The syringes are prepared in a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic for members of the First Nations and their partners, on Friday, April 30, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Ryan Remiorz
Canada could start easing restrictions on COVID-19 when more than half of the population receives a first dose of the vaccine, the head of the country’s immunity committee said on Monday, as hard-hit Alberta has announced that more public health rules would be coming Tuesday.
Premier Jason Kenney said the impetus for more restrictions in Alberta, the province with the highest infection rate in the country, was a “No More Lockdowns” rodeo over the weekend. The event saw hundreds of people gather without masks in open disregard of public health rules.
“I was very disturbed. I was actually angry, ”Kenney said at a press conference Monday.
“In view of the problems we encountered this weekend and the record cases recorded, we are developing a set of stronger public health measures.
“The next few weeks are crucial.”
Dr Timothy Evans, executive director of Canada’s Immunity Group, said easing measures could be accompanied by an increase in vaccinations.
The UK, like Canada, has made the decision to postpone second doses of the vaccine in favor of wider coverage. The UK has vaccinated more than half of its population against COVID-19 and has so far managed to stem a third wave, Evans said.
Regarding public health measures, “I think we may see an opportunity to recall them when 50, 60 percent of Canadians are vaccinated,” he told a House of Commons committee. .
But he noted that, given that fewer Canadians per capita were infected with COVID-19 than in the UK, perhaps more vaccines are needed here – between 60 and 65%. Currently, about 33% of all Canadians are vaccinated with at least one dose.
Canada’s National Vaccine Expert Committee also weighed in on Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine on Monday, saying it should only be offered to Canadians 30 and older who don’t want to wait for a other vaccine.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization said in an update that mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are always preferred because of “the excellent protection they provide and the lack of security concerns ”.
The recommended age is similar to that issued for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and comes in because both are suspected of causing a new and very rare blood clotting syndrome.
However, the recommendations noted that as a single injection vaccine, Johnson & Johnson may be suitable for populations who are more difficult to schedule for a second dose or who do not want to wait.
Plans to distribute the first shipment of the J&J vaccine have been put on hold after Health Canada learned that part of it was made at a Maryland facility cited for safety and quality control violations.
That hasn’t stopped several provinces from expanding their immunization programs on Monday thanks to a planned increase in shipments from another key vaccine maker. With shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine set to double from about one million to two million per week, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have opened up access to new age groups.
Quebec and Nova Scotia lowered the age of eligibility for vaccines, while Manitoba announced that all Indigenous adults can now be vaccinated.
Alberta has also said it will start including teachers, educators and support staff for priority vaccines.
Ontario has opened vaccine appointments for people 18 and older living in designated hot spots, although some residents have reported difficulty finding a location. More than 73,000 appointments were made within the first two hours of the province’s expanded eligibility.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said she was happy with how things were overall and urged those with issues to try again. “You will get a date, but I’m sorry for the problems people are having now,” she told reporters.
Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada have shown that vaccines appear to offer a high degree of protection against infection starting two weeks after inoculation.
The agency said as of April 26, 2,274 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19 at least two weeks after receiving their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Data suggests that around 7.1 million people had 14 days or more after being vaccinated with at least one dose by that date, meaning there were so-called breakthrough infections in around 0.03% of people. vaccinated.
Of those infected after vaccination, 203 people ended up in hospital and 53 died. The agency said “the percentage of breakthrough cases is low” and detailed data is not yet available to fully understand the reasons behind them.
The expanded access to vaccines comes as several provinces struggle to contain a deadly third wave of the novel coronavirus.
In the north, Nunavut suspended its joint travel zone with the Northwest Territories, where a COVID-19 outbreak at an elementary school in Yellowknife resulted in the closure of all schools in the city. The city council of Iqaluit, Nunavut, also declared a local state of emergency after the total number of active cases in the city of 8,000 people rose to 81.
There was better news in Quebec, which announced last week that it was easing some public health restrictions amid stable or declining counts and hospitalizations. Most elementary school students in the Quebec City area resumed face-to-face classes on Monday, while the curfew in Montreal and Laval was pushed back from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., effective Monday evening.
British Columbia provincial health worker Dr Bonnie Henry said on Monday that around 1.1 million additional doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and more Moderna shipments to come this month could mean that the waiting time of 16 weeks between doses would be shortened.
The province recorded 2,174 new cases in three days and 15 more deaths.