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York region community paramedic Karen McIntyre vaccinates Caroline Bagnato at her home with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine due to her mobility issues in Newmarket, Ont., on June 03, 2021.CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says large shipments of COVID-19 vaccines will continue to pour into Canada through the summer, with more than two million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab expected to arrive each week until the end of August.

Trudeau says that accounts for nine million Pfizer doses in July and another 9.1 million expected in August. He adds that Canada has also negotiated an option for three million more Pfizer doses to be delivered in September.

Tam urges second COVID-19 vaccine dose as Delta variant emerges ‘essentially across Canada’

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says more than 50 million doses from Pfizer will have been delivered by the end of September.

Sixty-five per cent of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine since the country’s rollout began in December.

Trudeau says that’s “encouraging” news, adding that Canadians have “reason to be hopeful about this summer and fall.”

Ontario speeds up second dose eligibility for 70+ and others, but not essential workers

Ontario is speeding up second doses of COVID-19 vaccines for those 70 and older, as well as some other groups as the province faces pressure to boost immunity in the face of more contagious variants.

Starting Friday, people 70 and over, as well as those who got first doses of either mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) on or before April 18, are eligible to book their second shots at pharmacies. And on Monday, those groups will be eligible to book accelerated second doses through the provincial booking site. Some public health units, such as York Region north of Toronto, have already accelerated doses for 70 and older.

In addition, those who got AstraZeneca for their first dose can now book their second shot of either AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccines at a pharmacy. Starting Monday, people who got AstraZeneca can also book their second shots of an mRNA vaccine on the provincial vaccine site. The province says those who got AstraZeneca can receive a second shot at 12 weeks.

The new timeline speeds up second dose eligibility for people 70 and over by more than a week, and by three weeks for those who got first doses on or before April 18. This week, people 80 and over have been able to accelerate their second doses through the provincial system.

Ontarians who received AstraZeneca vaccines can book Pfizer or Moderna second shots beginning today

Ontarians who received Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have the choice to book a second dose of the same vaccine or an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna starting today.

The province updated its guidance on second doses of that vaccine this week.

Second-dose bookings are available at pharmacies as of today for people who received an AstraZeneca vaccine 12 weeks ago.

People can book AstraZeneca second doses by contacting the pharmacy or primary care provider where they received their first shot.

Those opting for an mRNA vaccine can schedule through a participating pharmacy offering Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The province says AstraZeneca recipients can book second shots of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine through the provincial booking system or local health units starting next week.

Delta variant prompts calls for Ontario to prioritize Peel for second vaccine doses

Politicians and public health experts are urging the Ontario government to prioritize Peel Region for second doses of COVID-19 vaccines due to a contagious variant threatening the area.

The public health unit west of Toronto has long been a COVID-19 hot spot due in large part to the numerous essential workplaces in the area, and experts warn the Delta variant is now spreading in the region.

Evidence suggests a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine is not as effective against that variant, which first emerged in India, so Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown says the province must prioritize the region for second doses.

He says Premier Doug Ford’s government erred in its initial vaccine rollout when it failed to prioritize hot spots, and must learn from its mistakes.

The co-chair of Canada’s federal vaccine task force tweeted that he agrees the province must send extra shots to Peel.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, the top public health doctor in the region, says Peel has the highest proportion of the Delta variant in the province.

Ontario reports 914 new cases of COVID-19, 19 deaths, more than 168,000 vaccinations

Ontario is reporting 914 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 214 new cases in Toronto, 169 in Peel Region, and 69 in Durham Region.

She says there are also 59 new cases in Hamilton and 57 in the Porcupine Health Unit region.

The Ministry of Health says 687 people are hospitalized with the novel coronavirus – 522 in intensive care and 357 on a ventilator.

Today’s data is based on 32,300 completed tests.

Ontario says 168,322 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Thursday’s report for a total of over 9.6 million doses.

Quebec reports 279 new COVID-19 infections, four more deaths linked to virus

Quebec is reporting 279 new cases of COVID-19 today and four more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one in the past 24 hours.

Health officials say hospitalizations dropped by 10, to 307, and 67 people were in intensive care, a drop of one.

Montreal was the region that reported the most new cases today, with 89, followed by Monteregie, south of Montreal, with 37 and Chaudiere-Appalaches, south of Quebec City, with 34 new infections.

The province says 95,704 vaccine doses were administered on Thursday, for a total of 5,906,696; about 63.6 per cent of Quebecers have received a first dose.

On Thursday, Quebec announced it will shorten the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to eight weeks from 16.

The province will announce new measures for seniors homes during a news conference this afternoon in Quebec City with Seniors Minister Maguerite Blais and Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s director of public health.

