Should fully vaccinated in Ontario mean three doses? – Toronto Star

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As restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues reopen to half-capacity on Monday, the Omicron variant is still spreading, and some doctors and scientists say that it’s time for the official definition of “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 to change.
With growing evidence showing that three doses are better at protecting against symptomatic infection from Omicron, as well as serious outcomes such as hospitalization and death, there are calls for the province to require individuals to get three shots to qualify as fully vaccinated.
​Ontario’s downloadable vaccine certificate, needed to enter indoor spaces, currently requires two doses of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca, or a combination of these vaccines.
But public health guidance shifted just before Christmas, and now all adults are encouraged to get a third shot of an mRNA vaccine. It’s time for the definition of fully vaccinated to shift as well, said Dr. Peter Jüni, scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
“I think it’s really important to understand, the window of opportunity is very short,” he said. “We need to react swiftly if we want to have a safeguard now with this reopening, which is a challenging next step.”
Jüni said the definition of fully vaccinated should change in mid-February to three doses, or two doses if less than three months have elapsed since the second shot, which would give people “some leeway” to make the transition.
“We’re in the middle of the Omicron wave and things will change over time with more and more people getting immune, either through third doses, or through infection,” he said. “Things will eventually slow down, we’re just not quite sure when this will be.” He added that a third dose is roughly 60-70 per cent effective against infection.
This is all the more important, Jüni added, with the arrival of the new subvariant of Omicron in Canada, known as BA.2. According to emerging data out of Denmark, it may be even more contagious than Omicron, but there is no evidence that it’s more severe.
Adding to the growing evidence on the efficacy of third doses, a pre-print study (not yet peer-reviewed) posted online Friday by researchers with Public Health Ontario and ICES, formerly the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, found a third shot was about 61 per cent effective against transmission of Omicron and 95 per cent effective against severe illness or death.
This debate over what constitutes the definition of fully vaccinated is not limited to Canada. Many countries around the world are weighing the merits of changing the definition or have already done so.
Last fall, Israel created new rules around vaccination status, requiring three doses for citizens to obtain a green pass, which allows entry to public indoor areas such as restaurants and gyms. In Austria, citizens with two doses are considered fully vaccinated only for nine months after their second shot. Singapore recently announced that people will lose their fully vaccinated status after 270 days unless they get a booster. And late last December, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, said officials in that country were not against reconsidering the definition but offered no timeline.
Back in Ontario, the chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said at a Thursday press conference that a change to the definition of fully vaccinated would be a “government decision” that he could present options on, but he is awaiting guidance from Health Canada.
“It’s clearly an open policy window at present,” Moore said.
Both the Public Health Agency of Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to define fully vaccinated individuals as those who have received two doses of the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines, or at least one dose of Johnson & Johnson.
“But we will be examining — re-examining those kinds of policies going forward,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, at a recent press conference.
“Now is not the right time” to change this, she said, “because not everybody has had the chance to get that additional dose or getting up to date, not in Canada and certainly not globally.”
As of Friday, 6,258,119 Ontarians have received a booster dose, representing about 53 per cent of the eligible population. But third-dose vaccination rates vary drastically among regions and neighbourhoods, with many of Toronto’s and Peel’s most marginalized communities seeing third-dose uptake still under 20 per cent, while affluent areas have rates above 50 per cent. Overall, more than 80 per cent of Ontarians aged 70 and older have received a third dose.
Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor at McMaster University and an infectious diseases physician, noted that the “huge inequities” in third-dose rates create problems with changing the definition of fully vaccinated.
“To exclude people based on the fact that they’ve only gotten two versus three shots, there’s a lot of issues there,” he said.
Chagla said that vaccine outreach, through ideas like community ambassadors, is a more “positive” way to encourage people than mandates, and there’s much more of that to be done around third doses.
“I think we got more vaccine uptake for sure with the vaccine mandate, but it did come at the cost of really pushing a lot of people against the medical system,” he said, as this approach bred some distrust.
“We can only play that card for so long, before it blows up.”
Dr. Amit Arya, palliative care lead at Kensington Health, notes the common practice of referring to a third shot as a booster implies it offers optional protection, which would be a mistake to assume.
“For a young and healthy person who perhaps has a lower risk at baseline of being hospitalized or being in the ICU, we know that two doses is still likely sufficient to keep you out of the hospital and especially keep you from being critically ill. But three doses is what you need for symptomatic protection from Omicron,” he said.
When it comes to seniors, Arya said the risk of death is higher, especially for those who live with a disability or a chronic life-limiting illness, with just two doses.
Dr. Samir Sinha said continuing to use the term fully vaccinated for two doses is a “huge disservice” not only to seniors who derive enormous benefit from three doses, but people of all ages, “who don’t know how essential and important a third dose is.” Sinha is director of geriatrics at Sinai Health and University Health Network.
“It speaks to a) the importance of clear messaging, and b) the importance of really making sure our hardest-to-reach individuals are appropriately reached by sending them a letter, giving them a phone call, literally knocking on their door.”

