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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on March 15

Quebecers in the Montreal area should now be able to book vaccine appointments at local pharmacies as the province continues to expand its COVID-19 immunization campaign, while Ontario launched its vaccination booking website.

No new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday in N.L., N.S.

COVID-19 vaccine booking is a patchwork of provincial plans

The National

3 months ago
2:48
Each province is using different systems for people to book COVID-19 vaccinations. Ontario’s online booking system will go live Monday morning, while in B.C. only one health authority currently offers online booking. 2:48

The latest:

Worried about what you've heard about the AstraZeneca vaccine and clots? An epidemiologist explains what's happening: 

Blood clots likely unrelated to AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, epidemiologist says

News

3 months ago
4:01
People who got blood clots after taking the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine probably would have gotten them anyway, says epidemiologist and cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos. He says blood clots are a common ailment among people who are currently the focus of many vaccine programs. 4:01

Quebecers in the Montreal area should now be able to book vaccine appointments at local pharmacies as the province continues to expand its COVID-19 immunization campaign, while Ontario launched its vaccination booking website Monday.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced earlier this month that some 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments through the province's vaccine booking portal Monday, with shots to begin March 22. He said the program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses.

The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious COVID-19 variants, such as the B117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

As of Sunday evening, people age 70 and up were able to register for shots across the province, while in Montreal the target age drops to 65.

The province announced in January it would delay the second of two doses of COVID-19 vaccines for up to 90 days, going against manufacturer recommendations and the early advice of Canada's expert panel on the subject.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has since revised its recommendation to suggest provinces maximize the number of people getting a first dose by extending the interval for the follow-up shot for up to four months.

Health officials in Quebec reported 594 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths on Monday. Hospitalizations in the province decreased to 553, while the number of people in intensive care units fell to 96.

In Ontario, meanwhile, people over 80 are now able to book appointments for vaccines given at the province's mass immunization clinics. Qualifying residents can visit the online portal or call a hotline to book their appointment.

Health Minister Christine Elliott noted on Twitter that not all health units are using the provincial portal, and urged people to check how to book in their area. There were also some glitches and challenges reported with the system. 

The portal opened just hours before the province provided updated COVID-19 figures on Monday, as health officials reported 1,268 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 699, with 298 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

Manitoba also expanded access to vaccines Monday, lowering the age of eligibility to 77 and older from 79 years of age, and down to 57 and older for First Nations. 

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET


What's happening in Canada

WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry on the early days of the pandemic and what's ahead:

Dr. Bonnie Henry on the early days of the pandemic and what’s ahead

The National

3 months ago
8:13
British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks to Ian Hanomansing about what the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic were like, which she has chronicled in a new book written with her sister, and what the next few months could bring. 8:13

As of 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada had reported 913,052 cases of COVID-19, with 31,630 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,495.

In Atlantic Canada, there were no new cases reported in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador on Monday. 

Health officials in New Brunswick reported one new COVID-19 case Monday, which was believed to be travel-related. Prince Edward Island had not yet provided updates for the day.

Across the North, Nunavut reported no new cases and four recoveries on Monday. The territory was down to just two active cases, Premier Joe Savikataaq said in a tweet. Northwest Territories also reported no new cases.

WATCH | Iqaluit opens a large-scale vaccination clinic for anyone over the age of 18:

Iqaluit begins mass vaccinations

North

3 months ago
3:02
After seeing many Nunavut communities inoculated against the novel coronavirus, Iqaluit has opened a large-scale vaccination clinic for anyone over the age of 18. 3:02

Health officials in Yukon had not yet provided updated figures for the day.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 50 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and no additional deaths. Most of the new cases were again in the Winnipeg area. In Saskatchewan, health officials reported 110 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and no new deaths.

The province is piloting a drive-thru vaccine clinic for 64-year-old residents of Regina, and says at least 500 people got their shots on the first day. The clinic will operate all week, and expects to accept younger people in the coming days. 

Alberta health officials reported 364 new cases and three additional deaths on Monday. The province also reported its first cases of the P1 variant, which was first reported in Brazil. 

"Our labs are screening every positive case for variants of concern to help identify them as quickly as possible. In addition, we also do full genetic sequencing on about 400 cases a week," she said in a Twitter thread about the variant cases.

British Columbia reported 1,596 new cases Monday, including 1,046 from the weekend, with a total of 10 new deaths since Friday. The province moved ahead with vaccination bookings for people age 84 and up as of noon local time on Monday. 

The B.C. government says the first doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine coming to the province will be given to priority and front-line workers before Phase 3 starts.

A joint statement from the provincial health officer and health minister says poultry, fish and fruit processing plants; agricultural operations; and large industrial camps will be targeted for the shots.

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 4:35 p.m. ET


What's happening around the world

Students attend Rosshall Academy as all pupils in Scotland return for some class time on Monday in Glasgow, Scotland. Scotland allowed its secondary school students to return to classrooms part time Monday after having closed schools to most pupils due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

As of Monday evening ET, more than 120.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 68 million of those cases listed as recovered on the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.

