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Canada needs to jump-start a stalled first-dose campaign to avoid a fourth wave, experts say – CBC.ca

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Canada has gone from a vaccine laggard to a world leader in COVID-19 immunizations in just a few months’ time — thanks to an ambitious vaccination campaign that has so far blunted the spread of the much more virulent delta variant.

More than 79 per cent of those eligible for a shot have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

While that’s a high number, it suggests there are still more than six million people over the age of 12 who have chosen to forgo a shot altogether, or wait for a later date.

The number of unvaccinated Canadians is roughly equivalent to everyone living in the Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Quebec City metropolitan areas combined.

Experts agree more people need to get the shot to avoid another pandemic resurgence with devastating consequences. The challenge now involves easing access and convincing the hesitant among us to roll up their sleeves, experts say.

After a blitz in April and May, the number of new first doses being administered has stalled at well under 100,000 daily since June 16. That means it would take months more to immunize the remaining holdouts at the current pace.

  • Thinking about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but aren’t quite sure? We want to talk to you for an upcoming story: Email us: COVID@cbc.ca

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said recently the vaccination campaign has produced impressive results. But it’s not enough, she said, to simply hit the government’s early target of 75 per cent of the eligible population with a single shot when the much more contagious delta variant — which appears to be twice as virulent as other strains — is circulating widely.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the doctor leading the COVID-19 fight in the U.S., was among those who first suggested “herd immunity” against the virus would develop at a 75 to 80 per cent vaccination rate. The new variants may have rendered that target obsolete.

“Should we aim for higher? Yes, I think we should. Shoot for higher, shoot for gold, shoot for the stars. That gives us a better buffer for managing the COVID-19 situation,” Tam said.

“We’ve got some work to do,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Tam’s deputy, tolda press conference Thursday. “I think we could obviously do better.”

WATCH: Dr. Njoo discusses COVID-19 booster shots

Dr. Njoo says while research on the need for a booster shot is under way, his main focus now is on fully vaccinating Canadians. 1:59

Caroline Colijn is a mathematician who specializes in infectious diseases at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

Colijn told CBC News it’s hard to pinpoint an exact vaccination rate that would make it safer to further relax pandemic-related restrictions in Canada — but it should be higher than it is now.

More shots in arms could spell the difference between a fourth pandemic wave — like the crush of new cases piling up in the U.K. and the Netherlands — and no wave at all, Colijn said, citing some of the modelling she and her team of researchers have compiled.

“There is a lot of uncertainty and I don’t think we have one number where we can say ‘Oh, OK, it’s 82 per cent, that’s it, that’s enough and we won’t have COVID anymore,'” she said. “But we do know that 90 per cent would give us so much better protection than 80 per cent because it cuts in half the number of people who aren’t protected at all.”

Colijn said that at 90 per cent protection, there will be both fewer cases and fewer opportunities for new mutations to emerge because there won’t be as many unvaccinated vectors for the virus.

“I’m not going to say we’re going to be in the clear. We don’t know how much immunity will wane over time, hopefully it won’t. But I think it would put us in a really great position,” she said. “We can say with high confidence we’ll be in a much, much better position at 90 per cent. We’ll cut those chains of transmission and we’ll be more resilient to the arrival, spread or emergence of new variants.”

Widespread infections among millions of unvaccinated Canadians could be enough to overwhelm the health care system again. New variants also threaten to penetrate the high level of protection that the fully vaccinated currently enjoy.

“It’s even more important for us to really reach a high level of vaccinations when we start to see variants that can break through that vaccination. You just need that much more vaccination to get to the same place,” Colijn said.

The federal government’s own modelling, released late last month, suggests hospital capacity may again reach dangerous levels in the fall and winter months if vaccine coverage is at or below 80 per cent across all age groups with the contagious delta variant as the dominant strain.

