More Canadians hospitalized from substance use since pandemic started, report finds

Hospitalizations from opioids, alcohol and stimulants rose during first seven months of pandemic, compared to the same time in 2019, according to a new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Paramedics and first responders work to save a person suspected of having a drug overdose in Vancouver in 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

More Canadians have ended up in the hospital after using substances like opioids, alcohol and stimulants during the pandemic than they have in years past.

In the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic (March to September 2020), as many as 81,000 Canadians required hospital care following harmful substance use. That’s an increase of about 4,000 compared to the previous year over the same period, March to September of 2019.

The numbers are outlined in a report released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), which collects data from hospitals across the country.

“This is not exactly a trend that we’d like to see from a public health perspective,” said Christina Lawand, a senior researcher with the group.

She says the pandemic has created a perfect storm of factors driving up the numbers.

“There is obviously additional pressures the pandemic is causing on mental health of Canadians that may be causing people to use more substances. And secondly, it might speak to a problem of access to the supports and services they need,” she said.

‘A very lethal combination’

In B.C., nearly 2,000 British Columbians have fatally overdosed since the start of the pandemic. The year 2020 saw a 74 per cent increase in overdose deaths compared to the previous year.

The province’s chief coroner attributed the dramatic uptick to decades of criminalization, an increasingly toxic illicit drug market and a lack of timely access to treatment and recovery services.

For those who have been studying the relationship between the pandemic and substance use, the report’s findings did not come as a surprise.

“It’s been apparent for some time that there is a very strong bidirectional and lethal relationship between substance use and the COVID epidemic,” said Timothy Naimi, the director of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research.

Across Canada, hospital visits for alcohol-related health issues were up five per cent in the first seven months of the pandemic. (iStock)

Naimi says as the pandemic has driven up substance use, so too have substances — particularly alcohol — helped drive COVID-19 transmission in group settings.

“Together, it’s been a very lethal combination,” he said.

Alcohol use rises

The CIHI report found that lower-income neighbourhoods had the most dramatic increase in hospital visits. For example, alcohol-related visits rose by 14 per cent in low-income areas across the country.

Overall, hospital visits for alcohol-related health issues were up five per cent nationwide.

The report also notes, however, that emergency department visits for alcohol incidents were down.

Lawand says it’s likely because many bars, pubs and nightclubs across the country had limited services, or were closed, which is where a lot of high-risk alcohol consumption occurs and is often reported to first responders.

“We’re hoping that governments and public health authorities will be able to use these numbers to better target their intervention measures for people in need,” she said.


Doctors make life-and-death decisions as India’s battle against COVID-19 rages on

As India’s health-care system teeters on the verge of collapse during a brutal second wave of the novel coronavirus, a young doctor is among the medical professionals forced to decide who will live and who will die at a New Delhi hospital.

Rohan Aggarwal, a 26-year-old resident doctor, puts on personal protective equipment before treating patients during a 27-hour shift at New Delhi’s Holy Family Hospital. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Rohan Aggarwal is 26 years old.

He doesn’t even complete his medical training until next year.

And yet, at one of the best hospitals in India, he is the doctor who must decide who will live and who will die when patients come to him gasping for breath, their family members begging for mercy.

As India’s health-care system teeters on the verge of collapse during a brutal second wave of the novel coronavirus, Aggarwal makes those decisions during a 27-hour shift that includes a grim overnight stint in charge of the emergency room at the New Delhi hospital where he works.

(Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Patients, relatives and staff at Holy Family Hospital know that there aren’t enough beds, oxygen or ventilators to keep everyone who arrives there alive.

‘We are just humans’

Aggarwal says decisions about who should be saved “should be decided by God.”

“We are not made for that — we are just humans. But at this point in time, we are being made to do this.”

(Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

India has reported a global record of more than 300,000 daily cases for the last two weeks — and experts say those figures are almost certainly conservative.

In the capital of New Delhi there are more than 5,000 COVID-19 intensive care unit beds. Fewer than 20 of those are free at any one time.

(Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Patients rush from hospital to hospital, dying on the street or at home, while oxygen trucks move under armed guard to facilities with perilously low stocks.

