How Canada can crush the variants with vaccines and make this reopening our last

here, dropped dramatically, more than 5.3 million doses, more than 28 million vaccine doses, 72 per cent, 12 per cent, 33 per cent effective, gamma variant, The preprint study

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


Canada is poised to battle back the more contagious coronavirus variants that threaten to jeopardize reopening plans across the country due to a huge uptick in vaccine supply, a willingness from Canadians to get the shots and some promising new vaccine research. 

Daily COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped dramatically across the country to levels not seen since the fall, while shipments of vaccines are set to grow substantially — with more than 5.3 million doses arriving next week alone.  

To date, more than 28 million vaccine doses have been administered across Canada, about 72 per cent of eligible Canadians have at least one shot and close to 12 per cent have two.

Yet there have been growing concerns over the spread of variants that have raised doubts about whether we can safely reopen society in Canada's hardest hit regions, particularly as the United Kingdom grapples with the variant known as delta, or B.1.617

Despite the many uncertainties that lie ahead, experts say that early data from the U.K. and a new study just released in British Columbia point to the same way forward — getting as many shot in arms as soon as possible. 

Variant vs. vaccines

A recent study from Public Health England (PHE) looked at just how effective the first dose is against the delta variant.

The study found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 per cent effective against symptomatic disease from the delta variant two weeks after the second dose, compared to 93 per cent against the B.1.1.7 variant, also known as alpha.

Two doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot were found to be just 60 per cent effective against COVID-19 symptoms from delta, compared to 66 per cent against alpha.

And a single dose of Pfizer and AstraZeneca were each only about 33 per cent effective against delta.  

Experts say it's important to remember that the study looked at the vaccine's ability to prevent COVID-19 symptoms, which can range from mild to severe, and the early estimates on vaccine effectiveness against the variants don't tell the whole story. 

“One dose of the vaccine, whether it was Pfizer or AstraZeneca, still actually provided quite a bit of protection against severe illness and certainly against hospitalization,” said Prof. Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba.

“Yes we still need to get two doses, but you know what? Even with a single dose these vaccines work amazingly well.”

Kindrachuk says that while delta reinforces the need to fully vaccinate high-risk individuals, like older Canadians and the immunocompromised, getting shots into as many arms as possible will continue to lower community transmission and the spread of variants overall. 

“Any population that isn't vaccinated is a tinderbox that's waiting to explode and drive lots of cases and hospitalizations and new variants,” said Prof. Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University and virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon.

“The best thing that we can do is stick to a vaccination plan and keep going with it until our entire population is covered by not just one, but two doses. That's going to be the most effective strategy — not trying to get too caught up in the drama of a new variant.” 

WATCH | How does the delta variant impact vaccine rollouts and reopening?

here, dropped dramatically, more than 5.3 million doses, more than 28 million vaccine doses, 72 per cent, 12 per cent, 33 per cent effective, gamma variant, The preprint study

How does the delta variant impact vaccine rollouts and reopening?

The National

5 days ago

5:12

Two infectious diseases specialists answer questions about the delta coronavirus variant — first identified in India and also known as B.1.617 — including how it could impact vaccine rollouts and reopening plans in Canada. 5:12

Single dose has 'substantial' protection

New Canadian research from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) also underscored the effectiveness of even just one dose of mRNA vaccines against the variants and provided new insight into the gamma variant, also known as P.1, for the first time. 

The preprint study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, found that a single dose of either Pfizer or Moderna cut the risk of COVID-19 for older adults by about two-thirds during the peak of the spring wave in B.C.

The observational study looked at close to 17,000 people aged 70 and older between April 4 and May 1 — a critical time when both the alpha and gamma made up about 70 per cent of cases circulating in the province. 

The researchers also concluded that single dose protection for older adults was only “minimally reduced” against alpha and gamma, which they said “reinforces” Canada's decision to defer second doses of COVID-19 vaccines at a time when supply was limited.

“Even at the peak of the pandemic and even with most viruses being these variants of concern, we showed substantial reduction in risk amongst vaccinated older adults compared to unvaccinated adults,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, the epidemiology lead at the BCCDC and lead author of the study. 

“It's particularly meaningful because this single dose protection was provided during that substantial third wave — the peak of the pandemic for us in B.C.”

here, dropped dramatically, more than 5.3 million doses, more than 28 million vaccine doses, 72 per cent, 12 per cent, 33 per cent effective, gamma variant, The preprint study

Skowronski says the study provides the world's first vaccine effectiveness estimate against the gamma variant and was made possible due to the unique position B.C. found itself in, with multiple variants circulating at the same time unlike anywhere else in the world.

