Eastern Canadian provinces that maintained stricter COVID-19 restrictions while driving up vaccination rates are now experiencing a milder fourth wave than Western Canada, new modelling from the federal government suggests.
In a map plotting vaccination rates against COVID-19 infection incidence, it’s clear the Eastern half of the country is faring much better than regions west of Manitoba.
Areas of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC where measures were relaxed and then tightened again as cases rose are experiencing a worse fourth wave than the rest of the country.
“This increases the urgency of a combined approach, maintaining health restrictions and encouraging vaccine uptake,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said during a news briefing Friday.
She added healthcare workers in Alberta and Manitoba are exhausted right now, and there aren’t extra human resources to add once systems become stretched.
“I guess time will tell whether individual provinces have learned from the fourth wave … You can’t just rely on vaccination alone,” Tam said.
But looking across the country, COVID-19 cases are levelling off overall. Tam said current modelling is cautiously optimistic, forecasting a decline of new cases by November if current restrictions are maintained.
“This represents a significant improvement over the trajectory seen in our previous modelling when cases were forecast to resurge rapidly,” Tam said.
The new modelling projects about 3,000 new cases per day across the country by November.
Right now, 80% of eligible individuals have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in every province and territory. Vaccine coverage is highest in adults above 40, with adults between 18 and 39 having lower vaccine uptake by comparison.
Tam pointed to younger adults as an age group where there’s an opportunity to increase vaccine coverage.
Tam added Canada is in discussions with pharmaceutical company Merck about its antiviral pill that’s supposed to alleviate severe symptoms of COVID-19. Canada may end up purchasing the drug, but no deal has been confirmed yet.
Tam encouraged families to ask one another about vaccination status and to only host indoor gatherings with groups who all have both shots.
She also suggested opening a door or window to improve ventilation and added wearing masks around vulnerable family members could be considered.
However, both Tam and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said this year they plan to gather with fully vaccinated immediate family members.
“With the vaccine, I think this year we should be on better, more solid footing,” Tam said. “But we can’t be too careful when it comes to this formidable foe.”