Crematoriums work around the clock, throwing up plumes of smoke as more bodies arrive every few minutes.

Not yet vaccinated

Aggarwal says he fears what will happen if he gets infected, too. He knows that his own hospital will be unlikely to find him a bed. 

He is unvaccinated. He was sick in January when shots for medical professionals were being rolled out, and then by February, he began to relax.

“We were all under the misconception the virus had gone.” 

(Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Aggarwal, who was raised in New Delhi, has wanted to be a doctor since he was six years old. It’s a job that carries huge prestige in India.

He passed his first set of exams when he was 19 and began training at a medical college attached to a government hospital in the east of the capital.

(Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

But this wasn’t what he expected when he moved to the missionary-founded Holy Family Hospital, where depictions of Christ are everywhere: looming over the main staircase, watching over patients in the ICU, in the cheap plaster idols once for sale in the shuttered gift shop.

“I am vaccinated by the precious blood of Jesus,” one poster reads. “No virus can touch me.”

(Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Sumit Ray, the hospital’s medical superintendent and head of the ICU, says staff are doing everything they can.

“The doctors and nurses are demoralized,” he said. “They know they can do better, but they just don’t have the time.”

No matter where Aggarwal is, he hears the sound of heart-rate monitors.

He hears the staccato bursts of their gentle chimes as he naps fitfully at the hospital. But he also hears them at home in his own bed, making it impossible to forget about the deaths under his care, not from lack of trying, but from a lack of resources.

(Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)


‘Preferred vaccines’ messaging from federal panel sparks concern, criticism from health experts

Canadians should take the first vaccine that becomes available to them even though the federal government’s advisory committee on vaccines may have sown confusion with conflicting messaging about preferred doses, some health experts say.

Canadians should take the first vaccine that becomes available to them even though the federal government’s advisory committee on vaccines has sown confusion with conflicting messaging about preferred doses, some health experts say. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Canadians should take the first vaccine that becomes available to them even though the federal government’s advisory committee on vaccines may have sown confusion with conflicting messaging about preferred doses, some health experts say.

“I really worry about a situation where Canada will be the only country in the world where we’ve managed to create buyer’s remorse about a vaccine we’ve provided free of charge to Canadians to protect them,” Dr. David Naylor,  co-chair of the national COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, told CBC’s Heather Hiscox.

On Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, an independent body of experts that makes recommendations on the use of newly approved vaccines, said Canadians who are less likely to contract COVID-19 may want to wait until an mRNA shot from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna is available because those products don’t carry the same risk of very rare, but serious, blood clots.

NACI’s modified recommendations appeared to contradict what health experts have said for months, that Canadians should take the first vaccine that becomes available and not shop around.

“What we’re saying, and what we’ve been saying all along, is that the mRNA vaccines are the preferred vaccines,” said Dr. Shelley Deeks, the vice-chair of NACI.  “Yet given the epidemiology, the viral vector vaccines are very effective vaccines, but there is a safety signal, a safety risk.”

NACI says vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) occurs at a rate of about one in 100,000 people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and has a mortality rate of about 40 per cent, although more research is needed — and that number is subject to change.

WATCH | Dr. David Naylor talks about NACI’s conflicting vaccine messages:

Changing guidance on COVID-19 vaccines in Canada could lead some people to regret getting the shot that was available to them at the time, says Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of the national COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. He says all of the vaccines available in Canada are very effective. 10:18

Based on current data, NACI estimates VITT occurs at a rate of one in 100,000 shots rather than the one in 250,000 previously projected.

‘We modified the recommendations’

“When we first provided recommendations for COVID vaccines in Canada, we did not know about the vaccine safety signal. Now there’s been a vaccine safety signal and we modified the recommendations,” Deeks said.

Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said he agreed with NACI’s modified recommendations.

“I have big respect for NACI that they did that. And it’s absolutely the right thing to do,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as pharmacist Zaineb Hassan administers the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau in Ottawa on April 23. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Juni said while such incidents of VITT are indeed rare, they are now five or 10 times more likely to occur than originally thought. 

