The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. PocketWell, a free companion app to the WTC online portal, provides another way to help Canadians access online mental health and substance use resources, and measure and monitor aspects of their mental well-being.
OTTAWA, ON, June 30, 2022 /CNW/ - The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to monitor COVID-19 epidemiological indicators to quickly detect, understand and communicate emerging issues of concern. The following is a brief summary of the latest national trends.
For additional COVID-19 data and analyses, the PHAC posts the following reports:
COVID-19 Data Trends and Reports, including links to COVIDTrends, a local activity look up tool; past modelling reports; latest national epidemiological reports, and links to provincial/territorial reporting sites.
While disease activity indicators, including weekly case counts and lab test positivity, as well as severe illness trends are stable or declining in many areas, COVID-19 viruses are still circulating across the country. Despite overall lower transmission nationally, regional variability continues. Most recently, some areas are reporting increases some disease activity indicators such as laboratory test positivity and wastewater signals, for which there is continued variability from testing sites across the country. At the same time, the overall proportion of BA.4 and particularly BA.5 sub-lineages of Omicron among sequenced variants is increasing. As we expect the SARS-CoV-2 virus to continue evolving, PHAC maintains ongoing monitoring of circulating SARS-CoV-2 viruses across Canada and is currently closely monitoring the BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 sub-lineages that have demonstrated a growth advantage and additional immune escape over BA.1 and BA.2 sub-lineages. While the precise impacts are unknown, it is reasonable to expect that we could see an increase in case numbers in the coming weeks as a result of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages increasing in proportion.
Because the Omicron variant, including sub-lineages are immune evasive, two doses of COVID-19 vaccines offer less protection than against previous variants. As such, keeping up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses, continues to be very important for reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death due to COVID-19. Updated vaccine effectiveness data between May 09, 2022 and June 05, 2022, when Omicron variant activity was still predominating, indicate that people vaccinated with a complete primary series plus an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccines had approximately five times lower risk of hospitalisation and six times lower mortality rate compared to unvaccinated people.
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (or NACI) continues to monitor the rapidly evolving scientific data. NACI's latest guidance provides provinces and territories with recommendations for planning booster programs to help prevent a strong resurgence in the fall and winter, reduce severe illness outcomes and lessen the strain on the health system. NACI strongly recommends a primary series with an authorised mRNA vaccine in all authorised age groups. NACI also strongly recommends a booster dose for all adults and as well as for adolescents who are considered to be at high risk for severe disease. While the timing and severity of a future fall or winter wave is uncertain, NACI recommends that individuals who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness should be offered a Fall COVID vaccine booster dose and those aged 12-64 years may be offered a Fall booster dose, regardless of the number of booster doses previously received. Booster doses increase protection by activating your immune response to restore protection that may have decreased over time. As we can expect local epidemiology to vary, it will be important for people to follow provincial or territorial health authority recommendations for maintaining up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible people, including for those who may have been previously infected.
In particular, getting booster dose(s), if you are eligible and as recommended, helps improve protection that may have decreased since completing the primary series or receiving an earlier booster dose and is expected to provide better protection against severe illness from Omicron. This is especially important for those aged 50 years of age or older, given the risk of severe illness increases with increasing age. As of June 29, 2022, over 18.8 million third doses and as of June 19, 2022 almost 3.3 million fourth doses have been administered to date. As well, national data as of June 19, 2022 indicate that almost 87% of seniors aged 70 years or older and 62%-77% of 50-69 year olds have received at least one additional dose.
As we celebrate Canada Day tomorrow, I would like to give a special shout out to people everywhere in Canada to acknowledge your continued efforts in helping to control COVID-19. Thanks to our collective action, including achieving among the highest vaccine coverage in the world and continuing to adhere to public health measures to reduce the spread, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of lives were saved in our country alone. Our challenge now is to sustain the gains we have made, while not losing sight of continuing threat of COVID-19 to our health.
Throughout the summer and heading into the fall, our best advantage is to continue to be vigilant with personal protective habits, while we maintain a state of readiness and prepare our surge capacity for future response. At the individual level, readiness can be best achieved by keeping COVID-19 vaccinations up-to-date, including getting booster doses as recommended, to be better protected against serious illness and other complications of COVID-19 infection, including post COVID-19 condition (also known as long COVID). At the same time, continuing to follow public health advice tailored to local epidemiology and circumstances can help guide your individual and family risk assessment and use of personal protective practices to reduce your risk of exposure and spreading the virus. In particular, properly wearing a well-fitted and well-constructed face mask, avoiding crowding, and getting the best ventilation possible in indoor spaces, are layers of protection that can reduce your risk in all settings. As always, staying home and away from others when you test positive using a rapid test, or are sick or experiencing any COVID-like symptoms, even if mild, is advised to reduce of the risk of spreading the virus.
We can also stay healthier by getting up-to-date with other recommended vaccines and routine vaccines for children and adults. For additional information regarding vaccination in your area, reach out to your local public health authorities, healthcare provider, or other trusted and credible sources, such as Immunize.ca and Canada.ca, which includes information to help Canadians understand the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Canadians can also go the extra mile by sharing credible information on COVID-19 risks and prevention practices and measures to reduce COVID-19 in communities. Read my backgrounder to access more COVID-19 Information and Resources on ways to reduce the risks and protect yourself and others, including information on COVID-19 vaccination.
SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada
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