Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on October 29, 2021
October 29, 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, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released updated recommendations on COVID-19 vaccines. NACI's latest review of vaccine effectiveness data finds that while COVID-19 vaccines in use in Canada continue to be very effective in protecting most people against serious illness due to COVID-19, emerging evidence suggests vaccine effectiveness against infection may decrease over time in some situations. At this time, NACI is recommending a booster dose for some populations at increased risk of severe illness and highest risk of waning protection following their primary series. Specifically, NACI has expanded their late September recommendation that adults in long-term care or other congregate care settings should be offered a booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to include seniors 80 years of age or older as well.
Additionally, NACI recommends that some other key populations may be offered a booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, at least 6 months after completing their primary series, in populations who may be at increased risk of severe illness, or increased risk of lower protection over time and who are essential for maintaining health system capacity. These populations include:
- Adults aged 70 to 79 years
- People who received two doses of the AstraZeneca Vaxzevria or one dose of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine
- Adults in or from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences
- Adults who are frontline healthcare workers who have direct in-person contact with patients and for whom the interval between doses of their primary COVID-19 vaccine series was less than 28 days
NACI continues to closely monitor vaccine effectiveness across the population and will update their advice as needed to ensure the best protection possible for all Canadians. Importantly, with over 5.5 million eligible adults and youth not yet fully vaccinated in Canada, it is important to emphasize that getting more people to complete their two-dose primary series remains a key focus of the COVID-19 immunization effort in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to monitor COVID-19 epidemiological indicators to quickly detect, understand and communicate emerging issues of concern. The following is a summary of the latest national numbers and trends.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,709,536 cases of COVID-19 and 28,928 deaths reported in Canada. These cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date, while the number of active cases, now at 25,326, and 7-day moving averages indicate current disease activity and severity trends.
Nationally, COVID-19 disease activity is continuing to decline, with an average of 2,343 new cases reported daily during the latest 7 day period (Oct 22-28), a decrease of 17% compared to the previous week. Hospitalisation and critical care admission trends, primarily involving unvaccinated people, are decreasing nationally but remain elevated. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 2,105 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Oct 22-28), which is 11% lower than last week. This includes, on average, 648 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 10% less than last week and an average of 37 deaths were reported daily (Oct 22-28). Together with prolonged hospital stays these still elevated numbers continue to place a heavy strain on local healthcare resources, particularly where infection rates are high and vaccination rates are low. It is hoped that maintaining strengthened control measures in heavily impacted areas will continue to reduce severe illness trends and ease the strain on the health system in the weeks to come.
During this fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, infections and severe outcomes have several key features:
- Nationally, the highly contagious Delta Variant of Concern (VOC), accounts for the majority of recently reported cases, is associated with increased severity, and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines
- Most reported cases, hospitalisations and deaths are occurring among unvaccinated people
- Virus spread in areas with low vaccination coverage presents an ongoing risk for emergence of and replacement by new VOCs, including a risk of VOCs with the ability to evade vaccine protection.
Regardless of which SARS-CoV-2 variant is predominating in an area, we know that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, continue to work to reduce disease spread and severe outcomes. In particular, evidence continues to demonstrate that a complete two-dose series of Health-Canada approved COVID-19 vaccines provides substantial protection against severe illness, particularly among younger age groups. Based on the latest data from 12 provinces and territories for the eligible population, 12 years or older, in recent weeks (September 12 - October 9, 2021), the average weekly rate of hospitalized cases was notably higher in unvaccinated people than in fully vaccinated people, ranging from:
- 43 to 46 times higher in unvaccinated people than in fully vaccinated people among younger age groups (youth and adults, 12-59 years of age)
- 10 to 27 times higher in unvaccinated people than in fully vaccinated people among older age groups (adults 60 years or older).
As of October 28, 2021, provinces and territories have administered over 58 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the latest provincial and territorial data indicating that close to 89% of people aged 12 years or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and over 84% are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of October 23, 2021, show that over 87% of people 40 years or older have at least one dose and over 83% are fully vaccinated, while 84% of younger adults aged 18-39 years have at least one dose and 77% - 78% are fully vaccinated.
As more of our activities move indoors, this fall and winter, we must strive to have as many eligible people as possible fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as possible to protect ourselves and others, including those who may not mount a strong immune response or who cannot get vaccinated. Implementing timed and targeted public health measures and maintaining individual protective practices will be crucial for slowing COVID-19 infection rates and reducing the impact on healthcare capacity. While our protection against COVID-19 has been bolstered by vaccines, we also need to think about the return of other respiratory infections. We can stay healthier by getting up-to-date with recommended vaccines, such as influenza and other routine vaccines for children and adults and maintaining basic precautions that help slow the spread of COVID-19 as well as other respiratory infections.
While COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada and internationally, core public health practices remain crucial: stay home/self-isolate if you have symptoms; be aware of risks associated with different settings; follow local public health advice and maintain individual protective practices. In particular, physical distancing and properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask provide additional layers of protection that further reduce your risk in all settings, as well as getting the best ventilation possible in indoor spaces.
For additional information regarding vaccination in your area, reach out to your local public health authorities, healthcare provider, or other trusted and credible sources, such as Canada.ca and Immunize.ca. Canada.ca provides a broad range of COVID-19 information and resources to help Canadians understand the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and find guidance on life after vaccination.
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.
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