After months of mostly bad news, Canada’s chief public health official said today that the country’s COVID-19 trajectory has improved dramatically and that the expected influx of doses should put the country “on a path back to the things we’re missing.”
As of Friday, the average number of new cases in Canada was about 1,500 per day — an 80 percent drop from what it was two months ago, and a similar number to the number of cases reported in mid-October, before the deadly winter wave, according to data provided by Public Health. Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Since peaking in mid-April, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide have fallen dramatically.
More than 27.7 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across Canada and 2.6 million doses have been administered in the last week alone, Dr. Theresa Tam said.
About 72 percent of all Canadians over 12 years old were partially vaccinated and 11.8 percent got both doses.
“As Canada gets on the fast track to vaccination, there is a lot to be proud of,” Tam said.
“We are in a good position,” said Dr. Howard Ngo, a full deputy. “I think the case curve is now moving downward, and if we continue vaccinations and public health measures, I think the curve will continue to go down.”
According to data collected by Oxford University-based Our World in Data, Canada now ranks first in the world in terms of the proportion of the population with at least one dose of the vaccine, after the former leader overtook Israel yesterday.
About 63.6 percent of all Canadians — a measure that counts all people in the country, including those under 12 who were not yet eligible for the vaccine — now have some type of vaccine coverage. This is marginally better than 63.2 percent in Israel.
But Canada lags behind other countries when it comes to getting second “booster” shots. “Of course, we want the two doses faster,” Tam said.
Moderna is progressing
Those numbers are expected to rise further now that Moderna has confirmed it will ship more than seven million doses of the vaccine to Canada this month.
More footage of Moderna is due to arrive next week than the company’s delivery in the first three months of this year. Brigadier General. Krista Brody, the military commander who leads vaccine logistics at the Primary Health Care Center, said 2.9 million of the seven million rounds will arrive next week, with the rest expected during the week of June 21.
Combined with Pfizer’s promise to ship 2.4 million rounds, it means more than 5.3 million doses of mRNA will be delivered to provinces and territories next week alone – a number that should boost the country’s immunization drive.
With many eligible Canadians already receiving at least one dose, the focus will now shift to giving booster doses to build immunity as the highly contagious delta variant – the strain first identified in India – begins to spread in many communities.
‘Make your goals high’
Tam said Canada should “catch the stars” and aim to vaccinate more than 75 percent of the population with at least one dose.
In the past, Tam said Canada should vaccinate at least three-quarters of the population to effectively curb the spread of the virus and protect hospitals from collapse. Now, she said, she wants the country to go to a higher level to ensure that the fourth wave cannot take hold.
“If we get variants that are more transmissible, if we get variants that avoid vaccine immunity a little bit, it’s much better to look higher,” Tam said.
Tam said that getting just one shot is not enough to allow Canadians to get back to doing all the things they missed before the pandemic because the booster shot is essential to building significant immunity to COVID-19.
“Because of the delta variable, I advise caution, especially between the first and second doses,” she said.
“It’s very important for everyone to realize that a single dose doesn’t do that. You really need a full vaccination,” Ngo added. “Hopefully we can hurry up and get more Canadians receiving two doses by late summer and maybe even sooner, who knows.”
Ngo said he hopes Canada does not reach a “phase” with vaccination rates stuck at their current levels – a trend seen in some countries, notably the United States.
He said public health officials are working on strategies to obtain the reluctant vaccine.
AZ doses on the way
Joel Beckett, director general responsible for vaccine procurement at Public Services and Canada Procurement, also provided some promising news for AstraZeneca recipients on Friday.
Paquette said the company has confirmed that 1 million doses of this product will arrive during the week of June 28. While these doses have been pledged for some time, the government has not been able to offer a firm schedule for delivery before now.
While the National Immunization Advisory Committee (NACI) has said Canadians can mix and match vaccines, this AstraZeneca shipment will help vaccinate some of the two million Canadians who have already received a shot of this product.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s 310,000 doses in Canada face an uncertain future. Dosages for this one-shot product have been in stock for weeks while Health Canada is verifying product safety.
Workers at Emergent BioSolutions, the Maryland-based company that was making this product, destroyed 15 million doses of J&J’s vaccine by mixing materials meant to produce AstraZeneca shots.
US regulators today told J&J that about 60 million doses made at the struggling plant cannot be used due to potential contamination. Paquette said Canada’s supply of the doses, which were made at the Emergent plant, will remain outside the supply chain for now.