Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on Friday, March 19, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There is concern that the increase in more transmissible variants is threatening our progress before vaccines can bring full benefits. To date, over 922,000 cases of COVID-19, including over 22,500 deaths have been reported across Canada. Over the past week, there has been an 8 percent increase in daily cases, with an average almost 3,300 new cases daily. Declines in lagging indicators of COVID-19 severity are also showing signs of levelling off or increasing slightly. On average over the past week, 31 deaths were reported daily and close to 2,060 people with COVID-19 being treated in our hospitals each day, including over 560 in critical care. To date, about 4,500 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, with the B.1.1.7 variant accounting for over 90 percent of these to date. This includes 4,169 B.1.1.7 variants, 241 B.1.351 variants and 89 P.1 variants reported to date in Canada.
In some parts of Canada variants of concern now represent a high proportion of cases and the number of outbreaks involving these variants is increasing.
Things will get easier if we keep COVID activity at manageable levels as vaccines continue to roll out over the coming weeks. At this point, team variant has the ability to take off fast. This is a crucial moment, if we don't slow down the spread of variants, team vaccine is at risk of falling behind. But... if we can hold on and give it that last push by keeping up with personal protective measures and limiting our contacts to the extent possible, we will clear the path for team vaccine to cross the finish line!
There are encouraging developments with each new day. The rates of COVID are dropping in elders 80 years of age or older, with a downward trend in long term care home outbreaks. Each week, a new high is being set for the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, with over 670,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered this past week alone and more than 3.5 million doses administered to date, across Canada.
There have been recent reports in Europe of blood clots following vaccination with the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Health Canada has been working closely with international regulators to gather and assess the available information, and has determined that the AstraZeneca vaccine has not been associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots. Rare adverse events are expected to be detected when vaccines are given to millions of people. They must always be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. It is possible that the vaccine may be associated with very rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with low levels of platelets, which merit further analysis. Health Canada will continue to work with international regulators and review data and evidence as it becomes available, including as it pertains to these rare events. Overall, the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in protecting Canadians from COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks.
Ensuring that all vaccines authorised for use in Canada are safe is a top priority for health authorities across Canada, who continue to monitor, investigate and report through country-wide vaccine safety surveillance systems. To date there, have been no safety signals of concern detected following vaccinations in Canada.
As these vaccines work to protect more and more Canadians, let's play our part by staying strong and helping each other - follow public health advice, keep up with individual practices, and prepare to take your place in the queue when the time comes for you to be vaccinated.
Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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