There were 342 new cases of COVID-19 reported in B.C. on Wednesday, a big jump from an average of 185 cases a day over the previous four days.
This means B.C.’s seven-day average daily case count continues to climb, after bottoming out on July 5 with 38 cases a day on average following the third wave of COVID-19 infection. The new numbers show the province is in the early stages of a fourth wave of infection.
According to the B.C. Ministry of Health, active cases of the disease are also climbing and are now at 1,764 (220 more than the previous day). There are 55 people being treated in hospital with COVID-19, including 23 patients in intensive care. There were no new deaths reported, with five outbreaks in health-care settings.
Interior Health continues to account for around half of all daily cases, despite having a relatively small population.
Close to 68 per cent of all British Columbians aged 12 and over are fully immunized in B.C.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, a University of B.C. professor and mathematical modelling expert, Sarah Otto, said the number of COVID-19 cases caused by the more infectious Delta variant is doubling every seven to 10 days.
“The Delta variant increases the viral load by about 1,000-fold, making it much easier to catch and transmit,” Otto said.
She said B.C. is beginning a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, but how high it will get and how fast it will rise depends on everybody’s behaviour.
The two things people can do to prevent the wave from getting “very high” is get vaccinated and avoid indoor crowded spaces without a mask, she said.
The province and the country will continue seeing such waves as new, more transmissible variants arise, but Otto noted that “vaccinations are really protecting people from the worst ravages of this disease.”
The seven-day average daily case count peaked during the third wave in B.C. on April 12 at 1,130 cases.
In the Public Health Agency of Canada’s latest COVID-19 epidemiology and modelling, the reproduction rate of COVID-19 has been above the critical point since July 18.
FDA advisory body this week recommended coronavirus booster shots for people more than age 65 and those at high risk.
Top health officials in the United States have said broader approval of COVID-19 booster shots could be weeks away, after a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert advisory panel this week recommended a third jab for a limited segment of the population.
The director of the National Institutes of Health said the FDA panel’s decision on Friday to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans age 65 and older as well as those at high risk of severe disease was a preliminary step.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Dr Francis Collins predicted more wide-ranging approval for most Americans “in the next few weeks”.
Collins said the panel’s recommendation was correct based on a “snapshot” of available data on the effectiveness of Pfizer’s two-jab regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the US and Israel continue to come in showing waning efficacy among more groups of people that will need to be addressed soon.
“I think there will be a decision in the coming weeks to extend boosters beyond the list that they approved on Friday,” said Collins, who also appeared CBS’ Face the Nation programme on Sunday.
But the World Health Organization (WHO) this month called for a moratorium on booster shots amid concerns about vaccine supplies to poorer nations, where millions have yet to receive their first jab.
A group of international scientists also said last week that even with the threat from the Delta strain, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic”.
“Any decisions about the need for boosting or timing of boosting should be based on careful analyses of adequately controlled clinical or epidemiological data, or both, indicating a persistent and meaningful reduction in severe disease,” the scientists wrote in The Lancet medical journal.
Dr Anthony Fauci, who is US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, on Sunday praised the FDA advisory board’s plan for covering a “good chunk” of Americans. But he stressed that “this is not the end of the story” based on data that was emerging and said the guidance would likely be expanded in the coming weeks to months.
People in the US who have received the two-dose Moderna vaccine or one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still awaiting guidance on possible booster shots.
“The actual data that we’ll get [on] that third shot for the Moderna and second shot for the J&J is literally a couple to a few weeks away,” Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press programme.
“We’re working on that right now to get the data to the FDA so they can examine it and make a determination about the boosters for those people.”
The FDA will consider the advisory group’s advice and make its own decision, probably within days. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also is set to weigh in this week.
Regulators in China warned it could spark broader risks to the country’s financial system. And investors fear this could hit big banks exposed to Evergrande and companies like it, causing contagion in global markets.
“The fear of an Evergrande bankruptcy appears to be leading to concern about China’s very own Lehman [Brothers] moment, and a big overspill across the region,” said Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.
Investors are also nervous that the US Federal Reserve, which meets on Tuesday and Wednesday, will confirm plans to pare back its support for the US economy this year.
Global stocks have rallied as economies have reopened and central banks have provided trillions of dollars in support to boost growth.
But there are concerns there could be a pull-back, if support is taken away at a time when the Delta variant is starting to drag on the recovery.
Strategists at Morgan Stanley said they expected a 10% correction in America’s S&P 500 index as the Fed starts to unwind its support. They added that signs of a stalling recovery could deepen that fall to 20%.
‘Signal from the noise’
However, other analysts played down fears of a rout, noting that September is typically a bad months for stocks.
“Overall, September continues to live up to its bad reputation as historically the weakest month of the year. But that doesn’t mean it can’t rebound,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.
And Lindsey Bell of Ally Invest said any pullback may be short-lived.
“Much of investing is about sorting through what’s signal and what’s noise,” she said. “While there is concern about the Evergrande situation infecting global markets, for the long-term investor, this situation may just be noise.”
Pfizer Canada says it plans to provide Health Canada with data showing its COVID-19 vaccine works for children in a bid to seek authorization “as early as possible.”
Pfizer said Monday its research shows its product works for children aged five to 11 and that it will also seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon _ a key step toward protecting schoolchildren from the novel coronavirus.
Christina Antoniou, the company’s director of corporate affairs in Canada, says they “share the urgency” to provide data that could lead to a shot for young kids.
She could not say when that information would be submitted, but notes Pfizer has been sending new vaccine data to Health Canada as it becomes available.
Pfizer’s latest findings have not been peer-reviewed, nor published.
Health Canada says several studies on children are underway by various COVID-19 vaccine makers, and that it “anticipates vaccine manufacturers to provide data in children in the coming months.”
3:47 Pfizer says their vaccine works for children 5-11
Pfizer says their vaccine works for children 5-11
Health Canada adds that no submission has been received yet for the approval of any COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12 years old.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is already available for anyone aged 12 and older.
Pfizer studied a lower dose of its two-dose vaccine in more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids, mostly in the United States and Europe. It says the kids developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as those detected in teenagers and young adults.
Moderna is also testing its shots in elementary school-aged children, and both Pfizer and Moderna are studying COVID-19 vaccines for those as young as six months old. Results are expected later in the year.
Medical officials called the results of Pfizer’s trial with kids “encouraging” but cautioned against anticipating too much too soon.
The medical lead with Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccine implementation team said it was too early to know what the findings could mean for kids under the age of 12 in the province.
“At this time, we don’t even know the extent of how well it protects, what number of side effects they saw. We’re very early in the planning,” said Dr. Joss Reimer.
However, Reimer said the team has started planning in the event Health Canada approves the Pfizer vaccine for children.
She said this may include providing doses in schools or having alternative clinics in place for youth.
2:28 Parents react to COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools
Parents react to COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools
A spokeswoman for Ontario’s health ministry said the province is “monitoring the evidence.”
“Working with our public health and health system partners we will be ready to administer doses to children aged five to 11 as soon as they are approved by Health Canada,” said Alexandra Hilkene.
Alberta also said it would await Health Canada approval before vaccinating children.
“Until vaccines are approved for this age group, younger children rely on older Albertans who are immunized to strengthen our defences to protect everyone in our province,” said provincial government spokeswoman Lisa Glover.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.
— With files from Laura Osman in Ottawa, Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg, John Chidley-Hill in Toronto, and the Associated Press
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