“Does this change the picture? Yes it does,” he said. 

Still, other experts such as Naylor expressed concerns that NACI’s new messaging suggests that the mRNA vaccines are superior in efficacy and that Canadians may regret getting an AstraZeneca vaccine.

“That’s a very problematic position to take,” he said.

Naylor stressed that all the vaccines do extremely well at protecting people from serious complications, hospitalizations and death.

And for those who already received a shot of AstraZeneca, “it is an unsettling message [from NACI] because it suggests you got the second-best vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at University Health Network in Toronto, reaffirmed that Canadians should not vaccine shop and that the bottom line of trying to protect people from the hazards of getting COVID-19 has not changed.

WATCH | NACI says Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are the preferred type:

Dr. Shelley Deeks of NACI discussed with reporters the merits of receiving one type of COVID-19 vaccine over another. 2:32

She said she still believes in most parts of Canada where there’s enough transmission of COVID-19, the risks of acquiring the virus and the associated complications outweighs any of the risks from the vaccines.

‘Worries me a lot’

Hota also said she’s concerned how NACI’s recommendations may fuel vaccine hesitancy.

“That worries me a lot,” she said. “I worry about people who’ve been sitting on the fence, just kind of biding their time or waiting for [a vaccine] to become available to them in their category of age or whatever, now feeling like even though they were confident in their decision before, they’re not so confident anymore.”

Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, said the risks need to be put into context. That includes 17 events of severe blood clotting in the U.S. from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of eight million doses. And with the odds of getting VITT around one in 100,000 with AstraZenenca, the risks overall are “incredibly rare,” he said.

He said NACI is creating a hierarchy with respect to vaccines and not focusing enough on the profound benefit that the vaccines have for the general public, for hitting herd immunity and for decreasing community spread.

“I am frustrated by the messaging that has emanated from the committee, especially right now when there’s jurisdictions like Alberta and Ontario that are really struggling,” he said.

“It matters a huge amount, especially now, when we’re going to start to bump up against hesitancy. So if poor messaging results in one or two or three per cent of people not getting the vaccine or even waiting to get the vaccine, that matters.”

Poor messaging

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University, said he is receiving a lot of questions from people second guessing their decision to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

“It’s like no, no, no, you did the right thing. You got it. You’re reducing your risk of hospitalization or reducing your risk of death,” he said.

Chagla said NACI appears to be giving advice for a situation in which, there’s a bubble, where there’s no COVID-19 or very little circulation around. 

“I don’t disagree with the medical sentiment that there is a risk of this clotting issue,” he said. “That’s advice given in a vacuum of not really looking at the world that it is today.”

Still, Juni said he believes some of his colleagues have not understood the seriousness of the type of thrombosis associated with the non-mRNA vaccines. 

With a new understanding that these events are more frequent, much more serious and potentially fatal, combined with more mRNA vaccines available, “the risk benefit balance starts to change.” he said.

“Even if it’s a rare event, it’s now just something which needs to be openly discussed so that people can make an informed decision.”


Alberta woman in her 50s dies of rare blood clot linked to AstraZeneca vaccine

An Alberta woman in her 50s has died from a rare blood clot condition after receiving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, says the province’s chief medical health officer.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, says a woman in her 50s has died of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). It’s Alberta’s first death linked to the vaccine. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

An Alberta woman in her 50s has died from a rare blood clot condition after receiving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, says the province’s chief medical officer of health.

In a statement Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the woman died of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). It’s Alberta’s first death linked to the vaccine.

The woman was not identified to protect the “privacy of the grieving family,” Hinshaw said in the statement.

“While any death is tragic, it is important to remember that the risks of dying or suffering other severe outcomes from COVID-19 remain far greater than the risk following AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Hinshaw said the woman was only the second confirmed case of VIIT in the province. More than 253,000 doses of AstraZeneca or CoviSHIELD that have been administered in Alberta.

Though extremely rare, VITT differs from a typical blood clot because it can cause cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), where veins that drain blood from the brain are obstructed and can potentially cause fatal bleeding.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization estimates VITT occurs at a rate of one in 100,000 shots. As of Monday, there were seven reported cases of VITT in Canada and just one other death — a 54-year-old woman from Quebec.

