As back-to-school season approaches, many Canadian parents are alarmed by reports of unprecedented cases of COVID-19 among children and teens — as well as increased hospitalizations — in parts of the U.S.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the majority of these illnesses are driven by the delta variant, which it has called “hyper infectious.”
Although the delta variant is on the rise in Canada too, pediatric infectious disease specialists and public health experts say we’re not in the same boat as U.S. hotspots — and that there are measures we can take to avoid getting there.
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What’s happening in the U.S.?
“Right now, things are really bad in the southern and southeastern parts of the United States,” said Dr. David Kimberlin, with the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“We have more pediatric cases, more pediatric hospitalizations, more pediatric severe disease cases than we’ve ever had throughout this pandemic,” he said.
“What we’re experiencing is much worse than it was even in the dark days of January and February … during the wintertime surge.”
WATCH | Children hit hard by COVID-19 surge in U.S.:
One reason for that is the dominance of the delta variant, which Kimberlin estimates is about 90 per cent of the COVID-19 cases he’s seeing now.
The other big reason, he said, is “abysmal vaccination rates” in COVID hotspots.
“You put a highly, even much more infectious — hyper-infectious, hyper-transmissible — virus that this delta variant represents into a population that’s … a third vaccinated, you got a recipe for disaster,” said Kimberlin.
“We’re living that disaster right now.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a 27.3 per cent rise in the seven-day average for U.S. COVID-19 hospital admissions among children from 0 to 17 years old between the week of July 28 to Aug. 3 and the week of Aug. 4 to Aug. 10.
According to additional CDC data, the highest COVID-19 case rates per 100,000 people are in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
What’s happening with kids and COVID-19 in Canada?
Right now, experts say Canada isn’t seeing the surge of pediatric cases and hospitalizations that the southern U.S. is experiencing. That includes at one of the country’s largest children’s hospitals.
“SickKids has not seen any increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations or disease severity due to the delta variant,” a spokesperson for Toronto hospital said in an email to CBC News. “Throughout the pandemic, we have monitored COVID-19 trends in other jurisdictions and we continue to do so closely.”
One of the reasons it hasn’t happened, experts say, is Canada’s much higher vaccination rate. According to CBC’s vaccine tracker, 71 per cent of the eligible population — currently anyone 12 years and older — has been fully vaccinated in Canada.
“Vaccination in Canada seems to be less of a political issue and more of a health-related issue — and we are lucky for that,” said Dr. Jeff Pernica, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton.
“We know that two doses of the available mRNA vaccines provides very good protection even against delta,” he said. “And so I do not necessarily think that what’s happening in the United States is going to happen here.”
Does the delta variant make people sicker than other forms of the virus?
The short answer is that experts don’t yet know for sure.
“We know that everybody is more susceptible to the delta variant,” said Dr. Laura Sauvé, chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s infectious diseases committee and an infectious disease specialist at B.C. Children’s Hospital.
“It’s just much more transmissible than previous strains of COVID-19.”
But the question of delta’s “virulence” — meaning whether the illness it causes is more severe — is still not clear.
Several infectious disease specialists say that although there are more pediatric hospitalizations than before in the U.S., that could be due to the fact that delta causes more infections overall. So the same percentage of patients as before could be suffering from serious illness, but there’s a larger total pool of infected children and teens.
Aren’t kids under 12 at particular risk since they can’t get vaccinated?
Yes, experts say — but there are still things we can do to protect them.
The current fourth wave of COVID-19, including the delta variant, is largely infecting people who are unvaccinated, said Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
“Our main unvaccinated population right now in Canada is mostly the kids [who are] less than 12. So that’s a big concern to me,” she said.
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are currently doing clinical trials to determine whether their vaccines are safe and effective for children under 12. Banerji is hoping results will be available in the coming months.
In the meantime, experts say one of the most important things people can do to protect kids from the delta variant is to get vaccinated themselves.
“Having the adults around them protected by vaccination will help protect kids who are too young to be vaccinated,” said Sauvé.
“That includes … kids over 12 — so high school students, middle school students. But also parents and teachers, and other health-care workers and other education workers.”
In addition, Sauvé said, it’s critical to keep up other public health measures, such as wearing masks indoors, especially where community transmission is high.
Many people dropped those public health measures in the areas of the U.S. now being hard-hit, said Kimberlin.
“[We’ve] … got to go back to the same kinds of things we don’t like — and that’s wearing masks and trying to distance from one another and doing the kinds of things that we were so familiar with in the wintertime and last year,” he said.
Is it still true that kids usually don’t get as sick if they get COVID?
Yes, infectious disease specialists say. There’s nothing to suggest the delta variant has changed that.
“Of all kids who get COVID, probably the majority will have no symptoms at all,” said Sauvé.
“Another significant proportion will have, kind of, mild flu-like symptoms. Like they might feel crummy for a few days, they might have some fever, they might have some cough, and in most cases, that goes away fairly quickly.
“A very, very small proportion of kids with COVID do get sick enough with COVID to be admitted to hospital. But that’s a very tiny proportion.”
Should Canadian kids return to school this fall?
All of the Canadian infectious disease and public health experts CBC News interviewed gave a resounding “yes.”
“It’s really important that we do everything we can to get kids back in school in person,” said Sauvé.
“The mental health and developmental effects of COVID have been the most profound effects of COVID on children, and we’re seeing significant increases in mental health hospitalizations,” she said.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, the medical officer of health for Ontario’s Peel region, agreed that a return to school is vital for kids — with COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
“In general, schools reflect the community transmission that’s occurring,” Loh said. “And we know that one of the best ways to address community transmission is to make sure that everyone is getting vaccinated as much as possible.
“The additional measures that are in place in schools — cohorting, screening, dismissals, masking — those are all going to still be critical.”
Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.
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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