Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on April 9, 2021


April 9, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

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.

Today we'll provide an update on current numbers and trends as well as developments on the vaccine front. The race between vaccines and variants is at a critical point. The modelling prediction from two weeks ago --that forecast a resurgence -- is playing out in the data we are seeing now. With case counts plotting along the strong resurgence trajectory, it is clear that we need stronger control to combat variants of concern that are driving rapid epidemic growth in many areas of the country.

To date, over one million, thirty six thousand cases of COVID-19, including 23,200 deaths have been reported in Canada. Over the past week, there have been an average of over 6,800 new cases and 30 deaths reported daily and the number of people experiencing severe and critical illness continues to rise. Last week, an average of over 2,500 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day representing a 7% increase over the previous week. 860 of these people were being treated in intensive care units, which is 23% higher than last week.

The increasing predominance of variants of concern is the major contributing factor to these worrying trends, resulting in accelerated spread and more severe illness, including among younger and previously healthy adults. Over the past week, the number of new variant cases has more than doubled. To date, almost 25,000 variant of concern cases have been reported across Canada, with the B.1.1.7 variant continuing to account for over 90%. This includes 23,611 B.1.1.7 variants, 1,039 P.1 variants, and 345 B.1.351 variants reported to date in Canada.

All these trends tell us that, even as vaccines are bringing us to closer to ending this crisis, we cannot afford to give this virus an inch. In areas with epidemic growth, the only way to get out of this crisis is the hard way, by staying home as much as we can, and consistently maintaining our distance and wearing a mask when we must go out. Several jurisdictions have tightened restrictions to control rapid spread, but let's remember that essential workers will still be there, providing the vital supplies, care and supports we need. With gratitude, let's commit to doing everything we can to protect them by staying home whenever we can.

On the vaccines side of the race, it's been another busy week. Supplies continue to increase, with over 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed across the country to date. Provinces and territories have administered more than 7 million doses and are further expanding programs as the supply ramps up. Our expert and regulatory authorities have also been busy, ensuring that vaccinations are optimised for use in the Canadian context and engaging with international partners on the in-depth review of vaccine safety data.

This week, Health Canada attended the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) Safety Committee meeting regarding the recent safety signal linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The EMA has reviewed all currently available evidence, and considered the risk of hospitalisation and death due to COVID-19 against the very rare occurrence of combined blood clots and low blood platelets, known as Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombocytopenia (or VIPIT). There may be another name for this clinical entity coming out soon as well. Their assessment concluded that while there is a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and this very rare blood-clotting disorder, the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 and its severe outcomes outweigh the risks of side effects.

Last week, Canadian jurisdictions took the precautionary measure to pause the use of AstraZeneca vaccine in people under age 55, and to date no cases of VIPIT have been reported in Canada. Health Canada, will consider the latest evidence presented by the EMA, together with information being provided by AstraZeneca, to decide whether any changes are needed to the Canadian product label. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will also review its recommendation in light of any new data in support of provincial and territorial program decisions. Canada's health leaders are committed to working together, adapting approaches as the science and situation evolves, and keeping Canadians safe, healthy and informed.

We are getting closer everyday and we're more united and stronger for it.


Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

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