(CBC News)

In the United Kingdom, where 87.6 per cent of adults have had a first shot, hospitalizations have increased to levels not seen since February, with 600 daily admissions and reports of 50,000 new cases — most of them of the delta variety — each day. The number of people in hospital with coronavirus could reach “quite scary” levels within weeks, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said Friday.

‘Rural areas have had the biggest problems’

In Ontario, a province where vaccines have been relatively plentiful in most areas for weeks, vaccination coverage varies greatly by region and age.

While vaccine uptake has been extraordinarily high among older Canadians, in many jurisdictions the 18-29 age cohort has been noticeably less willing.

In the City of Ottawa, for example, well over 90 per cent of residents 70 years of age and older have had at least one shot — an enviable level of coverage. As of July 14, fewer than 70 per cent of people aged 18 to 29 have had that first dose.

In rural Renfrew County, a sprawling region in eastern Ontario, the vaccination campaign has hit a wall of vaccine hesitancy.

Earlier this month, some areas in the county reported first-dose vaccination rates at just 50 per cent, according to provincial data — while urban areas like Toronto and the suburbs in Peel Region had coverage rates that were some 15 to 20 points higher.

Dr. Rob Cushman, the medical officer of health for Renfrew County, told CBC News that 90 to 95 per cent of the shots administered in his jurisdiction over the past three weeks have been second doses, even though just 72 per cent of the people in the area have had a first dose. (That last number is likely somewhat higher, Cushman said, because vaccinations among Canadian Forces service members have not yet been factored into the local numbers. There’s a large military base in Petawawa, Ont.)

“It’s a big problem. Some of our rural areas have had the biggest problems,” Cushman said. “These people who haven’t been vaccinated in the 20 to 45 years of age crowd — they’re going to suffer the most, they’re going to get it and they’re going to give it to their kids. We really have to motivate them even though they’re young and they may think they’re invincible.”

Cushman said lower vaccine rates can be explained in part by access problems for rural dwellers; he’s already planning pop-up clinics in smaller communities in the coming days. But he estimates that as much as 10 per cent of the population won’t get the shot, no matter what.

“There’s a real dig-in-your-heels anti-vax crowd and you have distrust of government, libertarianism, anti-science and all these things,” he said.

Acting medical officer of health for the Renfrew County and District Public Health Unit Dr. Rob Cushman is warning that people between the ages of 18 and 45 are falling behind other age groups on vaccination. (Renfrew County and District Health Unit/YouTube)

There’s another group of people, Cushman said, who are not fiercely opposed to getting a shot but are worried about possible side effects, suffer from needle-related phobias or feel lingering anxiety about the pace at which these products were developed.

He said there’s also a perception that, because many rural areas have been spared the high caseloads reported in some cities, Canadians in more remote areas face a lower risk of infection.

“We’ve done very well compared to the city and people think we’re more immune,” he said. “But what we’re seeing now — and I didn’t know this even three months ago — is just how high the vaccination rate needs to be to get herd immunity. It’s a matter of really convincing people, and it’s a hard sell, let me tell you.”

Lagging vaccination rates have been reported in other rural regions. Recent polling conducted by the Saskatchewan Population Health Evaluation and Research Unit found a vaccine acceptance rate of less than 64 per cent in some parts of the province’s northern and southern regions, compared to 74 to 89 per cent in urban areas like Regina and Saskatoon.

Beyond smaller pop-up clinics designed to target the holdouts, Cushman is considering more personalized interventions — sending public health workers door-to-door to connect with unvaccinated homes and empowering more family doctors to give the shot.

“This is when the hard slog starts,” he said.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Wednesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Travellers who were fully vaccinated in the United States or European Union won’t have to quarantine when entering England — but vaccinated Canadians will still need to follow quarantine rules. 
     
  • Tokyo reports 3,177 new COVID-19 cases — a new single-day high.
     
  • Man charged with emailing death threats to Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. prosecutors say.
     
  • INTERACTIVE | Where is the coronavirus pandemic getting better or worse?
     
