This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Like it or not, COVID-19 vaccine mandates are coming to Canada.
Whether they’re government-ordered for certain jobs and activities, or implemented in a piecemeal way by the private sector, Canadians can expect to see more aspects of society require proof of vaccination in the weeks and months ahead.
And with a fourth wave underway in much of the country ahead of schools restarting and borders reopening to some fully vaccinated travellers next month, experts say now is the time to put vaccine mandates in place before another potential surge.
“They’re coming — one way or the other,” said Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.
“Do you want to do it while we are calm in the water? Or do you want to do it when the storm is raging around us?”
Provinces ‘choosing their own adventure’
Instead of a co-ordinated approach across the country, a patchwork system of vaccine certification is emerging throughout Canada as some provinces outright oppose the concept while others fully embrace it.
Quebec took the bold first step of announcing this week that vaccine passports for non-essential services, like bars, restaurants, gyms and festivals, would be mandated on Sept. 1 in an effort to avoid reintroducing lockdown measures.
British Columbia announced Thursday that anyone working in long-term care and assisted-living facilities in the province will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 12, and Manitoba has launched a new proof-of-immunization mobile app for fully vaccinated residents.
But Alberta has repeatedly said it will not bring in vaccine passports and Premier Jason Kenney has outright dismissed the notion of mandatory vaccinations, even amending the province’s Public Health Act to remove a 100-year-old power allowing the government to force people to be vaccinated.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also firmly rejected the possibility of vaccine passports last month, even for health-care workers, saying the province is “not going to have a split society.”
The federal government made its position known Friday ahead of an election call, announcing it will soon require all public servants to be vaccinated, as well as passengers on commercial planes, cruise ships and interprovincial trains in Canada.
But while Ottawa has taken a hard line on vaccine mandates and committed to creating proof-of-vaccination documentation for international travel by early fall, it stopped short of implementing a domestic vaccine passport system across Canada.
“Unfortunately, the provincial and territorial scene is likely to remain a patchwork for ideological reasons,” said Dr. David Naylor, who led the federal inquiry into Canada’s response to the 2003 SARS epidemic and now co-chairs the federal government’s COVID-19 immunity task force.
“And I don’t think the federal government can force vaccine certificates on subnational jurisdictions.”
Naylor says he hopes the federal government can work with provinces and territories to adapt the newly announced vaccine document for international travel into a national vaccine passport for use in all provinces and territories in the future.
“The provinces would probably wave that idea off,” he said. “But in a rational universe, we’d have one standardized Canadian document for domestic and international use.”
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, says it’s become clear that Canada will not take a national approach to vaccine certification because the federal government doesn’t have the authority to direct provinces and territories to come on board.
“We’re going to have vastly different strategies, with Alberta at one end of the spectrum, and Quebec at the other end of the spectrum — and probably many provinces in between,” he said.
“But from a policy standpoint, it’s clear that the provinces are choosing their own adventure.”
Mandating vaccines ‘not the be all and end all’
The question remains as to how effective vaccine mandates will be in controlling the spread of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated during the fourth wave, and whether testing is sufficient enough to keep community transmission low.
“You can definitely see how mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated people in high-risk environments could ripple out into unvaccinated populations — particularly ones that are high risk,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University.
“It makes sense if you get to a certain community incidence, where the odds of someone walking into that place with COVID-19 are starting to get higher and higher by the day, it could start a chain effect.”
Chagla says Quebec’s approach of only mandating vaccines for non-essential services prevents ostracizing those who aren’t vaccinated — due to choice, eligibility or accessibility — while encouraging more people to get vaccinated so they can engage in more activities.
He doesn’t think vaccine passports are the “be all and end all” in the push to get people vaccinated. “But it certainly is a downstream effect that you do bring people on board and … make them minimize the risk even more going forward,” he said.
“The verification of vaccines is going to be really important, especially as we’re struggling with this in the next little while — maybe the next six months — where we’re going to see a little bit of discomfort with more transmission.”
Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious diseases physician and immunologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says that while she’s fully in favour of vaccine passports, there are other options for keeping Canadians safe in high-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission.
“We want to protect public places and people attending them by not having infectious folks around. You can do that with double vaccine — or by showing a negative test for the minority not vaccinated for various reasons,” she said.
“It’s obviously better on a personal front to be vaccinated, but it preserves some choice while people are getting there.”
Barrett says while she prefers vaccination for controlling COVID-19 levels, she hates the idea of exclusion until all other options have been exhausted; she points to the ample supply of rapid antigen tests in Canada to help bridge the gap.
