Canadians need to use all public health tools available, including masking, physical distance and testing, to avoid lockdowns and protect the unvaccinated as a fourth wave of COVID-19 grips the country, infectious disease experts say.
With more than 10 million Canadians unvaccinated against COVID-19, the chances of more widespread lockdowns are possible as some provinces’ hospital systems remain strained from earlier waves of the pandemic.
“We can’t ignore that there are literally millions of people in Ontario, and in Canada, that are unvaccinated,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and member of Ontario’s vaccine task force, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Even if all eligible Canadians got their shots, there would still be nearly five million Canadians who are not eligible to be vaccinated who would be at heightened risk, especially as the more transmissible Delta variant takes hold.
“We’ll do OK if we can limit the pace of community transmission, but that’s tough to do,” he said. “If we have a lot of people get infected in a short period of time – that could happen with the Delta variant – we will put pressure on our health-care system, we will stretch our health-care system, there are literally millions of people that can be infected.”
With millions of people still at risk of infection, and many of them children, Bogoch said that Canadians should use all tools available to protect the unvaccinated, in order to avoid more full-scale lockdowns.
Preventing our hospitals from getting overwhelmed will be a key factor in preventing lockdowns across the country.
“Unfortunately, when we compare Canada to other comparable countries, our ICU capacity per capita is not very robust,” said Bogoch.
This is what resulted in lockdowns during the third wave, he added, referencing the “dire” situation earlier this year in which ICUs in some provinces hit capacity, patients were sent to other cities, adult patients were in pediatric ICU beds, and surgeries were cancelled.
“We can’t let this wave get out of control because the more cases there are, the more hospitalizations, the more ICU [admissions] and tragically, the more deaths we will see this fall,” Craig Jenne, Canada Research Chair in infectious diseases at the University of Calgary told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday.
With infections already on the rise, Jenne says this wave could have more cases than previous waves if public health measures aren’t enforced.
“If you look back to last year’s cases, they really didn’t start rising sharply until we got into September with people back indoors at school,” he said. “This year, the cases really have started to go up in a number of places – Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia in early August, basically the wave has a month head start.”
Similar to Ontario, Alberta approximately 1.5 million unvaccinated people in the province, so while vaccinated people have a lower risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death, there are still many Canadians who don’t have that protection, which could send the fourth wave off the rails.
“We have millions of Albertans who are not vaccinated, and if we think of the total number of people that have been infected as well under a million, we still have more people who are unvaccinated that could be infected than have been infected at any point during this pandemic,” said Jenne. “So, if we let this virus run unchecked and the majority of those unvaccinated do get infected, we will see unmanageable numbers in the hospital.”
ICU occupancy in Alberta has more than doubled since the start of August, he added. Earlier this month, there were fewer than 20 COVID-19 patients in Alberta hospitals; as of Aug. 24, there are 57.
The speed at which COVID-19 spreads adds more fuel to the fire, experts say. By the time case numbers reflect exponential growth, it’s difficult to claw things back.
“A lot of people see the numbers and think it’s not a big deal, but it is like a freight train, it picks up momentum, and changes we make now can take several weeks to have an effect, so you have to be prepared for those curves to respond slowly to changes,” said Jenne.
With over 60 per cent of Canadians fully vaccinated, many people have full protection, but there is still a small risk of breakthrough cases. As of Aug. 7, more than 80 per cent of infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been among non-vaccinated populations since vaccinations started in December 2020. Fully vaccinated people represent less than one per cent of new infections, 1 per cent of hospitalizations and 1.4 per cent of deaths in Canada.
“The risk of a breakthrough case is quite low, and most breakthrough cases that do occur, still result in very minor disease,” said Jenne. “The severity of illness is reduced dramatically among the vaccinated.“
While a high rate of vaccinations will make this wave different from previous ones, so will relaxed public health measures and more travel.
“We’d love to think of ourselves, our provinces, as little islands but we’re not. What happens in one part of Canada and one part of the world affects all of us, particularly as we’re starting to travel more and more frequently, across different domains,” Dr. Lisa Barrett, a Halifax-based infectious disease specialist, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Wednesday.
UNVACCINATED CANADIANS UNDER 12
Since the outset of the pandemic, one message has prevailed: children don’t get very sick from COVID-19. Mounting cases among children in the U.S. show otherwise, so letting COVID-19 spread like wildfire among those too young to vaccinate isn’t a safe option, for both children and adults.
Controlling community spread of COVID-19 will be key to keeping children safe this fall as a fourth wave surges on.
