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Chance of surviving an overdose depends on where you live, advocates say

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The day after one of his closest friends died alone in his bedroom from an opioid overdose, Brandon Bailey started sharing his cellphone number across social media.

The man in recovery for a substance use disorder from Windsor, Ont., has a message for other users: If you’re going to use, call me.

“I will come to you and make sure that you are safe,” Bailey wrote in a Facebook post.

Bailey, who is also a member of the Windsor Overdose Prevention Society, said he’s been frustrated by a lack of overdose prevention services like safe consumption sites in the city, and he wants to ensure the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is within reach for anyone at risk.

Since his November post on Facebook, he has also distributed his cellphone number on flyers.

“We need to be doing something,” he said.

The overdose crisis has devastated communities across the country and is being blamed for slowing the progress of life expectancy, which had risen three years between 2000 and 2016.

Opioids killed an estimated 9,000 people in Canada between January 2016 and June 2018, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. About 94 per cent of those deaths were deemed accidental, and almost three-quarters involved the powerful opioid fentanyl.

Access to free, take-home naloxone kits varies across Canada. (Chris Donovan/Canadian Press)

But access to overdose prevention services vary geographically, prompting some advocates to say that a person’s chances of surviving an overdose depends on where you live.

There are eight approved supervised consumption sites in British Columbia, nine in Ontario, six in Alberta, four in Quebec, and none elsewhere, according to Health Canada.

Supervised consumption sites allow people to use their drugs under medical supervision, and many sites provide testing for fentanyl contamination and access to sterile equipment.

Lifelines for people 

Naloxone is now available for purchase at pharmacies in every province and territory except Alberta, Yukon and Nunavut, the Canadian Pharmacists Association said.

Access to the free, take-home naloxone kits is more varied, with Quebec offering the nasal spray to anyone over 14 through pharmacies, New Brunswick giving naloxone to other sites like health and social services, and B.C. offering free access to people at risk of overdosing, those likely to witness an overdose and to First Nations.

The opioid crisis is more pronounced in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. (Jared Thomas/CBC)

Jordan Westfall, executive director for the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs, said rural and remote areas are particularly underserved.

“There are large parts of the country that don’t have these services pretty much at all. These are lifelines for people at risk of overdosing that aren’t accessible to people,” Westfall said.

Everybody else in the country, when they take a sip of beer they don’t have to worry that they’re going to drop dead. We need to see the same safety for everyone in the country using drugs on the streets.— Jordan  Westfall

A lack of education and political will have been the biggest challenges to preventing overdose deaths, he said. Unlike other health-care decisions that are based on data, the question of allowing services like supervised consumption sites is often put before the public, he said.

“In a lot of cases, we’ve put human lives up for public consultation. That’s kind of a metaphor for how we treat the health care of people who use drugs, which is stigmatized in society,” Westfall said.

Supplying safe drugs

He said harm reduction could go further by providing a safe drug supply to users, since so many deaths appear related to drugs contaminated with fentanyl.

“Everybody else in the country, when they take a sip of beer they don’t have to worry that they’re going to drop dead. We need to see the same safety for everyone in the country using drugs on the streets,” he said.

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has been at the centre of the overdose crisis in British Columbia, and it’s also where some of the most accessible harm-reduction services are located.

Last month, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced he would direct staff to look for a site where drug users can get safe opioids to prevent overdoses.

Sarah Blyth, co-founder of the Overdose Prevention Society in Vancouver, said supervised consumption sites and naloxone save lives every day.

On the day of the interview, she said, three people had already overdosed at a nearby safe injection site but they survived because they were surrounded by people who understood drug use and overdose prevention.

But Rebecca Jesseman, policy director for the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, said there are some good reasons for variation in available services: dominant drug problems also vary geographically.

The opioid crisis is more pronounced in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, she said, while Manitoba and Saskatchewan are more concerned with fighting a methamphetamine problem.

Health Canada says the federal government allocates funding based on the severity of the opioid crisis and the population in each province or territory. (CBC/Government of Canada)

Health Canada said in a statement that the federal government allocates funding based on the severity of the opioid crisis and the population size in each province or territory.

Jesseman said mobile units have begun providing support to places without permanent overdose prevention services. 

But beyond geographic variations, she said services often fail to meet the needs of the individual, especially as they relate to language, gender, age and culture.

“The system often looks at people who need help as being treatment-resistant, rather than looking at what is wrong with the system and how we can meet their needs,” Jesseman said.

“We wouldn’t accept this variation in service quality and availability for health conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, so why is it the norm for substance use?”

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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