Statement from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on October 22, 2021

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

October 22, 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.

As part of Canada’s ongoing commitment to carefully monitor vaccine safety and effectiveness – and to update vaccine advice as evidence evolves, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has updated recommendations to provide Canadians with the best possible protection against COVID-19. NACI’s review of the latest available evidence supports that, with appropriate clinical oversight, it is possible to safely provide COVID-19 vaccine to people who experienced very rare immediate severe allergic reactions after receiving a first dose. This means these individuals can receive the additional doses they need to complete their primary COVID-19 vaccine series and be better protected against COVID-19.

As well, updated information from NACI on optimal intervals between first and second doses of a COVID-19 primary vaccine series shows that extending intervals beyond initially authorized intervals leads to stronger immune responses, providing even better protection against COVID-19 infection and severe outcomes.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to monitor COVID-19 epidemiological indicators to quickly detect, understand and communicate emerging issues of concern. The following is a summary of the latest national numbers and trends.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,693,152 cases of COVID-19 and 28,667 deaths reported in Canada. These cumulative numbers tell us about the overall burden of COVID-19 illness to date, while the number of active cases, now at 29,217, and 7-day moving averages indicate current disease activity and severity trends.

Nationally, COVID-19 disease activity is continuing to decline, with an average of 2,821 new cases reported daily during the latest 7 day period (Oct 15-21), a decrease of 11% compared to the previous week. Hospitalisation and critical care admission trends, primarily involving unvaccinated people, are stabilizing nationally. The latest provincial and territorial data show that an average of 2,367 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most recent 7-day period (Oct 15-21), which is 4% lower than last week. This includes, on average, 723 people who were being treated in intensive care units (ICU), 2% less than last week and an average of 35 deaths were reported daily (Oct 15-21). Together with prolonged hospital stays these still elevated numbers continue to place a heavy strain on local healthcare resources, particularly where infection rates are high and vaccination rates are low. It is hoped that maintaining strengthened control measures in heavily impacted areas will continue to reduce severe illness trends and ease the strain on the health system in the weeks to come.

During this fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, infections and severe outcomes have several key features:

  • Nationally, the highly contagious Delta Variant of Concern (VOC), accounts for the majority of recently reported cases, is associated with increased severity, and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines
  • Most reported cases, hospitalisations and deaths are occurring among unvaccinated people
  • Virus spread in areas with low vaccination coverage presents an ongoing risk for emergence of and replacement by new VOCs, including a risk of VOCs with the ability to evade vaccine protection.

Regardless of which SARS-CoV-2 variant is predominating in an area, we know that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, continue to work to reduce disease spread and severe outcomes. In particular, evidence continues to demonstrate that a complete two-dose series of Health-Canada approved COVID-19 vaccines provides substantial protection. Based on the latest data from 12 provinces and territories for the eligible population, 12 years or older:

  • From December 14, 2020 to October 2, 2021, 0.21% of fully vaccinated people became infected, with the majority of recent cases and hospitalizations occurring in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.
  • In recent weeks (September 5 – October 2, 2021)Footnote *:
    • the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated people was 8 times higher than in the fully vaccinated.
    • the average weekly rate of hospitalized cases in unvaccinated people was 25 times higher compared to fully vaccinated people.

As of October 21, 2021, provinces and territories have administered almost 58 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the latest provincial and territorial data indicating that over 88% of people aged 12 years or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and over 83% are now fully vaccinated. Age-specific vaccine coverage data, as of October 16, 2021, show that over 87% of people 40 years or older have at least one dose and over 82% are fully vaccinated, while 83%-84% of younger adults aged 18-39 years have at least one dose and 75-77% are fully vaccinated.

As more of our activities move indoors, this fall and winter, we must strive to have as many eligible people as possible fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as possible to protect ourselves and others, including those who may not mount a strong immune response or who cannot get vaccinated. Implementing timed and targeted public health measures and maintaining individual protective practices will be crucial for slowing COVID-19 infection rates and reducing the impact on healthcare capacity. While our protection against COVID-19 has been bolstered by vaccines, we also need to think about the return of other respiratory infections. We can stay healthier by getting up-to-date with recommended vaccines, such as influenza and other routine vaccines for children and adults and maintaining basic precautions that help slow the spread of COVID-19 as well as other respiratory infections.

While COVID-19 is still circulating in Canada and internationally, core public health practices remain crucial: stay home/self-isolate if you have symptoms; be aware of risks associated with different settings; follow local public health advice and maintain individual protective practices. In particular, physical distancing and properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask provide additional layers of protection that further reduce your risk in all settings, as well as getting the best ventilation possible in indoor spaces.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.