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How using your Ontario health card creates system change

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Canada’s universal health-care system is a source of pride for most Canadians, and perhaps even a defining characteristic of our nationhood. As an emergency room physician, I know how lucky I am to be able to provide the best care for my patients without worrying that the tests I order might drive them into bankruptcy — sadly, a concern for many of my colleagues south of the border.

For Ontarians, that green health card that sits in your wallet alongside your credit card is your passport to health care. But unlike your credit card, you never see the bill. So have you ever wondered what happens to the information that is collected each time your card is used?

Each time you interact with our health care-system — whether it’s a doctor’s visit, lab test or visit to the ER — a piece of information, or administrative data, is generated and collected by the province in order to manage, administer and pay for services.
Each time you interact with our health care-system — whether it’s a doctor’s visit, lab test or visit to the ER — a piece of information, or administrative data, is generated and collected by the province in order to manage, administer and pay for services.  (DREAMSTIME)

Each time you have an interaction with our health-care system — whether it’s a doctor’s visit, a lab test or a visit to the ER — a piece of information, or administrative data, is generated and collected by the province in order to manage, administer and pay for services. But these pieces of data do double duty helping the province evaluate and improve our health-care system, driving new discoveries that can lead to better care, lower costs and better health for all Ontarians.

So how are these data used to improve health care? Just like a picture becomes clearer when you include more pixels, the picture of the health of an entire population becomes clearer as more individual pieces of this data are added. With data from nearly 14 million people going back more than 25 years, Ontario’s powerful repositories of health-care data are very high resolution, and the envy of health systems and researchers worldwide. What’s more, these data can be linked together with community and social data to paint an even more descriptive picture of the health of Ontarians — a picture that can tell us how well, or badly, our health system is performing at meeting everyone’s needs.

Since 1992, ICES — an independent not-for-profit research institute — has been entrusted with this information. We use it to study the health system, and then health officials use our findings to deliver better health care. ICES carefully protects the privacy and security of these data, and our work is overseen by Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner. ICES was one of the first such institutes in Canada and is a model for other provinces.

In fact, research and evidence from ICES has probably influenced decisions that affect the way you approach your health, and the health of your family and friends, every day.

For example, ICES research has made our roads safer by showing the link between driver cellphone use and deadly collisions, leading to changes in the law. Our research has led to the withdrawal of a number of unsafe medications from the market and has accelerated Ontario’s response to the opioid crisis. Our work has helped to introduce new return-to-play guidelines for children with concussion and continues to demonstrate which strategies work (and don’t work) to fix hospital overcrowding.

While we have been working with Ontarians’ health data for many years, we recognize that today — more than ever — people want to have input about how their data are being used. We’ve heard from Ontarians who want ICES to do more with data to improve health care as long as data privacy and security remain priorities at all times. Today, the conversation about how to use these data to improve our health has to go beyond the walls of our institutions and include the voices, values and perspectives of Ontario’s public.

Members of the public are welcome to join the conversation on how health data should be used to improve the health-care system and make new discoveries. Ontario citizens can join the ICES public advisory council to discuss issues of health data and research, new data opportunities and partnerships, and to provide guidance on what research questions matter most to them.

If you live in Ontario and would like to find out more about the ICES council, visit www.ices.on.ca/public. If you are interested in joining the council, fill out the online application.

Dr. Michael Schull is a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto and is chief executive officer at ICES. He practices as an emergency medicine specialist at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Doctors’ Notes is a weekly column by members of U of T’s Faculty of Medicine.

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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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