Canada

COVID-19 update for Dec. 1: Moderna vaccine still 87% effective 5 months after 2nd dose: Study | Air travellers to U.S. likely to face tougher testing | Omicron variant detected in B.C.

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C.

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the novel coronavirus situation in B.C. for Dec. 1, 2021.

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We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on in B.C. right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen.

Check back here for more updates throughout the day. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


B.C.’S COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS

As of the latest figures given on Nov. 30:

• Total number of confirmed cases: 218,426 (2,889 active)
• New cases since Nov. 29: 358
• Total deaths: 2,333 (no additional deaths)
• Hospitalized cases: 300
• Intensive care: 104
• Total vaccinations: 4,225,218 received first dose; 4,069,988 second doses
• Recovered from acute infection: 213,053
• Long-term care and assisted-living homes, and acute care facilities currently affected: 5

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IN-DEPTH:   Here are all the B.C. cases of the novel coronavirus in 2021 | in 2020


B.C. GUIDES AND LINKS

COVID-19: Here’s everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: B.C.’s vaccine passport is here and this is how it works

COVID-19: Here’s how to get your vaccination shot in B.C.

COVID-19: Look up your neighbourhood in our interactive map of case and vaccination rates in B.C.

COVID-19: Afraid of needles? Here’s how to overcome your fear and get vaccinated

COVID-19: Five things to know about the P1 variant spreading in B.C.

COVID-19: Here’s where to get tested in Metro Vancouver

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool


LATEST NEWS on COVID-19 in B.C.

Moderna vaccine effectiveness not limited to clinical trials

Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is proving effective in the real world, according to doctors at Kaiser Permanente in California who have been tracking nearly 706,000 adults, half of whom had received the vaccine.

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Five months after the second dose, the vaccine was still 87 per cent effective against SARS-CoV-2 infection, 96 per cent effective against COVID-19 hospitalization, and 98 per cent effective against COVID-19 death, researchers reported in The Lancet Regional Health – Americas .

Despite a wide range of chronic diseases among those in the study, the vaccine’s effectiveness against infection ranged from 83 per cent to 92 per cent across age, sex, racial, and ethnic subgroups, researchers said.

Immunologist E. John Wherry of the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the Kaiser study, said it is “highly unlikely” that the Omicron variant of the virus can completely evade all of the immune defenses induced by the vaccines and that current boosters will likely “provide increased protection against this variant.”

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— Reuters

Pfizer begins application for Canada’s approval of COVID-19 pill

Pfizer Inc said on Wednesday it had started the real-time submission of its application seeking Health Canada’s approval of its oral COVID-19 antiviral drug candidate.

The pill, PF-07321332, is designed to block a key enzyme needed for the coronavirus to multiply.

The move comes after the Canadian government announced on Tuesday that it was in advanced talks with Pfizer and Merck & Co Inc regarding a purchase agreement for their COVID-19 antiviral drugs, as the country attempts to control the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The country has identified seven people with the new variant as of Nov. 30.

The drugmaker last month submitted its application seeking U.S. authorization of the experimental pill, which was shown to cut the chance of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of severe disease by 89% in a clinical trial.

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— Reuters

First known U.S. Omicron case found in fully vaccinated traveller

The United States on Wednesday identified its first known case of Omicron, discovered in a fully vaccinated patient who traveled to South Africa, as scientists continue to study the risks the new COVID variant could pose.

Public health officials said the infected person, who had mild symptoms, returned to the United States from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive seven days later.

That patient was fully vaccinated but did not have a booster shot, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, who briefed reporters at the White House.

The person is in self-quarantine and all of the patient’s close contacts have tested negative so far, he said.

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Key questions remain about the new variant, which has rattled markets amid signs it may spread quickly and evade some of the defences provided by vaccines. It has been found in two dozen countries, including Spain, Canada, Britain, Austria and Portugal.

Fauci said it could take two weeks or more to gain insight into how easily the variant spreads from person to person, how severe is the disease it causes and whether it can bypass the protections provided by vaccines currently available.

— Reuters

Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March

Moderna Inc could have a COVID-19 booster shot targeting the Omicron variant tested and ready to file for U.S. authorization as soon as March, the company’s president said on Wednesday.

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Moderna President Stephen Hoge said he believes booster shots carrying genes specifically targeting mutations in the newly-discovered Omicron variant would be the quickest way to address any anticipated reductions in vaccine efficacy it may cause.

“We’ve already started that program,” he told Reuters.

The company is also working on a multi-valent vaccine that would include up to four different coronavirus variants including Omicron.

That could take several more months, he said.

— Reuters

Majority of Canadians unwilling to let unvaccinated friend or family member into their home: poll

With Christmas fast approaching, and family dinners and workplace parties, a majority of Canadians are unwilling to let an unvaccinated friend or family member into their home, according to new polling from Leger-ACS.