“We were able to derive and show that protection was maintained against P.1, which remained an open question globally,” Skowronski said. “So we have addressed that question and shown comparable protections to B.1.1.7.” 

While BCCDC researchers weren't able to analyze vaccine effectiveness against the delta variant, which had not yet been circulating widely in Canada at the time, Skowronski says the team has their sights set on it in the near future. 

“Looking at the data, we can be optimistic that we'll have a good per cent effectiveness against delta,” said Kelvin, who was not involved in the study.

“Of course we want everybody to get the second dose but I still am very optimistic.” 

But Skowronski cautions Canadians not to draw too many conclusions from the data emerging from the U.K. on the delta variant, or any one study, due to the fact that it's largely observational and needs to be backed up by real-world immunogenicity research, which measures the immune responses that a vaccine generates. 

“It's a signal of concern related to a variant of concern that warrants further evaluation, which is why we're on it,” she said. “Then we can react.” 

'Get the second dose'

Experts agree the biggest threat to Canadians at the moment isn't variants — despite the dizzying pace of research being released worldwide — it's not being vaccinated at all. 

“So far for the variants that we have encountered, about which there has been initial shock and awe and then some settling of that, we've not seen a big impact,” Skowronski said.

“Ultimately, we still want to get the second dose in and this is helping us reinforce and understand why that may be necessary.”

here, dropped dramatically, more than 5.3 million doses, more than 28 million vaccine doses, 72 per cent, 12 per cent, 33 per cent effective, gamma variant, The preprint study

Kelvin says the decision to delay second doses in Canada allowed for more single dose coverage, which ultimately prevented the virus from infecting more people, increasing hospitalizations and deaths and may have stopped the emergence of new variants here. 

“What we want to watch for is: are these viruses changing significantly? … We want to keep on top of what's going on with new variants,” she said.

“What we can all do is get vaccinated and try to reduce our contacts to reduce the opportunity for the virus to mutate — that's going to be the biggest role that we can play in controlling variants.” 

Kelvin says if Canada continues to drive COVID-19 levels down across the country, we should be able to maintain low levels of community transmission — which will largely be driven by pockets of people who aren't vaccinated.

“We're in a very different position than we were certainly in the early parts of this year,” said Kindrachuk.

“Vaccinations are going to keep getting out and once we hit that threshold, things are going to change very, very quickly. I think they already are, but I think they're going to change substantially in the next few weeks.”


This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Minority NHS staff told to use ‘western' sounding names by line managers

The Bristol Royal Infirmary (Alamy) Minority ethnic staff at an NHS trust were told to adopt more Western sounding names by their line managers because their real names were too ... Read more »

Only one third of bereaved families of NHS Covid victims have received compensation

(AFP via Getty Images) Just over one third of bereaved families of NHS staff and care workers who died from Covid-19 have received compensation from a government scheme set up ... Read more »

[Feature] ‘Just a piece of a masterpiece' is a new trend

An installation view of “I, Fontana,” which ran through July 24 at Tessa’s gallery #Untitled in Seoul (Tessa) Jeong Han-gyo, a 29-year-old resident in Seoul, began to turn his eye ... Read more »

A digital platform to manage retail business

(Getty Images/iStockphoto) ✕ Business Reporter: A digital platform to manage retail business Edward M Durbin, Director Global Retail Industry Group, VMware Despite online sales booming last year, retailers are in ... Read more »

TBA Group: The brand experience and live events experts

(Courtesy of TBA Group) ✕ Business Reporter: TBA Group: The brand experience and live events experts TBA Group has successfully developed its expertise over recent years as experience makers in ... Read more »

Double COVID vaccine makes you three times safer from the virus than no jab, new study shows

Researchers in the UK have found that people who’ve had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are three times less likely to test positive for the virus than unvaccinated people. ... Read more »

Flipkart's Big Saving Days sale kicks off on August 5: Here're some of the best deals on mobile phones

Flipkart’s Big Saving Days sale kicks off in India later tonight at 12:00 am (August 5). The e-retailer is set to introduce big discounts on a ton of different smartphones ... Read more »

These innovative shoe inserts could improve the lives of the visually impaired

A Japanese startup has announced an in-shoe navigation system to support people who are visually impaired with walking. The futuristic gadget is made up of a vibration device that wraps ... Read more »

Hundreds of Eurostar passengers turned their backs on the turmoil of coronavirus testing

These passengers are warning others.Photo: Jess Winfield Free Dutch coronavirus testing for travelers will be accepted on Eurostar trains as long as the scheme is in place. The British Embassy ... Read more »

How to be inclusive, not elusive: The 4Cs of product design

A few weeks ago, we wrote about why inclusive and accessible tech remains elusive. After the story was out, a couple of well-meaning readers pointed out two aspects in the ... Read more »

Lollapalooza a 'recipe for disaster,' experts warn. Should music festivals be canceled during COVID?

