Monday, May 23, 2022

Omicron infections past peak in Canada, but hospitalizations still rising, Tam says

Deaths from Omicron are still high — the number of daily deaths averaged 168 in the last week, Tam said, the highest it has been since the early days of the pandemic

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Canada has moved past the worst of the Omicron variant of coronavirus on some parameters, but Canadians still need to be prudent as hospitalizations were continuing to rise, the country’s top health official said Friday.

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Multiple indicators, including daily case counts and test positivity rates, now suggest that Omicron infections have peaked nationally, chief public health officer Theresa Tam told reporters at a briefing Friday.

“Getting to perhaps the peak is one thing but coming down the other side of the wave includes a lot of people could get infected, and some of them could potentially be infected with BA.2,” Tam said, referring to a subvariant of the Omicron variant that has been recorded in some European countries.

Canada has detected over 100 cases of BA.2, which does not appear to be causing more severe illness than the original Omicron. The new variant does not have the specific mutation seen with Omicron that can help to easily distinguish it from Delta, but the main Omicron variant was still behind the vast majority of COVID-19 infections.

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While the seven-day average case count dropped 28 per cent as of Wednesday, compared with the week earlier, hospitalizations due to COVID continued to increase during the same period and over 1,200 patients were getting treated in intensive care units on average daily.

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Deaths from Omicron are still high — the number of daily deaths averaged 168 in the last week, Tam said, the highest it has been since the early days of the pandemic in April and May 2020.

“Presently lagging indicators are still rising … this is why it continues to be important to limit spread as much as possible,” Tam said.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is now recommending teenagers with underlying conditions or at high risk of COVID-19 exposure get a booster shot.

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Tam said children and adolescents are still at low risk of serious illness in general from COVID but because of the high rate of infection due to Omicron more kids are being admitted to hospital.

Health Canada data suggest in the last week 251 children under 12 and 84 adolescents between 12 and 19 were admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

Those data are not broken down by vaccination status but Tam said teenagers with two doses are at very low risk of severe outcomes, which is why for now Canada isn’t following the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommending all adolescents get a third shot.

Just over half of Canadian children five to 11 now have their first dose, while 82 per cent of teens 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated. Most kids five to 11 only became eligible for a second dose in late January and there is no talk of boosters for that age group yet.

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NACI’s new advice for teenagers between 12 and 17 is to get a booster if they have an underlying medical condition or live in congregate settings or racialized or marginalized communities that have been hard hit by COVID-19 infections.

The booster should be six months after their last dose, and would include fourth doses for teenagers with severely compromised immune systems who got a third dose as part of the primary vaccination series.

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Nation World News Desk
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