-19 variants and protect health system capacity. Sudbury has been in the second-strictest "red" category of the framework and the province is using its "emergency brake" mechanism to impose the lockdown.

WATCH | Ontario facing new surge in COVID cases due to variants, expert says:

Ontario facing new surge in coronavirus cases due to variants, expert says

Canada

3 months ago
3:15
Aggressive COVID-19 variants have the upper hand in Ontario, which is why the province needs to vaccinate as quickly as possible, said Dr. Peter Jüni of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. 3:15

In Atlantic Canada, health officials in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Health officials in New Brunswick reported two new cases, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one additional case.

In the North, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories all had no new cases to report on Thursday.  

Manitoba reported 91 new cases and three new deaths on Thursday. More than half of the new cases — 50 — are in the Northern Health Region, the province said.

In the rest of the Prairies, Saskatchewan reported 165 new cases on Thursday, but no new deaths. Thousands of people used the province's new booking system in the first few hours it was up and running to make vaccine appointments, with an average wait time on the phone of over an hour.

Alberta reported 364 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths on Thursday. 

In British Columbia, health officials reported 569 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and three additional deaths. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced people may now gather outdoors in groups of up to 10, though limits on indoor gatherings will remain in place. Alcohol sales will also be restricted to shorter hours on St. Patrick's Day. 

Here's a look at what's happening across the country:

- From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 3:45 p.m. ET


What's happening around the world

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 118.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with 66.9 million cases listed as recovered on the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed his $1.9-trillion US stimulus bill into law on Thursday, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic with a measure designed to bring relief to Americans and boost the economy.

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives gave final congressional approval to the measure on Wednesday, handing the Democratic president a major victory in the early months of his term.

"This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country," Biden said before signing.

U.S. President Joe Biden signs the $1.9-trillion US economic stimulus bill in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Biden will later give a national address urging 'hope' on the first anniversary of the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Biden signed the measure before a prime-time speech planned for later on Thursday to herald the anniversary of the lockdown, urge vigilance as the pandemic rages and offer hope amid a growing number of vaccinated people across the country.

In Europe, the European Medicines Agency has recommended that Johnson & Johnson's one-dose coronavirus vaccine be licensed in the EU.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the J&J shot in late February and Canadian regulators gave the OK for the one-dose shot in early March. Health experts hope that having a one-dose vaccine will speed efforts to immunize the world against the novel coronavirus, especially given the arrival of worrying new variants in recent months.

The EU has struggled to quickly roll out shots and immunize its most vulnerable citizens. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, Cambodia reported its first death from the coronavirus on Thursday amid its biggest outbreak so far.

India reported its worst single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since late December on Thursday, as the western state of Maharashtra battled a fresh wave of infections and imposed a lockdown in one of its most densely populated cities.

A total of 22,854 new coronavirus cases were reported in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said. It was the highest daily rise since Dec. 25, according to a Reuters tally. 

India's overall caseload of more than 11.2 million — the world's biggest outside the United States — had been falling steadily since a peak in late September, but increased public gatherings and travel are causing a surge at a time when a majority of Indians have yet to be vaccinated.

The figures are still well below September's peak of more than 90,000 a day.

WATCH | CBC's Salimah Shivji reports on the big spike in India's COVID-19 cases:

Coronavirus surges in India to highest numbers in three months

World

3 months ago
2:04
The CBC's Salimah Shivji reports on the big spike in India's COVID-19 cases and the difficulties of trying to encourage public health policies to curb the virus. 2:04

 South Korea will begin vaccinating elders in long-term care settings against the coronavirus this month after authorities approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults 65 years old and older.

The decision by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was based on encouraging data from England and Scotland that the vaccine lowered hospitalizations and death rates in the age group.

South Korea delayed approving the AstraZeneca vaccine for people older than 65 when it began its vaccination campaign last month, citing insufficient laboratory data. But health experts accused the government of risking the safety of people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The KCDC says 376,000 workers and residents older than 65 at long-term care hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities and rehab centres will begin receiving the shots this month. About 35 per cent of the country's COVID-19 deaths in 2020 were linked to long-term care facilities.

In the Middle East, Jordan's foreign minister is calling for more support with coronavirus vaccines as his country tries to ensure its own citizens as well as hundreds of thousands of refugees, primarily from Syria, are inoculated.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told Germany's Deutsche Welle that Jordan was far short of the number of vaccines it needed, and was trying to procure doses from China and Russia as well as from Western producers.

Jordan has included its massive refugee population in its virus response and is offering them free vaccines. But he says the onus shouldn't be on Jordan alone. Safadi said "refugees cannot be the responsibility of host countries only; it is a global challenge and therefore the solution has to be global."

He says Jordan does "appreciate the tremendous support that we got from our partners in Europe and the U.S. and others," but that now resources are dwindling for refugees.

In Africa, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging "continental capacity" to produce COVID-19 vaccines as Africa tries to vaccinate more of its 1.3 billion people. Dr. John Nkengasong told reporters Thursday that at least five African countries appear to have the capacity to produce vaccines. He mentioned South Africa, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt.

He said a meeting is planned for April 12 between the African Union and outside partners to create a "road map" for boosting African capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines. "It's so important for us to have that," he said.

Birgitte Markussen, head of the European Union delegation to the African Union, told the briefing that "efforts will be made to support local production" of vaccines. She said solidarity is important "to make sure no one is left behind" in global efforts to stop the pandemic.

At least 22 of Africa's 54 countries have received COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX program. The continent has set a target of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of its people.

In the Americas, new COVID-19 cases continue to fall in North America, but in Latin America infections are still rising, particularly in Brazil where a resurgence has caused record daily deaths.

- From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 2 p.m. ET

With files from Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News

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