Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on February 18, 2022
February 18, 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.
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 epidemiology and modelling results with the latest national numbers and trends.
Today’s updated longer-range forecast suggests that while indicators of Omicron activity have likely peaked, easing of public health measures could still lead to a resurgence in daily cases in Canada. While this is not unexpected given the characteristics of the Omicron variant, the good news is that the impact on hospital admissions could be much lower. In particular, with an increasing proportion of infections in people with some prior immunity from vaccination and/or infection, we expect that a smaller proportion of cases could require hospital admission. As a result, the impact on our healthcare system could be less severe, even with large numbers of cases. Although these forecasts reinforce the need to continue with a cautious approach to easing restrictions, while closely monitoring severity indicators, there is room for cautious optimism. Even with possible bumps in the weeks ahead, we are nearing an important next phase of the pandemic where we hope to establish a more sustainable approach to managing COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 3,227,289 cases of COVID-19 and 35,923 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 128,695, and 7-day moving averages indicate current disease activity and severity trends. As reported case numbers continue to underestimate the true number infections due to a shift to targeted testing, a range of other indicators, from laboratory test positivity to daily numbers of people in hospitals and critical care continue to be important for monitoring trends.
During the latest 7 day period (Feb 11-17, 2022), an average of 7,726 new cases were reported daily across Canada. While this is a 25% decrease compared to the week prior, these daily case counts together with other indicators of COVID-19 disease activity, including 13% laboratory test positivity during the latest 7 day period (Feb 9-15, 2022), indicate persistent widespread activity across the country. As such, maintaining layers of protection remains important to reduce spread, particularly as we continue to spend more time indoors over the winter and as public health measures ease.
Presently, severe illness trends remain elevated but we continue to see hopeful signs, with weekly reductions reported in most jurisdictions. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 7,197 people with COVID-19 were being treated in hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Feb 11-17, 2022), which is 16% lower than last week. This includes, on average, 879 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU) daily, and an average of 92 deaths were reported daily (Feb 11-17, 2022). Keeping infection rates down remains key to further reducing severe illness trends and protecting vulnerable populations over the coming weeks.
Immunization for all those who are eligible, but are yet to receive their primary series, remains a top priority. This week, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released new guidance on the use of Novavax’s Nuvaxovid vaccine, following its authorization by Health Canada. The Novavax Nuvaxovid vaccine is the first COVID-19 vaccine based on recombinant protein subunit technology to be authorized for use in adults in Canada. This vaccine technology has been used for decades in Canada and around the world to protect us against other vaccine preventable diseases, such as pertussis and hepatitis B. NACI supports the use of the Novavax Nuvaxovid vaccine for adults aged 18 years or older who have been unable to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine due to contraindications or who have not wanted to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. This provides an additional option for provinces and territories to use in their vaccination programs, and for adults who want a protein-based vaccine.
As of February 17, 2022, provinces and territories have administered over 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The latest provincial and territorial data indicate that over 80% of the total population are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of February 13, 2022, show that over 88% of people 12 years or older have at least one dose and over 84% are fully vaccinated, while among children aged 5-11 years of age, 56% have at least one dose.
All told, over 5.6 million eligible Canadians need one or more doses to complete their primary series and many others are eligible to get a booster dose to help improve protection that may have decreased since their second dose. Moreover, there is accumulating evidence that a booster dose offers even better protection against severe illness from Omicron. This is especially important for those aged 50 years or over, as the risk of hospitalization, critical illness and death is substantially higher with increasing age. As well, a booster dose can decrease your risk of infection, which can in turn reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus to others, including those at high risk or not yet eligible for vaccination. As of February 17, over 16 million third doses have been administered to date. National data as of February 13, 2022 indicate that over 81% of seniors aged 70 years or older and 58%-72% of 50-69 year olds have received an additional dose.
While COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada and internationally, a vaccines plus approach continues to be essential to the pandemic response in Canada. This includes layering vaccination with timed and targeted public health measures and individual protective practices. In particular, properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask when 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. Canadians are advised to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada at this time; if you must travel, be aware of requirements for visiting other countries and for returning to Canada.
We can also stay healthier during the winter respiratory season by getting up-to-date with other recommended vaccines, such as influenza and 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 Immunize.ca and Canada.ca, which includes information 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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