You’ve got your second COVID vaccine. Now what?

With the number of Canadians fully vaccinated and ready for a two dose summer rising every day, many are starting to wonder what exactly it means.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has published clear guidance on what individuals who’ve had both shots can do safely, but public health officials in this country have yet to release anything that offers a similar road map. It’s a situation, some experts say, that leaves a vacuum for individuals to make up their own (potentially misguided) rules. “People just want to know, what should I do and when should I do it?” said Maria Sundaram, a post-doctoral fellow at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, noting changing and complex advice throughout the pandemic has been difficult for the public to follow. It’s crucial to make sure that guidance doesn’t make people who haven’t had a second dose yet feel like they’re being punished, given the ongoing challenges around access, she added.Thousands of Ontarians, for example, became eligible to move up their second doses Monday in Delta variant hot spots including Toronto and Peel.But there were reports on social media of long waits with the online booking system and frustration with a lack of appointments. There are still many who are not even eligible for their second dose yet, and about 25 per cent of the province’s adults still haven’t received a first jab.However, Sundaram said, “it is helpful to show to people” that vaccines are “our road back to the world that we lived in before” December 2019.Over 4.5 million people, or about 12 per cent of the Canadian population, have now had both doses of a COVID vaccine, by the Star’s count. Almost 13 per cent of the Ontario population is fully vaccinated. According to the most recent data from Toronto Public Health, roughly 16 per cent of city residents have had both shots. In the U.S., where more people have had both doses already, the CDC has provided clear advice on its website on “how to protect yourself and others” once “you’ve been fully vaccinated.”The agency states that two weeks after the second dose, leaving time for the body to develop antibodies against the disease, individuals can return to activities that they did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or physically distancing. That includes gathering indoors with a small group of people from multiple households, going to an exercise class or eating at an indoor restaurant or bar.Toronto Public Health directed questions about such guidance to the province.Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for Minister of Health Christine Elliott, said in an email that the province’s chief medical officer of health is “actively consulting with public health and other experts” on potential advice that takes into account Ontario’s unique context and reopening plan. “Much like the CDC released guidelines in the U.S., we continue to urge Health Canada and PHAC (the Public Health Agency of Canada) to release guidance for fully vaccinated individuals,” she added.“While we are making great progress in our vaccine rollout, we must all remain vigilant and continue to follow current public health advice and measures.”Last week the federal government announced that fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents will soon be able to skip hotel quarantine upon returning to the country.But Health Canada has not yet commented on, for example, whether fully vaccinated people can gather inside for a small dinner party with a few other fully vaccinated friends. Asked about specific guidance, a spokesperson for Health Canada cited April 23 modelling from Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam that’s now been updated to include everyone 12 and up, which states that COVID restrictions may start to lift based on the local disease burden and vaccine coverage (if 75 per cent of those eligible for vaccines have one dose and if 20 per cent have a second).“People across Canada are encouraged to continue to follow the advice of their local public health authority as provincial and territorial governments continue to make decisions about when to ease or reinstate public health measures in their communities,” the spokesperson added. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at University Health Network and a member of the province’s vaccine task force, said it would be “inappropriate and unethical” for individual experts and doctors to provide advice on what people can and can’t do with two doses.“It’s got to come from senior public health leadership,” he said. In the meantime, some people are going to do whatever they want, as they have been throughout the pandemic. “But there’s also a huge segment of the population that is really starving for guidance, and will look to guidance for how to conduct themselves. That’s who this is for,” Bogoch said. “Without that, many people will just go about their own way and do what they feel is appropriate.”Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician at Tril

You’ve got your second COVID vaccine. Now what?

With the number of Canadians fully vaccinated and ready for a two dose summer rising every day, many are starting to wonder what exactly it means.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has published clear guidance on what individuals who’ve had both shots can do safely, but public health officials in this country have yet to release anything that offers a similar road map.

It’s a situation, some experts say, that leaves a vacuum for individuals to make up their own (potentially misguided) rules.

