Canada has gone from being a vaccination-lagging country to a world leader in vaccinations against COVID-19 in just a few months — thanks to an ambitious vaccination campaign that has so far limited the spread of the most virulent delta type.
More than 79 percent of those eligible have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While this is a high number, it does indicate that there are still more than six million people over the age of 12 who have chosen to forgo the shot entirely, or wait until a later date.
The number of unvaccinated Canadians equals nearly everyone who lives in the metropolitan areas of Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Quebec combined.
Experts agree that more people need to get the shot to avoid the re-emergence of another pandemic with catastrophic consequences. The challenge now, experts say, is to make it easier to reach and convince our undecided ones to roll up their sleeves.
After a blitzkrieg in April and May, the number of new first doses taken has stopped at less than 100,000 per day since June 16. This means that it will take many more months to immunize the remaining remainders at the current pace.
Thinking of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but not quite sure? We want to talk to you about an upcoming story: Email us: COVID@cbc.ca
Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the vaccination campaign had recently yielded impressive results. But it said it was not enough to simply hit the government’s early target of 75 percent of the eligible population with one shot when the most contagious delta variant — which appears to be twice as virulent as other strains — spreads widely, she said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the physician who has led the fight against COVID-19 in the United States, was among those who first suggested that “herd immunity” to the virus would develop with a vaccination rate of 75 to 80 percent. New variables may have rendered this goal obsolete.
“Should we aim higher? Yes, I think we should. Shoot up, shoot for gold, shoot for stars. This gives us a better buffer to manage the COVID-19 situation,” Tam said.
“We have some work to do,” Dr. Howard Ngo, Tam’s deputy, said at a news conference Thursday. “I think it’s clear we can do a better job.”
Watch: Dr. Ngo discusses COVID-19 booster shots
Caroline Cullen is a mathematician specializing in infectious diseases at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.
Colijn told CBC News that it is difficult to determine the exact vaccination rate that would make it safer to ease pandemic restrictions in Canada – but it should be higher than it is now.
Citing some of the models she and her team of researchers have, Cullen said that more shots in the arms could tell the difference between a fourth pandemic wave – such as the crushing of new cases piling up in the UK and the Netherlands – and no wave at all. assembly and production.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty and I don’t think we have a single number where we can say ‘Oh, well, it’s 82 percent, that’s it, that’s enough and we won’t have COVID anymore,'” she said. “But we know that 90 percent will give us much better protection than 80 percent because it reduces half the number of people who are not protected at all.”
With 90 percent protection, Cullen said, there would be fewer cases and fewer chances of new mutations emerging because there wouldn’t be many non-immune vectors of the virus.
“I wouldn’t say we’re going to be obvious. We don’t know how much immunity is going to wane over time, and I hope it doesn’t. But I think it’s going to put us in a really great position,” she said. We will interrupt these transmission chains and be more resilient to access, spread or emergence of new variables.”
The spread of infection among the millions of unvaccinated Canadians could be enough to overwhelm the health care system once again. New variants also threaten to compromise the high level of protection that fully pollinators currently enjoy.
“It’s very important for us to really get to a high level of vaccination when we start to see variants that can penetrate that vaccination. You just need more vaccination to get to the same place,” Cullen said.
Federal government modeling, released late last month, suggests hospital capacity could again reach dangerous levels in the fall and winter if vaccine coverage is at or below 80 percent across all age groups with the infectious delta variant as the dominant strain. .
In the UK, where 87.6 per cent of adults got their first shot, hospital admissions have increased to levels not seen since February, with 600 daily admissions and 50,000 new cases reported – mostly from the Delta group – each day. England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said on Friday that the number of people infected with coronavirus in hospitals could reach “very frightening” levels within weeks.
Rural areas suffer from the biggest problems
In Ontario, a province where vaccines have been relatively plentiful in most areas for weeks, vaccination coverage varies widely by region and age.
While the rate of vaccine uptake was unusually high among older Canadians, in many jurisdictions, the 18-29 age group was significantly less desirable.
In the city of Ottawa, for example, more than 90 percent of residents aged 70 or older have had at least one shot — an enviable level of coverage. As of July 14, fewer than 70 percent of people ages 18 to 29 had received that first dose.
In rural Renfrew County, a sprawling area in eastern Ontario, the vaccination campaign has hit a wall of hesitation about vaccines.
Earlier this month, some areas in the county reported first-dose vaccination rates of just 50 percent, according to county data — while coverage rates in urban areas like Toronto and suburban Peel District were about 15 to 20 points higher.
Dr. Rob Cushman, Renfrew County Medical Officer of Health, told CBC News that 90 to 95 percent of the shots given in his jurisdiction over the past three weeks were second doses, although only 72 percent of people in The area had taken a first dose. (The latter number is likely somewhat higher, Cushman said, because vaccinations among Canadian Forces service personnel have not yet been factored in the local numbers. There is a large military base in Petawa, Ont.)
“It’s a big problem,” Cushman said. “Some of our rural areas have had the biggest problems.” “Those unvaccinated people in the 20-45 age group – they will suffer the most, they will get it and they will give it to their children. We really have to motivate them even if they are young and they may think they are invincible.”
Cushman said the low vaccination rates could be explained in part by access problems for rural residents; He is already planning temporary clinics in smaller communities in the coming days. But he estimates that up to 10 percent of the population won’t get the shot, no matter what.
“There’s a real crowd of anti-extremists, and you don’t trust government, liberalism, anti-science and all that stuff,” he said.
Another group of people, Cushman said, is not very opposed to getting an injection but are concerned about potential side effects, suffer from needle phobias, or are constantly concerned about the pace of development of these products.
There is also a perception, he said, that because many rural areas are spared the high numbers of cases reported in some cities, Canadians in remote areas face a lower risk of infection.
“We’ve done really well compared to the city and people think we’re more immune,” he said. “But what we’re seeing now – and I didn’t know this until three months ago – is how high the vaccination rate must be to have herd immunity. It’s a matter of really convincing people, and it’s hard to sell, let me tell you.”
Low vaccination rates have been reported in other rural areas. The latest survey by the Saskatchewan Population Health Assessment and Research Unit found the vaccine acceptance rate is less than 64 percent in some parts of the province’s northern and southern regions, compared to 74 to 89 percent in urban areas such as Regina and Saskatoon.
Unlike smaller pop-up clinics designed to target strongholds, Cushman is considering more personalized interventions — sending door-to-door public health workers to connect with unvaccinated homes and enabling more family physicians to give the shot.
“This is when the hard work begins,” he said.