Bogoch agrees that while vaccine mandates are an effective strategy at increasing our vaccination levels across the country, unvaccinated Canadians are a diverse population with many different reasons for foregoing a shot — and that needs to be approached with care.
“Some people still have remaining questions and issues and anxiety that hasn’t been addressed. We obviously have to take those questions and issues and anxieties seriously, and address that in an empathetic manner,” he said.
“I think it’s also fair to say that some people regardless of what we say — regardless of science, reason, logic — some people are just never going to get vaccinated.”
‘Window of opportunity’ to prevent brutal 4th wave
Canada has emerged as one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, with more than 60 per cent of the Canadian population fully vaccinated after a relatively slow start to the rollout.
But with 40 per cent of the population with lower protection from COVID-19, with only one shot or none at all, there are still millions of susceptible Canadians — especially in the face of the more contagious and potentially more deadly delta variant.
“Given the fact that we’re about to open everything up, it seems likely that those 40 per cent are going to get infected at some point, which means that we’re going to have a lot of stress on our society,” Deonandan said.
“There’s a window of opportunity to prevent a lot of societal suffering and frankly, the selling point should be to businesses — do you want to stay open? Do you want your employees to have jobs? This is what we do to make sure that happens, because we see a storm coming.”
Canadians have re-elected a Liberal minority government – CBC.ca
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has won enough seats in this 44th general election to form another minority government — with voters signalling Monday they trust the incumbent to lead Canada through the next phase of the pandemic fight by handing him a third mandate with a strong plurality.
After a 36-day campaign and a $600-million election, the final seat tally doesn’t look very different from the composition of the House of Commons when it was dissolved in early August — prompting even more questions about why a vote was called during a fourth wave of the pandemic in the first place.
As of 2:30 a.m. ET, Liberal candidates were leading or elected in 157 ridings, the exact same number of seats that party won in the 2019 contest.
It’s a reversal of fortunes for Trudeau. He launched this campaign with a sizeable lead in the polls — only to see his support crater days later as many voters expressed anger with his decision to call an election during this health crisis. Two middling debate performances by Trudeau and renewed questions about past scandals also put a Liberal victory in question.
But in the end, voters decided the Liberal team should continue to govern a country that, while battered and bruised by a health crisis, has also fared well on key pandemic metrics like death rates and vaccine coverage.
Trudeau called this election on Aug. 15, saying he wanted Canadians to weigh in on who should finish the fight against the pandemic and lead the country into a post-pandemic recovery. He promised a plan for child care, more aggressive climate action and a fix for Canada’s housing shortage.
In his victory speech in Montreal in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Trudeau said the result suggests Canadians are “sending us back to work with a clear mandate to get Canada through this pandemic and to brighter days ahead.
“The moment we face demands real, important change, and you have given this Parliament and this government clear direction.”
After a divisive campaign that saw a great deal of partisan sniping, Trudeau struck a more conciliatory tone on election night when he spoke directly to opposition leaders and those who didn’t vote for a Liberal candidate.
“I hear you when you say you just want to get back to the things you love and not worry about this pandemic or about an election,” he said. “Your members of Parliament of all stripes will have your back in this crisis and beyond. Canadians are able to get around any obstacle and that is exactly what we will continue to do.”
O’Toole’s moderate conservatism falls short at the polls
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has missed his chance to unseat a prime minister who has faced his fair share of challenges during six years in office. O’Toole ran on a plan to boost health care spending, shrink the deficit over 10 years and tighten ethics rules for politicians — a more moderate take on conservatism that ultimately fell short.
The Conservatives are on track to win in 122 ridings — just one more seat than the party won under former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Speaking to supporters in Oshawa, Ont., O’Toole said he had no plans to resign even though his party saw little if any growth in its vote share and seat count. He vowed to stay at the helm to take another swing at defeating Trudeau in the next election, which could come as soon as 2023.
“My family and I are resolute in continuing this journey for Canada,” O’Toole said. “If Justin Trudeau thinks he can threaten Canadians with another election in 18 months, the Conservative Party will be ready. Whenever that day comes, I will be ready to lead Canada’s Conservatives.
“We worked hard, we made progress, but the job is not done yet.”
WATCH: O’Toole suggests Trudeau will call another election
O’Toole reaffirmed his commitment to take the party to the centre of the political spectrum even as it faces challenges on its right flank from the People’s Party of Canada (PPC).
“We must continue this journey of welcoming more Canadians to take another look at this party,” he said.
