By Omar Sachdina, CTV National News national affairs correspondent, and Nicole Bogart, author of CTVNews.ca
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TORONTO, Canada (CTV Network) – As Canadians begin a new year – the third row marked by the designation of a global pandemic – many find themselves asking a familiar question: “When will COVID-19 end ?”
In December, optimism for a “normal” holiday season was once again fueled by Omicron’s version of a sudden resurgence of cases, forcing many provinces to implement stricter public health restrictions and forcing them to apply for longer periods of time during the pandemic. Record case count not observed till date.
But, despite Omicron’s growing threat, Canada’s top doctor says she looks forward to moving into the new year—one she hopes will allow us to live more comfortably with the virus that has prolonged life. Disrupted as we know it.
“It’s true that one can’t really have a crystal ball, but I think it’s just a reminder that we’re not in the same place we were last year,” Dr. Theresa Tam told CTV National News. Told during a year-end interview.
“So much has happened [over the last] I guess, 12 months to put us, and I’m still in a much better place than I was a year ago.
Canada has come a long way in its response to the pandemic in the past 12 months.
This time last year, we just started immunizing high-risk individuals against COVID-19. Today, Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with more than 82 percent of the population having been vaccinated at least one dose.
With the emergence of new variants such as Delta and Omicron, we learned much more about how the virus works, leading to the development of better treatments and diagnostic tools and an understanding of important public health measures such as masking. Hui.
And although Tam acknowledged she cannot give Canadians a clear view of when the pandemic will end, she says these developments will help them better manage future waves of the virus without disruption.
“Every epidemic ends throughout history. So, at some point, virus activity will become more predictable,” Tam said.
“I think in the coming months we may start to see a little more predictability and even be able to protect our high-risk populations so that we can learn to live more with this virus … but I Still feel like in the next year, we still have to be vigilant and be able to adapt and be flexible as needed.”
The evolving science of vaccines: are boosters here to stay?
Omicron’s spread has also fueled a massive booster shot campaign, with thousands of Canadians lining up to get their third jab, asking questions like “What’s the point of being fully vaccinated?” and, “Will I need multiple booster shots to protect myself?”
In December, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization strongly recommended that Canadians aged 50 and older and high-risk groups be given booster shots to bolster the body’s immune response against COVID-19.
But the science around vaccines, Tam says, is evolving as fast as the virus itself.
“After one dose, we knew we had to take another dose, and in Canada we had a stretch interval for that second dose, so we didn’t know the duration of protection for that second dose, as well as what happens. That’s when the virus evolves,” she explained.
“Now we’ve learned a little bit more, and that booster is needed because antibody levels can drop over time. But the good news, I think, in the emerging science is that two doses can save you from serious consequences.” And that’s almost the most important marker we should be looking for.”
Tam notes that the booster will also decrease over time, but hope it recharges your immune system to protect against serious consequences while taking the pressure off the health care system.
“There is a possibility that we will need some sort of vaccination on an ongoing basis, but maybe not everyone will need it. Maybe not every year. Their timing is still unknown,” she said.
When it comes to the availability of booster shots — a factor that is controlled individually by the provinces — Tam urged Canadians to be patient when facing long line-ups or booking delays.
“It’s what I would call an ultramarathon – it’s not even a marathon anymore. The whole system is taxed, but people are still doing their best to provide vaccines and other support for the population,” she said.
“Even getting vaccinated is not that easy. They are tired. And so, I think if people can line up systematically, we’ll be promoting everyone in a relatively short amount of time. ,
At the same time, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently warned that “we will not promote our way out of this pandemic,” adding that it is extremely important that we Give people the first and second doses. which they do not have yet.
During the pandemic, Canada has provided vaccines and financial support to other countries through global efforts such as the COVAX Vaccine-Sharing Initiative, which collects money from wealthy countries to buy vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
So far, Canada has donated more than 9.2 million surplus vaccine doses through COVAX and more than 762,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine through direct bilateral agreements with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Still, there are calls to do more as Canada’s vaccine reserve fills up.
When asked about Canada’s efforts to make vaccines available to other countries, Tam agreed that every developed country should provide vaccines to low-income countries, but added that boosters are important for Canadians, especially in high-risk groups.
“I think Canada is taking a very reasonable approach. And we have to do both in a way… Even though we are in a developed country, it is in a very delicate situation and we need to minimize the serious consequences and We have to do everything possible to protect our tired and stressed health system, Tam said.
What about rapid test?
Also in short supply are Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), a tool that many provinces have used to hit the capacity of provincial testing centers amid the Omicron boom.
Fast-acting tests, which deliver results in as little as 15 minutes, have become in high demand amid the Omicron boom as Canadians try to navigate the holiday season safely. In provinces such as Ontario and Alberta, rapid testing kits were provided free of charge to each household, but supplies quickly ran out, sparking outrage about supplies.
But Tam says there is a definite use-case for rapid testing, but they are not an infinite resource or fix-all.
“I think we are all learning how to use these tests wisely. Some of the most important [reasons] Keeping schools and workplaces functioning as required to conduct rapid testing and target them to protect high-risk health care workers, long-term care [workers] And visitors to those places are really important,” she said.
“I think it’s hard when people can’t find a test before they can socialise. But we really need to keep those rapid tests going for the people who need them the most.”
Tam also notes that the rapid test is only supposed to be an additional layer of protection against infection, not a guarantee.
“If you get a negative rapid test, just remember that it’s like a yellow light, it doesn’t mean you’re free of the virus, especially something that spreads as quickly as the Omicron virus. You have to get tested very often to be able to detect whether you have been infected in between tests,” she explained.
Despite some provinces giving away free rapid test kits to families over the holidays, Tam says he is not sure that providing rapid tests to every Canadian household, like they do in the UK, would be the best use of supplies.
“If you look at the United Kingdom, they use more rapid tests, but that doesn’t necessarily reduce the health impacts. In Canada, we actually did better in terms of our serious outcomes and the number of deaths.” is,” she said.
“So even though the UK has done a lot of rapid tests, it does not mean that the impact of COVID on them is less. So again, we have to use these tests not as an additional layer but as a means to take away other layers of security.”
Despite the sharp rise in cases, Tam says the Omicron edition is teaching us yet another important lesson in how COVID-19 can evolve, noting that “there are certainly more positive things waiting ahead of us.” have been.”
“We have to remain optimistic. Nobody wants this pandemic to go on, everyone is tired, but you know, we can do nothing but keep that hope alive.”
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