“At the end of the day, vaccines still work, but we do have to keep in mind there are a significant number of Canadins who are not eligible for vaccines, again those under 12,” he said. “There is no way right now to protect them from the virus, other than physical distancing, wearing a mask, and ensuring the people around them are vaccinated.“
For Barrett, the unknowns of the Delta variant are cause for concern, and it’s too early to have a business-as-usual approach, until experts learn more about the long-term impacts of COVID-19 in children.
“Maybe in six months, we’ll say: ‘that was a drop in the pan, these new variants, they don’t have the same long-term side effects in one in 10 people,’” she said. “But until we know that I’m really, really, really strongly and firmly opposed to going back to a business-as-usual respiratory season.”
Just because kids likely won’t get as sick as adults doesn’t mean they can be left out to dry, unprotected while vaccinated adults try to resume normal life, she added.
“Kids get multi-system inflammatory syndrome that can almost kill them, and everyone says ‘well you know every disease kills a few people,’” said Barrett. “But, measles didn’t give everyone encephalitis and severe brain damage, but enough of them that we [now] vaccinate everyone.”
And protecting kids from COVID-19 will add an additional layer of protection for vulnerable adults, to whom children can spread the virus.
The doctors agree that a safe return to school will be one of the biggest factors in keeping unvaccinated children safe during the fourth wave of COVID-19.
“It’s so important to actually implement smart school strategies that focus on better-ventilated rooms, masking in the school, limiting class sizes, as well as cohorting,” Bogoch said. “There’s all these steps, different provinces have different plans, and some I think are stronger than others, but one of the key issues is at the level of the school: how is it that they plan implementation is key.”
For parents who are worried about the school year, Bogoch suggests reaching out to the school being attended as not all schools are created equal. Some schools may be in communities already at higher risk for COVID-19, these same schools may not have all the resources available to them.
HOW TO CONTROL THE FOURTH WAVE
With so many Canadians vaccinated, getting control of the fourth wave can likely happen without the use of widespread lockdowns, instead regions can opt for more simplified public health measures that can be put in place relatively easily.
“Some of these public health measures we’ve been using for the last 18 months are really not that invasive, really simple to comply with and quite effective in slowing viral spread,” said Jenne. “Wearing masks, reducing overall capacity for some indoor events, I think, are really simple things that can happen, that will dramatically impact numbers.”
Even without those mandates in place, individuals can take it upon themselves to wear a mask and distance from others.
“If we take those approaches to a population level, not that we’ll get to zero COVID, but we will be able to at least limit transmission in the community, and prevent our health-care system from getting stretched,” Bogoch added.
Provinces have already begun to respond to the increase in COVID-19 cases. Ontario has paused in stage three of its reopening, Nova Scotia has tightened border restrictions with New Brunswick, and Quebec has extended the reach of its vaccine passports.
“We have seen masks come back in parts of British Columbia, we have seen British Columbia opt for a vaccine passport-type system,” said Jenne. “We have seen even Alberta delay dropping asymptomatic testing and self-isolation. I think those are very clear markers that provincial health authorities are appreciating there is still risk, and that risk needs to be managed.”
While some provinces have implemented various forms of vaccine passports and certificates, Barrett said they can help, but could further marginalize unvaccinated populations.
“We know that people who are not vaccinated, especially in Canada where access has been better, those folks may have other systemic and very challenging reasons for not getting vaccinated yet, and we don’t want to further marginalize people in any way by restricting them from being able to do things that other people do,” she said.
Controlling the fourth wave will rely heavily on testing both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, so that public health units have much-needed data to determine where spread is happening and what activities are leading to major spreading events. While vaccinated individuals may have good protection, they should still get tested if they show signs of COVID-19 symptoms or have high-risk contacts, said Barrett. As has been the case for the last 18 months, the experts agree that anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested and isolate.
By using all of these measures: masking, physical distancing, improved ventilation, vaccinations, hand-washing, testing and isolating, Canadians will have a good safety net if one of the safety measures isn’t quite enough. Jenne likens it to getting in a car – seat belts, speed limits and airbags are there to keep us safe on the roads, but drivers and passengers don’t just pick one, they use them all. There are even laws in place to ensure they do so.
COVID-19 is now a preventable disease, said Barrett, and it needs to be treated as such.
“I’m mindful of the fact that this is now a preventable disease, and I don’t think we say that enough – but that’s not just vaccines, that’s all the tools in that toolbox.”
