Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on April 12, 2022
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 monitor 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 national trends.
For additional COVID-19 data and analyses, the PHAC posts the following reports:
- Daily Epidemiological Update,
- COVID-19 vaccine coverage data,
- Reported Side Effects Following COVID-19 Vaccination in Canada
- COVID-19 trend reports, including weekly case by case Epidemiological Report
With a shift to more targeted testing, a range of other indicators, from laboratory test positivity and wastewater surveillance to daily numbers of people in hospitals and critical care continue to be important for ongoing monitoring trends. Not unexpectedly, the increase in in-person activities following easing of public health measures, together with spread of the more transmissible BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron and some waning of immunity, are likely all contributing to increased transmission. Although provincial and territorial (P/T) reporting frequency and intervals vary, recent 7-day averages (ranging 7-days ending from April 2-11, 2022 across P/Ts) show an ongoing marked increase in average daily case counts, as well as rising trends in severe illness in most jurisdictions. Likewise, laboratory test positivity during the latest 7-day period (April 4-10, 2022) increased to 19% nationally, and community wastewater data continue to signal sharply rising trends in a number of localities across the country.
Keeping infection rates down remains key to protecting vulnerable populations, reducing severe outcomes and dampening the overall impact on the health system. As we expect the SARS-CoV-2 virus to continuously evolve, we are closely monitoring the domestic and international situation and preparing for new variants of concern. Currently, the BA.2 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant accounts for 61% of recent viruses sequenced in Canada and is steadily increasing. However, while BA.2 is dominant in several jurisdictions, its distribution varies across the country. The growth rate of BA.2 internationally appears to be highest where there is a combination of low booster dose coverage and where the BA.1 sub-lineage has not already driven high infection rates during the Omicron wave.
While BA.2 is even more transmissible than the BA.1 sub-lineage of Omicron, it appears to have a similar severity and symptom profile. Currently, evidence indicates that getting an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine booster dose can provide longer-lasting protection and better effectiveness, even if you have been previously infected with COVID-19. To this end, Canada's Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health (CCMOH) released a statement on the importance of staying up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines, including getting a booster dose as recommended.
Because the Omicron variant is immune evasive, two doses of COVID-19 vaccines offer less protection against Omicron than against previous variants. Fortunately, boosters can help increase antibody levels that wane over time after the second dose. Although vaccine effectiveness against infection decreases over time, evidence shows that two doses of mRNA vaccines generally maintain good effectiveness against severe outcomes across variants, and a booster further increases vaccine effectiveness to over 90% against severe outcomes.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization or NACI has updated guidance on the use of first booster doses, which they strongly recommend for adults aged 18 years or older and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years who are at higher risk of severe outcomes or exposure. In addition, NACI recommends a first booster dose may now be offered to anyone aged 12 years or older in the context of heightened epidemiological risk. Booster doses should be given at least 6 months after the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.
Given our immune system is less able to maintain robust protection as we age, I would especially urge all people aged 50 years or older to get a first booster dose if they have not already done so, as well as a second booster dose if recommended. At this time, NACI recommends that second booster doses be rapidly deployed and prioritised for those who are expected to benefit the most, namely residents of long term care homes or other congregate living settings for seniors as well as seniors aged 80 years or older living in the community. NACI also recommends that jurisdictions may choose to offer a second COVID-19 booster dose to adults 70 to 79 years of age living in the community.
NACI's strengthened recommendations for use of first and second booster doses are welcomed in helping to guide provinces and territories in adjusting their COVID-19 vaccination programs toward achieving better protection across all eligible age groups, based on local epidemiology and unique circumstances in their regions.
The latest provincial and territorial data indicate that over 81% of the total Canadian population are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of April 3rd, 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, 57% have at least one dose.
Health authorities continue to strongly recommend up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible people, including for those who have had or may have had a COVID-19 infection. All told, over 5.1 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 and to provide even better protection against severe illness from Omicron. As of April 11th, over 17.9 million third doses have been administered to date. National data as of April 3rd, 2022 indicate that over 83% of seniors aged 70 years or older and 61%- 75% of 50-69 year olds have received an additional dose.
As we move into a transition phase of the pandemic and beyond, our best advantage will be to maintain caution and a state of readiness as we prepare our surge capacity for future response, while not forgetting the personal protective habits we have learned. At the individual level, this can be best achieved by keeping COVID-19 vaccinations up-to-date, including getting a booster dose when eligible and continuing to observe public health advice tailored to local epidemiology and circumstances to guide your individual and family risk assessment and decisions on use of personal protective practices. In particular, properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask, avoiding crowding, and getting the best ventilation possible in indoor spaces, are layers of protection that can reduce your risk in all settings.
We can also stay healthier by getting up-to-date with other recommended vaccines 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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