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Alberta, Manitoba lower age for AstraZeneca; BC expected to follow

Lowering the eligibility age means 575,425 more Albertans can be vaccinated, bringing the total eligible population to 2.3 million.

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Starting Tuesday, Albertans the age of 40 and up can books shots of the controversial AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The Alberta move joins similar ones in Ontario and Manitoba. BC is also expected to follow suit on Monday.

Walk-in vaccinations will be available at the walk-in clinics in Edmonton and Calgary, as well as specific pharmacies across the province, the UCP government announced.

Lowering the eligibility age means 575,425 more Albertans can be vaccinated, bringing the total eligible population to 2.3 million.

“With COVID-19 cases at high levels throughout the province, we are lowering the age eligibility for this vaccine so as many Albertans as possible are able to choose the protection this vaccine offers. The more people that get vaccinated as quickly as possible, the sooner we can protect our communities, reduce the burden on our healthcare system, and get life back to normal in our province,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro in a release.

The government said Alberta’s decision to reduce the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine from 55 to 40 “is based on public health recommendations looking at the benefit this vaccine offers weighed against the small risk of adverse events from this vaccine.”

 AstraZeneca has been shown to reduce infection by 60-70% and severe outcomes like hospitalization by 80%.

“I recommend any Albertan who is 40 or older consider getting the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as possible. I know some Albertans have concerns about recent cases of blood clots. This is understandable, and it is also important to remember that these cases are extremely rare. This vaccine helps prevent the much higher risks that come from COVID-19 infection, helping to protect both you and those around you,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health.

On Saturday, Hinshaw called a special press conference to announce an Alberta patient who received the AstraZeneca vaccine had developed a blood clot.

“We have confirmed a case of the rare blood clot disorder known as Vaccine-induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) in Alberta. The patient is a male in his 60s who has received treatment and is recovering. To protect patient confidentiality, additional details will not be publicly released,” Hinshaw said in a Saturday statement.

Citing privacy concerns, at a later press conference Hinshaw refused to say where the man received his vaccine.

She did say he developed his symptoms in the 4-20 day window health officials said it takes for the vaccine to become effective. Hinshaw said they’re now looking at extending the window to 28 days so they don’t miss any side-effects cases

“The Alberta case marks the second cases of VITT out of more than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca or CoviSHIELD/AstraZeneca that have been administered in Canada to date. This does not change the risk assessment previously communicated to Albertans,” Hinshaw said.

“I would get this vaccine,” Hinshaw told reporters, citing its “significant benefits.”

Hinshaw said as the number of COVID-19 cases soar in the province, people in that age range face “a very high risk.” She again voiced her warning that increasing cases could overwhelm the provincial health care system.

“We are actively monitoring the safety of all vaccines and working with health officials across Canada to protect Albertans. While every adverse reaction is unfortunate, it is important to remember these blood clots are extremely rare and this vaccine helps prevent the much higher risks that come from COVID-19 infection,” Hinshaw said.

“The global frequency of VITT has been estimated at approximately one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses of vaccine. In comparison, Albertans 55 and older who are diagnosed with COVID-19 have a one in 200 chance of dying from that infection. They are also at least 1,500 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than experiencing VITT after getting AstraZeneca.”

As of April 17, more than 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered and there are more than 170,000 doses available.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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UPDATED: Omicron found in Alberta, BC

But Hinshaw refused to say where the traveller lives over fear it would identify them.

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The tentacles of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have reached Alberta and BC.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said an Albertan returning home from Nigeria, via the Netherlands, has tested positive for Omicron.

Hinshaw said they tested positive a week ago and the person, who traveled alone, is now self-quarantining.

She said medical officials are trying to “delay” the spread of the variant until more research is done.

But Hinshaw refused to say where the traveller lives over fear it would identify them.

Hinshaw also urged people not to take out their frustrations against the family of the infected person nor the countries that are under an Omicron watch.

And she said people shouldn’t “think of this as a reset to Ground Zero.”

In her daily update, Hinshaw said in the last 24 hours, health officials have found 238 new cases of coronavirus. There are 434 people in the hospital with 81 in ICU. Another six people are reported to have succumbed to the virus.

In BC, Der, Bonnie Henry said another traveller coming home from Nigeria had tested positive for Omicron.

That person lives in the Fraser Health region and is isolating. 

On Monday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced 156 Albertans self-quarantining after returning from travel in a country that had been hit with Omicron.

Six confirmed cases of the variant of concern have now been confirmed in Canada so far.

Earlier in the day, Canada added Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt to its Omicron travel ban.

On Friday, the government put restrictions on travellers from South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

“Obviously we’re watching very, very closely the situation with Omicron,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on his way into the cabinet meeting.

