THUNDER BAY – COVID-19 UPDATE – The Thunder Bay District Health report 62 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of active lab-confirmed cases to 127.
There are twenty patients in hospital as a result of the virus. Eight of those are in the Intensive Care Unit.
Ontario Recommends Fourth Dose
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is expanding eligibility for fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals aged 60 and over as well as First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and over starting on April 7, 2022. Expanding booster eligibility will provide an extra layer of protection against the Omicron and BA.2 variants and, in addition to antivirals, are another tool the province is using to live with and manage COVID-19.
“As we continue to live with COVID-19, we are using every tool available to manage this virus and reduce its impact on our hospitals and health system, including by expanding the use of booster doses,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Vaccines are our best defence against COVID-19 and its variants. Because of our exceptionally high vaccination rates and Ontario’s cautious approach, we currently have one of the lowest hospitalization rates in the country and have performed well throughout this pandemic when compared to other similar sized provinces and states. I encourage everyone who’s eligible to get boosted as soon as you’re able.”
Starting on Thursday, April 7 at 8:00 a.m., eligible individuals will be able to book their fourth dose appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900, directly through public health units that use their own booking systems, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, participating pharmacies, and participating primary care settings.
Locations and timing for additional boosters may vary by public health unit based on local planning and considerations.
Ontario has been offering fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since December 30, 2021 to vulnerable populations including residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges and older adults in other congregate care settings that provide assisted-living and health services. Providing additional boosters to these groups has helped to prevent serious outcomes in the population during the Omicron wave.
Lower vaccination rates among people who use drugs could lead to serious outcomes from COVID-19
As many jurisdictions in Canada begin to ease public health measures intended to limit serious cases and fatalities caused by COVID-19, new research from the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) suggests many people remain at risk of serious disease.
The Government of Canada, through its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force study provided approximately $770,000 in funding to support a study investigating vaccine confidence uptake among people who use drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Downtown South neighbourhoods. Preliminary findings from this study found that just under two-thirds of the group had received at least two doses of a vaccine against COVID-19.
Researchers recruited 275 people who use drugs and saw them once every two months for a study visit. By the end of January 2022, 64% reported being fully vaccinated having received two vaccine doses, while 9% had also received a booster dose. 16% were unvaccinated. In comparison, as of February 2022 vaccination rates in BC’s general population were 81.1% fully vaccinated, 45.1% had received a booster dose, and 14% remained unvaccinated.
“Although the vaccination rates we observed are approaching those seen in the general population of British Columbia, it is also a reminder that public health efforts must continue to address mistrust of – and barriers to – healthcare faced by many people in our communities who use drugs, especially during this period of dual crises—COVID-19 and toxic drug poisonings,” said Dr. Brittany Barker, study co-Principal Investigator and a research scientist at BCCSU.
Like many communities across Canada, Vancouver’s population has a high rate of substance use, homelessness, poverty, or with immunodeficiencies, making them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and serious disease. In addition, many people who use drugs face multiple overlapping barriers to accessing healthcare, such as stigma, discrimination, and criminalization.
“These findings are a reminder that while many people may be ready to put COVID-19 behind us, not all members of our communities have received the same levels of protection,” says Dr. Hudson Reddon, co-Principal Investigator and a post-doctoral researcher with BCCSU and UBC. “Public health outreach efforts must continue for at-risk groups, including people who use substances, those experiencing homelessness and poverty and therefore are not generally well connected to health care.”
“I know COVID-19 is frightening to a lot of people, but if you’ve been fighting the drug war and hustling every day to stay alive, never mind thrive, in addition to avoiding health care at all costs because of past harmful and stigmatizing experiences—to the extent that some would risk endocarditis and loss of limb from infection—COVID-19 just doesn’t register as a priority threat the same way it does to others in the general population,” said Erica Thomson, co-investigator and Peer Lead on the study.
“We funded this research to generate evidence that will guide public health officials in their strategies to increase vaccine confidence and uptake, including among our vulnerable urban populations,” says Dr. Catherine Hankins, Co-Chair of the CITF. “It is important that all members of society are adequately protected. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not over yet.”
In response to these realities, the Government of British Columbia’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan prioritized people experiencing housing insecurity, including in the Downtown Eastside, and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) rolled out a number of outreach efforts in the neighbourhood. As of March 29, 91% of those 18 years of age and older in the local health area that includes the Downtown Eastside were fully vaccinated.
Researchers hope these findings will encourage public health professionals across the country to similarly invest in vaccine outreach programs that are effective at reaching vulnerable populations.
- “Researchers to investigate vaccine uptake, efficacy and side effects in vulnerable urban populations”
About the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force
The Government of Canada established the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) in late April 2020 to catalyze, support, fund, and harmonize research on SARS-CoV-2 immunity for federal, provincial, and territorial decision-makers in their efforts to protect Canadians and minimize the impact of the COVID-19. To date, the CITF has supported over 100 studies across Canada that are generating critical insights on the levels, trends, nature, and duration of immunity arising from SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 vaccination. The CITF is overseen by a Leadership Group of volunteers that includes leading scientists and policymakers from across Canada. The Task Force and its Secretariat work closely with a range of partners, including governments, public health agencies, institutions, health organizations, research teams, other task forces, engaging communities and stakeholders.
International Overview – Cases Decreasing
After the increase observed during the first half of March 2022, the number of new COVID-19 cases has decreased for a second consecutive week, with a 16% decline during the week of 28 March through 3 April 2022 as compared to the previous week
The number of new weekly deaths also decreased sharply (-43%) as compared to the previous week, during which an artificial spike in deaths was observed
Across the six WHO regions, over nine million new cases and over 26 000 new deaths were reported, and all the regions show decreasing trends both in the number of new weekly cases and new weekly deaths
As of 3 April 2022, just over 489 million cases and over 6 million deaths have been reported globally