The number of COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant is doubling every seven to 10 days in British Columbia, experts say.
Prof. Sarah Otto of the University of British Columbia said the variant, which first became prominent in India, is displacing the one that originated in the United Kingdom.
“Delta is now the most common variant in the province, with its frequency doubling every week relative to Alpha,” said Otto, who is an expert in the university’s zoology department on the mathematical models of pandemic growth and evolution.
“The Delta variant increases the viral load by about one-thousand-fold, making it much easier to catch and transmit.”
COVID-19 cases in B.C. continued their upward march as the province reported more than 700 infections Tuesday over a four-day period, with more than half of those in the Interior where the vaccination rate is lower.
Paul Tupper, a mathematics professor from Simon Fraser University, said the Delta variant is a “large part” of the reason for the increase in COVID-19 case numbers.
The relaxing of restrictions and reopening of the economy have also contributed to the growth, he said.
If the Alpha variant infects two people on an average, the Delta infects three, he said.
“And that’s bad news.”
The good news is that areas with higher vaccination rates are showing fewer infections even among the Delta variant, he said.
The Vancouver Coastal region has a vaccination rate of about 80 per cent while it is 65 per cent for the Interior and that is reflected in COVID-19 case numbers, Tupper said.
Dean Karlen, a physics professor at the University of Victoria, said the emergence of the Delta variant is stronger than scientists expected, and Canada’s next wave has the potential to be similar to what is happening in the United States if no special measures such as mask mandates are reintroduced.
“But right now, in Alberta and British Columbia, it’s very clear that Delta is starting to play a big role,” he said.
The exact trajectory and intensity of growth will become clearer as more data comes in over the next few weeks, he said.
Otto 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.”
Caroline Colijn, a mathematics professor at Simon Fraser University, said most of the infections are likely to be among the unvaccinated population.
“And they of course have the same risk of hospitalization they always did or maybe more with Delta because it may be more severe and higher viral loads,” she said.
While the vaccines are about 90 per cent effective against the virus, Tupper said there will still be some people who get sick and transmit to others.
A higher degree of immunity can be achieved by vaccinating children under 12, he said.
Health Canada has not yet approved a vaccine for children under 12.
“Children when immunized can contribute to herd immunity, and that makes other people that they’re with safer,” he said.
It “definitely makes sense” to have some restrictions until a higher vaccination rate is reached, Tupper said.
“So, anything that buys us time, that allows us to have fewer infections before we get our vaccination numbers high, that makes sense.”
—Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
More than half of Manitoba's 64 new COVID-19 cases unvaccinated – CTV News Winnipeg
While more than half of Manitoba’s new COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated, the province reported 20 breakthrough infections.
On Thursday, Manitoba public health officials reported 64 new COVID-19 cases – including 36 unvaccinated cases and eight partially vaccinated cases. Twenty of the cases were among people who had been fully vaccinated.
“No vaccine is 100 per cent effective. However, people who are fully vaccinated typically have a better outcome than individuals who are not vaccinated,” a spokesperson told CTV News in an emailed statement.
“Public health continues to recommend that the best defence against COVID-19 is to get immunized.”
As of Thursday, 84 per cent of eligible Manitobans have rolled up their sleeve for at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Seventy-nine per cent of eligible Manitobans are vaccinated with two doses.
The spokesperson said while breakthrough cases can occur, the outcomes are typically not as severe as they are for non-vaccinated individuals. They said fully vaccinated people who get infected typically do not need to go to ICU.
As of Thursday, 62 people in Manitoba are in hospital with COVID-19, including 26 people who have active cases. Of those active cases, 20 are not vaccinated, four are partially vaccinated and two are fully vaccinated.
There are five people in the intensive care unit with active cases of COVID-19, all of whom are unvaccinated.
Data from the province obtained by CTV News shows there have been 728 infections and 16 deaths among the 915,200 people fully immunized in the province.
Of the 986,054 people who have been partially immunized in Manitoba, the data shows there have been 2,215 infections and 45 deaths.
The Southern Health region saw the most cases in the province on Thursday, with 23 new cases reported.
The Northern and Winnipeg health regions both reported 15 new cases. Winnipeg is sitting with a 1.2 per cent five-day test positivity rate.
The Prairie Mountain Health Region reported six new cases and the Interlake-Eastern health region reported five new cases.
The new cases bring Manitoba’s total to 59,526, including 599 active cases and 57,724 recoveries. Seven cases were removed from the total due to data corrections.
The provincial five-day test positivity rate is now 2.5 per cent.
The province also released some details of two deaths that were announced on Wednesday – both of which were linked to variants of concern. The deaths include a woman in her 70s from the Interlake-Eastern health region, linked to the Delta variant, and a man in his 80s from Winnipeg linked to an unspecified variant.
The total number of people who have died with COVID-19 sits at 1,203, including 201 deaths that have been linked to variants of concern.
In total, Manitoba has linked 18,065 cases to variants. 370 variant cases are active, and 17,494 have recovered.
