With COVID-19 cases rising again, vaccines appear to remain effective even against the Delta variant, according to a new report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
The rate of new cases is 12 times higher among the unvaccinated compared to fully vaccinated individuals, PHAC said. The rate of hospitalization is 36 times higher for unvaccinated people.
Officials highlighted the need for more people to get vaccinated – particularly among people aged 18 to 39 years, who lag behind other age groups.
Currently, 68 per cent of people aged 30-39 in Canada are fully vaccinated, while just 63 per cent of people in their 20s have received both doses. The group with the highest vaccination rate is the 70-plus age group, where 98 per cent of individuals have at least one dose.
Canada’s top doctor stresses importance of increased COVID-19 vaccine rates in younger age groups
“There is still a window of opportunity to reduce the rate of epidemic growth and get on a better trajectory by increasing vaccine uptake among adults aged 18 to 39 years and speeding up the overall rate of vaccination,” said Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam at a press conference Friday.
Because younger age groups have the highest case rates and are the most socially active in work and recreation, she said, getting more of them vaccinated could have a significant impact on cases and hospitalizations down the road.
If we maintain current public health measures and don’t accelerate vaccination, the fourth wave of COVID-19 could result in 10,000 cases across Canada by mid-September, PHAC’s estimates found.
Canada reported around 640 cases on average per day in late July, when PHAC last issued an update, officials said. Now, it’s closer to 3,500 cases per day. Hospitalizations are also starting to rise, with the seven-day average number of hospitalizations more than doubling since the last update.
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“Unfortunately you can see that the trends are in the wrong direction,” said Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo, pointing to rising case numbers and hospitalizations.
Some provinces have started to reinstate public health measures like requiring masks, he noted. “I think it speaks to the fact that no one wants to go back into lockdowns.”
Full lockdowns can be avoided, Tam thinks, though she won’t take them off the table. She said targeted measures like masking and limiting the size of social gatherings can help.
But both officials emphasized the importance of vaccination to slow the pandemic’s growth.
“We can control that future and this goes back to vaccination,” Njoo said.
Dean Karlen, an experimental physicist from the BC COVID-19 Modelling Group, said that health care crises were “imminent” if there were no actions taken to curb the projections.
According to Karlen, provincial decision makers needed to take the federal projections into account in order to cur case counts, pointing to Alberta and Saskatchewan in particular — two provinces seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
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“And so we just saw today Alberta putting in some responses to try to to reduce the level of a health care crisis that is coming upon them. But we need to see that in Saskatchewan as well,” said Karlen.
He said that while vaccinations were extremely important to address the issue in the long term, even a rapid “expansion” of vaccinations would still not solve the immediate crisis as the immunity from mass vaccinations would take time to build up.
Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the University of Toronto, told Global News that despite the federal projections, no one is going to know what happens until it happens.
“COVID is like a fog — it infiltrates places and it finds people who are susceptible,” said Banerji.
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