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While the overwhelming majority of Canadians are vaccinated, with 75 per cent of the total population fully vaccinated, the poll says three-quarters of Canadians do know someone who’s unvaccinated.

Fifty-seven per cent say they wouldn’t invite an unvaccinated person into their home, a rate that’s highest in British Columbia at 70 per cent, and lowest in Atlantic Canada at 50 per cent. Fifty-five per cent of Ontarians and Quebecers wouldn’t do so, nor would 59 per cent of those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and 58 per cent of Albertans.

English speakers (58 per cent) are more likely to say no to the unvaccinated than French speakers (54 per cent).

“The takeaway is that it’s going to be challenging for a lot of people when they’re interacting over the holidays,” said Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies.

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The polling, Jedwab says, reflects some of the tension within society about what vaccinated versus unvaccinated people are allowed to do or should be doing, and how individuals are negotiating these issues.

— Postmedia News

COVID-19 at childbirth linked with higher risks; antibody drugs appear to be safe

Pregnant women with COVID-19 face higher risks of childbirth complications than those who are not infected by the coronavirus, a new study found.

A separate study suggests mildly or moderately ill pregnant women with COVID-19 can safely be treated with monoclonal antibody drugs such as those from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

The analysis of childbirth complications included 244,645 births, 874 of which were in infected women.

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Researchers reported on Tuesday in PLOS Medicine that miscarriage and stillbirth rates did not differ between the groups.

But after accounting for women’s risk factors, researchers found that those with COVID-19 had 80 per cent higher odds of having too much amniotic fluid, doubled odds of dangerously high blood pressure, more than doubled odds of amniotic infection, nearly tripled odds of hemorrhage during delivery, and nearly doubled odds of hemorrhage afterward. They were also at higher risk for preterm delivery.

“Pregnant women and those who plan to conceive … are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated,” said study leader Dr. Sylvie Epelboin of the University of Paris.

Meanwhile, doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota treated 51 pregnant patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 with one of several monoclonal antibody treatments.

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“No adverse effects were reported, and no patient required COVID-19 related hospitalization,” they reported on Sunday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.

So far, 29 of the women have delivered healthy babies. There was one miscarriage due to a congenital defect not related to the medication.

The investigators note that while the infusions were well tolerated, the study was a small one. Further research is recommended to fully assess safety and efficacy in pregnancy, they said.

— Reuters

Air travellers to U.S. set to face tougher COVID-19 testing

The U.S. is moving to require that all air travelers entering the country show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure in response to concerns about a new coronavirus variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Tuesday.

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Currently, vaccinated international air travelers can present a negative test result obtained within three days from their point of departure. Nearly all foreign nationals must be vaccinated to enter the United States. Unvaccinated travelers currently must get a negative COVID-19 test within one day of arrival.

The new one-day testing requirement would apply equally to U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals.

Reuters reported earlier that a draft proposal was circulating among government agencies for the stricter testing requirement.

A CDC spokeswoman confirmed the agency is working to modify its global testing rules for travel “as we learn more about the Omicron variant; a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States.”

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The administration is also considering whether to require air travelers to get another COVID-19 test within three to five days after arrival in the United States, officials said.

The CDC did not confirm that, but noted it continues to recommend all “travelers should get a COVID-19 viral test 3-5 days after arrival” and “post-travel quarantine for any unvaccinated travelers.”

The stricter rules could be announced Thursday, but it was not clear when they might take effect.

— Reuters

Brain problems seen in 1% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients

Roughly one in every 100 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 will likely have central nervous system complications, researchers reported on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America .

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Among nearly 38,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States and Europe, symptoms led doctors to suspect brain complications in about 11%.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) exams confirmed central nervous system abnormalities that were most likely associated with the virus in 10% of those patients, for an overall incidence of 1.2%.

The most common finding was stroke due to clogged arteries, but the researchers also saw bleeding in the brain, inflammation of the brain, and other potentially fatal complications.

Study leader Dr. Scott Faro of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia said in a statement that while the lung problems related to COVID-19 are well recognized, “Our study shows that central nervous system complications represent a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in this devastating pandemic.”

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— Reuters

Skiers’ group pushes for vaccination proof to ride gondolas at Whistler Blackcomb

Nick Green has been skiing at Whistler Blackcomb since it opened 41 years ago, but this year his enthusiasm has been dampened by concern that unvaccinated people could be riding with him on the gondolas.

“It’s like Russian roulette because you don’t know the vaccination status of the nine other people in the gondola with you,” said Green.

The 70 year-old cancer survivor is part of a “Load Safe Whistler” group behind a 12,000 name petition, calling on the provincial health officer to order proof of vaccination to ride in the five gondolas at Whistler Blackcomb.