“People just want to know, what should I do and when should I do it?” said Maria Sundaram, a post-doctoral fellow at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, noting changing and complex advice throughout the pandemic has been difficult for the public to follow.

It’s crucial to make sure that guidance doesn’t make people who haven’t had a second dose yet feel like they’re being punished, given the ongoing challenges around access, she added.

Thousands of Ontarians, for example, became eligible to move up their second doses Monday in Delta variant hot spots including Toronto and Peel.

But there were reports on social media of long waits with the online booking system and frustration with a lack of appointments. There are still many who are not even eligible for their second dose yet, and about 25 per cent of the province’s adults still haven’t received a first jab.

However, Sundaram said, “it is helpful to show to people” that vaccines are “our road back to the world that we lived in before” December 2019.

Over 4.5 million people, or about 12 per cent of the Canadian population, have now had both doses of a COVID vaccine, by the Star’s count. Almost 13 per cent of the Ontario population is fully vaccinated.

According to the most recent data from Toronto Public Health, roughly 16 per cent of city residents have had both shots.

In the U.S., where more people have had both doses already, the CDC has provided clear advice on its website on “how to protect yourself and others” once “you’ve been fully vaccinated.”

The agency states that two weeks after the second dose, leaving time for the body to develop antibodies against the disease, individuals can return to activities that they did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or physically distancing. That includes gathering indoors with a small group of people from multiple households, going to an exercise class or eating at an indoor restaurant or bar.

Toronto Public Health directed questions about such guidance to the province.

Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for Minister of Health Christine Elliott, said in an email that the province’s chief medical officer of health is “actively consulting with public health and other experts” on potential advice that takes into account Ontario’s unique context and reopening plan.

“Much like the CDC released guidelines in the U.S., we continue to urge Health Canada and PHAC (the Public Health Agency of Canada) to release guidance for fully vaccinated individuals,” she added.

“While we are making great progress in our vaccine rollout, we must all remain vigilant and continue to follow current public health advice and measures.”

Last week the federal government announced that fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents will soon be able to skip hotel quarantine upon returning to the country.

But Health Canada has not yet commented on, for example, whether fully vaccinated people can gather inside for a small dinner party with a few other fully vaccinated friends.

Asked about specific guidance, a spokesperson for Health Canada cited April 23 modelling from Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam that’s now been updated to include everyone 12 and up, which states that COVID restrictions may start to lift based on the local disease burden and vaccine coverage (if 75 per cent of those eligible for vaccines have one dose and if 20 per cent have a second).

“People across Canada are encouraged to continue to follow the advice of their local public health authority as provincial and territorial governments continue to make decisions about when to ease or reinstate public health measures in their communities,” the spokesperson added.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at University Health Network and a member of the province’s vaccine task force, said it would be “inappropriate and unethical” for individual experts and doctors to provide advice on what people can and can’t do with two doses.

“It’s got to come from senior public health leadership,” he said.

In the meantime, some people are going to do whatever they want, as they have been throughout the pandemic.

“But there’s also a huge segment of the population that is really starving for guidance, and will look to guidance for how to conduct themselves. That’s who this is for,” Bogoch said.

“Without that, many people will just go about their own way and do what they feel is appropriate.”

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, said telling individuals to totally abstain from activities is less useful than offering them strategies to navigate risk, and “allowing people the autonomy, empowering them to make their own decisions.”

The guidance from the CDC would be easily adaptable to the Canadian context, he said.

He also points to a video from France, and a more local one from This is Our Shot Canada, a collaborative campaign to get people to roll up their sleeves, showing people able to get back to their normal lives once they are fully vaccinated, as good examples of the positive clear communication around vaccines that is needed.

These types of messages would also provide incentives for people to get both shots, he said.

“These vaccines are really amazing,” Chakrabarti added.

“And I think they’re being consistently undersold.”

May Warren is a Toronto-based breaking news reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Canada is holding a national summit on Islamophobia. Will it kick-start real change?

