Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer, February 25, 2022
February 25, 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.
Last week's modelling update, showed that while a resurgence in cases could still occur with the easing of public health measures, the predicted trajectory for hospital admissions is expected to be lower for COVID-19. In the week since the modelling update, epidemiological indicators of COVID-19 disease activity have continued to improve across most jurisdictions. Nationally, weekly case counts are down by 26%, and the number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals and ICUs have declined by over 20%, compared to last week.
Nevertheless, as the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still circulating widely, some jurisdictions are reporting weekly increases in case counts and others could see additional bumps in the weeks ahead. As such, Canada continues to closely monitor a range of indicators, including using wastewater surveillance for early detection, and monitoring the amount of virus in community samples. At the same time, there is a continued high volume of PCR testing being performed and ongoing genetic sequencing of circulating virus variants.
While the BA.1 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant is still dominant in most provinces and territories, we are picking up an increasing presence of the BA.2 sub-lineage, which currently accounts for about 10% of our domestic samples. Based on preliminary case surveillance data from Denmark where BA.2 is now dominant, this sub-lineage does not appear to be associated with more severe illness. Similarly, data from England, where BA.2 is steadily increasing, shows no indication of a difference in immune escape or vaccine effectiveness, compared to Omicron BA.1. However, both countries report that the BA.2 sub-lineage appears to be even more transmissible than the BA.1 sub-lineage.
As with other variants of concern, the risk of infection and severe outcomes are expected to be highest among the unvaccinated. Knowing that the vaccines are still expected to provide substantial protection against serious illness, really underscores the message that people need to get their COVID-19 vaccines up-to-date. In particular, getting a booster dose if you are eligible and especially for those aged 50 years of age or older is very important. The evidence supporting the value of booster doses continues to get stronger. Recent studies indicate that an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine booster dose enhances the overall immune response, which can provide longer lasting protection and possibly better effectiveness against variants.
So if you or a loved one are eligible for a COVID-19 booster dose, I would urge you to get that very important additional shot of protection. Now is not too late, in fact, the time to do this is right now!
As we've said, our best advantage going forward, is to maintain a state of readiness. Canada's public health authorities will continue to adapt and share guidance and recommendations to help guide us as and when the situation changes. At the individual level, in addition to keeping COVID-19 vaccinations up-to-date, readiness can be best achieved by continuing to follow public health advice, which is tailored to local epidemiology and circumstances, to help guide your individual and family risk assessment and decisions on use of personal protective practices, such as masking.
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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