Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, August 26, 2021 7:22AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 26, 2021 7:23AM EDT
As COVID-19 cases rise through parts of the country, experts expect the number of infections among fully vaccinated people will increase with them. But that doesn’t mean the vaccines have stopped working.
Cases among fully vaccinated individuals – dubbed breakthrough infections if they occur at least two weeks following a second dose – are rare, experts say, even against the more transmissible Delta variant. And the chance a fully vaccinated person would get seriously ill or die following a COVID-19 infection is even less likely, they add.
“To date, the vaccines are doing exactly what we would expect them to be doing,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician with the University of Toronto.
“They reduce people’s risk of getting the infection, they significantly reduce the risk of people getting very sick and landing in hospital, and there’s also good growing data demonstrating that vaccines reduce the degree to which someone is contagious.”
So what do we know about breakthrough infections? The Canadian Press asked Bogoch and other health experts to break down the science:
HOW OFTEN ARE BREAKTHROUGH CASES HAPPENING?
Data from Public Health Ontario showed breakthrough cases accounted for less than one per cent of all COVID-19 infections in the province from Dec.14, 2020 to Aug. 7, 2021.
But as the proportion of vaccinated Canadians grows, so too will the number of vaccinated people exposed to the circulating Delta variant. And experts say we’ll likely see more breakthrough cases.
Those without shots are still significantly more vulnerable, though: Ontario public health data found unvaccinated individuals were about eight times more likely to contract COVID-19 in the past 30 days. Recent cases in British Columbia showed a 10-times higher rate of infection among unvaccinated people and a 17-times higher hospitalization rate.
Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician in Mississauga, Ont., said that while Delta is a problem, the vaccines are still offering excellent protection.
“There’s just so much more of Delta right now so we’re seeing people who are getting COVID after they have the vaccine – but they’re almost uniformly getting mild disease,” he said. “As time goes on we’ll see more (breakthroughs) because we’re looking for them.
“But you have to compare it to the vast number of fully vaccinated people being exposed to COVID and not (catching it).”
A U.K. study from July suggested vaccine effectiveness dipped against Delta compared to the Alpha variant, offering between 67 and 88 per cent protection against infection. But effectiveness against death and severe disease has remained high.
WHO IS MORE LIKELY TO SUFFER SERIOUS BREAKTHROUGH INFECTIONS?
Though it doesn’t happen often, some fully vaccinated people have either required hospitalization or intensive care or died following a breakthrough infection.
Bogoch said emerging worldwide data suggests those who suffer serious breakthrough outcomes are likely to have other risk factors for severe disease.
“This is usually older or frail adults or immunocompromised individuals,” he said. “And these are people that won’t mount the same degree of an immune response to vaccination compared to younger cohorts.”
Since those segments of the population were also among the first prioritized for vaccination when Canada’s rollout began in December, some experts say waning immunity may be at play for certain groups.
A pre-print study from immunologists at McMaster University suggests those in long-term care could soon need a booster shot to amplify their protection.
“In the general population, it is not believed that we have reached that waning immunity,” said Dawn Bowdish, a co-author of the pre-print study which is currently under review. “In long-term care and in the vulnerable, yes, they’re reaching waning immunity, but they never have immune responses that last as long.”
Chakrabarti said most studies on immune longevity look at antibody levels over time. But while antibodies decrease, T-cell responses linger much longer to continue to help fight off severe infection.
“Antibodies are like a brick wall. They’re strong but with enough force you can knock them down,” he said. “But the kind of long-term immunity you have with your T-cells, that’s like a concrete wall. That’s not something that easily drops.”
CAN BREAKTHROUGH INFECTIONS LEAD TO FURTHER TRANSMISSION?
Recent data from the United Kingdom showed that some fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients had similar viral loads to unvaccinated people who contracted the virus. While that would seem to suggest vaccinated people are just as contagious, experts say that’s not the case.
Bowdish said further studies have indicated viral load drops much quicker in fully vaccinated people compared to those unvaccinated: “So you might have one day of being infectious versus five,” she explained.
“Right now we’re seeing Delta is just as contagious as chicken pox in unvaccinated people,” Bowdish said. “In vaccinated people, it’s probably closer to influenza…. So a fully vaccinated person, there’s still potential to transmit, but it will be a lot less.”
Bowdish added that the amount of viral load someone carries around doesn’t necessarily translate to how infectious the person is.
She pointed out that studies during the first wave, before Delta emerged, suggested children carried high loads of virus but weren’t as contagious as adults. She said the presence of symptoms and the behaviour of the host – are they sneezing and surrounded by people?- impact transmission more than viral load itself.
Chakrabarti added viral load doesn’t always indicate the presence of live virus, and since vaccinated people likely won’t have symptoms, they also likely won’t become super-spreaders.
HOW DO WE STOP BREAKTHROUGH CASES?
Some experts believe the COVID-19 virus will become endemic, with small, seasonal waves continuing to pass through predominantly unprotected populations. That means it will be hard to stop breakthrough infections entirely.
Bogoch said the best way to halt spread among both vaccinated and unvaccinated groups is to continue with added layers of protection, including mask-wearing and limits on indoor gatherings, to “stop infections in the community.”
