Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on March 1, 2021

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

March 1, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

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.

COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll-out in priority vaccination programs across Canada and last week Health Canada authorized two more safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for use in Canada. The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed in partnership with Oxford University, and the Serum Institute of India’s version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, are the third and fourth COVID-19 vaccines and the first viral vector-based vaccines authorised for use in Canada. Today Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is updating its recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines to include recommendations on the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for optimal public health benefit. Although measures of efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 cannot be directly compared across different COVID-19 vaccines, it is important to stress that all COVID-19 vaccines authorized by Health Canada, regardless of differences in efficacy against symptomatic disease, will contribute to reducing severe COVID-19 illness and death in Canada. The authorization of additional vaccines provides further tools to fight this pandemic as quickly as possible, and will provide more supply to the market. In addition, different vaccines have different advantages. NACI is assessing the time period between the first and second doses of authorized COVID-19 vaccines to allow as many people as possible to be vaccinated while not compromising effectiveness. NACI is considering evidence from recent scientific studies and will provide their recommendations this week. The science of COVID-19 vaccination continues to evolve and expert advice is being adapted accordingly to maximize the benefits of authorized vaccines to protect the health of Canadians.

As COVID-19 activity continues in Canada, we are tracking a range of epidemiological indicators to monitor where the disease is most active, where it is spreading and how it is impacting the health of Canadians and public health, laboratory and healthcare capacity. The following is the latest summary on national numbers and trends, and the actions we all need to be taking to maintain COVID-19 at manageable levels across the country. Due to reduced reporting over the weekend, national seven-day averages have not been updated in today’s statement. These data are still being collected and analysed. I will provide the latest numbers during my remarks tomorrow.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 866,503 cases of COVID-19, including 21,994 deaths reported in Canada; these cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date. They also tell us, together with results of serological studies, that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19.

Although COVID-19 activity had been declining nationally from mid-January through mid-February, daily case counts have since levelled off and are now showing a moderate increase. As well, the emergence and spread of certain SARS-CoV-2 virus variants is an additional cause for concern. The number of cases involving the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant of concern continues to increase, with the highest numbers to date being reported from Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, respectively. As of February 28th, a total of 1,254 variants of concern have been reported across Canada, including 1,152 B.1.1.7 variants, 99 B.1.351 variants and 3 P.1 variant.

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