A man enters a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, on Thursday, May 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A man enters a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, on Thursday, May 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canada should roll out second doses ‘as soon as possible’: NACI

Because of variants of concern, Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says all Canadians should strive to become fully vaccinated

A push to shift efforts toward fully vaccinating the population gained steam Friday with Canada’s advisory panel on vaccines urging second doses “as soon as possible” and federal health officials hinging summer reopening plans and any eased travel rules on immunizations and ongoing public health measures.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam touted “layers of protection” as key to emerging from a formidable third wave that new modelling suggests is continuing to wane, urging caution as some provinces eye reopenings.

That caution extended to Ottawa’s consideration of an expert report that recommends Ottawa scrap the hotel quarantine requirement for air travellers, with Tam saying the topic is under “active discussion” and that officials will address it in the near future.

Canada’s top doctor was similarly careful in her assessment of Quebec’s decision to lift curfews and reopen outdoor spaces such as restaurant patios Friday, allowing the moves were “not unreasonable” in light of regional epidemiology.

However, she warned that hasty reopenings could lead to “pockets of resurgences” among under-immunized populations.

“We’ve had a few experiences in the past that has led us to want to be more precautionary,” said Tam.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended Friday that Canada turn toward the ultimate goal of fully immunizing the population, now that supplies of COVID-19 shots are increasing.

The panel said those at highest risk of dying or becoming severely ill should be prioritized for second shots, either after or alongside first doses for anyone else who is eligible for a vaccine.

“The 16-week interval was the upper limit and provinces and territories should aim to start administering second doses as quickly as regional logistics allows it,” NACI chairwoman Dr. Caroline Quach said in a statement Friday.

“First doses have been a highly effective starting point from a population immunity perspective, and we now need to move towards our second doses to provide more complete long-term protection.”

Infectious disease expert Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti welcomed NACI’s advice to aggressively deliver second doses, especially to seniors and others at higher risk of severe infection.

But he added that all Canadians should strive to become fully vaccinated “as fast as possible” because variants of concern including B.1.617 — the variant first identified in India — could threaten to undo the country’s progress.

“A three-week interval for Pfizer works really well. A three-month interval might work even better, but right now that doesn’t really matter,” said the Mississauga, Ont. physician.

“We are seeing some early evidence that B.1.617 might have a little bit less efficacy with one dose of a vaccine.”

Meanwhile, new national modelling suggested the COVID-19 crisis has taken a turn for the better over the past month.

Tam said more than 22 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country and that Canada has crested the third wave.

Average case counts are now less than half of what they were during the peak of the third wave in mid-April, with fewer than 3,400 cases reported daily over the past seven days, said Tam.

The number of people experiencing severe or critical illness is also decreasing, though at a slower pace, she added, stressing the need to maintain many public health measures.

Federal health authorities were circumspect about whether the government will heed an expert panel’s recommendation that Canada drop a requirement for air travellers to quarantine for three days in a government-approved hotel.

Global vaccination coverage is not very high at the moment, Tam noted, and officials must consider domestic levels of disease and immunity.

Hajdu added that the issue of international travel “is a delicate and contentious one” and any changes to border measures demand discussion with provincial counterparts.

“We want to make sure that we continue to protect Canadians’ risk of importation of virus no matter what measures we have at the border,” Hajdu said.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada has confirmed shipments of 15 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines from three suppliers, which she said means every eligible Canadian will have access to a second dose by the end of the summer.

Anand said 2.4 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech will arrive each week over five weeks in June and nine million more will arrive in July.

Moderna is set to send 500,000 doses in two shipments early next month, and 1.5 million more doses are scheduled to arrive the week of June 14.

Also on Friday, Ontario became the latest province to fast-track its second-dose schedule.

Shortened dose intervals will be offered first to those aged 80 and older next week, followed by those 70 and older in mid-June. Residents will then become eligible for faster second doses based on when they received their first shot.

The province also reported 1,273 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 14 more deaths linked to the virus. There were 1,023 people in hospital, including 645 in intensive care and 458 on ventilators.

Health officials in Manitoba, however, say disruptions in the supply chain of COVID-19 vaccines means that a major milestone has been pushed back.

Johanu Botha, co-lead of the province’s vaccine implementation task force, said Manitoba is receiving significantly fewer doses of the Moderna vaccine than expected and deliveries have been delayed.

That means the province likely won’t meet its target of delivering first doses to 70 per cent of people aged 12 and up by June 9, but will probably hit that benchmark at the end of next month, Botha said.

The province’s COVID-19 surge continued to strain the health-care system, with officials reporting 493 new cases, 312 hospitalizations and 69 patients in intensive care. Another 26 Manitobans were in intensive care in other provinces.

Quebec embarked on the first stage of its reopening plan Friday, permitting dining on restaurant patios and backyard gatherings. Quebec’s 9:30 p.m. curfew — which had been in effect in most of the province since Jan. 9. — was also lifted.

The province’s public health institute said Quebec could avoid another wave of novel coronavirus if people follow health orders.

Quebec reported 419 new cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths related to the virus. There were 385 hospitalizations and 91 people in intensive care.

Nova Scotia released a four-stage plan to emerge from its lockdown restrictions Friday, with Premier Iain Rankin proclaiming the province’s COVID-19 wave was being “crushed in almost record time.”

Most changes will begin Wednesday, allowing businesses to open further, outdoor visits to occur at long-term care facilities and increased outdoor gathering limits. In-person classes will also resume Wednesday at schools outside the Halifax Regional Municipality and Sydney.

Nova Scotia reported 40 new COVID-19 cases and one death.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

Shanna Ramm of Mosaic is the first person to graduate with a Bachelor of Disability Management from Pacific Coast University-Workplace Health Sciences. Her convocation took place virtually on Dec. 1, 2020. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
PROGRESS 2021: Pacific Coast University celebrates with milestones

Alberni institution earns $6M return-to-work grant from province

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read