With Trudeau and the Liberals committed to progressive policies such as child care and new housing supports, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh ran even further to the left, promising a dramatic expansion of the federal government through $200 billion in new spending commitments for promises such as national pharmacare.
Singh vows to continue fight to make ‘super wealthy’ pay fair share
But Singh was criticized for putting out a platform with few details on how any of this transformative change would be implemented.
When all the ballots are counted, it could prove to be a disappointing night for Singh, with the NDP poised to pick up only two more seats than it won after the last vote. Singh may have more clout in Parliament to look forward to, however — a minority Liberal government will have to depend on at least one opposition party to help it pass its legislation.
Like O’Toole, Singh signalled he has no intention of stepping down as leader despite an underwhelming performance.
WATCH: ‘You can count on New Democrats to continue fighting for you,’ says Singh
“Friends, I want you to know that our fight will continue. I also want you to know that we are going to keep on fighting to make sure that the super wealthy pay their fair share,” Singh said in his concession speech, referring to his signature election promise to make the “ultra rich” pay much more in taxes to help cover the cost of new social programs.
“To all of your struggling, we see you, we hear you,” Singh said.
Greens’ Paul loses but May poised for re-election
The Green vote collapsed and the party’s leader, Annamie Paul, finished a disappointing fourth in her Toronto Centre riding. For months, the party has been beset with internal squabbling and that hampered its electoral efforts.
But in the southwestern Ontario riding of Kitchener Centre, where the Liberal candidate dropped out amid allegations of harassment, Green candidate Mike Morrice was elected. The party’s former leader, Elizabeth May, was also re-elected in her B.C. riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands.
Speaking to reporters in Toronto, Paul said she was disappointed to finish so poorly.
“It is hard to lose. No one likes to lose but I’m so proud of the effort,” she said.
WATCH: ‘No one likes to lose,’ Green Party Leader Annamie Paul says
With more than 14.6 million votes counted so far, the Liberals have 32 per cent of the ballots cast, the Conservatives have about 34 per cent and the NDP has nearly 18 per cent of the vote share. The Green Party captured 2.3 per cent of the ballots cast so far, while the PPC has more than five per cent of all votes — a much better result than the 1.6 per cent of the national vote it fetched in the 2019 election.
PPC Leader Maxime Bernier — a libertarian who has long railed against government overreach — became a champion of the “no more lockdowns” crowd during the pandemic, routinely appearing at well-attended protests against public health measures.
He is also vehemently opposed to vaccine passports — a position that appears to have given the PPC a boost among unvaccinated voters. But the improved showing failed to produce any seats in Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system. Bernier finished a distant second in his riding of Beauce, which was easily won by the Conservative incumbent, Richard Lehoux.
“This is not just a political party. This is a movement. It is an ideological revolution that we are starting now,” Bernier told supporters in Saskatoon.
The Liberals owe their re-election to strong performances in the country’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec.
Toronto and its surrounding suburbs — colloquially known as “the 905” after its area code — proved to be a resilient Liberal fortress; the Conservatives failed to make any significant gains among GTA voters. Only one of the area’s many seats, Thornhill, elected a Conservative MP. However, with votes still left to be counted, Liberal cabinet minister Deb Schulte was also in a tough fight in her riding of King-Vaughan.
Bloc looks headed for loss of 3 seats in Quebec
In Quebec, where the separatist Bloc Québécois is poised to lose one of the 32 seats it held in the last Parliament, the Liberal brand also performed well — although the Liberals were hoping for more gains there to vault it into majority government territory.
Trudeau cruised to victory in his own riding of Papineau. Other cabinet ministers, including François-Philippe Champagne in Quebec’s Saint-Maurice-Champlain and Mona Fortier in Ontario’s Ottawa-Vanier, also posted lopsided victories and were easily re-elected.
But at least one Liberal cabinet minister from Ontario, Maryam Monsef, went down to defeat. Monsef was easily bested by Conservative candidate Michelle Ferreri in the eastern Ontario riding of Peterborough-Kawartha — a seat that, until tonight, had a 40-year record as an election bellwether.
Liberal cabinet minister Bernadette Jordan loses her N.S. seat
While voters have returned a Liberal government to Ottawa, results from Atlantic Canada’s 32 seats suggest O’Toole’s more centrist brand of conservatism resonated in the region.
Newfoundland and Labrador and the Maritimes have been a Liberal stronghold for the last two election cycles — the party swept every seat there in 2015 and dropped only five in 2019.
