Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on December 10, 2021
December 10, 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.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to monitor COVID-19 epidemiological indicators to quickly detect, understand and communicate emerging issues of concern. Today, I presented an update on national epidemiology and modelling. The following is a brief summary of the modelling results along with the latest national numbers and trends.
Today’s updated longer-range modelling forecast suggests that with our current levels of transmission a resurgence of Delta variant cases is forecasted for Canada, even without any acceleration of the Omicron variant in Canada (shown as the dark grey line trajectory in the forecast). The forecast also shows a possible trajectory if spread of the Omicron variant were to accelerate and replace the Delta variant as the predominant variant in Canada. In this case (shown as the orange line trajectory in the forecast), it is possible we could have an even more rapidly accelerating resurgence in cases. As well, while there is still considerable uncertainty regarding the potential for Omicron to evade immunity and/or increase disease severity, any rapid resurgence in cases could add additional strain to our still fragile healthcare system. Until we know more, Omicron’s increased transmissibility and potential for strong resurgence means we must approach the coming weeks with an abundance of caution and at the same time be prepared to act quickly to control spread at the first sign of rapidly accelerating cases.
Despite the challenges ahead with the continuing Delta-driven wave in Canada and emergence of the Omicron variant, we have more and better protections going into this holiday and winter season than previously. Vaccines and our expanding population coverage continue to give us an advantage over this virus, and while some reduction in protection is possible with the Omicron variant, COVID-19 vaccines are still expected to provide a level of protection, particularly against severe outcomes. Hence, vaccination including boosters, in combination with layers of public health and personal protections, continues to be essential to the pandemic response in Canada.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,823,009 cases of COVID-19 and 29,876 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 31,295, and 7-day moving averages indicate current disease activity and severity trends.
Surveillance data continue to show significant regional variation in COVID-19 disease activity across the country. Nationally, daily case counts are rising with high infection rates persisting in many areas. During the latest 7 day period (Dec 3-9), an average of 3,450 new cases were reported, which is an increase of 22% compared to the previous week. Currently, hospitalisation and critical care admission trends, which are lagging indicators, have levelled off, but if infection rates accelerate, trends could begin to rise again. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 1,457 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Dec 3-9), which is 5% lower than last week. This includes, on average, 458 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 1.6% less than last week and an average of 20 deaths were reported daily (Dec 3-9). 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, particularly in heavily impacted areas.
While Delta continues to represent the vast majority of recent COVID-19 cases in Canada, as of December 9, 2021, there have been 87 cases with the newly designated variant of concern (VOC), Omicron, reported in seven provinces and territories. As we continue to assess the significance and impact of this new VOC, Canadians are urged to remain vigilant and continue maintaining layers of protection.
Regardless of which SARS-CoV-2 variant is circulating, 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 due to the predominating Delta variant, particularly among younger age groups. Based on the latest data from 10 provinces and territories for the population aged 12 years or older, in recent weeks (October 24 - November 20, 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 32 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people
- Among older adults aged 60 years or older, unvaccinated people were 16 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people
As of December 9, 2021, provinces and territories have administered over 62.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The latest provincial and territorial data indicate that over 81% of the total population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and over 76% are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of December 4, 2021, show that over 89% of people 40 years or older have at least one dose and over 86% are fully vaccinated, while 86% of younger adults aged 18-39 years have at least one dose and 82% are fully vaccinated.
Among children aged 5-11 years, 17% have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. As the pediatric vaccination program rolls out across Canada, I encourage parents and guardians to seek credible information from trusted sources, such as Canada.ca to make informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccination. I also urge healthcare providers and others to support children and their caregivers by listening, sharing credible information, and engaging in respectful dialogue.
In consideration of emerging evidence on waning protection of vaccines over time, the National Advisory Committee for Immunization recently updated their guidance regarding booster doses of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine for adults 18 years of age and over, who are at least 6 months from completing their primary series. Immunization for those who are eligible - but have not yet received their primary series - continues to remain the top priority.
While COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada and internationally, vaccination in combination with timed and targeted public health measures and individual protective practices continue to be important for slowing COVID-19 infection rates and reducing the impact on healthcare capacity. This includes staying home/self-isolating if you have symptoms; getting tested if symptomatic and/or as recommended; being aware of risks associated with different settings; following local public health advice and consistently maintaining individual precautions. In particular, properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask when in public or private spaces with others outside of your immediate household, avoiding crowding, and getting the best ventilation possible in indoor spaces, are layers of protection that can reduce your risk in all settings. In addition to getting fully vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines and getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose as recommended, we can also stay healthier by getting up-to-date with recommended vaccines, such as influenza and other routine vaccines for children and adults.
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.
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