Vaccines are now being rolled out across Canada at a rapid pace as supply has finally started to catch up with demand. While we are still a long way from returning to normal life, Canadians are increasingly protected from the worst of COVID-19 with each passing day.The first research carried out by countries more advanced in the deployment of their vaccines was extremely positive, suggesting protection even against a single dose is robust and the increasing number of gunshots heralds a much better future for Canada.
But while we’re not quite where we need to be yet and need to be vigilant, experts say things haven’t been so good for some time as we head towards what many hope will be the best. last stretch of the pandemic in this area. country.
“From then on, things will get better every day,” said Raywat Deonandan, global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “Vaccination works. ”
Even a quick glance around the globe gives a glimpse of why there is reason to be optimistic here at home.
With over 50% of the population fully vaccinated, Israel has reported just over 200 COVID-19 cases and five deaths in the past week – up from a high record more than 60,000 cases and 400 deaths in a devastating week in mid-January.
The UK has seen its COVID-19 hospitalizations drop below 1,000 for the first time in months, from a more than 4000 in January, and daily deaths fell to single digits as the strategy of delaying second doses – similar to Canada’s approach – continues to bear fruit.
And while the United States has half of its population not yet partially vaccinated, he recorded his lowest COVID-19 case rate in more than eight months on Sunday and its seven-day average of daily deaths fell to its lowest level since October.
Canada does not have as much immunization coverage, but we are catching up.
Near 50 percent of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to date, and we’re already starting to see results.
There are less than 4,000 people hospitalized for the first time since mid-April, an 8% drop from the previous week. Intensive care admissions are also down five percent week-over-week, standing at just under 1,400 people.
In Canada’s largest province, recent data from Public Health Ontario have shown that COVID-19 vaccines are very effective against infections and hospitalizations.
Of the 3.5 million Ontarians who were partially or fully vaccinated as of April 17, only 2,223 have been infected – a breakthrough infection rate of just 0.06% – and about two-thirds of the cases have occurred within 14 days of a first dose when the antibodies have not yet been given. fully built.
“Where I work there is a lot more hope and optimism in the staff knowing that people are getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, infectious disease specialist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and professor. associate at McMaster University.
“There is an end in sight to all of this and I think it’s the one thing that really inspires a lot of optimism in healthcare. ”
A ‘high level’ of COVID-19 could jeopardize progress
We are also learning more about the protection offered by a dose, even when second doses are delayed, as new research on immunogenicity and efficacy emerges quickly.
A new study from the UK found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine generated 3½ times greater antibody responses in the elderly when a second dose was delayed to three months after the first.
A recent study in The Lancet examined more than 23,000 vaccinated healthcare workers in the UK from December to February and found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was at least 70% effective in preventing COVID-19 three weeks after the first dose.
And another Lancet study examined over 1.3 million people in Scotland during the same period and found Pfizer’s vaccine to be over 90% effective in preventing hospitalization from COVID-19 four to five weeks after the initial dose .
This study also analyzed the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in the same population and found that it was 88% effective in reducing hospital admissions of COVID-19 after an injection.
But while vaccines do an incredible job preventing serious illness and death, the number of daily infections in Canada remains high and threatens to undermine the progress we have made.
“Your risk of developing serious illness is significantly reduced after two doses and even after one, which is something to be very optimistic about and rejoice in,” said Professor Alyson Kelvin, assistant professor at Dalhousie University and virologist at the Canadian Center. of vaccinology. and the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Organization in Saskatoon.
“But what we have to keep in mind is that there is still a fairly high level of virus transmission within the community. “
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, warned Canadians on May 8 that even two doses of the vaccine do not provide complete protection against COVID-19.
“It’s not absolute,” Tam said at a virtual town hall in the Yukon. “There is a reduction in your risk of transmission, but that does not necessarily eliminate your risk of transmission. “
Deonandan says that is like taking a “half-empty approach” to the situation, given the positive impact vaccines are already having on our health system and in other countries around the world.
“Single dose summer”
Tam had a more positive outlook on Friday, saying Canadians who received a dose can socialize with close family and friends outdoors during the summer months.
“Vaccines will be a major help in keeping your levels low and will point you to a future that includes some of these activities that we aspire to resurge,” Tam said.
“People with one dose should feel safer that they are better protected, but you need to get that second dose for maximum protection. “
WATCH | Tam discusses the differences between pandemic summers 2020 and 2021 in Canada:
Tam said a more social summer will depend on most Canadians staying separated for the rest of the spring, as the number of cases is still too high and vaccine coverage too low to eliminate public health measures at this time. even for partially vaccinated people.
This guidance came a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated Americans could stop wearing masks indoors in most places.
Although the concept of drastically relaxing public health restrictions still seems a long way off in Canada, there is hope for a gradual return to some normalcy this summer.
“We can have a better summer,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday. “A single-dose summer. “
Trudeau said that once 75% of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, provinces and territories can start lifting public health restrictions – but by then Canadians should stay vigilant to avoid triggering a fourth wave.
“It won’t be the summer we go back to how we were in January 2020, but it will be the summer we look forward to things getting back to normal,” Chagla said.
“At least doing low-risk outdoor activities together, visiting each other, being able to engage with each other, being careful, but at least being able to do more than we’ve done in the past. ”
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