Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada 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.
Over the past several months, regulatory approvals from Health Canada and recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), have allowed provinces and territories to adjust targeted vaccination programs to ensure that key populations can achieve and maintain adequate protection against COVID-19.
Approval of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine in Canada has been long anticipated. Today, the new lower dose pediatric formulation of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech is being authorised by Health Canada as Canada's first COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 5 to 11 years. Also today, NACI released updated guidance on the use of the Comirnaty lower dose (10 microgram) pediatric formulation, recommending that a complete two-dose series may be offered to children 5-11 years of age who do not have contraindications to the vaccine. 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 recommending a dosing interval of 8 weeks or more between the first and second dose.
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.
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 brief summary of the latest national numbers and trends.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,759,560 cases of COVID-19 and 29,462 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 23,544, and 7-day moving averages indicate current disease activity and severity trends.
COVID-19 disease activity is showing significant regional variation across the country. Nationally, daily case counts appear to be declining slowly but with high infection rates persisting in many areas. During the latest 7 day period (Nov 12-18), an average of 2,397 new cases were reported, which is a decrease of 5% compared to the previous week. Hospitalisation and critical care admission trends, primarily involving unvaccinated people, are also decreasing slightly nationally, but remain elevated overall. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 1,683 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Nov 12-18), which is 7% lower than last week. This includes, on average, 487 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 6% less than last week and an average of 25 deaths were reported daily (Nov 12-18). 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. Keeping infection rates down remains key to avoiding renewed increases in severe illness trends over the coming weeks and months as well as to ease longer term strain on the health system in heavily impacted areas.
We know that vaccination, in combination with public health measures and individual practices, 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 10 provinces and territories for the eligible population, 12 years or older, in recent weeks (October 3-30, 2021) and adjusting for age, average weekly rates indicate that unvaccinated people were significantly more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated people.
- Among youth and adults aged 12 to 59 years, unvaccinated people were 42 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people
- Among older adults aged 60 years or older, unvaccinated people were 18 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people
As of November 18, 2021, provinces and territories have administered over 59 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the latest provincial and territorial data indicating that over 89% of people aged 12 years or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and over 85% are now fully vaccinated. For the Canadian population overall, over 78% of the total population have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and over 75% are fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of November 13, 2021, show that over 88% of people 40 years or older have at least one dose and over 85% are fully vaccinated, while 85-86% of younger adults aged 18-39 years have at least one dose and 80-81% 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. Nevertheless, using timed and targeted public health measures and maintaining individual protective practices continue to be important 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, 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 when in public or private spaces with others outside of your household, provide additional layers of protection that further reduce your risk in all settings, as well as avoiding crowding and 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.
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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