“Packing 10 strangers into an enclosed gondola for a minimum 25 minute ride is the very definition of an enclosed space, so it’s totally mysterious to me why Dr. Bonnie Henry won’t protect us,” he said.

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Henry, the provincial health officer, told reporters on Tuesday it is not her job to micromanage businesses.

“As with many specific businesses, I think that is not my role,” she said. “My role is to advise different businesses on how to do their business safely and I would encourage people who ski at Whistler to make their views known to Vail, who makes those decisions.”

—Lisa Cordasco

358 new cases, no deaths reported Tuesday

B.C. recorded 358 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, but no new deaths.

The number of active cases in the province rose just slightly, to 2,889.

Of the new cases, 107 were in Fraser Health, 85 in Interior Health, 57 in Island Health, 56 in Northern Health and 53 in Vancouver Coastal Health.

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There are 300 people in hospital with COVID-19, of whom 104 are in intensive care.

The number of health-care facilities with active outbreaks has dropped to just five after the one at Abbotsford Regional Hospital was declared over.

One case of Omicron identified in B.C.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant of concern in B.C.

Henry said the case was found in Fraser Health from someone who had recently returned from Nigeria.

The person was among 204 people who have been identified as having recently returned from the southern part of Africa. Henry said all these people were self-isolating. She said the Omicron variant was likely not widespread in the province.

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Henry added that while it’s not confirmed whether the Omicron variant – which surfaced globally last week – is more contagious or dangerous.

She said all COVID-19 layers of protection have to be used, particularly masks.

In the lead up to key religious services people attending churches, including choirs, must now wear a mask during services. Readers can remove their masks while speaking.

Air travelers to U.S. likely to face tougher COVID-19 testing

The Biden administration is likely to impose stricter COVID-19 testing rules for air travelers entering the United States amid concerns about a new COVID-19 variant, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.

A draft proposal is circulating among government agencies, officials said, that would require all air passengers arriving from other countries to show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure from their point of origin.

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Currently, vaccinated international air travelers can present a negative test result obtained within three days. Nearly all foreign nationals must be vaccinated to enter the United States. Unvaccinated travelers must get a negative COVID-19 test within one day of arrival.

The administration is also considering whether to require air travelers to get another COVID-19 test within three to five days after arrival in the United States, officials said.

The stricter rules could be announced Thursday, but it was not clear when they might take effect.

—Reuters

Germany moves toward mandatory COVID-19 shots as Europe clamps down

Germany took a step closer toward making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory as the incoming chancellor threw his support behind the move, part of a tougher line by European leaders as the pandemic spirals out of control.

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Olaf Scholz called for a parliamentary vote on the step before the end of the year, saying on Tuesday that he would allow lawmakers to make the decision.

“My recommendation is that we don’t do this as a government, because it’s an issue of conscience,” he said on Tuesday in an online interview with the Bild newspaper.

Scholz and outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel met with state premiers to discuss the country’s outbreak. While the measure wasn’t approved at the talks, there’s a growing consensus across the political spectrum that shots will have to be required.

—Bloomberg News

As Omicron plays havoc with markets, shares of vaccine makers surge

The emergence of a worrisome coronavirus variant is benefiting shares of vaccine makers Moderna Inc, BioNTech and Pfizer as investors search for winning bets in markets roiled by uncertainty in recent days.

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Moderna shares have jumped 28% since last week when the variant, named Omicron, triggered global alarm. Shares of vaccine partners Pfizer and BioNtech have also climbed over that time, with Pfizer up 6% and U.S. shares of BioNTech jumping 15%, in contrast to a decline in the S&P 500 of 2.5%.

Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are the predominant vaccines used in the United States, and it is expected they will be able to re-engineer their products to address the new variant if required.

“They are clear COVID plays and anything that ramps up the intensity of COVID is going to benefit them,” said Kevin Kedra, pharmaceuticals analyst at GAMCO Investors. “They are the front line of defense against COVID.”

Along with the rise in vaccine stocks, the market reactions to the new variant included a sell-off in travel and leisure stocks and brief increases in stay-at-home stocks that thrived during lockdowns in 2020.

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—Reuters


B.C. MAP OF WEEKLY COVID CASE COUNTS, VACCINATION RATES

Find out how your neighbourhood is doing in the battle against COVID-19 with the latest number of new cases, positivity rates, and vaccination rates:


B.C. VACCINE TRACKER



LOCAL RESOURCES for COVID-19 information

Here are a number of information and landing pages for COVID-19 from various health and government agencies.

B.C. COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool

Vancouver Coastal Health – Information on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

HealthLink B.C. – Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page

B.C. Centre for Disease Control – Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government of Canada – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update

World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

–with files from The Canadian Press

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