  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: Covid@cbc.ca or join us live in the comments now.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky says new mask-wearing guidance, coupled with higher rates of vaccination against COVID-19, could halt the current escalation of infections in “a couple of weeks.”

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CBS This Morning she hopes more stringent mask-wearing guidelines and other measures won’t be necessary as the country heads into the fall.

“We can halt the chain of transmission,” she said. “We can do something if we unify together, if we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated, if we mask in the interim, we can halt this in just a matter of a couple of weeks.”

With the delta variant fuelling a surge of infections across the country, the CDC on Tuesday recommended even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the variant is prevalent.

Walensky said 80 per cent of the counties with the highest number of infections have less than 40 per cent of people vaccinated.

The nation is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. The guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the U.S. with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week.

From The Associated Press last updated at 9:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | The push to target Canada’s unvaccinated: 

What could it take to convince the small but determined group of Canadians who remain wary of the COVID-19 vaccines on offer? Experts say there isn’t one answer. 2:05


What’s happening around the world

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives her Johnson & Johnson vaccine at State House in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday. (Emmanuel Herman/Reuters)

As of early Wednesday morning, more than 195.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a case-tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.1 million.

In Africa, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan received her vaccine in public, in the most decisive signal yet of a break from the policies of her late predecessor who repeatedly dismissed the threat of the pandemic.

Zimbabwe has authorized the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the first Western-made shot to be approved by the southern African nation, its medicines regulator said.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged caution on Wednesday about drawing conclusions from a seven-day decline in COVID-19 cases in Britain, saying it was too early to assess whether it was a definite trend.

“We have seen some encouraging recent data. There’s no question about that but it is far, far too early to draw any general conclusions,” Johnson told LBC radio.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged continued caution around COVID-19 this week, even as case numbers declined. (Henry Nicolls/Reuters)

In the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia recorded 47,791 new cases and 1,824 confirmed in the last 24 hours. The Health Ministry recorded 558,392 active cases in Indonesia, with more than 81,000 cases from Sumatra regions.

In the Middle East, Israel is considering giving a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to its elderly population, even before FDA approval, to help fend off the delta variant.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:50 a.m. ET


Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.


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Canada not among countries exempt from quarantine for travel into England – CBC.ca

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The government of the United Kingdom announced today that travellers to England who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the European Union or United States will be exempt from mandatory quarantine upon arrival — but fully vaccinated travellers from Canada will still have to undergo quarantine.

The change goes into effect on Aug. 2, according to a news release from the U.K. government. While the U.K. Department for Transport has confirmed for CBC News that the change does not apply to Canadians, no reason has been given for the exclusion.

In a statement issued to CBC News, a Department for Transport spokesperson did not say why Canadians are not exempt.

“We are taking a phased approach to restarting international travel while protecting public health,” it reads. “We want to welcome all international visitors back to the U.K. and are working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets and holiday destinations.”

That means travellers from Canada to England will still have to quarantine at home or in the place they’re staying for 10 days, and take a COVID-19 test on or after their eighth day in the country. A few exceptions apply — one of which covers travellers who have been vaccinated in the U.K. A full list of rules can be found on the Department for Transport’s website.

“Passengers who are fully vaccinated in the EU with vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or in the USA with vaccines authorised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or in the Swiss vaccination programme, will be able to travel to England without having to quarantine or take a day 8 test on arrival,” the news release says.

The exemption applies to some European countries outside of the EU, such as Norway and Iceland, but travellers from France will still have to quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated.

No updates for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

According to BBC News, the government of Scotland has not made a decision on exempting fully vaccinated travellers from the U.S. and Europe. As of today, Wales and Northern Ireland also have not updated their rules for travel — which require a quarantine upon arrival from outside the U.K. unless the traveller was fully vaccinated through the U.K. vaccination programme.

