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Today’s coronavirus news: Physicians in Alberta say they are dealing with aggressive, misinformed patients; 15 of 54 African nations at 10% vaccinated: WHO – Toronto Star

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Thursday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

10:32 a.m. COVID-19 vaccines are more than 97-per-cent effective against death and more than 92-per-cent effective against hospitalisation, even in the presence of the Delta variant, according to a new study by Quebec’s public health research institute (INSPQ), published on Wednesday. In addition, the high level of protection lasts a long time.

Of the 181 people who died due to COVID-19 between March 14 and Sept. 11, 2021, only three had been vaccinated with two doses, giving a vaccine efficacy against death of more than 97 per cent.

“It’s very good. The data are very comparable to clinical studies from different manufacturers and data that are published in different countries all over the world,” said Alain Lamarre, professor-researcher specializing in immunology and virology at the province’s leading research institute (INRS).

The results show a vaccine efficacy of more than 92 per cent against hospitalisations, regardless of the vaccine used. The efficacy is high for all strains of the virus, including the Delta variant.

“It shows excellent protection against hospitalisations (in the presence of the) Delta variant. The results are as high as we expected,” said Gaston De Serres, epidemiologist at INSPQ and member of the Quebec immunization committee (CIQ).

10:20 a.m. Ontario is not releasing COVID-19 stats on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

10 a.m. Amid all the focus on COVID-19 vaccinations, U.S. health experts have another plea: Don’t skip your flu shot.

Flu cases have dropped to historically low levels during the pandemic. The U.S. and Europe experienced hardly any flu last winter, and the Southern Hemisphere just ended its second flu season of the coronavirus pandemic with little to report.

But with U.S. schools and businesses reopened, international travel resuming and far less masking this fall, flu could make a comeback. The big question is whether it will trickle in or roar back and put extra pressure on hospitals already struggling with COVID-19 surges.

“People are sick to death of hearing about having to roll on out and get vaccines of any sort,” said flu specialist Richard Webby of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

9:45 a.m. Calls are growing for Alberta to take further, dramatic measures to deal with its COVID-19 crisis, while Premier Jason Kenney maintains what appears to be a wait-and-see approach that is drawing the ire of health experts.

There are currently more than 20,000 COVID-19 cases in Alberta, with more than 1,000 people in hospital. On Wednesday, the province recorded 34 deaths from COVID-19 — a one-day record during Alberta’s pandemic battle.

Help from the federal and provincial governments is on offer for Alberta but, as of this week, Kenney has not formally accepted it. He’s also rejected demands from doctors and health experts to implement a circuit-breaker lockdown to stem the tide of the fourth wave.

Read the full story from the Star’s Kieran Leavitt

9:25 a.m. Ontario Provincial Police have charged a fourth person in connection with the alleged $11 million theft of provincial COVID-19 relief funds.

In a move suggesting an expansion of the year-long criminal probe of the pandemic fraud, OPP laid two charges against Manish Gambhir, 41, a Brampton computer specialist.

Gambhir was charged Tuesday with possession of an identity document related — or purported to relate — to another person and with possession of stolen property.

Read the full story from the Star’s Robert Benzie

9:15 a.m. The World Health Organization says just 15 of Africa’s 54 countries have reached the global target of fully vaccinating 10 per cent of their population by the end of this month.

Half of African countries have fully vaccinated 2 per cent or less of their populations. The WHO says almost 90 per cent of high-income countries have met the 10 per cent target set by the World Health Assembly this year.

While vaccine deliveries to African countries have increased 10-fold since June, WHO Africa immunization official Richard Mihigo says deliveries need to more than double by the end of the year to reach the WHO target of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of the population by then.

Mihigo says about 900 million doses are needed. He says African countries have received more than 200 million vaccine doses so far and administered over 70 per cent of them. Just 4 per cent of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated.

8:30 a.m. The Broadway musical “Aladdin” canceled its Wednesday night performance due to breakthrough COVID-19 cases.

The cancellation came just one night after the show’s return.

“Through our rigorous testing protocols, breakthrough COVID-19 cases have been detected within the company of the Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theatre,” the show announced on social media. “Because the wellness and safety of our guests, cast and crew are our top priority, tonight’s performance, Wednesday, September 29th, is canceled.”

It was the first Broadway COVID cancellation since shows resumed. Theaters started reopening in June, with many of the bigger musicals coming back earlier this month.

There was no word on who or how many people affiliated with the hit Disney show had been afflicted. Tickets for the performance will be refunded at their point of purchase. The “Aladdin” team intends to provide information about future performances Thursday.

8:20 a.m. A second hospital in Alaska is beginning to ration health care as the state deals with a spike in coronavirus cases.

Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp. in Bethel announced the move Wednesday as it reported it is operating at capacity.

Rationing of care had already been imposed by Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, which is the state’s largest hospital.

Coronavirus infections in Alaska have risen 42 per cent in the last week.

The president of the Bethel region hospital says it did everything possible to delay rationing but had to take the step.

Hospital CEO Dan Winkelman is urging “every resident of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region to get vaccinated, wear a mask in indoor public areas, and social distance.” He warns that “this is our last stand against this virus.”

8:07 a.m. Denmark seems to have failed to reach its target of 90 per cent of people over the age of 12 having been vaccinated twice by Oct. 1 as the latest official figures show 84.9 per cent have gotten both shots.

The latest official figures by Danish Health Authorities show that 4,366,235 people have gotten both shots.

Those who have gotten the first shot — 4,453,321 people — represent 86.6 per cent of those over the age of 12.

