Public Health Changing Mask Orders, Still Promoting AstraZeneca

There was a lot of good news this week about the rollout of vaccines, but on Friday it was clear that there’s still some work that needs to be done to get us to the end of the pandemic. On Friday, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health announced that they are updating mask requirements to address the growing concerns of variants, while also trying to assuage doubts about the efficacy the latest vaccine.

First on masks, Public Health is expanding the existing Section 22 Class Order on face coverings to include the wearing of masks in common areas of multi-unit dwellings and temporary lodgings, and staff-only areas of commercial establishments. The Order will also extend to the owners and operators of instruction and exam vehicles, and require them to use face coverings, eye protection and screens while using the vehicle.

The changes will go into effect on Monday March 15 at 12:01 am.

Concerns about the increase in cases of COVID-19 variants are very real because according to the latest data from Public Health Ontario, the number of COVID cases related to the one of the variants has gone up from less than 10 per cent of new cases on February 7 to just over 30 per cent on March 6.

News like that makes it all the more important to get vaccines into people’s arms, which is why the news from Europe about how the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been temporarily suspended following reports of blood clots in people who were vaccinated is a point of concern.

Guelph received it’s first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday for distribution through area doctors’ offices starting this weekend, part of a pilot project initiated this week by the Government of Ontario. Still, the Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph says that there’s no reason to be worried about the local supply.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine available in Canada is both safe and effective,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer in a statement. “I encourage every resident of the region to get vaccinated as soon as it is their turn with whichever approved vaccine is available to them.”

According to Mercer, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, that the rate of adverse reactions from the AstraZeneca vaccine are very low, and second, the vaccine sent to Canada comes from the Serum Institute of India, a different facility than the ones sent to Europe.

“To date, no adverse events related to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, or the version manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, have been reported to Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada,” Health Canada added in a statement.

According to Thrombosis Canada, an organization dedicated to improved patient care for people that suffer from thrombotic vascular disease, which is more commonly known as blood clots, it’s a pretty rare problem especially in older people. “It is therefore likely that some people who receive a vaccine will, at some point, in the future develop a blood clot for reasons that are not related to the vaccine,” they said in a statement.

“It is the view of Thrombosis Canada that, based on the available evidence, there is no link between receiving this vaccine and the development of blood clots,” the statement added. “In general, vaccines of any type are not associated with the development of blood clots.”

Having said that, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that starting on the week of March 22, and through to the week of May 10, Canada will be receiving one millions doses per week of the Pfizer vaccine. Approved in December, the Pfizer vaccine was the first and most widely used of the four COVID vaccines approved in Canada.

In terms of the COVID trends, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph ends the week still in the orange with the 7-day moving rate of confirmed cases at 33.7 per 100,000 and test positivity at 1.6 per cent. There were just nine new cases in the region on Friday, but the number of active cases continues to fall and it now sits at 125. There was one new fatality from COVID-19 on Thursday, to bring the total number of COVID deaths up to 105.

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