Canada’s top doctors say the country needs high vaccine uptake in order to relax COVID-19 restrictions by mid-summer and avoid a resurgence in the fall.
At least 75% of all adults need a first dose and 20% need a second dose to ensure a return to normal in the summer will not trigger a fourth wave of infection come fall, Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer, said at a COVID-19 modelling update Friday.
If only 55% of adults opt to get vaccinated, modelling suggests that relaxing restrictions could trigger another onslaught of cases by October.
“The bottom line is that we need as many people vaccinated. As much as possible,” Tam said.
On a positive note, in one scenario in yellow, on the left, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s latest modelling suggests restrictions can safely be lifted if at least 75% of adults get vaccinated, transmission is controlled, hospitals have adequate capacity, and testing and contact tracing are robust.
“A large part the population may be sitting on the fence [about vaccination],” Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, said. “But you can see what the difference [is] if 75% accepts that first does, compared to only 55%.”
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The doctors pointed to data from other countries showing how strong and sustained public health measures coupled with high levels of vaccination have brought infection under control.
In another hopeful development, Canada’s COVID-19 reproductive value has dropped below 1 for the first time since February. That number reflects the average number of other people each infected person will pass the virus to. It falling below 1 means Canada’s epidemic has finally dropped out of a growth pattern, Tam said.
So far, Canada has administered approximately 11 million vaccine doses, with Indigenous communities and the three northern territories having higher vaccine uptake than the general population after immunization initiatives focused on those areas.
Nearly 30% of all Canadian adults have now received their first dose.
Over the past seven days, Canada has averaged about 8,400 new cases per day, which is more than double the daily case average from one month ago. More than 4,000 people have stayed in Canada’s hospitals because of COVID-19, including more than 1,200 in ICU beds across the country. Another 46 people also died of the virus this week.
“Trends have been discouraging in recent weeks,” Tam said. “But there is a spark of hope.”