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IRCC: Canada welcomed over 35,000 new immigrants in June – Canada Immigration News

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Published on July 28th, 2021 at 05:00am EDT Updated on July 28th, 2021 at 07:14am EDT

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Canada recorded its strongest month for new permanent resident arrivals during the pandemic in June 2021, according to the office of Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, the minister says “We are going to make good on our commitment to land 401,000 new permanent residents.”

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Under its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023, the Canadian government is seeking to welcome at least 401,000 new immigrants annually, beginning this year. Prior to the pandemic, this target was set at 341,000 newcomers.

The plan is the most ambitious in Canada’s history. Only once has Canada welcomed over 400,000 immigrants in a year. This took place in 1913, but Canadian immigration plummeted immediately after due to the onset of the First World War.

The minister’s office estimates that Canada welcomed over 35,000 new permanent residents in June. In follow up email correspondence with CIC News, the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said its preliminary figures show Canada welcomed 35,700 immigrants last month. This figure is significantly higher than Canada’s totals in recent months.

Canada got off to a strong start to the year. It welcomed 24,680 new immigrants in January but lost momentum in the months to follow. The country then welcomed 23,395 in February, 22,425 in March, and 21,155 in April, and 17,100 in May.

Altogether Canada has welcomed some 143,000 new permanent residents through the first six months of 2021 which remains well short of the pace it needs to welcome 401,000 newcomers by the end of this year.

In order to achieve this newcomer target, Canada needs to land another 258,000 immigrants — an average of 43,000 per month — over the rest of the year.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Welcoming this volume of immigration over the remaining six months will be difficult but there is an outside chance it can be achieved.

Prior to the pandemic Canada welcomed an average of 25,000 to 35,000 newcomers per month. Immigration levels tend to be higher in the warmer months as more newcomers arrive during favourable weather conditions and leading up to the start of the academic and business calendar in September.

In 2019, levels were stronger in the second half of the year compared to the first as Canada welcomed 180,000 newcomers between July and December.

Assuming Canada welcomes that same level in the second half of 2021, it will conclude the year at just over 320,000 new permanent residents which is still below its target.

However there are several tailwinds remaining that could propel Canada closer to its newcomer goal.

Some 23,000 additional Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders are now eligible to move to Canada after restrictions on them were eased on June 21st.

Anyone else newly approved for permanent residence can also immediately move to Canada as a result of this easing.

IRCC also introduced six new permanent residency streams that will enable some 90,000 international student graduates and essential workers to remain in Canada. The department’s goal is to process some 40,000 of these applications by the end of this year.

The third tailwind is also from the domestic pool of permanent residence candidates. IRCC has been breaking various Express Entry records throughout the year as it prioritizes Canadian Experience Class (CEC) candidates.

Draw sizes are larger than ever while cut-off scores are at record lows. According to IRCC, some 90 per cent of CEC candidates currently reside in Canada so it is easier for the department to transition them to permanent residence amid the pandemic than candidates abroad. IRCC has already issued nearly 100,000 Express Entry invitations this year which is almost double the invitations it issued at the same point in 2020. A significant portion of those invited during the pandemic should complete their permanent residence landing by the end of 2021.

The minister’s office told the Globe that the 45,100 permanent residence applications IRCC processed in June were the highest ever, which suggests that IRCC has the capacity to process and finalize the necessary number of applications to achieve its levels goal.

There are risks along the way that could disrupt IRCC’s plans. The global coronavirus situation remains volatile and things such as increased case levels and travel restrictions could get in the way. For example, Canada continues to restrict flights from its main newcomer source country, India.

A prolonging of this restriction could get in the way of IRCC’s goal. Further delays to COPR holder arrivals is another risk. IRCC is currently seeking to correspond with thousands of expired COPR holders to arrange their landing in Canada. This is a time-consuming process as IRCC needs to individually contact each COPR holder to ensure they have all the necessary documents to complete the immigration process.

Nonetheless, the coming months should see immigration levels remain high. There also remains a strong chance that monthly immigration totals will hit record highs by the end of the year due to the combination of more overseas arrivals and in-Canada applicants completing their landings.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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