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COVID-19 vaccines are an ‘astonishing’ feat, but they won’t end pandemic overnight

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While the arrival of two COVID-19 vaccines in recent weeks has provided hope of an end to the pandemic, the harsh reality is that the number of cases and hospitalizations in Canada has never been worse.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions across the country have risen higher this month than at any point in the pandemic. Deaths haven’t been this high since May.

Ontario has hit a trend of more than 2,000 cases per day for the first time. Quebec has almost 1,000 COVID-19 patients in hospital. Alberta reported its highest number of deaths in a single day. B.C. currently has more than 10,000 active cases.

Almost a year after the coronavirus emerged, despite everything we’ve learned about COVID-19 and the fact that our health-care system is once again at risk of being overwhelmed, statistics such as these don’t appear to have the same impact they once did.

“We have so many numbers thrown at us all the time and I think people have become a little bit numb to them,” said Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“The numbers are overwhelming to people and I think it’s hard for [the figures] to remain meaningful, because they just keep going up.”

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters at Rideau Cottage on Friday. 1:58

It could be many months before the impact of the vaccines is felt — and they won’t immediately put a stop to a virus that has been spreading unchecked in communities for the better part of a year.

That’s why politicians and public health officials have been pleading with Canadians to continue to follow guidelines and avoid gathering during the holiday season.

“A vaccine in a week or in a month won’t help you if you get COVID-19 today,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a national address on Friday. “We’re coming into the final miles of this crisis and we can’t give up now.”

Vaccine development ‘extraordinary’

There’s been a disconnect between the public health guidance and the source of infections, but it’s not exactly clear where.

Long-term care homes, essential workers and low-income, racialized communities continue to be hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19 across the country, but we still have no idea where many people are becoming infected — more than a third of our total COVID-19 cases transmitted are from an unknown source.

If not for the arrival of the vaccines, many observers say they would have trouble seeing an end to the pandemic.

 

Two people walk past a COVID-19-themed mural in downtown Toronto in July. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

 

“I can’t imagine where we’d be if we had to go through another year of this,” said Dr. David Naylor, who led the federal inquiry into Canada’s national response to the 2003 SARS epidemic and now co-chairs the federal government’s COVID-19 immunity task force.

Helen Branswell, one of the top infectious disease journalists in the world, calls the arrival of the vaccines “extraordinary.”

“It’s astonishing that 11 months after the posting online of the [genetic] sequence of the new virus, that vaccines were designed and tested all the way through Phase 3, and were produced and are starting to be used,” said Branswell, a former health reporter at The Canadian Press who joined STAT in 2015.

In time, she hopes the vaccines will “make a significant dent,” but acknowledges it could be many months before we return to some semblance of normal.

Inoculating a nation

The initial vaccine doses may make for good photo ops, but they won’t put an immediate stop to the virus.

“We’re going to see a very small impact with the first 250,000 doses,” Naylor said.

The only point at which we’ll see a “rapid difference” in rates of hospitalization and death, he said, is when health-care workers and long-term care residents are widely vaccinated across the country.

Canada will receive a combined total of six million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna and COVID-19 vaccines, pending approval of the latter, and distribute them to a total of three million Canadians in the first quarter of 2021.

“I would hope that as we get going through the first quarter, with another 2.75 million Canadians immunized, that we’ll get somewhere,” Naylor said. “But the real turn from the standpoint of broad community spread is going to come when we do that second wave [of vaccinations] through April, May, June.”

Naylor said that even with a total of three million Canadians successfully immunized with the two-dose vaccines in the first stage of Canada’s vaccine rollout plan, we’re still left with “daunting” numbers. 

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters outside Rideau Cottage on Friday. 1:57

“To get to a level where you slow this down, you need to vaccinate about 20 million Canadians minimum,” he said. “That’s 400,000 shots a day for three months solid, seven days a week — that’s a massive task.”

‘We can’t give up now’

Despite the unprecedented challenge, Naylor remains cautiously hopeful.

“I’m very optimistic that we’re going to see this thing slow in the summer, meaningfully, and that we will be breathing more easily in the fall,” he said. “But I think we’ve got a tough few months ahead.”

 

Canada is leading the world in reserving COVID-19 doses per person. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

 

Branswell said it remains to be seen whether the vaccines provide long-lasting immunity and whether or not they block infection and transmission of COVID-19, or if they merely protect people from developing symptoms.

“We have to see how these vaccines work in people, even though they were highly efficacious in the trials. What you see in a trial is typically not what you get in widespread use — effectiveness in the real world is generally lower. But in the main I’m very hopeful,” she said.

“I just hope people can sort of understand that just because there are vaccines doesn’t mean you don’t need to be cautious in the time going forward.”

Trudeau echoed those comments on Friday.

“We need to take this very seriously as numbers head in the wrong direction,” he said. “Our fight against this virus is not over.”

 

 

Source: – CBC.ca

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Ontario must cut COVID-19 cases to 1,000 daily to lift lockdowns, medical officer says – Global News

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TORONTO — COVID-19 cases in Ontario must fall below 1,000 per day before lockdown measures can be lifted, the province’s top doctor said Monday as he expressed cautious optimism that infection rates may have plateaued.