Hinshaw said the risk of COVID-19 is far greater than the risk of VITT.

“Albertans 50 to 59 who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are 350 times more likely to die from that infection than to experience VITT after an AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said in the statement.

“They are also at least 1,500 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than experiencing VITT after getting AstraZeneca.”

In a statement, Alberta Health said Alberta’s remaining doses of AstraZeneca are with pharmacies and Alberta Health Services.

“They will continue to be administered,” reads the statement issued Wednesday. “This does not change the risk assessment previously communicated to Albertans.

“However, if Albertans currently booked for AstraZeneca wish to reschedule or wait for another vaccine, they are free to do so.” 

Health Canada has said the AstraZeneca vaccine meets its strict safety standards, and that it continues to monitor adverse outcomes to ensure the benefits of the vaccine outweigh risks.


Concerns over common side effects shouldn’t scare you from getting COVID-19 vaccines, doctor says

CBC News has received messages from audience members who’ve reported a range of reactions to their vaccinations, with some hesitant to return for a second dose. But an infectious disease expert said the end result of protection against COVID-19 is worth the common side effects.

A pharmacist administers a dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto on April 20. Despite concerns over possible side effects to vaccinations, an infectious diseases physician says possible discomfort is worth the end result of protection against COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti empathizes with other Canadians who have reported common side effects after receiving their COVID-19 vaccines. After his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he had a low-grade fever and joint pain.

But Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said the end result of protection against COVID-19 was worth the discomfort.

“I don’t want to trivialize the way people feel. I know it’s unpleasant,” he said. “Just remember that these symptoms go away relatively quickly and in the end, you’re going to be immune to COVID.”

The federal government categorizes its reports of vaccine reactions as serious and non-serious adverse events. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that anyone who experiences an adverse reaction reach out to their health-care provider, who will file a report on their behalf.

CBC News has received messages from audience members who have reported a range of reactions to their inoculations, with some hesitant to return for a second dose. While there is new research that suggests a first dose offers strong immune protection, experts and officials still recommend getting both doses of the two-course vaccines being offered.

Here is a look at the types of reactions some people have experienced, what to do if you experience these side effects and at what point people should seek medical attention.

What side effects to COVID-19 vaccines have been reported?

As of April 23, there have been 4,128 reports of serious and non-serious adverse events out of more than 12 million vaccine doses administered, according to the latest statistics from the federal government. The severity of reported reactions ranges from common side effects to rare but serious complications from vaccines.

The most commonly reported side effects include different types of irritation at the site of the vaccine, followed by headaches, hives, nausea, fatigue and fever, according to the data.

“The interesting thing is all of these symptoms are actually coming from your immune system that is activated from the vaccine, and that’s what makes you feel that way,” Chakrabarti said.

“Fortunately, from what we’ve seen, even these ones that can put you in bed for a day, they don’t last generally for more than 24, maximum 36, hours and people get better.”

Other side effects that have been reported, but in lower numbers, include chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle and joint pain and anaphylaxis.

Each of the vaccines approved for use in Canada — Pfizer-BioNTechModernaAstraZeneca-Oxford and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) — have published product monographs that show possible side effects to their respective vaccines.

WATCH | Does one vaccine have more side effects?

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Alex Wong answers questions about COVID-19 vaccines, including whether any of the vaccines has more side effects and if vaccines can be mixed. 3:10

What’s the difference between serious and non-serious side effects?

Chakrabarti said aside from some rare complications, most of the side effects that have been reported are considered non-serious in nature. But even ones that are categorized as serious can range from feeling unwell for about a day to requiring additional medical attention.

“It can vary quite a bit across different people. But again, like I mentioned, these things happen very rarely and for the most part, even in older individuals, they don’t last for more than about a day,” he said.

“If you’re feeling really bad, you can always take an Advil or Tylenol. That will generally help.”

What about reports of clots connected to vaccines?