Canada COVID-19 booster update coming 'very shortly': Tam – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News
Canadians can expect an update on the potential use of additional COVID-19 shots for the most at-risk “very shortly,” the country’s top doctor says.
Speaking at a news conference Friday morning, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters she expects the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will make recommendations on whether or not additional doses for those at the highest risk are needed.
In particular, the committee is looking at those who received a COVID-19 vaccine around the beginning of the year, Tam added.
“So that includes, for example, those in long-term care homes or congregate living for seniors,” she said. “So I expect the committee to have their deliberations completed on this group … very shortly.”
Biden says ‘majority of Americans’ who received Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine eligible for booster shot 6 months after 2nd shot
Tam did not elaborate on a timeline further, but her comments come after the United States approved booster shots for Americans aged 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions and adults in high-risk settings, like a workplace or congregate living.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the plan on Thursday, which is in line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the extra shot earlier this week.
Pfizer-BioNTech is the vaccine of choice. The extra shots will also be rolled out in long-term care facilities and are open to more than 20 million Americans who received their second Pfizer shot more than six months ago.
Tam said in addition to looking at American data on boosters, Canada has its own measures to follow as its vaccine approach is different.
“For example, while we use the mRNA vaccines that are the same as the United States, many Canadians actually had an extended interval compared to the United States, and what the data is showing us is that the extended interval produces a more robust immune response and vaccine effectiveness is better with a longer interval,” she said.
“So the Canadian data must be analyzed on top of what we’re gathering from the international community as well, and we are taking a thorough, thoughtful and phased approach to looking at additional doses.”
Canada has already OK’d additional doses for some immunocompromised individuals, announcing the new measure on Sept. 10.
“NACI continues to examine the need for booster doses, which unlike additional doses are intended to restore initially adequate immune protection that may have waned over time,” Tam said at the time.
Booster shots, however, continue to be a divisive issue among health experts and internationally.
Vaccine inequity was among the agenda items at the United Nations’ annual meeting this week. The leaders of many African countries, whose populations have little to no access to the shots, spoke out.
It is “of great concern” that the global community has not supported the principles “of solidarity and co-operation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, said.
“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 per cent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than one per cent has gone to low-income countries.”
U.S. to donate half a billion additional Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines
On Wednesday during a global COVID-19 summit, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would double its purchase of Pfizer’s shots to share one billion doses with the world, in an effort to vaccinate 70 per cent of the global population within the next year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was also in attendance, committed to that goal.
“In order to get this done, Canada will build on the important progress we have made so far, and focus on increasing the production, availability, and delivery of vaccines,” a read-out of the summit said.
“To date, Canada has contributed more than $2.5 billion to help address this crisis globally. We have also committed to sharing tens of millions of vaccine doses with the rest of the world, including through the COVAX facility.”
Tam said on Friday that more than 80 per cent of Canada’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Johns Hopkins University, 32.71 per cent of the world’s population is fully inoculated.
Earlier this month, University of Toronto bioethics professor Kerry Bowman told Global News that Canada needs to fight the pandemic with a global approach.
“Booster shots may well be required for immunocompromised people and a subset of people, (but) I think in the short term, we should not have widespread booster shots — meaning third doses — at all, for ethical reasons and epidemiological reasons,” he said.
“We really have to start making a deeper commitment to the larger world to protect ourselves and because it’s the right thing to do.”
–with files from Reuters and The Associated Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca
New Brunswick has reinstated its COVID-19 state of emergency as the province’s chief medical officer of health warned the province is at a “tipping point.”
“The pace of the fourth wave is beyond what we had anticipated,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell at a briefing Friday as the province reported a single-day record of 78 new cases and three additional deaths.
As part of the mandatory order, which will take effect at 11:59 p.m. AT Friday, residents must stick to their household bubbles and a “steady 20” of close contacts.
The order will be reviewed every two weeks and come into effect whenever there are 25 people hospitalized with COVID-19, said Premier Blaine Higgs. The number of people hospitalized currently stands at 31, including 15 in intensive care, he said.
Dr. Gordon Dow, infectious disease specialist with the Horizon Health Network, said the lifting of health-protection measures almost two months ago was an error.
“Many other jurisdictions made the very same mistake,” he said at a technical briefing earlier Friday, citing Alberta, Saskatchewan, the U.S. and the U.K.
Dow said the province’s previous efforts to combat the virus focused on a successful “elimination strategy” that was used to rapidly shut down seven distinct outbreaks. But the province wasn’t ready for the delta variant, he said.
“Did we under-call this one? I would say yes, and I think most New Brunswickers would agree with that,” he said. “But I would also say that we got it right 85 per cent of the time.”