“There may be more we need to do and we’ll be looking at it very carefully.”

More to come…

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Unvaxxed grounded in Canada

As of November 30, travellers will no longer be allowed to submit a negative test result in place of proof of vaccination to board a plane or train in Canada.

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As of Tuesday, Canadian travellers over the age of 12 will no longer be able to fly or travel by train in Canada without proof of vaccination.

The policy was originally set to come into effect on October 30, however, the federal government announced it would grant a grace period to unvaccinated travellers allowing for a negative COVID-19 test to be provided within 72 hours of the trip.

As of November 30, travellers will no longer be allowed to submit a negative test result in place of proof of vaccination to board a plane or train in Canada.

The new travel restrictions for the unvaccinated come on the heels of the emergence of a new variant of concern (VOC) dubbed Omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Cases involving the new variant, originally detected in South Africa, have been found in other countries including five cases within Canada.

Although there is not much known about the new variant at this time, the WHO confirmed scientists around the world are working to determine how the highly-mutated variant will affect transmissibility and severity of illness in the population.

Canada, along with other nations, closed its boards and expanded its screening protocols to travellers arriving from affected areas in southern Africa.

The Canadian airline industry welcomed the vaccine mandates when they were announced in October. Air Canada and West Jet have both confirmed they will be asking all travellers to produce proof of vaccination before boarding their carriers as of Tuesday.

While health measures such as masking and screening will still be required, no measures for quarantining individual travellers have been put in place with the exception of those who have travelled through or arrived from southern Africa.

“If you indicate to your airline or railway company that you’re eligible to board, but fail to provide proof of vaccination or valid COVID-19 test result, you won’t be allowed to travel and could face penalties or fines,” the government indicated in a statement.

The Canadian government is also warning permanent residents abroad to expect to provide vaccine passports to return home.

The rules don’t apply to commuter trains.

The Government of Canada has created a “reliable way to show proof of your COVID-19 vaccination history when travelling internationally and within Canada,” states the government’s website. The document is verified once uploaded to ArriveCAN upon returning to the country.

The website warns travellers are not guaranteed entry to another country with the documents and suggests checking the rules of your destination country and the countries you travel through.

“Today, Canada passed a sad milestone in its history,” said Matt Slatter, a pilot with a major Canadian airline and a founder of Free 2 Fly, a hub that has “Canadian aviation professionals standing with passengers in defence of freedom.”

“No longer can it hold itself as a beacon of freedom and liberal values.”

The Free 2 Fly website encourages passengers and airline workers who “feel strongly that the ability to travel should not be linked to vaccination status,” to sign up and join their movement.

“With the advent of mandates requiring all aviation and rail passengers to be vaccinated, Canada is now effectively a two-tier society,” said Slatter.

“On one tier, compliant citizens are afforded many of the rights they once enjoyed in a free society. While the other tier is essentially relegated to their own localities, with limited exception.

“History suggests this style of governance will only lead to more tragedy and heartbreak. The cure is inevitably worse than the disease. Will Canada learn from the mistakes of the past?”

Currently, there are just under 38,000 signed up on the Free 2 Fly site. One of the goals of the group is to “wage a legal campaign to block, and/or overturn, all vaccination mandates.”

Melanie Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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CRTC trying to hang up on spoof calls

Caller ID spoofing occurs when callers hide or misrepresent their identity by displaying fictitious or altered phone numbers when making calls.

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All those calls from the taxman and Canadian Border Services officials threatening to arrest you could soon be coming to an end thanks to new regulations from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

“Many Canadians are now able to determine which calls can be trusted thanks to a new technology aimed at combating spoofed calls named STIR/SHAKEN. Caller ID spoofing is frequently used in nuisance and fraudulent calls to mask the identity of the caller,” said the CRTC in a release.

“As of today, telecommunications service providers will certify whether a caller’s identity can be trusted by verifying the caller ID information for Internet Protocol-based voice calls. This new technology will help reduce the frequency and impact of caller ID spoofing. As service providers continue to upgrade their IP networks and offer compatible phones to their customers, more and more Canadians will be able to see the effects of STIR/SHAKEN.”

It’s believed up to 25% of all calls in Canada are scams.

The CRTC said Caller ID spoofing occurs when callers hide or misrepresent their identity by displaying fictitious or altered phone numbers when making calls.

“This new caller ID technology will empower Canadians to determine which calls are legitimate and worth answering, and which need to be treated with caution. As more providers upgrade their networks, STIR/SHAKEN will undoubtedly reduce spoofing and help Canadians regain peace of mind when answering phone calls,” said Ian Scott, CRTC CEO.

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