The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 23

A worker of the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (FDNY EMS) receives a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Manhattan on Wednesday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Health Canada approves Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Health Canada has approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country, with 168,000 doses expected to arrive by end of the year. The authorization of a second COVID-19 vaccine comes as cases surge across the country.

The federal department announced the approval on Wednesday after completing a review of the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company’s clinical trial data. “The data provided supports favourably the efficacy of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as well as its safety,” Health Canada said in a notice authorizing use of the vaccine for people over the age of 18.

Health Canada authorized a vaccine made by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech on Dec. 9, and that vaccine is already being administered in parts of the country to people in high-priority groups, including health-care workers as well as long-term care workers and residents.

The Moderna approval means vaccinations can now begin in northern, remote and Indigenous communities, which haven’t seen any doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because they lack the freezer equipment necessary to safely store it at -70 C. Moderna’s vaccine, by contrast, can be stored at regular freezer temperatures.

Canada has secured an agreement to receive 40 million doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of 2021 — enough to vaccinate 20 million Canadians. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference Wednesday that doses of the Moderna vaccine would start arriving “in the coming days.”

Trudeau also announced that Canada had secured an agreement for delivery of an additional 250,000 doses from Pfizer next month, bringing the total number of doses expected to be delivered by Pfizer in January to 751,000. “Between the early doses we have already received and the shipments now scheduled, we’re on track to have at least 1.2 million doses from both Pfizer and Moderna delivered by January 31,” he said.

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Some families are keeping Christmas simple and spending less because of stores closed by lockdowns and limits on gatherings, while others just can’t afford holiday celebrations or gifts. 2:00

IN BRIEF

Canada extends ban on passenger flights from U.K. until Jan. 6

Canada will extend its ban on passenger flights from the United Kingdom until Jan. 6, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday. The two-week extension is on top of the initial ban, originally for three days, implemented Monday.

Those restrictions were in response to the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 in Britain that research suggests is more transmissible than the variant currently dominant in Canada. Countries around the world have restricted travel from the U.K.

On Tuesday, federal health officials said they had not yet detected the variant — which is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant strain in the U.K., based on modelling — in an analysis of samples already gathered in Canada.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBC News he “would not be surprised” if the variant was already present in Canada and the United States. Still, Fauci, like other doctors, is stressing that it does not appear to cause more severe illness and that it is unlikely to be resistant to the COVID-19 vaccines.

Read more about the debate over Canada’s border restrictions

Ontario sees 9th consecutive day of more than 2,000 new cases 

Ontario reported another 2,408 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — the ninth consecutive day of more than 2,000 cases in the province — and the deaths of 41 more people with the illness. The new cases pushed the seven-day average to a record-high 2,304.

Hospitals in various parts of southern Ontario, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding regions, have warned that increasing ICU admissions threaten to overwhelm the health-care system in coming weeks if climbing case numbers are not brought under control.

There are currently 19,424 confirmed, active infections provincewide, the most at any point since the first case was reported in Ontario on Jan. 25. Further, there are now 1,002 people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 275 are being treated in intensive care and 186 require the use of a ventilator to breathe — both record highs, according to the province’s official data.

Premier Doug Ford announced this week that the entire province would move into lockdown on Boxing Day. Twenty-seven of Ontario’s 34 public health units will remain in the shutdown for at least 28 days, while in regions throughout the north the tighter restrictions could be lifted after two weeks.

Read more about the situation in Ontario

Federal government launches searchable database of firms, groups that got wage subsidy

After months of being pressed for details on which individuals, groups and companies received federal pandemic supports, the Liberal government has published a searchable registry of companies that have accessed the Canada emergency wage subsidy (CEWS).

The list on the Canada Revenue Agency’s website details all of the companies that have received the CEWS, or will soon receive it, but it does not detail how much each company or group received of the $83.5 billion the federal government estimates it has spent and will spend on the program this year.

“I think the government found the right balance of sharing the name of companies that have used the wage subsidy but haven’t given personal details or amounts,” Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), told CBC News.

The data that has been put online lists well over 300,000 names of individual companies or groups. CBC reported last week that the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, one of the country’s most prominent private courses, managed to build up a $1-million surplus from its past season, thanks mostly to federal subsidies for workers’ wages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more about the launch of the CEWS registry

(CBC News)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

How effective are the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines?

Now that getting vaccinated is on the horizon for the general public, you may have some questions about the vaccines. You can submit yours to COVID@cbc.ca.

As for the issue at hand: On Nov. 18, Pfizer-BioNTech released updated results of their Phase 3 clinical trials, suggesting the vaccine is 95 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19, a little over a week after releasing interim results showing the vaccine may be 90 per cent effective.

Moderna confirmed on Nov. 30 that the updated data from its Phase 3 clinical trial shows its vaccine is more than 94 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19, following similar partial results a couple of weeks earlier.

The analyses were both conducted by an independent data monitoring board. Pfizer’s updated results looked at 170 infections while Moderna’s examined 196 infections to see which occurred among those who received the real shot versus those who received a dummy shot or placebo. With both vaccines, each participant gets two injections.

Moderna said that of 196 COVID-19 cases so far in its huge U.S. study, 185 were trial participants who received the placebo, and 11 got the real vaccine. The only people who became severely ill — 30 participants, including one who died — had received dummy shots. Pfizer said of 170 infections, only eight occurred in the group that got the vaccine, and only one was a severe case.

Pfizer says once its analysis is complete, it will submit its data to a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Full results have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.

AND FINALLY…

How this Syrian refugee is giving back to his new home during COVID-19

Abdul Jalab, who is originally from Syria, moved to Nova Scotia at the end of January 2020. He is giving back to his new home during the pandemic. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Abdul Jalab landed in Halifax as a Syrian refugee at the end of January and says he was immediately struck by the kindness of the people around him.

So when the coronavirus arrived in the city a few months later and Jalab had a work schedule that gave him three to four days off each week, he got the idea to spend that time running errands for people who weren’t able to do so. “I need to do something, I need to give back,” said Jalab. “I have the power, I have my car, I have the time to do it, so why not?”

In April, he made a post on Facebook offering to get groceries for people who were vulnerable, self-isolating or otherwise couldn’t make it to the store. Shortly after, requests started to come in through a Google form he made.

Jalab’s project keeps him fairly busy, and he normally has an order or two to take care of on his days off. But along with the grocery requests came offers for help. While Jalab still does most of the errands himself, there’s now a roster of five to six people who fill in for him when he’s unavailable.

Other than the cost of whatever he’s picking up, the service is free, although Jalab has taken payment in the form of home-cooked meals. “Sometimes people, they give you a lunchbox or something, and I think that’s really cool, so you will be able to taste Canadian cuisine … from people’s kitchen, and it’s made with love,” he said.

Over the past few months, Jalab has also been working on another project with a few friends called Smile in a Box, where they collect donated items to give to children in need for the holidays. He said they made about 100 boxes this year.

Read more about Jalab’s experience in Nova Scotia

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

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