OTTAWA—Ahead of an impending summit to fight Islamophobia, the head of the National Council for Canadian Muslims wants one thing to be clear: politicians in attendance must go beyond rehashing the messages of hope and sorrow the Muslim community has heard before. “What we need to be clear about is that the summit is not a conference,” executive director Mustafa Farooq told the Star. “The summit is really where we’re figuring out and negotiating out timetables for action.”On Friday, MPs unanimously adopted a non-binding motion calling for Ottawa to “convene an Emergency National Action Summit on Islamophobia” before the end of July. A date for the gathering has not been set, but some agenda items are already taking shape.“It’s going to be about taking action on things like appointing a special envoy on Islamophobia, action on potentially introducing new legislation for dismantling white supremacist groups,” Farooq said. A lengthy list of Muslim and human rights groups backed the initial call for the event, also appealing to other levels of government to fold anti-Islamophobia education into school curriculums, end discriminatory legislation and develop new approaches to tackling street harassment. The push for the summit first came from the London Muslim Mosque, which was attended by the family killed last week in what police have labelled a hate-motivated attack. The man accused of killing four members of the Afzaal family and injuring a nine-year-old boy is now facing charges of terrorism.“The measure of whether governments actually stand by their words…in the aftermath of the London terror attack, will very much be whether the recommendations of the summit are actually put into place and passed into law in an expedient and short time frame,” Farooq said.While leaders of Muslim organizations have a distinct vision of what they want to get out of the event, it’s less obvious how governments at any level will convince the Muslim community that this time, their promises come with teeth.Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland didn’t answer Monday when asked whether the Liberal government was prepared to set aside new funds to tackle Islamophobia.“The federal government has already invested in the fight against Islamophobia and against white supremacism,” Freeland said. “Clearly, there is a lot more work to do. And we’re going to continue to do that work.”NDP diversity critic Lindsay Mathyssen, the MP who brought forward last week’s motion, said “the will of the people” injects a different sense of urgency into the summit.“Governments need to recognize that it’s the people that give them that power, and that it’s their responsibility to disseminate that power and ensure that people share in it,” she said.In a statement to the Star, the office of Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger wrote that details on the event are still being finalized “as we take a whole-of-government approach to ensure that the summit offers meaningful opportunity for Muslim communities to set out concrete actions that our government can take to combat Islamophobia.”Chagger’s office cited Ottawa’s recent work to declare a national day of remembrance for the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting and a federal budget pledge to help places of worship beef up their security infrastructure as further evidence of progress. The federal government has yet to introduce promised legislation that would address and remove hate speech online. Preparations for the summit, however, come as another Conservative MP has apologized for his stance on issues that stoked fear about the Muslim community. “Years ago, as the Minister of State for Multiculturalism, I was the spokesperson for a bill to ban the niqab...while taking the oath of citizenship,” Edmonton Mills MP Tim Uppal wrote in a Facebook post Sunday.After the federal Conservatives lost the 2015 election, Uppal said, he began talking to more Canadians outside the “partisan political bubble”. “It was through these conversations that I really understood how this ban and other campaign announcements during the 2015 election alienated Muslim Canadians and contributed to the growing problem of Islamophobia in Canada,” Uppal said, likely referring to his party’s campaign vow to establish a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line.Uppal’s remarks come nearly one week after Tory health critic Michelle Rempel Garner also expressed regret over her silence on the niqab ban and RCMP tip line. The Calgary Nose Hill MP apologized, assuring the Muslim community that she would not “make the same mistake again.”In a news conference Monday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he was “proud” of his MPs for reaching out and “trying to build trust” with the Muslim community.Farooq called the pair of apologies “important and significant”, hoping that they signal change even beyond party lines. “We hope that the commitment to avoid dog whistling, baiting, xenophobic kinds of policies from any political party will be somet

Canada is holding a national summit on Islamophobia. Will it kick-start real change?

