Vaccine favourites and a Canadian on death row: In The News for May 7

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 May 7 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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OTTAWA - A new survey from Proof Strategies suggests it's not only Canada's national vaccine advisers who have a "preferred" vaccine.

The survey of 1,500 people taken during the first three days of May suggests the two mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are way out in front in the eyes of Canadians.

More than eight in 10 people surveyed said they trusted the Pfizer vaccine to be safe and effective, and almost as many said they trusted Moderna.

However, only half of the respondents said they trusted Johnson & Johnson's vaccine and 4.5 in 10 said they trusted Oxford-AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca and J&J use similar technology and have both been potentially linked to a new and very rare vaccine-induced blood clotting syndrome. Twelve cases are confirmed in Canada after about two million doses given. Three people have died.

While scientists still can't explain why the vaccines are causing this syndrome, reports suggest it is happening between one in 100,000 doses given, and one in 250,000.

The poll was taken a week after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization warned Canadians the blood clot risk may be a reason for people at low risk of getting COVID-19 to turn down AstraZeneca and wait until they can get Pfizer or Moderna.

The same warning issued for J&J came May 3, on the third day this poll was in the field.

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Also this ...

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff has offered to testify at a House of Commons committee investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander.

Katie Telford wrote members of the defence committee Thursday, offering to testify at their meeting Friday.

Opposition parties have been demanding she appear to explain an apparent discrepancy between Trudeau's assertion that his office did not know a complaint against general Jonathan Vance involved sexual misconduct and other testimony and emails suggesting that it did know.

Telford has been in the hot seat since Elder Marques, a former senior adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, testified two weeks ago.

Marques said he was informed in 2018 by Telford or her assistant that there had been an allegation of "personal misconduct" against Vance, then chief of the defence staff. He said he assumed it was sexual in nature.

Marques said he immediately referred the matter to the clerk of the Privy Council, advised Telford that he had done so and then "kept her apprised as matters developed."

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And this ...

DEER LODGE, Mt. - A Canadian on death row in Montana for almost 40 years says he has mixed feelings after legislation to resume executions in that state was unexpectedly defeated.

Ronald Smith, originally from Red Deer, Alberta, has been on death row since 1983 for killing two young Montana men near East Glacier, Montana.

He told The Canadian Press he thought the bill was going to pass and had warned his family that his execution was likely to go ahead.

Smith says he had come to terms with the idea, and figured that after nearly four decades alone in a cellblock, the death penalty might be preferable to more time in prison.

"A lot of people look at it and say, 'Well at least you're alive,' but I'm really not. I'm just sitting around like a bump on a log is all I'm doing, and after almost 40 years of this, anything is preferable."

But Smith adds that he's happy the death penalty debate is on hold, at least for now.

The 63-year-old says he just wants to serve time in Canada so he can see his daughter, sisters, grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Smith pleaded guilty to the killings and requested the death penalty, but later changed his mind.

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

LAKE CHARLES, La. — President Joe Biden ventured into reliably Republican Louisiana on Thursday to pressure GOP lawmakers to support his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

Biden leaned into the stagecraft of the presidency by choosing to speak in the city of Lake Charles with a badly aging bridge as his backdrop. The city has been battered by historic storms and is home to a 70-year-old bridge that is two decades past its designed lifespan.

The Democratic president, who wants to raise corporate taxes, challenged Republican dogma that low taxes for corporations and the wealthy fuel economic growth. But he also declared he was willing to make a deal and dared them to do the same.

"I’m willing to hear ideas from both sides," said Biden. "I'm ready to compromise. What I’m not ready to do is, I’m not ready to do nothing. I’m not ready to have another period where America has another Infrastructure Month and it doesn’t change a damn thing."

Even as he engages with Republicans in Washington, Biden is trying to sell their voters on the idea that higher corporate taxes can provide $115 billion for roads and bridges and hundreds of billions of dollars more to upgrade America's electrical grid, make the water system safer, rebuild homes and jump-start the manufacturing of electric vehicles.

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

LISBON, Prt. -- On the list of things not to do during a pandemic, holding big international gatherings is close to the top.

But European Union leaders and their large following of diplomats and advisers are meeting in Portugal today for two days of talks, sending a signal that they see the threat from COVID-19 on their continent as waning, amid a quickening vaccine rollout.

Their talks hope to repair some of the damage the coronavirus has caused in the bloc, in such areas as welfare and employment.

In a late addition to their agenda, EU leaders will also discuss Thursday's U.S. proposal to share the technology behind COVID-19 vaccines to help speed the end of the pandemic.

The leaders will also take part in an unprecedented meeting, via videoconference, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country needs more help with a devastating virus surge — and who can smooth the path to an elusive bilateral trade deal.

Despite a slow start to its inoculation drive, the EU this week passed the milestone of 150 million vaccinations and reckons it can reach what it calls "sufficient community immunity" in two months’ time.

The European Commission proposes relaxing restrictions on travel to the bloc this summer.

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On this day in 1920 ...

The first exhibition of the Group of Seven went on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The seven artists were Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley. Initial reviews were favourable, but only three of the 100-plus works were purchased.

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In entertainment ...

TORONTO – Justin Bieber's world tour is facing another delay because of COVID-19 as the singer from Stratford, Ont., pushing dozens of tour dates into next year.

The changes affect a number of stops planned this summer in three Canadian cities.

It's the second delay for his first major tour in several years.

Bieber's July dates in Toronto have now been moved to March 25, and June 7 and 8, 2022, at Scotiabank Arena. A rescheduled stop at Ottawa's Canadian Tire Centre is set for March 28, 2022, and Montreal's Bell Centre on March 29, 2022.

Organizers say the postponement was made in recognition of COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions that still vary by region.

The 52-date world tour will now kick off Feb. 18, 2022, in San Diego, and include seven new arena shows in U.S. cities.

Bieber's tour is also undergoing another name change as part of the numerous delays.

The shows were originally dubbed The Changes Tour to reflect his 2020 album, before taking on a generic Justin Bieber World Tour branding when they were first rescheduled.

With the second date change, the shows were branded the Justice Tour to reflect the release of his "Justice" album two months ago.

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ICYMI ...

OTTAWA - The chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization says people who already got the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine did not get a "second-best shot."

Dr. Caroline Quach and the other 15 members of NACI were accused of sowing seeds of confusion and vaccine hesitancy when they recommended for a second time that Canadians who aren't at high risk from COVID-19 may want to wait to get immunized until a dose of Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna is available.

Those two vaccines, which use mRNA technology and haven't been linked in any way to blood clots, are the "preferred" vaccines, they said, leading some medical experts to worry NACI was grading the vaccines and Canadians would wonder if that means AstraZeneca is substandard and should therefore be avoided.

Some of the 1.7 million Canadians who had been vaccinated with it already questioned whether they should have waited instead.

Quach said people who took AstraZeneca should not feel they made a bad choice.

``The recommendation is not a retrospective one,'' said Quach. "That means that everyone who has received the AstraZeneca vaccine has been protected against COVID-19.''

Quach said a single dose of AstraZeneca has proven to be as good at preventing hospitalizations or deaths from COVID-19 as a single dose of Pfizer or Moderna. That includes against both the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, and the variant first detected in the United Kingdom, which is the dominant one in Canada.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021.

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