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COVID-19 hospitalizations drop again as Quebec reports 11 more deaths – Montreal Gazette

Hospitalizations have fallen to their lowest level in more than two weeks.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Quebec dropped again on Sunday to 2,895.
While still at an elevated level, that figure represents 80 fewer hospitalizations than the day before and the fewest reported by the health ministry in more than two weeks.
Of those patients, 233 are in intensive care — an increase of two.
Quebec also announced that 11 more fatalities had been attributed to the virus, which is the fewest reported since Jan. 1.
The COVID-19 death toll in Quebec now stands at 13,190.
A further 2,838 cases have been confirmed through PCR testing at the province’s clinics. Since this form of testing is off limits to most Quebecers, the number of cases is not considered particularly representative of the situation in the province.
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Teenager seriously injured in Mississauga stabbing – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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A Peel Regional Police cruiser is seen in this undated photo.
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Peel police are investigating a stabbing in Mississauga Sunday evening that left a teenager injured.
It happened in the area of Hurontario Street and Robert Speck Parkway just after 6:30 p.m.
When officers arrived, they found one person with a serious stab wound.
Peel paramedics said the victim, a male under 18 years old, was taken to a trauma centre in serious but stable condition.
No suspect information was immediately available.
STABBING:
– Hurontario St & Robert Speck Pkwy in #Mississauga
– Victim suffered stab wound & taken to trauma centre
– Serious but non-life threatening injuries
– U/K if parties know each other
– C/R at 6:35 p.m.
– PR22-0035991
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Portugal general election: PM Antonio Costa wins surprise outright majority – The Guardian

Prime minister Antonio Costa says parliamentary victory ‘doesn’t mean absolute power’ but he will no longer need to negotiate to form a coalition
First published on Mon 31 Jan 2022 01.57 GMT
Defying all odds, Portugal’s ruling centre-left Socialists won an outright parliamentary majority in Sunday’s snap general election, securing a strong new mandate for the prime minister, Antonio Costa.
The result, boosted by a higher than expected turnout despite the coronavirus pandemic, came as a surprise after the Socialists had lost most of their advantage in recent opinion polls. It means Portugal will have a stable government to oversee the application of EU pandemic recovery funds.

Costa said in his victory speech early on Monday: “An absolute majority doesn’t mean absolute power. It doesn’t mean to govern alone. It’s an increased responsibility and it means to govern with and for all Portuguese.”
Just after 1am in Lisbon, the Socialists were confirmed as winning 117 seats in the 230-seat parliament, up from 108 won in the 2019 election. Earlier, when Costa said the party had won 117 or 118 seats, his supporters erupted in loud celebrations, singing the old revolutionary anthem “Grandola” and waving flags.
After last week’s opinion polls Costa himself acknowledged that Portuguese did not want to give him a full majority and said he was prepared to strike alliances with like-minded parties, which is now no longer necessary.
Sunday’s election was triggered in December after the long-running deal between Costa’s minority government and its allies in the Portuguese Communist party and the Left Bloc broke down during negotiations over the 2022 budget.
The unlikely alliance – known as the geringonça, or improvised solution – finally collapsed when the Communists and Left Bloc joined rightwing parties in rejecting the budget bill after weeks of tense negotiations.
Costa, who has served as prime minister since 2015, had accused his erstwhile geringonça partners of behaving irresponsibly by voting against his budget.
Despite the seemingly unstable nature of his minority government, Costa has won plaudits for turning around Portugal’s post-crisis economy, reversing unpopular austerity measures and overseeing one of the most successful Covid vaccination programmes in Europe.
“Everyone is realising how important this election is, and how important it is that there’s a solid victory that will give the country stability and generate the consensus and national unity that is fundamental for us to turn the page on this pandemic,” Costa told a rally in Porto on Friday.
Recent polls had suggested that the PSD were creeping ahead of the Socialists and that the race would be a narrow one.
Economist Filipe Garcia, the head of consultants Informacao de Mercados Financeiros in Porto, said investors were likely to appreciate Costa’s new strong mandate, given the government’s record cutting of the budget deficit.
“Furthermore, the Socialists will not need to compromise [with other parties], which guarantees stability and a clear line of action. The biggest challenge will be to promote potential growth,” he said.
The centre-right Social Democrats came a distant second at below 30% of the vote, according to provisional results, against the Socialists’ tally of around 42%.
The far-right Chega emerged as the third-largest parliamentary force, making a big leap from just one seat in the previous legislature to at least 11.
A stable government would bode well for Portugal’s access to a €16.6bn ($18.7bn) package of EU pandemic recovery aid and its success in channelling funds into projects to boost economic growth.
With more than a tenth of Portugal’s 10 million people estimated to be isolating because of Covid-19, the government had allowed infected people to leave isolation and cast ballots in person, and electoral officials wore protection suits in the afternoon to receive them.
Turnout was on track to beat 2019’s record low participation of 49%.
As in many European countries, infections have spiked, although vaccination has kept deaths and hospitalisations lower than in earlier waves.
With Reuters