OTTAWA—Ahead of an impending summit to fight Islamophobia, the head of the National Council for Canadian Muslims wants one thing to be clear: politicians in attendance must go beyond rehashing the messages of hope and sorrow the Muslim community has heard before.

“What we need to be clear about is that the summit is not a conference,” executive director Mustafa Farooq told the Star. “The summit is really where we’re figuring out and negotiating out timetables for action.”

On Friday, MPs unanimously adopted a non-binding motion calling for Ottawa to “convene an Emergency National Action Summit on Islamophobia” before the end of July.

A date for the gathering has not been set, but some agenda items are already taking shape.

“It’s going to be about taking action on things like appointing a special envoy on Islamophobia, action on potentially introducing new legislation for dismantling white supremacist groups,” Farooq said.

A lengthy list of Muslim and human rights groups backed the initial call for the event, also appealing to other levels of government to fold anti-Islamophobia education into school curriculums, end discriminatory legislation and develop new approaches to tackling street harassment.

The push for the summit first came from the London Muslim Mosque, which was attended by the family killed last week in what police have labelled a hate-motivated attack.

The man accused of killing four members of the Afzaal family and injuring a nine-year-old boy is now facing charges of terrorism.

“The measure of whether governments actually stand by their words…in the aftermath of the London terror attack, will very much be whether the recommendations of the summit are actually put into place and passed into law in an expedient and short time frame,” Farooq said.

While leaders of Muslim organizations have a distinct vision of what they want to get out of the event, it’s less obvious how governments at any level will convince the Muslim community that this time, their promises come with teeth.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland didn’t answer Monday when asked whether the Liberal government was prepared to set aside new funds to tackle Islamophobia.

“The federal government has already invested in the fight against Islamophobia and against white supremacism,” Freeland said. “Clearly, there is a lot more work to do. And we’re going to continue to do that work.”

NDP diversity critic Lindsay Mathyssen, the MP who brought forward last week’s motion, said “the will of the people” injects a different sense of urgency into the summit.

“Governments need to recognize that it’s the people that give them that power, and that it’s their responsibility to disseminate that power and ensure that people share in it,” she said.

In a statement to the Star, the office of Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger wrote that details on the event are still being finalized “as we take a whole-of-government approach to ensure that the summit offers meaningful opportunity for Muslim communities to set out concrete actions that our government can take to combat Islamophobia.”

Chagger’s office cited Ottawa’s recent work to declare a national day of remembrance for the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting and a federal budget pledge to help places of worship beef up their security infrastructure as further evidence of progress.

The federal government has yet to introduce promised legislation that would address and remove hate speech online.

Preparations for the summit, however, come as another Conservative MP has apologized for his stance on issues that stoked fear about the Muslim community.

“Years ago, as the Minister of State for Multiculturalism, I was the spokesperson for a bill to ban the niqab...while taking the oath of citizenship,” Edmonton Mills MP Tim Uppal wrote in a Facebook post Sunday.

After the federal Conservatives lost the 2015 election, Uppal said, he began talking to more Canadians outside the “partisan political bubble”.

“It was through these conversations that I really understood how this ban and other campaign announcements during the 2015 election alienated Muslim Canadians and contributed to the growing problem of Islamophobia in Canada,” Uppal said, likely referring to his party’s campaign vow to establish a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line.

Uppal’s remarks come nearly one week after Tory health critic Michelle Rempel Garner also expressed regret over her silence on the niqab ban and RCMP tip line. The Calgary Nose Hill MP apologized, assuring the Muslim community that she would not “make the same mistake again.”

In a news conference Monday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he was “proud” of his MPs for reaching out and “trying to build trust” with the Muslim community.

Farooq called the pair of apologies “important and significant”, hoping that they signal change even beyond party lines.

“We hope that the commitment to avoid dog whistling, baiting, xenophobic kinds of policies from any political party will be something that all parties commit to every single day, forever. There cannot be a place in Canada for that.”

Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel

Source : Toronto Star More   

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