In rare but serious cases, vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) is a possible complication of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says this rare type of aggressive blood clotting “is most commonly estimated to be between one per 100,000 and one per 250,000 persons vaccinated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine,” with a mortality rate of about 40 per cent, although more research is needed — and that number is subject to change.

“The aggressive nature of these blood clots is really the concern,” said Dr. Menaka Pai, a clinical hematologist at McMaster University and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table.

The scientific community believes VITT is driven by antibodies after receiving an adenovirus vector vaccine (like AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson’s), can result in low platelet counts and is often present in unusual locations like the brain or abdomen, Pai said.

The key is to know that it’s happening, said Pai, who is also an associate professor of hematology and thromboembolism. “If these clots aren’t treated, they can be very serious. They can be fatal.”

When should you seek additional medical attention?

Pai said to watch for the following symptoms between four and 28 days after vaccination that could be a sign of VITT and should prompt people to seek medical attention:

  • Persistent and severe headache.
  • Difficulty moving part of your body.
  • Seizures.
  • Problems with your vision, including blurry vision or double vision.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Severe chest, back, or abdominal pain.
  • Swelling or colour change in an arm or leg.

“I’m not talking about a brief headache. I’m talking about something that doesn’t go away,” she said.

A seventh confirmed Canadian case of VITT connected to the AstraZeneca vaccine, of more than 1.1 million doses administered, was reported in Quebec on Saturday; late last month, 54-year-old Francine Boyer died of a cerebral thrombosis in a Montreal hospital after receiving the AstraZeneca shot on April 9.

WATCH | Dr. Zain Chagla talks about rare vaccine-related blood clot death:

Infectious disease specialist puts AstraZeneca vaccine risks and benefits into context after Quebec woman’s death. 1:15

As for people expressing hesitancy, Pai said it’s critical that everyone evaluates their personal situation — including the severity of COVID-19 in their community and risks of contracting the virus — before making an informed decision on whether to take the first vaccine offered or wait for a specific shot.

“When you do get that vaccine, the odds are that you will be fine. It’s a rare condition after all,” she said.

If you have a question of your own about the pandemic, you can send it to

With files from Adam Miller, Cheryl Brown, Alisha Parchment and The Canadian Press


US backs giving poorer countries access to Covid-19 vaccine patents

The Biden administration on Wednesday joined calls for more sharing of the technology behind Covid-19 vaccines to help speed the end of the pandemic, a shift that puts the US alongside many in the developing world who want rich countries to do more to get doses to the needy.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the government’s position, amid World Trade Organization talks about a possible temporary waiver of its protections that would allow more manufacturers to produce the life-saving vaccines.

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“The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines,” Tai said in a statement.

She cautioned that it would take time to reach the required global “consensus” to waive the protections under WTO rules, and US officials said it would not have an immediate effect on the global supply of Covid-19 shots.

Tai’s announcement came hours after WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spoke to a closed-door meeting of ambassadors from developing and developed countries that have been wrangling over the issue, but agree on the need for wider access to Covid-19 treatments.

The WTO’s General Council took up the issue of a temporary waiver for intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines and other tools, which South Africa and India first proposed in October. The idea has gained support among some progressive lawmakers in the West.

More than 100 countries have come out in support of the proposal, and a group of 110 members of Congress — all fellow Democrats of Biden — sent him a letter last month that called on him to support the waiver.

Opponents — especially from industry — say a waiver would be no panacea. They insist that production of coronavirus vaccines is complex and can’t be ramped up by easing intellectual property. They also say lifting protections could hurt future innovation.

Stephen Ubl, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the US decision “will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.”

Dr Michelle McMurry-Heath, chief executive of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization trade group, said in a statement that the decision will undermine incentives to develop vaccines and treatments for future pandemics.

“Handing needy countries a recipe book without the ingredients, safeguards, and sizable workforce needed will not help people waiting for the vaccine,” she said.

Pfizer declined to comment on Biden’s announcement, as did Johnson & Johnson, which developed a one-dose vaccine meant to ease vaccination campaigns in poor and rural areas. Moderna and AstraZeneca didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The companies have made some efforts to provide vaccine doses to poor countries at prices well below what they’re charging wealthy nations.

