Top doctor warns of extended restrictions without uptake of vaccines

Jun 16 2021, 12:14 pm

Dr. Eileen de Villa warned during her news conference on Wednesday that failure to have a strong vaccine uptake in Toronto could lead to restrictions being extended.

She pointed to the UK as an example of what could happen here in Ontario. The Delta variant is now the dominant strain in Britain, and local officials have decided to push back lifting final COVID-19 measures until July 19.

If not enough people get fully vaccinated in Toronto, Delta infections may grow to a level where restrictions need to be extended, the medical officer of health said.

“What happens with Delta could cause problems that may disrupt reopening and moving forward.”

De Villa outlined the threat posed by the Delta variant, which is also taking hold here in Ontario. Public health experts estimate it could become the dominant COVID-19 strain in the province this summer.

The Delta variant is about 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which itself was 50% more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain.

“I’m most concerned today about people who haven’t been vaccinated at all, particularly the older you get,” she said.

Two vaccine doses are effective protection against Delta variant infection, but the virus is better at breaking through one-dose protection, de Villa said. She said it’s critical that Torontonians complete their two-dose vaccination as soon as possible to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

Although many people in the UK have received one dose of vaccine, 55% either have not completed their vaccination or have had no doses at all.

In the US, de Villa pointed to data that suggests vaccination rates are the key to fighting a rise in Delta infections. COVID-19 infections in the US rose by 1.3% overall last week, but states with high vaccination rates continue to see declining infections. On the other hand, states with low vaccination rates are reporting rising infection counts.

According to the Centre for Disease Control, 6% of COVID-19 cases are the Delta variant overall. But certain states where the strain is more common report that 18% of COVID-19 samples screen positive for being the Delta variant.

In Ontario, about 30% of COVID-19 cases are the Delta variant, de Villa said.

“The facts could not be any clearer: where there’s high vaccination levels, Delta doesn’t appear to be a huge threat. Where vaccinations are low, it … could be.”

More than 2.75 million vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto, and last week the city reached an all-time high average of getting 44,675 needles in arms every day.

On Tuesday, Toronto reached a milestone of having 20% of adults fully vaccinated — a full 10% more than the week before.

About half of appointments at City-run mass immunization clinics are now for second doses, with the remaining half allocated for first doses.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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