In Europe, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said an advisory committee meeting on AstraZeneca would be held on Tuesday. The EU medicines regulator, European Medicines Agency (EMA), will also convene this week to assess the information gathered into whether the AstraZeneca shot contributed to thromboembolic events in those inoculated.

Germany on Monday became the biggest country in Europe to suspend use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and European regulators have said there is no evidence the shot is to blame.

The country's health minister said the decision was taken on the advice of Germany's national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation into seven reported cases of clots in the brains of people who had been vaccinated.

"Today's decision is a purely precautionary measure," Jens Spahn said.

Spain also paused administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine Monday for at least 15 days. 

Several other countries, starting with Denmark last week, have temporarily halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent days to investigate cases of blood clots that occurred after vaccination. They include Ireland, Thailand, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Congo and Bulgaria.

AstraZeneca has said that there is no cause for concern with its vaccine and that there were fewer reported thrombosis cases in those who received the shot than in the general population.

The EMA and the WHO have also said that the data does not suggest the vaccine caused the clots and that people should continue to be immunized.

Australia on Tuesday said it would move ahead with using the AstraZeneca vaccine, as is Canada. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the European medicines regulator and the World Health Organization (WHO) had confirmed that the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine was effective and safe to use.

"So we will continue to proceed with the vaccine rollout of AstraZeneca," Frydenberg told Sky News.

France will stop administering AstraZeneca's vaccine pending the assessment by the EMA, President Emmanuel Macron said.

Italy said its halt was a "precautionary and temporary measure" pending the regulator's ruling.

Thailand, meanwhile, announced plans on Monday to go ahead with the Anglo-Swedish firm's shot after suspending its use on Friday. Indonesia said it would wait for the WHO to report.

The World Health Organization appealed to countries not to suspend vaccinations against a disease that has caused more than 2.7 million deaths worldwide.

"As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus," WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said.

Half of Italy's regions, meanwhile, have gone into the strictest form of lockdown in a bid to curb the latest spike in coronavirus infections that have brought COVID-19 hospital admissions beyond manageable thresholds.

Schools, from daycare centres through university level, and retail shops were shuttered Monday in nine regions and the autonomous province of Trento, with restaurants open only for takeout. The "red zones" were imposed up and down the peninsula, from Lombardy in the north to Puglia in the south, with the Lazio region around the capital Rome in between.

The rest of the country was placed under a lesser "orange" level lockdown, while Sardinia remained "white" thanks to its ability to control new clusters of the virus traced to the variant first identified in Britain.

The Health Ministry last fall developed a tiered status of restrictions classifying individual regions on a weekly basis based on their infection rates, hospital capacity and other criteria. Until recently only a few hard-hit regions were under full lockdown, but new clusters of highly contagious virus variants have meant more and more regions have passed into the tightest "red zone" restrictions, even as vaccinations ramp up.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical said on Monday it has signed an agreement with contract manufacturer IDT Biologika to manufacture Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Under the contract, the capacity previously reserved to make Takeda's dengue vaccine candidate will be used to make J&J COVID-19 vaccines instead, Takeda said.

After three months, the capacity will be returned to Takeda to resume manufacturing for the planned launch of its dengue vaccine, the Japan-based drugmaker added.

J&J had previously tapped contract manufacturers such as Catalent and Emergent to scale up production and meet global supply goals. Rival drugmaker Merck also agreed to make J&J's vaccine earlier this month.

South Korea's most populous province ordered all of its foreign workers to be tested by March 22, sparking complaints of long lines and logistical problems, as well as of implicit xenophobia in government messaging.

Singapore and Australia are discussing an air travel bubble with each other to eliminate the need for quarantine as they look to reopen borders.

In the Middle East, protests erupted across many of Jordan's cities and provincial towns against the government's restrictions, a day after oxygen ran out at a state hospital leading to the deaths of at least six COVID-19 patients.

In the Americas, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took a dig at the U.S. government Sunday, saying the United States has not helped Mexico with coronavirus vaccines.

Lopez Obrador thanked India and Russia, which have sent small amounts, and China, whose firms have promised millions of doses. He said: "I hope that soon I will be able to say thanks to the U.S. government, because I am sure they are going to help, too, it is just that that haven't done so so far."

COVID-19 patients rest in a field hospital built inside the Centro Citibanamex convention centre in Mexico City on March 11, 2021, on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus a pandemic. (Fernando Llano/The Associated Press)

Mexico has seen almost 195,000 deaths, and almost 2.2 million cases. The country has approved six vaccines and has administered about 4.34 million shots.

The White House has rebuffed requests from U.S. allies, including Mexico, Canada and the European Union, for vaccine doses produced in the United States, where months of production runs have produced vaccine solely for use in the country.

The U.S. is scheduled to have enough approved vaccine delivered by mid-May to cover every American adult.

In Africa, South Africa's reported total of COVID-19 cases stood at more than 1.5 million on Monday, with more than 51,300 deaths. The country, the hardest-hit on the continent, received additional doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the weekend, with more slated to arrive in the weeks ahead, a local press outlet reported.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 8:10 p.m. ET


Have questions about the pandemic? We're answering as many as we can in the comments.


 

With files from The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News

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