For instance, Johnson & Johnson agreed last week to provide up to 220 million doses of its vaccine to the African Union’s 55 member states, starting in this year’s third quarter, and agreed in December to provide up to 500 million vaccines through 2022 for low-income countries via Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.

Shares of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — huge companies with many lucrative products — fell less than 1% on the news. But Moderna, whose vaccine is the company’s only product, fell 6.2% in late-afternoon trading before gaining back two-thirds of a percent in after-hours trading.

It remained unclear how some countries in Europe, which have influential pharmaceutical industries and had previously shared US reservations about the waiver, would respond.

WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said a panel on intellectual property at the trade body was expected to take up the waiver proposal again at a “tentative” meeting later this month, before a formal meeting June 8-9. That means any final deal could be weeks away at best.

Authors of the proposal have been revising it in hopes of making it more palatable.

Okonjo-Iweala, in remarks posted on the WTO website, said it was “incumbent on us to move quickly to put the revised text on the table, but also to begin and undertake text-based negotiations.”

“I am firmly convinced that once we can sit down with an actual text in front of us, we shall find a pragmatic way forward” that is “acceptable to all sides,” she said.

Co-sponsors of the idea were shuttling between different diplomatic missions to make their case, according to a Geneva trade official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. A deadlock persists, and opposing sides remain far apart, the official said.

The argument, part of a long-running debate about intellectual property protections, centers on lifting patents, copyrights and protections for industrial design and confidential information to help expand the production and deployment of vaccines during supply shortages. The aim is to suspend the rules for several years, just long enough to beat down the pandemic.

The issue has become more pressing with a surge in cases in India, the world’s second-most populous country and a key producer of vaccines — including one for Covid-19 that relies on technology from Oxford University and British-Swedish pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca.

Michael Yee, a Jefferies Group biotech analyst, wrote to investors that the key access issues for developing countries aren’t patents or price, but an inadequate supply of the materials needed and the know-how to produce the vaccines and keep quality high — which one of Johnson & Johnson’s contract manufacturers in the US failed to do, ruining millions of doses.

“Manufacturing supplies, raw materials, vials, stoppers, and other key materials are in limited supply for 2021,” and may still be next year and beyond, Yee wrote. That’s partly because it takes time to make all those components, and Moderna and Pfizer have commitments to buy them “from major suppliers in huge bulk over the foreseeable future.”

He added that Pfizer previously sought authorization to sell its vaccine to India, which rejected its application and asked that additional studies be run. The US, European Union and many other countries have given that emergency authorization.

Proponents, including WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, note that such waivers are part of the WTO toolbox and insist there’s no better time to use them than during the once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken 3.2 million lives, infected more than 437 million people and devastated economies, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“This is a monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19,” Tedros said in Wednesday statement. He said the US commitment “to support the waiver of IP protections on vaccines is a powerful example of American leadership to address global health challenges.”


3rd wave of Covid-19 in India inevitable: Top scientific advisor to govt

As India continues to struggle to contain a severe second wave of Covid-19, a top scientific advisor to the government today said a third wave was “inevitable” and the authorities should be prepared for it.

“A phase three is inevitable given the higher levels of circulating virus but it is not clear on what time scale this phase three will occur. We should prepare for new waves,” K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Indian government, Centre told the media, our New Delhi correspondent reports.

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He said variants of the virus are transmitted the same way as the original strain. “It doesn’t have properties of new kinds of transmission. It infects humans in a manner that makes it more transmissible as it gains entry, makes more copies and goes on, same as original,” Vijay Raghavan added.

The massive second wave across India has witnessed lakhs of daily fresh cases in the country and sharply rising number of deaths in more than a month.

Major Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad are facing never-seen-before oxygen scarcity.

As many as 3,82,315 new coronavirus cases were reported in the last 24 hours along with 3,780 deaths due to the infection.

Indian Health Ministry Joint Secretary Luv Agarwal said around 2.4 percent day on day growth in Covid-19 cases has been noticed.


