May 4 COVID-19 update: Five-death day, Time may shorten between vaccinations, ‘Preferred’ vaccination

Special to WC Online

OTTAWA – Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting a single-day tally of new COVID-19 cases under 100 for the first time in more than a month, but five more residents die due to the deadly coronavirus.

Five new COVID-19 related deaths were reported today (May 4), bringing the total to 515. The five new deaths include one person in their 40s, another in their 50s, one in their 60s, one in their 70s, and one person in their 90s.

COVID-19 deaths by age group to date in Ottawa: One in 30s; four in 40s; 15 in 50s; 57 in 60s; 93 in 70s; 185 in 80s; and 160 in 90s.

OPH is confirming 94 new COVID-19 cases in the community today. The last time that daily number was under 100 was back on March 24, when it hit 80. March 25 saw 151 new cases confirmed, and the daily number of new cases hadn’t dropped under triple-digits until today.

Local COVID-19 hospitalizations are down to 101, with 28 patients in intensive care.

OPH says 18 Ottawa healthcare institutions are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. Eight childcare centres and two schools are also seeing outbreaks. The health unit continues to track six community outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

Key indicators of community COVID-19 spread, such as the weekly incidence rate, continue to drop. The weekly incidence rate is now down to 109.7 per 100,000. The local positivity rate remains at seven per cent today.

The City of Ottawa has received 362,780 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and administered 91 per cent of them. OPH says there are 1,777 active cases of COVID-19 in the city.

There have been 24,751 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa (22,459 resolved) since March of 2020.

Ontario is reporting 2,791 new cases of COVID-19, Tuesday, including 11 in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s area, seven in the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark district and two in Renfrew County and district.

Time between second dose may shorten

ONTARIO – Ontario health officials might shorten the length of time between the two required COVID-19 vaccine doses as it prepares to receive more supplies this month.

The province expects to receive weekly Pfizer vaccine shipments of more than 785,000 doses in May, and more than 938,000 doses per week next month.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said yesterday (May 3) the additional supply might allow the province to shorten the four-month interval between the first and second shots.

“We expect with the much larger quantities of the Pfizer vaccines we’re receiving throughout the month of May, we may well be able to shorten the timeline for people to receive their second doses,” she said.

If that happens, Elliott says people will be contacted to arrange a new time for their second appointment, adding the new interval would be closer to the original timeline for vaccinations.

Pfizer recommends a 21-day interval between its two shots, while Moderna recommends four weeks and Oxford-AstraZeneca advises between four and 12 weeks. 

Ontario extended the interval between doses this year in a period of slow vaccine supply to Canada, making some exceptions for certain at-risk individuals. 

The province is sending half its vaccine supply to designated COVID-19 hot spots for the next two weeks.

The government has said it hopes to allow all adults in the province to book shots by the end of the month. 

Confusion between ‘preferred’ vaccine suppliers

CANADA – The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 they’re offered.

NACI said Monday (May 3) the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are “preferred” and Canadians should weigh the risks of waiting for one of them before deciding whether to take a more immediate jab of either of the other two approved for use in Canada.

The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines have been linked to a new and extremely rare blood-clotting syndrome.

Because of that, Dr. Shelly Deeks, vice-chair of the committee, said someone working from home in a province where there is not much disease might want to wait for a shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

But she said it would be a very different risk-benefit analysis for someone working in a manufacturing plant without personal protective equipment in a province where COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire.

NACI’s advice appears to contradict Health Canada’s long-standing recommendation the best vaccine is the first one available.

Some doctors took to social media to denounce NACI’s latest advice, warning the committee is sowing confusion and exacerbating vaccine hesitancy.

“It pains me to say this but it’s past time to take NACI’s recommendations with a grain of salt,” emergency physician and CBC radio show host Dr. Brian Goldman released in a statement. “For the good of your health, do not be choosy when it comes to covid vaccines. Take the first one you’re offered.”

People who were inoculated with AstraZeneca also took to social media to express anger they’d been hoodwinked into getting a second-rate vaccine while others questioned whether they should cancel planned first jabs of that vaccine or refuse a second dose of it.

NACI chair, Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, only made matters worse in trying to explain the committee’s advice during an interview yesterday on CTV’s Power and Politics.

“If for instance my sister got the AstraZeneca vaccine and died of a thrombosis when I know it could have been prevented and that she is not in a high-risk area, I’m not sure I could live with it,” she said.

The risk of the new blood-clotting syndrome, known as vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, is estimated to be anywhere from one case in 100,000 doses given, to one in 250,000. But the syndrome is so new, there is still little known about what the real risk is, why it is happening and who might be most likely to develop clots.

Seven cases have been reported to date in Canada, all in people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some 1.7 million doses of which had been given out as of April 24.

As of April 23, 17 cases of VITT had been confirmed out of more than eight-million doses of the J&J vaccine administered in the United States.

Health Canada has approved J&J for use in Canada but no Canadian has yet received it as the first batch delivered last week is still being investigated following reports of safety and quality control violations at the American facility involved in its production.

NACI suggests provinces and territories might want to prioritize J&J, the only single-shot vaccine approved in Canada so far, for people who have difficulty scheduling a second dose. It recommends that J&J, like AstraZeneca, be given only to people over the age of 30.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner raised the confusion NACI’s latest advice has created in the House of Commons on Monday.

“This is a lot different than what we have been hearing,” she said. “Does Health Canada advise taking the first vaccine offered or to wait, if one can, for an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine?”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu responded Health Canada is responsible for approving vaccines for use while NACI provides independent advice on how best to administer them. She advised Canadians wondering which vaccine is right for them to ask their health-care provider.

Both AstraZeneca and J&J are viral-vector vaccines, a technology that takes a common cold virus, manipulates it so it can’t replicate and make someone sick, and then attaches the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine helps the body mount an immune response that will recognize and fight off a real SARS-CoV-2 virus if it is ever exposed to one.

Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology, attaching the spike protein to a molecule that delivers messages to the body to carry out certain functions. In this case the message is to mount an immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

So far in Canada, 12.8 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine. About two-thirds of them received Pfizer, one-fifth received Moderna and the rest AstraZeneca.

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