Quebec to loosen COVID-19 rules for seniors’ residences as situation improves

Quebec will begin relaxing rules around long-term care and seniors’ residences next week, no longer requiring appointments to visit loved ones and allowing fully vaccinated residents to gather without masks, the province’s seniors’ minister announced Friday.

Marguerite Blais told a news conference in Quebec City that authorities are able to loosen restrictions because the province’s epidemiological situation is improving and vaccination is progressing at a good rate.

“Seniors and people living in these different environments, like all Quebecers, will be able to start seeing their loved ones again with fewer restrictions,” Blais said.

The situation in the province’s long-term care homes and seniors’ residences has improved in recent weeks, with no cases reported in either living environment in the previous 24 hours on Thursday, the last day for which data was published. The province has administered both doses of COVID-19 vaccine in long-term care homes and it’s almost done in seniors’ residences, Blais said.

Masks, distancing and handwashing will still be required, but beginning Monday, residents in the province’s green COVID-19 alert zones will be able to have up to nine visitors either indoors or outdoors, while those in yellow zones will be able to have members of a family bubble visit. In the orange alert levels, one person at a time will be able to visit an elder.

In green and yellow alert levels, residents will be able to eat at the same table as visitors and with larger groups at a table. Some leisure activities will also resume.

Provincewide, residents who leave their homes will no longer need to quarantine upon their return. And two weeks after they’ve received a booster, residents within a facility will be able to gather without masks in their units, said Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s public health director.

“If we are not doing that step by step, there’s a risk to coming back to a problem,” Arruda said.

The colours of Quebec’s COVID-19 map will change on Monday, as the last remaining red alert zones, including Montreal, move to the orange level.

Four regions will switch to green: Gaspesie—Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Cote-Nord and Nord-du-Quebec. Three other regions will move to yellow: Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, Mauricie—Centre-du-Quebec as well as Bas-Saint-Laurent.

Nova Scotia reports 15 new COVID-19 cases, announces airport testing in Halifax

Nova Scotia will begin testing for COVID-19 at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport starting Tuesday, and it is also making changes to quarantine requirements for rotational workers.

Travellers will be issued a self-swab kit and instructions upon their arrival, although taking the test is not mandatory.

Health staff will be on hand to administer the test or to provide assistance between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., while people who arrive later will have to take their test with them and drop it off at a primary assessment centre within 48 hours of completing it.

Officials say the new airport testing option does not replace the need to self-isolate upon arrival into the province, even if a test comes back negative.

Meanwhile, rotational workers who have no virus symptoms and who have been fully vaccinated at least two weeks before arriving in Nova Scotia will no longer need to self-isolate, although they must get tested three times within a two-week period.

Health officials reported 15 new COVID-19 cases today — nine in the Halifax area and six in the Sydney, N.S., area.

Canada looking to U.S. to help end Moderna vaccine delivery delays

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada is trying to negotiate a deal to start getting doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine from the United States instead of Europe.

All 5.7 million doses delivered to Canada from Moderna so far have come from their production lines in Europe. but the company’s shipments to Canada have been spotty and small since April 1.

As of Friday, Moderna has delivered or scheduled less than half of the 12.3 million doses initially promised for the second quarter.

In April, Moderna said Canada’s spring shipments might get cut by about one-sixth, citing vague human resource and material problems delaying production in Europe.

Deliveries from the company’s U.S.-based production facilities weren’t to be harmed, but all those doses are contracted to stay in the U.S. for now.

Pfizer began shipping doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from its U.S. production facilities in May and Anand is trying to convince both the U.S. government and Moderna to do the same for Moderna.

“Our government also continues to work with Moderna and the United States government to ensure that a more stable delivery schedule can be established and maintained, including by pressing for deliveries from the company’s U.S. facilities,” said Anand in a statement to The Canadian Press.

A spokeswoman for the company said in early May that Moderna’s deliveries would continue to come from Europe. On Thursday she said there was no change at this time.

Calls spike at helpline for first responders in Ontario as pandemic drags on

Business is, sadly, booming for an Ontario peer support organization for first responders.

Calls are way up to the 160 volunteers at Boots on the Ground, who offer an ear to first responders struggling with their mental health.

And charity founder, Dave McLennan, says calls are set to increase even further now that the charity has started offering its services to nurses, who’ve been under immense pressure during the pandemic.

Recent polls indicate many nurses have been feeling completely burnt out as the pandemic wears on.

Boots on the Ground is made up of active or retired police officers, firefighters, paramedics, correctional officers, dispatchers and nurses who answer a helpline 24 hours a day.

It also has a list of vetted psychologists, psychotherapists and group meetings callers can be referred to for further help.

McLennan, a former Peel Region police officer, says his small charity has answered 135 calls in the last three months compared to 74 for the same period last year.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday that the province’s students won’t be returning to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year. Ford defended the decision when pressed by reporters, saying the large number of students, the spread of COVID-19 variants and loose border controls were key factors.

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