O’Toole, who has appointed a number of Maritimers to senior roles in the party, performed better than his recent predecessors in this region.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper was shut out of Atlantic Canada in 2015 while Scheer picked up only four seats in the 2019 contest.
Conservative candidates have been declared elected in seven of the region’s ridings. Conservative Rick Perkins has unseated Liberal incumbent Bernadette Jordan in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St Margarets. Jordan served as fisheries minister in Trudeau’s cabinet.
The Conservative candidate in Cumberland-Colchester, Stephen Ellis, easily picked off Liberal incumbent Lenore Zann.
PHOTOS | Voters queue to cast their vote:
Justin Trudeau projected to form Canada’s next government-CBC News projects
Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to for the next government, CBC News projected on Monday, after a tight election race.
Elections Canada showed the Liberals leading in 146 electoral districts with only a small fraction of votes counted.
MARKET REACTION: CAD/
KARL SCHAMOTTA, CHIEF MARKET STRATEGIST, CAMBRIDGE GLOBAL PAYMENTS
“This does look like a decisive win for the Liberals that essentially preserves the status quo and ensures that the fiscal spending plans that have supported the economy for the last year and half are likely to continue and continue to support growth.”
“The more supportive fiscal policy is, the more likely the Bank (of Canada) is able to move from tapering to rate hikes in the next year and a half, and certainly that is going to support the Canadian dollar.”
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Denny Thomas)
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Monday – CBC.ca
COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu pandemic did — approximately 675,000.
The U.S. population a century ago was just one-third of what it is today, meaning the flu cut a bigger, more lethal swath through the country. But the COVID-19 crisis is by any measure a colossal tragedy in its own right, especially given the incredible advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to take maximum advantage of the vaccines available this time.
“Big pockets of American society — and, worse, their leaders — have thrown this away,” said medical historian Dr. Howard Markel, of the University of Michigan, of the opportunity to vaccinate everyone eligible by now.
Like the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, the coronavirus may never entirely disappear from our midst. Instead, scientists hope it becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection. That could take time.
“We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there’s no guarantee,” said Emory University biologist Rustom Antia, who suggests an optimistic scenario in which this could happen over a few years.
For now, the pandemic still has the United States and other parts of the world firmly in its jaws.
While a delta-fuelled surge in new infections may have peaked, U.S. deaths still are running at more than 1,900 a day on average, the highest level since early March, and the country’s overall death toll stood at just over 674,000 as of midday Monday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, though the real number is believed to be higher.
Winter may bring a new surge, with the University of Washington’s influential model projecting an additional 100,000 or so Americans will die of COVID-19 by Jan. 1, which would bring the overall U.S. toll to 776,000.
The 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed 50 million victims globally at a time when the world had one-quarter the population it does now. Global deaths from COVID-19 now stand at more than 4.6 million.
The 1918-19 flu’s death toll in the U.S. is a rough guess, given the incomplete records of the era and the poor scientific understanding of what caused the illness. The 675,000 figure comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before COVID-19, the 1918-19 flu was universally considered the worst pandemic disease in human history. It’s unclear if the current scourge ultimately will prove to be more deadly.
In many ways, the 1918-19 flu — which was wrongly named Spanish flu because it first received widespread news coverage in Spain — was worse.
Spread by the mobility of the First World War, it killed young, healthy adults in vast numbers. No vaccine existed to slow it, and there were no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. And, of course, the world was much smaller.
Just under 64 per cent of the U.S. population has received as least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with state rates ranging from a high of approximately 77 per cent in Vermont and Massachusetts to lows around 46 to 49 per cent in Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia and Mississippi.
Globally, about 43 per cent of the population has received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data, with some African countries just beginning to administer first shots.
What’s happening across Canada
- Masks mandatory in indoor N.B. public spaces as province sees record new cases.
- Nova Scotia registers 55 new cases over Friday and the weekend.
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday, more than 228.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The reported global death toll stood at well over 4.6 million.
In Europe, Greece’s COVID-19 health advisory body has recommended expanding the country’s booster shot program to people aged 60 and older, care-home residents and health-care workers.
In Africa, authorities in Burundi have decided to suspend all social events except on Saturdays and Sundays as concerns grow about a rising number of COVID-19 infections.
In Asia-Pacific, New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, will remain in lockdown for at least two more weeks, although some restrictions will be eased from Tuesday.
In the Americas, the president of Costa Rica has warned that developing countries are at risk of sliding into instability without more pandemic aid from richer nations and the International Monetary Fund.
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