Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on Tuesday, March 16, 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.
Over the past several weeks, COVID-19 activity has levelled off at a high level, with national case counts now on the rise. To date, over 913,000 cases of COVID-19, including close to 22,500 deaths have been reported across Canada. Over the past week, on average almost 3,200 new cases and 31 deaths were reported daily. At the same time, about 2,040 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, including almost 550 in critical care. To date, over 3,600 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 3,335 B.1.1.7 variants, 225 B.1.351 variants and 58 P.1 variants reported to date in Canada.] With high infection rates and more contagious variants spreading, we must remain vigilant to prevent acceleration the epidemic and its severe outcomes.
With over 4.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed and over 3 million doses administered across Canada, Federal, provincial and territorial authorities are continuously monitoring COVID-19 vaccine safety. To date, no unexpected vaccine safety issues have been identified in Canada. Health Canada is aware of reports of serious adverse events in Europe following immunization with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine but wants to reassure Canadians that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks. There is currently no indication that the vaccine caused the observed events. Health Canada is continuing to work with international regulators, including the European Medicines Agency (EMA), to determine whether there is any need to take action in Canada.
At the same time, expert advice on the optimal use of vaccines is being adapted to maximize the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada. Today, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has released updated recommendations on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, including expanding the recommendation for its use from adults aged 18 to 64 years to now also include those aged 65 years and older.
As an estimated over 380 million COVID-19 vaccines doses have been administered worldwide, the science is continuing to emerge on real-world use, providing us a greater understanding of the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines across the population. NACI continues to analyse this emerging evidence and will adapt their advice to maximize the benefits of all COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada, as we aim to protect more people, faster, while maintaining the highest standards for vaccine safety and effectiveness.
As we all wait our turn to join team vaccine, let's continue to cheer from the side lines and help by remaining vigilant, following public health advice, and keeping up with individual practices that protect us all!
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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