Goodbye Pfizer, hello Comirnaty: top COVID-19 vaccines renamed in Canada – KitchenerToday.com
It’s pronounced koh-MIHR’-nuh-tee. Never heard of it? Well, get used to it. It’s what Canada will be calling the Pfizer vaccine from now on, at least officially.
Health Canada has approved new monikers for Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines and announced the change on social media today.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has now been dubbed Comirnaty, which the company says represents a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity.
The Moderna vaccine will go by SpikeVax and the AstraZeneca vaccine will be named Vaxzevria.
Pfizer and Moderna say the change marks the full approval of the vaccines by Health Canada, which were previously approved under an interim order that was set to expire today.
During the interim order, the vaccines didn’t go by their brand names, but now that new and more long-term data has been submitted and approved they will go by their permanent name.
“Health Canada’s approval of COMIRNATY for individuals ages 12 and older affirms the vaccine’s safety and efficacy shown in longer term data submitted to Health Canada — and hopefully that licensure may improve vaccine confidence among Canadians,” Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou wrote in a statement.
It’s the first time SpikeVax, until now known as the Moderna vaccine, has been fully approved anywhere in the world, Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, said in a press release Thursday.
Health Canada points out the vaccines themselves are not changing — only the names are.
Although the name change has been approved, Canada will still receive vials labelled Pfizier-BioNTech for the next several months.
The FDA approved new names in the United States earlier this summer, and the vaccines have been going by their brand names in the EU since the spring.
Story by Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
How concerning is the latest COVID-19 Mu variant in B.C.? – News 1130
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A new strain of the COVID-19 virus is now in the province, and it is leading to questions around potential risk.
The B.1.621 — or Mu — variant was first discovered in Colombia in January and has been found in more than 40 people in B.C. since June. The World Health Organization has now classified the strain as a “Variant of Interest.”
The case numbers are minimal compared to the highly transmissive Delta variant, which has exploded across the country, leading to more COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
In B.C. alone, nearly all the new cases of COVID-19 are linked to the Delta variant.
Still, there was a time when the impact of that strain was not known, prompting many to worry that the new Mu variant could be just as dangerous as Delta.
Sally Otto, a UBC zoology professor and modelling researcher, says right now, that’s not the case and there is no need to panic.
“Mu hasn’t actually been rising in frequency, it’s been kind of hovering under about two per cent frequency, relative to what we saw with Delta, which was once it got established, [there was] really rapid exponential growth,” Otto said.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to it, we absolutely should keep an eye on it. But it’s not taking off. Right now, Delta is the main player, the main variant that is the most transmissible and the most worrisome in this country,” Otto said.
Dr. Birinder Narang, co-founder of This is Our Shot campaign, agrees. “It is not showing a significant impact in B.C., we need to watch,” he wrote on social media.
9/ #COVID19BC – Variants of Concern
99.5% of cases have been from Delta Variant (unsurprisingly).
Alpha variant has all but disappeared.
Mu is now a variant of interest and there have been 46 cases since June, but it is not showing a significant impact in BC, need to watch. pic.twitter.com/wkUoIrzJNq
— Dr. Birinder Narang MBBS (Hons), CCFP (@DrBirinderSingh) September 16, 2021
The bigger concern than the variant itself, Otto says, is how slow Canada is at sharing data from mapping virus sequences to discover variants of interest present in the population.
A new report found Canada among the worst for sharing data on genome sequencing.
Canada takes three months to present collected data to the global database, compared to the United Kingdom which is able to do it in just two weeks.
The data is then studied by public health officials, scientists, and other experts around the world to examine what variants are present, and how fast they are spreading.
“There could absolutely be more variants. Now to be honest, Canada doesn’t have as much cases as there are globally so the chances are the variant of concern is going to arise somewhere else. But if a variant of concern arises in Canada, we can’t tell.”
She says the delay in information impacts making real-time decisions on public policy surrounding the virus.
This is the type of analysis, providing early warning signals of more transmissible variants, that would be great to conduct with Canadian #COVID19 data! But with a median lag before uploading sequences of ~3 months, the early warning becomes a long-after-the-fact warning. https://t.co/tiVIayGhpy
— Sarah Otto (@sarperotto) September 14, 2021
“We can’t tell within Canada if there are subtypes of the Delta that are spreading faster than others, and that’s something we need to know,” she said about the mutations and which ones to pay attention to.
Otto says the disconnect of information sharing is even happening in Canada between provinces and territories.
“Here in British Columbia we are sequencing almost every single case of COVID to try and identify what exactly the genetic changes are inside the genome of the virus. But unfortunately that is not then being shared globally, and it’s not even being shared across Canada. And that means that scientists like me who aren’t inside the public health office, we can’t use our skills to look for the changes that are happening in these genomes,” she said, adding the last time B.C. updated their data was two months ago.
Despite fears, the BC Centre of Disease Control says the current vaccines protect against all variants of concern, including Delta, and because variants spread more easily, it is even more important for the majority of the population to be vaccinated.
“This helps protect people who cannot get vaccinated, including children under 12,” the BCCDC explained.
With files from Nikitha Martin
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