Meanwhile, Ontario is easing capacity limits at certain venues where proof of vaccination is required, including sports facilities, cinemas and concert venues.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, says the province’s COVID-19 cases and health indicators have been stable recently, though it doesn’t mean the province can let its guard down in the face of the delta variant.
Ontario on Friday reported 727 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths. There are 193 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19.
— From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
Canada’s chief public health officer says the country is seeing about 4,300 new cases of COVID-19 per day, up from about 3,500 per day three weeks ago.
The bulk of cases and severe outcomes are among the unvaccinated, Dr. Theresa Tam said at a news briefing Friday.
From early August to early September, the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 was 11 times higher in those who were unvaccinated than in fully vaccinated people, she said, while hospitalization was 38 times higher.
While more than 80 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, more than six million people still have not received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Tam said.
— From The Canadian Press, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Friday afternoon, more than 230.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool, which collects data from around the world. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus since the start of the pandemic as people returned from the country’s biggest holiday of the year.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 1,750 of the 2,434 new cases reported Friday were from the greater capital area, where officials have raised concern over an erosion in citizen vigilance despite the enforcement of the strongest physical distancing rules short of a lockdown since July.
In the Americas, a live televised interview with U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris was slightly delayed Friday after two hosts of the The View learned they tested positive for the coronavirus just before she was to join them on the set.
Co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro were at the table for the start of the show, but were pulled from the set. Harris, who had planned to join the table, instead was interviewed remotely from a different room in the ABC studio in New York.
In Europe, Portugal is scrapping many of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions after becoming the world leader in vaccination rollout. The country has fully vaccinated nearly 85 per cent of the population, according to Our World in Data.
The government says starting Oct. 1, it will remove limits on how many people can be in cafés and restaurants, at weddings and baptisms, shopping malls, concerts and cinemas. Bars and discos will reopen, although only for vaccinated people and people with negative coronavirus tests.
Meanwhile, Norway’s government says the country will reopen society on Saturday, ending pandemic-curbing restrictions that have limited social interaction and hobbled many businesses.
“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime …. Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.
The decision to no longer require physical distancing will allow culture and sports venues to utilize their full capacity, rather than just a portion of seats, while restaurants can fill up and nightclubs reopen.
About 76 per cent of all Norwegians have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 67 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Institute of Public Health.
In the Middle East, Yemen received its third batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, the health ministry said
In Africa, Egypt has authorized Russia’s single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine against COVID-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which markets the shot abroad, said on Friday. The country approved Russia’s two-dose Sputnik V vaccine in February.
— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:30 p.m. ET
BENANTHONY LAVOZ AND DELON OM GET RAW WITH “The Gentleman and Scholar”
Toronto, ON – Canadian Latin Pop sensations BenAnthony Lavoz and Delon Om, dropped their new EP “The Gentleman & Scholar.” Coming off the success of their summer hit single “One More Time” the pop sensations went dark for their new project. The multi-talented artists wanted the lyrics of their new EP to describe the struggles we keep to ourselves, the ones that lead us to walk in the darkness. Lavoz and Om brought in some heavy hitters to produce “The Gentleman and Scholar.” The EP was produced by David Neale (Karl Wolf, Danny Fernandes, Peter Jackson) and multi-platinum Grammy award winning producer, Sensei Musica (Fat Joe, Pitbull, and Shakira). The project serves as an emotional outlet for Lavoz and Om, who bring to the table a genuine connect and passion. “The Gentleman and Scholar” reminds us that there are many parts that make up who we are, but at the heart of it all … is our truth. Do we own it, or do we hide? One of the singles on the EP, “Follow the Leader” features Canada’s own Danny Fernandes. The three artists connected over their dark pasts to create the song about vulnerability, redemption and finding a new and forgiving path to walk.
BenAnthony Lavoz, a Toronto native and Latin Grammy award winner has performed with Prince Royce, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny and Ozuna. Delon Om, is a former Canadian Idol contestant, song writer and music producer signed to Ultra Records. Om’s single, “Someone Special To Me” was featured in the critically acclaimed documentary “This is for Toronto.” Together they produced an EP that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit, in hopes that lessons learned, and paths walked will give others hope and encouragement to step out of the dark and into the light.
“The Gentleman and Scholar” is raw and ready. Step into the light on all music platforms today…
FOLLOW Delon OM:
FOLLOW BENANTHONY LAVOZ:
Sasha Stoltz Publicity & Management:
Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804
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