Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on November 19, 2021
November 19, 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.
Nationally, daily case counts appear to be declining slowly, but with significant regional variation in disease activity and high infection rates persisting in many areas of the country. Over the most recent 7-day period, an average of almost 2,400 new cases were reported daily across Canada. Severe illness trends are also slowly declining, but some areas are still struggling at or above critical care capacity limits. As noted, unless we can keep infection rates down, severe illness trends could begin to rise again. Over the past week, on average over 1,680 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, including 487 in intensive care -and 25 deaths were reported daily.
As the pandemic has progressed, we've learned, honed and strengthened ways to manage as well as make headway against the formidable challenges of this virus. Canada's COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide excellent protection against severe illness and - although there is some evidence of decreased protection against infection over time - we are continuing to make important advancements in vaccine programs to preserve and extend their protection and help reduce spread as well.
Over the past several months, regulatory approvals from Health Canada and recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or NACI, have allowed provinces and territories to adjust targeted vaccination programs to ensure that key populations can achieve and maintain protection against COVID-19.
Approval of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine has been long anticipated. Today, the new lower dose pediatric formulation of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech is being authorized by Health Canada as Canada's first COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 5 to 11 years. And NACI is recommending that a complete two-dose series may be offered to children in this age group who do not have contraindications to the vaccine. As well, based on emerging evidence from adult immunization, which suggests longer intervals result in a stronger, longer lasting immune response -and may lower the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis-, NACI is also recommending a dosing interval of 8 weeks or more between the first and second dose.
As our Health Canada colleagues have indicated, the new lower dose pediatric formulation is 10 micrograms compared to the 30-microgram dose for adults and adolescents aged 12 years or over. Data shows that the 10-microgram dose works very well at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in children aged 5 to 11 years, with an estimated efficacy of 90.7%. This is very similar to the level of protection achieved with the 30-microgram dose in adolescents and adults.
Given the current and prevailing epidemiology of COVID-19 in Canada - where incidence rates have remained highest in children aged 5 to 11 years for most of the 4th wave - today's announcements on the availability and use of the pediatric formulation provides a welcome additional prevention option. Following excellent uptake of the 30-microgram dose among older children, aged 12 to 17 years, there has been a notable reduction in infection rates and outbreak-associated cases in that age group. As such, it is hoped that the new pediatric programs will have similar success in younger children and contribute to increased population coverage overall.
At this time, NACI recommends that young children receive the 10-microgram Comirnaty vaccine at least 14 days before or after receiving another vaccine. This precaution is being made to help determine if a side effect that may arise following immunization is due to the COVID-19 vaccine versus another vaccine. However, there may be circumstances when it is necessary for a dose of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to be given at the same time as another vaccine, in which case a healthcare provider can help with decision-making.
To date, no serious safety concerns have been identified in the clinical trials. Going forward, we will be closely monitoring domestic rollout of the pediatric program in Canada and continuing to review accumulating evidence from international programs and studies. During this time, it is very important that we support children and their caregivers in making informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccination, while respecting their choices and pace of decision-making.
It is perhaps very fitting that tomorrow is National Child Day and World Children's Day, dedicated to celebrating child and youth rights. This year is an opportunity to say a special thank you to children and youth for the sacrifices they've made during the pandemic, and to recognize their resilience. UNICEF Canada is encouraging Canadians to Go Blue to say, 'thank you!' Join in, as we show our kids how important they are in shaping their now and the future. From people to places, we can all shine blue for them, including monuments in Canada like Niagara Falls and towers in Toronto and Calgary, and more all around the world.
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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