The vaccine is voluntary and free of charge in Denmark, which on Sept. 10, declared that it no longer considers COVID-19 as “a socially critical disease” because of the large number of vaccinations. All restrictions have since been removed.

The Scandinavian country has a total population of 5.8 million.

6:27 a.m.: Vaccines are the way out. Do you want to see friends, go to restaurants, drink in a bar until you fall down? Get vaccinated. Do you want to fly to another province, work in a hospital or the federal government, climb back up to something like how we used to live? Get vaccinated.

And if you’re a government that wishes like a child that this was all over? Make sure people get vaccinated, almost any way you can.

Because this is where we’re at. The pandemic that has upended the entire damned globe can effectively end, within its current parameters, if enough people get vaccinated. That’s it. Canada has so many vaccines it had to pause deliveries. In Ontario, 80.7 per cent of all eligible people had two doses as of Wednesday morning, and 86.1 per cent had at least one.

It’s great but it’s not enough, not if you want to get to 90 per cent of all Ontarians to protect against Delta. Even once Pfizer is approved for ages 5-11, which will hopefully happen in the next eight weeks or so, that is another million Ontarians, more or less. To get to 90 per cent of the 5+ population requires another million people after that. And currently Ontario is only delivering about 40,000 single doses per day.

Read the full column by the Star’s Bruce Arthur.

5:45 a.m: Some family physicians in Alberta say they are dealing with an increasing number of aggressive, misinformed and untrusting patients who want a note exempting them from getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Two of three Calgary doctors who spoke to The Canadian Press also said some people have yelled racist comments at them after they declined to write a note because the patients did not have health conditions known to cause serious side-effects to a shot.

“They mostly comment on my brown skin and hijab” said Dr. Sakina Raj. “I’m also Muslim … so they come to religion and they get personal with that.

“It’s really scary because I feel sometimes they were so abusive verbally, that they could harm us. But I still am kind to them. I calm them down nicely. I’m too experienced to be stressed by them.”

Raj said since Premier Jason Kenney announced a proof of vaccination program to try to turn back a crippling fourth wave in the province, safety has become such a concern that Sehet Medical Clinic is now dealing with new patients wanting an exemption only on the phone.

Raj and another Calgary physician said more than three patients a day are asking their clinics for an exemption. Dr. Mukarram Zaidi said one patient tried to bribe him with $200.

Zaidi said some worry the vaccine is a cover to plant a microchip in their body, while others anxious about a possible allergic reaction.

The doctors add many of their colleagues across the province have successfully persuaded the vaccine hesitant to get their shots by walking them through what’s involved and addressing their concerns.

5 a.m.: If there’s one good thing about the fact that hundreds of businesses are defying vaccine passport laws in Ontario it’s that they’re out and proud.

According to reporting from the Star’s Jacob Lorinc this week, an online directory called BAD (Businesses Against Discrimination) currently lists roughly 680 businesses that refuse to ask customers for their vaccination status.

Similarly, a Facebook group called Ontario Businesses Against Health Pass composed of nearly 140,000 people describes itself like this: “A group for people to compile a list of businesses that believe a health passport in Ontario is unconstitutional. Your personal health status is irrelevant, and your own personal choice.”

It’s nice knowing that business owners who flout public health measures enjoy talking about flouting public health measures, thus alerting the rest of us to those businesses we should quite literally, avoid like the plague.

But what about customers who miss the memo on where it’s safe to go and where isn’t?

Read the column from Star columnist Emma Teitel.

4:45 a.m.: Health care workers who were once saluted for saving lives in the COVID-19 outbreak are now being issued panic buttons and ditching their scrubs before going out in public to avoid harassment.

Across the country, doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are dealing with hostility, threats and violence from patients angry over safety rules designed to keep the virus from spreading. Some hospitals are so concerned that they equipped workers with panic buttons, while others have limited the number of public entrance to their facilities.

In Idaho, nurses they’re scared to go to grocery stores unless they’ve changed out of their scrubs so they aren’t accosted by angry residents.

“A year ago, we’re health care heroes and everybody’s clapping for us,” said Dr. Stu Coffman, a Dallas-based emergency room physician. “And now we’re being in some areas harassed and disbelieved and ridiculed for what we’re trying to do, which is just depressing and frustrating.”Cox Medical Center Branson in Missouri started giving panic buttons to up to 400 nurses and other employees after assaults per year tripled between 2019 and 2020 to 123, a spokeswoman said.

Over the Labour Day weekend in Colorado, a passerby threw an unidentified liquid at a nurse working at a mobile vaccine clinic in suburban Denver. Another person in a pickup truck ran over and destroyed signs put up around the clinic’s tent.

4:30 a.m.: Ontario is now recommending the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for young adults aged 18 to 24 because of an “observed increase” in rare heart inflammation conditions after doses of Moderna, mainly in males.

The change announced Wednesday by the Ministry of Health was made “out of an abundance of caution” over a rise in cases of pericarditis and myocarditis. It takes effect immediately but officials said people in the age group can still get a shot of Moderna with informed consent.

Describing the new guidance as a “preferential recommendation,” senior ministry staff told a background briefing there was a one in 5,000 risk of myocarditis or pericarditis for males aged 18 to 24 following a second dose of Moderna.

That compares with a risk of one in 28,000 for those who received Pfizer — about five times lower. The risk rates are based on more than 96,000 second doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines injected between June 1 and August 7.

Read the full story here from Rob Ferguson and Robert Benzie.