This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly report on health and medical science news sent by email Subscribers every Saturday morning. If you have not yet subscribed, you can do so by clicking Here.
Canadians are entering one of the pandemic’s most confusing chapters — and many may be left wondering why we haven’t been where we hoped to be now that we’ve become one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.
Reports weak immunity of COVID-19 vaccines, the potential need for booster shots and possibility penetrating infections Among those fully vaccinated it might lead many of us to second guess what we can and can’t do safely in the fourth wave.
and the more contagious, possibly deadlier The delta variant has prolonged the pandemic, made everyday life more difficult to navigate and set back the clock on our collective plans to return to relatively normal life.
“Everyone needs this damn virus to go away,” said Dr. David Naylor, who led the federal investigation into Canada’s national response to the SARS epidemic in 2003 and now co-chairs the federal government’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. “But that’s not over with us yet.”
It used to be easy to think that once most of us rolled up our sleeves and did our part to vaccinate and protect ourselves and our communities from COVID-19, all of this would be over, but the unfortunate truth is that we still have ways to go.
“We need to rethink this,” said Lynsey Marr, a virus transmission expert at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. “It’s emotionally upsetting because we thought we saw the light at the end of the tunnel — but the tunnel seems to be longer.”
Unprotected leads the fourth wave of Canada
The hard truth is that despite our collective efforts to stave off another wave of the pandemic through mass vaccination, Canada continues to see an alarming rise in COVID-19 levels in much of the country.
Over the past week, new COVID-19 cases have risen to an average of 2,848 per day – a 29% increase from the previous seven days.
The number of daily hospital admissions also increased by 39 percent on a weekly basis to an average of 917 across the country, while the number of admissions to the intensive care unit also increased by an average of 29 percent per day to 340 over the past week.
This is despite the presence of 66 percent of Canada’s population has been fully vaccinated A number that has stabilized in recent weeks, but is remarkably high nonetheless.
So why isn’t that enough? The answer lies in those who haven’t had a chance yet.
Since vaccines became available in December, only 0.8 percent of cases, 1 percent of hospitalizations and 1.4 percent of deaths from COVID-19 have been in fully vaccinated Canadians, according to the Latest available data From Public Health Canada.
“When we look at places where cases are emerging and certainly hospitalizations right now, we are seeing overrepresentation in unvaccinated communities,” said Jason Kendracchuk, associate professor of viral diseases at the University of Manitoba and Canada’s chair of Emerging Research. viruses. “So the vaccines work.”
But there are still millions of Canadians who have not yet been vaccinated – either by choice or due to lack of access or eligibility – and this puts us all at risk.
Unvaccinated Canadians pose vaccination risks
The bottom line is that vaccines are not perfect (and have never been claimed to be) and even those who are fully vaccinated are at risk of contracting COVID-19, adding to the confusion about how Canadians should progress in the coming weeks and months.
Dr. Allison McGuire, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto who worked on the front lines of the SARS epidemic in 2003, says unvaccinated vaccines pose two different threats to Canadians who were vaccinated in the fourth wave.
“First of all, they pose a direct risk of transmission, and although the vaccine is very effective in protecting you from serious illness and death, it’s not 100 percent. There is nothing in life that’s 100 percent effective,” she said.
“The second thing that unvaccinated people do is increase the spread of the coronavirus in the population. So if you remove restrictions, unvaccinated people contribute significantly to the growth of transmission in the community.”
To put it bluntly, the longer the remaining Canadians delay getting an injection — and until we can vaccinate children under 12 — the longer the epidemic will continue.
And while we’ve come a long way since the start of the pandemic, we’re still close to where we need to be for delta variable control.
Naylor says that although Canada has vaccinated 83 percent From the eligible population we have one dose and more 75 percent With two, that’s still not enough to fend off a fourth wave.
“This is very useful and should mitigate the losses of the fourth wave compared to the previous waves,” he said. “But it doesn’t make sense to leave so much room for immunity for this virus to spread and cause more damage.”
The Public Health Agency of Ontario, a regional government agency, recently said Report That the delta variant has unleashed the possibility of herd immunity down the road – which means we now need 90 percent of the population fully immunized to get there.
“Vaccines are not a panacea, but if everyone is vaccinated – it is done,” said Rewat Dionandan, a global health epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa. “Despite the fact that these vaccines are not perfect.”
Delta is changing the rules of the game
The problem we have at this point in the pandemic is that Delta has changed the rules of the game — raising the threshold of immunity we need to reach, increasing the risks in our daily lives, and that means even fully vaccinated Canadians need to stay strong. guard up.
But instead of coming together in a coherent fashion, the country has again split over vaccine passports, mandates for masks and the reimposition of public health restrictions — leaving a patchwork system across the country that leaves room for the virus to spread.
Ontario And Alberta I have strongly rejected the idea of vaccine passports so far, even though Ontario may soon be change track, While British Columbia join Quebec And Manitoba In announcing the passports of the fully vaccinated in response to the fourth wave.
Saskatchewan It announced this week that it will not only implement vaccine passports – it will also not reissue internal mask mandates or reduced capacity limits for gatherings despite rising levels of COVID-19.
This is despite the fact that both British Columbia and Quebec have seen it Big increase in vaccinations After the introduction of the passport vaccine, Manitoba has brought home mandatory masks.
“I’m really disappointed that some counties haven’t moved forward with their vaccine certification programs,” Naylor said. “This isn’t about civil liberties. It’s like smoking in a crowded restaurant.”
“Vaccine certifications are also an incentive for those who have not been or are partially vaccinated to move forward in protecting themselves and others. One can only hope that all prime ministers will eventually wake up to the damage they are causing by taking this reasonable measure aside.”
Watch | BC announces vaccine passport amid COVID-19 surge
The truth is that until that happens, Canadians may need to take matters into their own hands with the proven tools on hand to mitigate the worst Delta-led fourth wave.
“We have to appreciate that there is a balance,” Kendracchuk said. “Vaccines are certainly an important way out of the epidemic for us, but they are not the only way.”
These include wearing high-quality masks when needed, purifying the air indoors and avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces – especially with unvaccinated people.
“Delta is clearly more transmissible and a vaccine helps protect against that, but it’s not 100 percent. So it almost brings us back to where we were a year ago with less transmissible virus and no vaccines,” Marr said.
“At the same time, it’s not as annoying as the first time because we know what we have to do.”