October 29, 2021 – Statement by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Tam

Dr. Theresa Tam
Dr. Theresa Tam

OTTAWA – HEALTH – 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 disease activity is continuing to decline nationally and in most jurisdictions. Over the past week, an average of under 2,350 new cases were reported daily across Canada and severe illness trends are stable. On average, 2,100 people with COVID-19 were being treated in our hospitals each day, with under 650 in intensive care units. And, 37 deaths were reported daily over the past 7 days.

With nearly 30 million Canadians having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines over the past 10 months, evidence continues to show that being fully vaccinated provides good protection against COVID-19 infection and excellent and enduring protection against severe illness, including due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization or NACI’s latest review of vaccine effectiveness data finds that while COVID-19 vaccines in use in Canada continue to be very effective in protecting most people against serious illness due to COVID-19, emerging evidence suggests vaccine effectiveness against infection may decrease over time in some situations. At this time, NACI is recommending a booster dose for some populations at highest risk of severe illness and waning protection following their primary series. Specifically, NACI has expanded their late September recommendation –that adults in long-term care or other congregate care settings should be offered a booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine– to include seniors, 80 years of age or older, as well.

Additionally, NACI recommends that some other key populations who may be at increased risk of severe illness, or increased risk of lower protection over time and who are essential for maintaining health system capacity may be offered a booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, at least 6 months after completing their primary series.

These populations include:

  • Adults aged 70 to 79 years
  • People who received two doses of the AstraZeneca Vaxzevria or one dose of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine
  • Adults in or from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences
  • Adults who are frontline healthcare workers who have direct in-person contact with patients and for whom the interval between doses of their primary COVID-19 vaccine series was less than 28 days

NACI continues to closely monitor vaccine effectiveness across the population and will update their advice as needed to ensure the best protection possible for all Canadians. Importantly, with over 5.5 million eligible adults and youth not yet fully vaccinated in Canada, it is important to emphasize that getting more people to complete their two-dose primary series remains a key focus of the COVID-19 immunization effort in Canada.

This is even more important as we head into respiratory infections season. Getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and up-to-date with other recommended vaccines, including the annual flu shot, is an important foundation of protection. Building on this, by wearing face masks, keeping up with hand and cough hygiene practices, getting the best ventilation possible in indoor spaces, and staying home and away from others if we develop symptoms, are important additional layers that can help keep us healthy, while reducing virus spread to protect others and the health system through the winter.

Last week we also mentioned applying these practices to plan safer social events; starting with Halloween this Sunday, I look forward to seeing how our great Canadian creativity rises to the challenge of having celebrations that are fun and safer for everyone!

Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.

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