Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on January 28, 2022
January 28 | 2022 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. PocketWell, a free companion app to the WTC online portal, provides another way to help Canadians access online mental health and substance use resources, and measure and track aspects of their mental well-being.
Although daily reported cases remain at record high levels and continue to underestimate the true number of infections, multiple indicators suggest infections have peaked at the national level, including daily case counts, test positivity, Rt (or effective reproduction number), and wastewater surveillance trends.
As of January 26th, the 7-day average case count of over 19,000 cases reported daily is a 28% decrease compared to the previous week and incidence is declining across all age groups. As well, although the latest 7-day average of lab test positivity remains high at 19%, it has been gradually decreasing in recent weeks, including by 14% compared to the previous week.
This reassures us that individual efforts, including layering of personal protections like masking and limiting in-person contacts - together with population-based public health measures to reduce contact rates - are helping to slow transmission and mitigate severe illness trends. Presently, lagging indicators are still rising. Over the same period, an average of close to 10,800 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, including over 1,200 in intensive care units, and 168 deaths were reported daily. This is why it continues to be important to limit spread as much as possible.
Getting up-to-date with the best available protection from COVID-19 vaccines substantially lowers the risk of severe illness. For those eligible, getting an mRNA booster has been shown to provide additional protection against infection but most importantly results in very good protection against severe illness resulting in hospitalization from Omicron.
Health authorities in Canada have continued to monitor vaccine safety data from millions of COVID-19 vaccinations, and regularly update vaccine recommendations. This week, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (or NACI) updated guidance on mRNA vaccination for children aged 5-11 years, on Tuesday and for adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, today.
Children and adolescents remain at low risk of severe outcomes compared to older individuals. However, the substantially higher rates of Omicron infection have resulted in greater numbers of children with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization than previously. Hence, NACI's latest advice underscores important opportunities for enhancing protection in these age groups. Specifically, for those without contraindications to the vaccines:
- NACI now strongly recommends that children aged 5 to 11 years receive a complete two-dose primary series of the Pfizer 10 mcg pediatric mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, with at least 8 weeks between the 1st and 2nd dose. NACI is also recommending a 3rd dose for moderately to severely immunocompromised children in this age group.
- For adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, NACI continues to strongly recommend a complete primary series of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, including a 3rd dose for those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
- In addition, for adolescents who are at high risk due to biological and/or social risk factors, NACI now recommends that a booster dose of an authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be offered at least 6 months after the completion of a primary COVID-19 vaccine series.
- This includes adolescents aged 12 to 17 years who:
- Have an underlying medical condition that may put them at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, including those who are immunocompromised and who have already received a three-dose primary series;
- Are residents of congregate living settings, including shelters, group homes, quarters for migrant workers, correctional facilities; or
- Belong to racialized or marginalized communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Up-to-date vaccination is recommended for better protection in all eligible people. This is particularly important for parents, guardians and close contacts, in order to help protect children and adolescents who can't be vaccinated or have conditions that place them at risk for severe outcomes.
However, as no vaccine is one hundred percent effective, it is important for everyone to continue to use personal protective measures - such as wearing a good quality, snug-fitting mask, avoiding crowding and improving ventilation in indoor spaces.
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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