Dr. David Williams said while the province’s virus rates remain high – with 2,578 new cases reported Monday – he thinks the impact of a provincewide lockdown that started on Boxing Day is beginning to emerge.

Read more:
Toronto COVID-19 vaccination clinic pausing after 5 days due to supply issues

Williams said Ontario’s seven-day case average has dropped to just over 3,000 cases he said, down from the mid-3,000s in recent weeks.

He said he would like to see the province’s new daily case counts move to levels last seen in late October before any pandemic measures are relaxed.

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“It is achievable, we can get back there,” Williams said. “I take that as a sign that Ontarians … are making headway.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Williams said he would also like to see the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units drop to 150 – from 395 reported Monday – before ending the lockdown.

[embedded content]

“If you get below 150 COVID patients in ICU beds that starts to get you back down to where all the hospitals can start to do their other elective procedures,” he said.

Williams said while people must continue to stay-at-home and follow public health rules, the latest numbers show that Ontario’s per cent positivity has not risen in recent days.

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His comments come less than a week after the province was plunged into its second state of emergency during the pandemic and Premier Doug Ford’s government imposed a stay-at-home order.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Ontario must cut COVID-19 cases to 1,000 daily to lift lockdowns, medical officer says – Global News

Published

 on


TORONTO — COVID-19 cases in Ontario must fall below 1,000 per day before lockdown measures can be lifted, the province’s top doctor said Monday as he expressed cautious optimism that infection rates may have plateaued.

Dr. David Williams said while the province’s virus rates remain high – with 2,578 new cases reported Monday – he thinks the impact of a provincewide lockdown that started on Boxing Day is beginning to emerge.

Read more:
Toronto COVID-19 vaccination clinic pausing after 5 days due to supply issues

Williams said Ontario’s seven-day case average has dropped to just over 3,000 cases he said, down from the mid-3,000s in recent weeks.

He said he would like to see the province’s new daily case counts move to levels last seen in late October before any pandemic measures are relaxed.

Story continues below advertisement

“It is achievable, we can get back there,” Williams said. “I take that as a sign that Ontarians … are making headway.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Williams said he would also like to see the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units drop to 150 – from 395 reported Monday – before ending the lockdown.

[embedded content]

“If you get below 150 COVID patients in ICU beds that starts to get you back down to where all the hospitals can start to do their other elective procedures,” he said.

Williams said while people must continue to stay-at-home and follow public health rules, the latest numbers show that Ontario’s per cent positivity has not risen in recent days.

Story continues below advertisement

His comments come less than a week after the province was plunged into its second state of emergency during the pandemic and Premier Doug Ford’s government imposed a stay-at-home order.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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B.C. focuses on second doses of COVID-19 vaccine after Pfizer delay: top doctor – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C. is still on track to vaccinate the most vulnerable people despite a reduction in deliveries from Pfizer, the provincial health officer says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry explained the supply issue will have the biggest impact over the next week after which deliveries of vaccines will start to pick up again.

She said this will slow down getting the shots to some hospitals, but the province will continue on schedule for giving the first dose to those most at-risk.

“We have, however, been able to rearrange and look at the process that we have to make sure that we are continuing with providing the first of two doses to those at highest risk, and that we are able to start second doses at day 35, in accordance to our plans that we announced a few weeks ago,” she said during Monday’s briefing.

“It is a bit of a setback, but it is only a delay.”

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak at Port Moody care facility

She said the province expects to receive extra doses at the end of February and into early March, when it will look at expanding its program.

Until then, the plan is still to give people their second dose before focusing on getting others their first dose.

Henry added 87,346 people have received a COVID-19 shot since immunizations started.

She stressed that while immunizations are underway, the risk remains high across the province as transmission continues.

Since Friday, 31 people lost their lives to the virus, with the deaths in every health authority. The total since the start of the pandemic climbed to 1,078.

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Another 1,330 infections were reported over the weekend.

There was also a jump in cases in non-resident Canadians, which Henry explained is mostly farmworkers coming for the season. Henry noted there are quarantine accommodations.

She again said the arrival of coronavirus mutations requires caution and following health measures.

“The biggest risk and the biggest variants we have right now is all of us, our human behaviour, the choices that we make every day,” she said.

Henry added the investigation is ongoing after someone tested for the South African variant in B.C. without knowing how they contracted it.

RELATED: South African COVID-19 variant not immune to vaccines but source of B.C.’s first case remains a mystery

Health Minister Adrian Dix noted it has been almost a year since the first COVID-19 joint release from the province, noting it hasn’t been easy.

“We’ve seen through the course of the pandemic a lot of worry, a lot of fear, a lot of loss, a lot of uncertainty. While COVID-19 gives each of us every reason to experience those feelings, each and every day, I also saw from that day something else, something reassuring – resolve, spirit, strength compassion, and well fear and uncertainty. I think are part of every day in a pandemic. What has kept us going to seeing how British Columbians in every part of our province refuse to let fear and uncertainty rule,” he said.

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