Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on June 17, 2021
June 17, 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.
Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect people across Canada from serious and potentially life-threatening infectious diseases, including COVID-19. AAll vaccines approved for use in Canada have been proven to be safe, effective and of high quality based on a thorough and independent review of the scientific evidence and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety. As with all vaccines and any medication, there's a chance that there will be a serious side effect. These are rare, but they do happen.
Canada recently launched the Vaccine Injury Support Program to provide eligible individuals with access to financial support in the rare event that they suffer a serious and permanent injury from a Health Canada authorized vaccine administered in Canada. With the introduction of this new program, Canada joins a growing number of countries that have vaccine injury support programs in place. Information on the program, including eligibility and how individuals can apply, can be found here.
As COVID-19 activity continues in Canada, we are tracking a range of epidemiological indicators to monitor where the disease is most active, where it is spreading and how it is impacting the health of Canadians and public health, laboratory and healthcare capacity. At the same time, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing Canadians with regular updates on COVID-19 vaccines administered, vaccination coverage and ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety across the country. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to reduce infection rates, while vaccination programs expand, including acceleration of second dose programs, to better protect people and communities across the country.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,405,146 cases of COVID-19 and 26,001 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. They also tell us, together with results of serological studies, that a large majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19. However, as vaccination programs expand at an accelerated pace, there is increasing optimism that widespread, stronger and longer lasting immunity can be achieved by fully vaccinating a high proportion of Canadians over the coming weeks and months.
As immunity is still building up across the population, public health measures and individual precautions remain crucial for COVID-19 control. Thanks to public health measures in place and people across Canada continuing with individual precautions, the strong and steady declines in disease trends continues, with reported active cases down by 84% since the peak of the third wave in Canada. The latest national-level data show a continued downward trend in disease activity with an average of 1,190 cases reported daily during the latest 7 day period (June 10-16), down 28% compared to the week prior. Until vaccine coverage is sufficiently high to impact disease transmission more broadly in the community, we must sustain a high degree of caution to drive infection rates down to a low, manageable level, and not ease restrictions too soon or too quickly where infection rates are high.
With the considerable decline in infection rates nationally, the overall number of people experiencing severe and critical illness is also steadily declining. Provincial and territorial data indicate that an average of 1,483 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (June 10-16), which is 22% fewer than last week. This includes, on average 673 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 17% fewer than last week. Likewise, the latest 7-day average of 23 deaths reported daily (June 10-16) is continuing to decline, showing a 28% decrease compared to the week prior.
Overall, variants of concern (VOCs) represent the majority of recently reported COVID-19 cases across the country. Four VOCs (B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), and B.1.617.2 (Delta)) have been detected in most provinces and territories. While the Alpha variant continues to account for the majority of genetically sequenced variants in Canada, we are observing an increase in the Delta variant in some parts of Canada. As Canada continues to monitor and assess genetic variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including impacts in the Canadian context, we know that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, are working to reduce spread of COVID-19.
As vaccine eligibility continues to expand, Canadians are encouraged to get vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated as soon as they are able. As well, with provinces and territories accelerating second dose programs, those who are eligible are urged to get fully vaccinated, including getting the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series. The second immune-boosting dose substantially lowers our personal risk of infection and serious harms, provides stronger protection against certain variants of concern, including the Delta variant, and may make immunity last longer. Canadians are reminded that it is safe and effective to receive one vaccine product for your first dose and a different vaccine product for your second dose to complete your two-dose vaccine series for optimal protection from COVID-19.
However, regardless of our vaccination status while COVID-19 is still circulating, it is important to remain vigilant, continue following local public health advice, and consistently maintain individual practices that keep us and our families safer, even as the positive impacts of COVID-19 vaccines are building: stay home/self-isolate if you have any symptoms, think about the risks and reduce non-essential activities and outings to a minimum, avoid all non-essential travel, and maintain individual protective practices of physical distancing, hand, cough and surface hygiene and wearing a well-fitted and properly worn face mask as appropriate (including in shared spaces, indoors or outdoors, with people from outside of your immediate household).
For more information regarding the risks and benefits of vaccination, I encourage Canadians to reach out to your local public health authorities, healthcare provider, or other trusted and credible sources, such as Canada.ca and Immunize.ca. Working together, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, Canada's Chief Medical Officers of Health and other health professionals across the country are closely monitoring vaccine safety, effectiveness and optimal use to adapt approaches. As the science and situation evolves, we are committed to providing clear and evidence-informed guidance in order to keep everyone in Canada safe and healthy.
Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practices and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.
Public Health Agency of Canada
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