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Promoting Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and too many bananas: In The News for March 2


In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of March 2 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

VANCOUVER — Experts say a national vaccine panel's recommendation against administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to seniors could be good news for essential workers and younger populations, but it has to be promoted that way.

Caroline Colijn, a COVID-19 modeller and mathematician at Simon Fraser University, and Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor in the division of infectious diseases in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia, say it's up to provincial officials to advertise it as a valuable resource.

Oxford-AstraZeneca has reported the vaccine is 62 per cent effective against preventing infection while Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have reported those vaccines have 95 per cent efficacy.

Colijn and Bach say people seem to be fixated on the different numbers, but what really needs to be underscored is that Oxford-AstraZeneca has prevented serious illness leading to hospitalization and there haven't been any deaths.

Canada has ordered 24 million doses of the vaccine, with most of it coming from the United States between April and September.

British Columbia's provincial health officer, Doctor Bonnie Henry, says the vaccine may be offered to essential workers and they'll have limited choice in waiting for the other two vaccines, but should take whatever they're offered first.


Also this ...

OTTAWA — A new poll suggests a majority of Canadians believe Ottawa will follow through on its plan to provide enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for everyone who wants a shot by the fall.

An online survey by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies says 56 per cent of respondents are confident the federal government can buy enough vaccine to ensure inoculation for those who seek it by September.

Canadians on both coasts and in Quebec were optimistic about their provinces' rollout plans as well as that of the feds.

People in Ontario and the Prairie provinces were more skeptical, with just one in three Albertans expressing faith in their government's delivery scheme.

Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says the ramp-up in vaccine shipments from Pfizer and Moderna last week likely brightened Canadians' views of federal distribution efforts.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is expecting delivery of about 445,000 doses this week, following last week’s record high of 640,000 doses in a seven-day period.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON — The White House is making it abundantly clear it has no plans to share America's COVID-19 vaccines with Canada or Mexico.

Press secretary Jen Psaki has been indicating for weeks that the Biden administration would not allow the export of doses manufactured in the U.S. any time soon.

She says President Joe Biden is focused first on making sure the vaccine is available to every American.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was expected to ask Biden directly for doses when the two meet virtually Monday evening.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly stopped short of making a similar request in his virtual meetings with Biden last week.

"No," Psaki said Monday when asked whether the U.S. would be willing to share its supply of vaccine doses.

"The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are available to every American. That is our focus."

Psaki hinted last week that the White House position could change later this year once more Americans are vaccinated and the doses are no longer in such short supply.

Johnson and Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine began shipping out Monday after it received emergency authorization over the weekend from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

That now makes three vaccines that are available in the U.S., along with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Health Canada has yet to approve the Johnson and Johnson shot, but gave the green light last week to a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

YANGON, Myanmar — Demonstrators in Myanmar took to the streets again today to protest last month’s seizure of power by the military, as foreign ministers from Southeast Asian countries prepared to meet to discuss the political crisis. 

Police in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, used tear gas against the protesters. The planned special meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations comes in the wake of worsening violence in Myanmar. The country’s new military rulers over the weekend escalated their use of deadly force and mass arrests to try to quash protests against the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN said it believed at least 18 people in several cities were killed on Sunday when security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrating crowds. Funerals were being held today for several of the victims.  

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar after five decades of military rule, coming the day a newly elected Parliament was supposed to take office. Ousted leader Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but instead she was detained along with President Win Myint and other senior officials.  


On this day in 1964 ...

The House of Commons approved a bill changing the name of Trans-Canada Air Lines to Air Canada. The law, proposed by then Liberal MP Jean Chretien, took effect the following Jan. 1.


In entertainment ...

The show must go on at the Stratford Festival, but this summer it will be happening outdoors.

Organizers say they have made tentative plans for "about a dozen" live productions held in-person at the renowned southwestern Ontario festival between late June and the end of September.

The plays and cabarets will take place beneath two canopies, one at the Festival Theatre and the other at the new Tom Patterson Theatre.

The idea was inspired by the original tent where the Stratford Festival first performed in the early 1950s.

Under the outdoors model, the festival's organizers expect to seat up to 100 people in "socially distanced pods," double the usual number of audience members who could be seated at the indoor theatre.

The full slate of plays and cabarets will be announced in the spring.

The plan will keep the Stratford Festival in operation throughout this summer after COVID-19 forced the entire 2020 season to be cancelled, leading the organization to dip into its endowment and secure a line of credit to stay afloat.

Stratford Festival's executive director Anita Gaffney says this summer's schedule is designed so that it can be modified to either shrink or grow in size, depending on provincial and community health guidelines.

She added that it's "only through significant and thorough advance planning that we can put in place the safety measures that will be essential for any eventuality."

Performances will be streamed online for those who cannot attend in-person shows.



CALGARY — It's been bananas at the Leftovers Foundation as the Calgary not-for-profit tries to find a use for thousands of bunches of the long, yellow fruit, which were donated all at once last week. 

Interim CEO Audra Stevenson said a call came in last Friday from produce distributor Fresh Direct and it had more than seven pallets of bananas with nowhere to go. 

That amounted to 346 cases, each with about 10 bunches in them. 

"Our bread and butter is rescuing food that doesn't have a home and getting it into the hands of people who need it," Stevenson said Monday. 

She said the priority is to get as many of the fresh bananas as possible to organizations that serve people in need, such as homeless shelters. As of Monday morning, there were about 150 cases left and a lineup of service agencies waiting to pick some up. 

But by Tuesday, Stevenson said, it's likely there will be a pallet left of bananas that are past their prime, like ones that start to turn brown on your kitchen counter. 

"You wouldn't give one to your kid, but you would make it into banana bread."

The Leftovers Foundation also has a program that brings large quantities of rescued produce to local food artisans that can upcycle it into tasty treats. 

The groups' website says that in the past, Made by Marcus has made ice cream from bananas it procured through the program. 

This time, Stevenson said Hoopla Donuts and restaurant Donna Mac are on standby to grab whatever is left once the service agencies get their fill. 


This report by The Canadian Press was first published xxx. x, 20xx

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