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Special Investigations Unit called in to take over Fraser Street shooting investigation – BayToday.ca

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The province's Special Investigations Unit has been called in to take over an investigation that involved a North Bay Police officer and a suspect. 
"As a result of an interaction with police on January 30, 2022, an individual is in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after an officer discharged their firearm," David Woolley, corporate communications officer with the North Bay Police Service stated in an email late Sunday morning.  
"The person who was struck was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries," Woolley continued. 
See related: Police block of Chippewa and Fraser Street due to ongoing police investigation
Early Sunday morning the North Bay Police asked the public to stay away from the area of Chippewa Street and Fraser Street due to an ongoing investigation. The police are still asking the public to avoid the area for the rest of the day.  
The Special Investigations Unit is an independent agency that investigates incidents involving police that have resulted in death, serious injury, alleged sexual assault, or a firearm being discharged at a person.
 
 
About the Author: Chris Dawson
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Future with Canadiens is uncertain for Brendan Gallagher – Montreal Gazette

It would be understandable if the 29-year-old forward didn’t want to stick around for a Habs rebuild.
Brendan Gallagher isn’t certain what the future holds for him with the Canadiens.
For now, he’s just looking forward to getting back in the lineup Sunday night at the Bell Centre against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
Gallagher missed his 10th straight game with a lower-body injury Saturday night when the Canadiens played the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre. The 29-year-old right-winger has only played two games since the start of December because of injuries and has 4-6-10 totals in the 25 games he has played.
“It’s been a frustrating couple of months,” Gallagher said after taking part in Saturday’s optional morning skate in Brossard while wearing a full-contact sweater. “Going back to really all of December, I didn’t play and then pretty much go through all of January, I think I played a game and a half. It’s never easy being out of the lineup. You like to pride yourself on being there for your teammates. So I’m looking forward to getting a chance to go to battle with them again. It’s been a long time here and happy it’s all coming to an end, hopefully tomorrow night get back in the lineup and get back to just playing.”
The question now is how much longer will he continue playing for the Canadiens?
Gallagher in the first season of a six-year, US$39-million contract after helping Montreal advance to the Stanley Cup final last season. The Canadiens are the worst team in the NHL this season and now have a new management team led by Jeff Gorton, the executive vice-president of hockey operations, and general manager Kent Hughes.
Big changes are coming, starting with the March 21 NHL trade deadline.
Gallagher hasn’t had a chance yet to sit down with Gorton and Hughes to discuss their future plans and how he might or might not fit in. Gallagher noted there’s a big difference between a rebuild and a reset.
“For me as a hockey player, winning has always been the most important thing and you can’t turn that off,” he said. “That said, being a Montreal Canadien is pretty important to me as well.
“There’s a difference between the two,” he added. “You weigh it all. It’s hard to say what’s more important than the other. As a hockey player, I know there’s just one thing — I play the game to win. That’s really all I want and you want to see that everyone in the organization is on the same page. I’ve said it before — I can’t say it enough — how much I’ve enjoyed being a Montreal Canadien and how good they’ve treated me here and how big of a privilege it’s always been.”
But at this point in his career, it would be understandable if Gallagher didn’t want to stick around for a rebuild. It would also be understandable if Hughes looks to see what he can get for Gallagher on the trade market. Gallagher’s body has taken an incredible beating during his 10 seasons in the NHL because of the style of game he plays, never afraid to go to the dirty areas on the ice despite being only 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds.
Gallagher has a clause in his contract that allows him to submit a six team no-trade list.
One thing is certain: Gallagher has given 100-per-cent effort in all 607 games he has played with the Canadiens and don’t expect that to change. It’s the only way he knows how to play.
“I’m looking forward to getting the chance to know (Hughes),” Gallagher said. “He’s coming in here with the same mindset as everybody else in this organization. We want to get back to winning hockey games. Obviously, creating a fun environment for the players around the rink and that means a fun environment for the fans to come to the games and watch.
“It’s going to take some work, obviously,” Gallagher added. “I think he’s very excited for his opportunity here and we’re excited to work with him. I’m looking forward to getting the chance to figure a lot of those things out as we go along here.”
scowan@postmedia.com
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Gaudreau scores OT winner, Markstrom posts shutout as Flames beat Canucks – Sportsnet.ca

  1. Gaudreau scores OT winner, Markstrom posts shutout as Flames beat Canucks  Sportsnet.ca
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Colliton to replace Julien as Canadian Olympic team head coach – Sportsnet.ca

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