Covid-19 vaccine stock running out, only 14 lakh jabs left: DGHS

The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) today said the stock of the Covid-19 vaccine is running out in Bangladesh as there are only 14 lakh jabs in government hands with no sign of fresh consignment from India.

Speaking at a virtual press briefing, DGHS spokesperson Dr Robed Amin said, “We had around 1.2 crore vaccines…around 88 lakh jabs have already been administered as first and second doses. Now we have some 14 lakh doses left in stock.”

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There will be a vaccine crisis if a fresh consignment does not arrive in the country before the existing stock is exhausted, he said.

So far, 5,819,719 people have received the first dose of the vaccine while 3,023,169 got the second dose, Robed said.

As per official statistics, the country lacks over 14 lakh second doses of the vaccine to administer to those who received the first jab.

Amid the vaccine crisis, the government suspended administering the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on April 26.

The DGHS spokesman, however, hoped that the county will get vaccine doses from China before Eid-ul-Fitr.

Besides, he said, a process is underway to give clearance for procuring Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Robed said three pharmaceutical companies in the country have already contacted the government as they want to produce Covid-19 vaccines. “The three companies are hopeful that they’ll be able to produce 1.5 crore vaccines in a year in Bangladesh.”

He said the government and DGHS assessed their capacity to manufacture vaccines.

The Covid-19 situation has significantly improved in the country over the last week as the virus transmission rate continues to drop.


Why are wisdom teeth taken out?

Wisdom teeth are a non-professional term for third molars (all four) discovered in the permanent dentition. These teeth are the last teeth to be developed in a grownup or adult person.

They can begin to erupt, usually anytime around the age of 17 to 20. It is also viable that for some people, the third molars are never developed.

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In many cases, the wisdom teeth are not visible due to the fact that they have become impacted within the jaw. Generally, if they do manage to erupt, they may come out in an irregular way.

Irregular growth can harm the nearby teeth and can increase the risk of developing gum disease. This region of the mouth is very tough to clean as well.

Therefore, it can turn into a primary breeding ground for the microorganisms that can cause the periodontal disorder.

One of the most commonly asked questions regarding wisdom teeth is what is the purpose of the wisdom teeth? Does it make us wise?

In this article, we will be discussing these frequently asked questions, and we will try to help you understand the standard procedures for wisdom teeth extraction as easily as possible.

To begin with, we will go through the naming of the teeth; they are generally labeled through their placement and function. The canine, for instance, can be called as the 3rd tooth (left or right) because of its placement. The name canine, however, has a Latin origin, and it represents our primitive nature of hunting and meat-loving nature as humans. The molars are also known as the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth teeth from the left or right in the upper and lower region. The third molar, tooth number 8, is known as the wisdom teeth.

To answer the most frequently asked question, no, wisdom teeth do not make you smarter. There is no specific purpose to these teeth except for causing issues.

As we have mentioned earlier, they can erupt in an irregular pattern; as a result, we feel severe pain when the wisdom tooth erupts. In addition to that, they can also cause severe dental issues and infections. The following are the oral issues that can affect your overall health as well:

• Bad breath

• Damage to nearby teeth

• Cyst underneath the gums and likely tumors.

When to check-up with a dentist?

The impacted wisdom teeth may not show symptoms all the time. While analyzing the signs and symptoms of a patient, we look for the following:

• Pain at the back of the mouth, behind the molars

• Bleeding or painful gums

• Swelling of the gums or the jaw

• Jaw pain accompanied with ear and head.

• An abnormal taste within the mouth

• Difficulty opening your mouth due to severe pain

The fact is we actually do not need our wisdom teeth; that is why the dental specialists frequently advise the patient for extraction of the wisdom teeth to deal with infections and further complications.

Wisdom teeth extraction is usually carried out by a dental surgeon under local anesthesia. Generally, antibiotics and analgesics (pain killers) are prescribed. These medications are a symptomatic treatment for the pain and the infections. Regular follow-up with the doctors is needed.


Biden aims to vaccinate 70% of American adults by July 4

President Joe Biden on Tuesday set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70 percent of adult Americans by July Fourth as he tackles the vexing problem of winning over the “doubters” and those unmotivated to get inoculated.

Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their available doses unordered. Aiming to make it easier to get shots, Biden called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise.

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His administration for the first time also is moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots.

“You do need to get vaccinated,” Biden said from the White House. “Even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? It could save your life or the lives of somebody you love.”

Biden’s goal equates to delivering at least the first shot to 181 million adults and fully vaccinating 160 million. It’s a tacit acknowledgment of the declining interest in shots.

Already more than 56 percent of American adults have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and nearly 105 million are fully vaccinated. The US is currently administering first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day — half the rate of three weeks ago, but almost twice as fast as needed to meet Biden’s target.

“I’d like to get it 100 percent, but I think realistically we can get to that place between now and July Fourth,” Biden said of his new goal.

He said the administration would focus on three areas as it tries to ramp up the pace of vaccinations:

—Adults who need more convincing to take the vaccine.

—Those who have struggled or are in no hurry to obtain a shot.

—Adolescents aged 12-15, once federal authorities approve vaccination for that age group.

Acknowledging that “the pace of vaccination is slowing,” Biden predicted the inoculation effort is “going to be harder” when it comes to convincing “doubters” of the need to get their shots.

He said the most effective argument to those people would be to protect those they love. “This is your choice: It’s life and death.”

Biden’s push comes as his administration has shifted away from setting a target for the US to reach “herd immunity,” instead focusing on delivering as many shots into arms as possible. Officials said Biden’s vaccination target would result in a significant reduction in Covid-19 cases heading into the summer.

To that end, the Biden administration is shifting the government’s focus toward expanding smaller and mobile vaccination clinics to deliver doses to harder-to-reach communities. It is also spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to boost interest in vaccines through education campaigns and greater access to shots through community organizations that can help bring people to clinics.

Biden touted creative efforts to make it “easier and more fun” to get vaccinated, such as grocery stores offering discounts to shoppers who come to get shots and sports leagues that hold promotions to gets shots for their fans.

Ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s expected authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 12-15, the White House is developing plans to speed vaccinations for that age group. Biden urged states to administer at least one dose to adolescents by July Fourth and work to deliver doses to pediatricians’ offices and other trusted locations, with the aim of getting many of them fully vaccinated by the start of the next school year.

While younger people are at dramatically lower risk of serious complications from Covid-19, they have made up a larger share of new virus cases as a majority of US adults have been at least partially vaccinated and as higher-risk activities like indoor dining and contact sports have resumed in most of the country.

Officials hope that extending vaccinations to teens — who could get the first dose in one location and the second elsewhere, if necessary — will further accelerate the nation’s reduced virus caseload and allow schools to reopen with minimal disruptions this fall.

The urgency to expand the pool of those getting the shots is rooted in hopes of stamping out the development of new variants that could emerge from unchecked outbreaks and helping the country further reopen by the symbolic moment of Independence Day, exactly two months away. Though White House officials privately acknowledge the steep challenge, Biden sounded an optimistic note.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is actually growing brighter and brighter,” Biden said.

Biden’s speech comes as the White House announced a shift away from a strict allocation of vaccines by state population. The administration says that when states decline to take all the vaccine they have been allocated, that surplus will shift to states still awaiting doses to meet demand.

Governors were informed of the change by the White House on Tuesday morning.

This week, Iowa turned down nearly three quarters of the vaccine doses available to the state for next week from the federal government because demand for the shots remains weak. Louisiana, meanwhile, hasn’t drawn down its full vaccine allocation from the federal government for the last few weeks.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Louisiana’s coronavirus vaccination rate is well behind most states. About 27 percent of state residents are fully vaccinated while 32 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the state health department.

The White House previously resisted efforts to distribute vaccine by metrics other than population. Biden rebuffed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last month when she requested more doses as her state was experiencing a surge in virus cases. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the time nearly all states were ordering at or near their population allocations, which is no longer the case.

Individual states have made similar shifts internally to account for changing demand. Last week, Washington state changed the way it allocates coronavirus vaccine to its counties. Previously the state doled out supplies to counties proportionate to their populations. But now amounts will be based on requests from health care providers.