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

Colin Davidson won $100K on a Set for Life scratch ticket in Sooke. (BCLC photo)
Sooke man does ‘happy dance’ after scratching a $100,000 Set for Life win

Colin Davidson plans to renovate his home and invest in his daughter’s education

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

West Shore RCMP K9 Halla. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sound of RCMP dog enough to stop suspects in Oak Bay

West Shore RCMP K9 unit called in, didn’t get to chase

Improving safety at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway is the goal of the flyover project currently in the works. The province aims to reveal the final cost and design this fall. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Final budget, design of Keating flyover in Central Saanich still in the works

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says information coming by this fall

UVic Department of Anthropology chair and professor, April Nowell, at home with a copy of her new book, Growing Up In the Ice Age. (Courtesy of April Nowell)
New book by University of Victoria professor explores lives of Ice Age children

April Nowell spent two decades researching archaeological evidence of children, teens

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has embarked on a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $1 million for establishment of an independent urban Indigenous school. Pictured here, Tsawalk Learning Centre students at an Orange Shirt Day event in September. (Submitted photo)
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre looks to raise $1 million for urban Indigenous school

Centre says independent school would be first of its kind in B.C.

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Island man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Most Read