Vaccines vs. variants: Modelling shows spread of COVID-19 unraveling Canada’s progress

Public Health Agency of Canada

Theresa Tam says people need to remain vigilant.

Many parts of the country have begun to relax some health restrictions put in place to beat back a second wave, but Tam said Canadians should buckle down now to avoid a sharp rise in cases and a third wave.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said the expanding vaccination campaign across the country can not keep pace with the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants and urged Canadians not to let their guard down. "Passover, Easter, Ramadan, (these are) times when families and churches and other gatherings typically occur". Estimates range from five per cent to more than 50 per cent of new cases in these regions, she adds. While the setback is "discouraging", she said, better days are ahead. "(It's) not the time".

The highest incidences of COVID-19 are now being experienced in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and parts of Ontario, while overall the incidence rates are highest among young adults aged 20 to 39 and have declined among older Canadians.

Tam says infections among younger, more mobile and social age groups pose an ongoing risk for spread into high-risk populations.

"We have said from the beginning that the first quarter of this year would represent a period of increasingly supply as vaccine manufacturers ramped up production, and this would be followed by significant supplies coming to Canada", Anand said.

"We are closely monitoring the global environment, including export restrictions in a number of jurisdictions", Anand said.

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The spread of more contagious virus variants has pushed hospitals in some European Union countries to their limit. Brussels and London have both laid claim to vaccine stocks in an AstraZeneca factory in the Netherlands.

He said Ontario has received word that a shipment of Moderna doses expected this week will not arrive until next week.

"I have been very diplomatic and I've been very complimentary and collaborative with the federal government [but] enough's enough". "This is becoming a joke. As long as we have a supply of vaccine, then we have the ability to get them out in Bowie County", he said, complimenting efforts at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System, a state-designated rural vaccination hub, as well as at the county Health Department. The U.S. on Wednesday surpassed 30 million confirmed cases, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Tam said more than 7,100 cases of variants of concern have been reported across Canada, with B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom, making up 90 per cent of those cases. And PHAC warns that case counts could rise to 12,000 cases per day if Canadians let down their guard.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week he's seen nothing to indicate that April and May deliveries to Canada will be affected, India's deputy high commissioner in Canada said the delivery schedule "remains under discussion".

The Ontario Hospital Association said Friday that the third wave is threatening the province's ICU capacity as the number of severely ill patients approaches a previous peak.

"With more contagious variants spreading, this model predicts that current community-based public health measures will be insufficient to control rapid growth and resurgence as forecast", she explains.

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