“Right now, we have to vaccinate plus have other mitigation efforts in place simultaneously,” he said. “We’ll get out of this pandemic. We’re just not there yet.”
Rodents on the rise: How to avoid an infestation this fall
Rodents have become a larger problem for Canadian homeowners since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pests that lived near bars and restaurants moved into residential neighbourhoods during lockdowns, spreading out their colonies and causing trouble.
With colder weather just around the corner, these rodents are likely to break into people’s homes. Invasions are especially common in the fall and winter when pests seek a warmer place to stay. Mice sneak in via the holes in the wall, and rats dig underground and into the basement.
While many homeowners deal with mice every year, it is important that they be kept out. Rodents are potential carriers of disease, and they will damage the home’s interior. The following tips, when used together, will help ensure that your home is pest-free this winter.
Block Entry Points
Rodents come from outside. While it may seem like they appear out of thin air, rodents find openings in the outer walls of the home and sneak their way inside. Wall vents, cracked window frames, and doors that have been left open are often to blame.
Examine your home’s exterior very carefully and use caulking or mesh to block the openings you find. Check between the layers of your siding, underneath your deck, and along the edges of your soffits for openings of 5mm or more. Put weatherstripping on the bottoms of your doors and seal cracks in the foundation with epoxy.
If you’re not sure you got them all, contact a mice exterminator for an inspection and pest-proofing service. Professionals offer complete pest-proofing in addition to pest control. They can find the entry points you missed and close them for you. If you know that there are rats in your neighbourhood, a professional can protect your foundation by digging a trench and attaching a mesh to its sides. This will prevent rats from digging into the basement.
Do Some Fall Cleaning
Spring isn’t the only time of year for cleaning. Mice, rats, ants, and other pests can smell the food you keep, and they will want their share. Deep clean the kitchen this fall and maintain it to keep pests out when it gets cold. Vacuum everywhere and clean the floors beneath your major appliances. Keep surfaces clean and store food in airtight containers to reduce odours. Never leave dirty dishes out overnight and use lidded garbage cans.
In addition to food, pests love clutter. Rodents like to hide in quiet, cluttered areas, like messy basements and storage rooms. This way, they can hide as they move from place to place. Get organized this fall and get rid of what you don’t need. Move objects off the floor and create space so there is nowhere for pests to hide.
Tidy up the Yard
Because rodents love food and clutter, it is important that you maintain the yard, as well. Trim back the vines, bushes, and plants that grow around the walls of the home to reduce the number of potential hiding spots. Move patio furniture and firewood away from the sides of the home, as well. Mow the lawn, rake the leaves, and bag all your organic materials for collection.
Pest control experts recommend getting rid of the bird feeder because it attracts rodents. While it is unfortunate, bird feeders are magnets of animal activity. Consider getting rid of it when the temperature cools or switch to one that hangs far away. Harvest your apples and home-grown produce on time, and secure your garbage cans with bungee cords or tight locks.
Quebec man punches nurse in face for giving wife COVID-19 vaccine – Saanich News
Police in Quebec say they are looking for a man who is alleged to have repeatedly punched a nurse in the face because he was angry she had vaccinated his wife against COVID-19.
Police say a man between the ages of 30 and 45 approached the nurse on Monday morning at a pharmacy in Sherbrooke, Que., about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.
They say he accused the nurse of vaccinating his wife against her consent and repeatedly punched the nurse before leaving the store.
Police say the nurse had to be treated in hospital for serious injuries to her face.
Quebec’s order of nurses tweeted today that the alleged assault was unacceptable and wished the nurse a full recovery.
Sherbrooke police are asking for the public’s help in finding the assailant, who they say has short dark hair, dark eyes, thick eyebrows and a tattoo resembling a cross on his hand.
—The Canadian Press
Fraser Health accounts for nearly half of 832 cases recorded in B.C., five deaths – News 1130
VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. is seeing yet another day of high COVID-19 cases, with another 832 people testing positive for the virus and five dying.
Nearly half of the new cases Thursday are in the Fraser Health region — which has seen 377 new infections.
That’s more than double the cases in any other health authority, including Interior Health, which saw a dramatic rise in cases over the summer.
There are 153 new cases in Interior Health, 114 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 117 in Northern Health, and 71 in Island Health.
Of the five people that have died in the last 24 hours, two deaths were recorded in Fraser Health, two in Interior Health and one person was in the Northern Health region.
New #covid19 cases up again – 832 today@Fraserhealth has nearly half the province’s new cases
Active cases up – 5697
ICU up to 148 of the 330 in hospital
Five additional deaths#bcpoli @news1130 pic.twitter.com/tzKkbkY33P
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) September 23, 2021
Of the 5,697 active cases, 330 people are in hospital, of whom 148 are in the ICU.
Between Sept. 15 and 21, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 75.5 per cent of new infections.
From Sept. 8 and 21, they accounted for 82.6 per cent of hospitalizations.
Since the start of the pandemic, 181,769 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the province, 173,786 people who tested positive have recovered and 1,915 people have died.
The province says those who are unvaccinated are 25.8 times as likely to be hospitalized after age is taken into consideration.
Of all eligible adults in the province, 87.8 per cent have had their first dose and 80.7 per cent are fully vaccinated.
There are a total of 22 active COVID-19 outbreaks at health care facilities.
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