The sight was striking. As COVID-19 cases surged in the U.S. last weekend, Chicago’s downtown was a sea of mostly unmasked humanity, with hundreds of thousands crowding together for the ... Read more »

Life in plastic: COVID-19 vaccine scientist honoured with Barbie doll

Professor Sarah Gilbert, who led the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine development, has been honoured a Barbie in her likeness. The doll is meant to celebrate her achievement during the pandemic and inspire ... Read more »

Zola movie: Read the epic true story behind the new film

Zola is the film inspired by a wild Twitter thread that went viral in 2015. That year, Twitter thread by user @_zolarmoon published a string of posts that detailed an ... Read more »

Fake COVID-19 certificate sales rise as health passes become mandatory

With COVID-19 certificates becoming mandatory around the world, some people are turning to social platforms like Telegram to buy fake health passes, at a cost of around 100€. In just ... Read more »

The delta variant is 'ripping through the unvaccinated' and crowding hospitals in Florida, Texas

For the week ending July 29, 110,477 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida, according to state health officials. With more than 1,000 COVID patients at hospitals across its six-county ... Read more »

Mum reveals $10 reason son can't have 'normal life'

For Lykera Parker, seeing another child walk can trigger a pang of sadness. Because she knows that while her son Kalarny is as bubbly and outgoing as any four-year-old, he ... Read more »

COVID-19: Cases fall in the Netherlands and UK, while Italy and Romania push vaccines

While COVID-19 cases fall in some European countries, others fear a fourth wave of infections is underway. Cases in the Netherlands have fallen by 44% compared to last week, according ... Read more »

Kathy Griffin says lung surgery ‘went well' days after revealing cancer diagnosis

Kathy Griffin has updated fans on her health after revealing that she has been diagnosed with lung cancer. On Monday (2 August), the comedian announced on Twitter that she was ... Read more »

Department of Energy to provide $100 million for high energy physics research

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science announced a plan to provide $100 million over the next four years for university-based research on a range of high ... Read more »

Supporting employee health and wellbeing during good times and bad

(Istockphoto.com-id1202048827 ) More than 85 per cent of employees around the world report a decline in their overall wellbeing since the start of the pandemic, according to a recent Harvard ... Read more »

Leaving cervical cancer nowhere to hide in underserved countries

Recognising that cancer is a major challenge for sustainable development, the United Nations has committed to reduce mortality from cancer and other non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030, as one ... Read more »

Fortitude Valley and West End added to soaring list of exposure sites

Two popular inner-Brisbane precincts are the latest suburbs to be dragged into the city’s growing Delta cluster. Venues in Fortitude Valley and West End were added to the soaring list ... Read more »

The Suicide Squad: BBFC responds to ‘shock' over film's age rating

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has explained its decision to give The Suicide Squad a 15 age rating following confusion from cinemagoers. Those who went to see James ... Read more »

Schools implement mask mandates even as some states impose bans; US reports one case every second: Live COVID-19 updates

The U.S. Department of Education Monday released a roadmap for the return to school this fall, encouraging districts to invest in physical and emotional support for students. Among the roadmap’s ... Read more »

Cobblestone stones honor WWII gay and lesbian resistance fighters

Karel Pekelharing stone. Photo: DutchNews.nl Nine Jewish gay and lesbian resistance figurines are to be given their own “Stolperstein” or commemorative street tiles in front of their last known address. ... Read more »

Covid UK news – live: Vaccine to be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds as UK sees highest deaths since mid-March

✕ Close Coronavirus in numbers The coronavirus vaccination programme looks set to be rolled out to more than a million 16- and 17-year-olds. It is expected ministers will on Wednesday ... Read more »

WhatsApp's ‘View Once' feature for photos and videos is here

WhatsApp is joining the disappearing photos and videos club. The company today officially began rolling out a ‘View Once‘ feature that allows content to disappear from your phone. The feature ... Read more »

Obese mice lose weight ‘sweating out' fat in an immune system experiment, despite eating more

In search of better treatments for type 2 diabetes and other consequences of obesity, Taku Kambayashi has long wondered if he could harness a bodily function that most think about ... Read more »

NYC will have the first government-issued vaccine mandate in the US. Here's what we know.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio just mandated proof of vaccination for indoor restaurants, gyms and performance venues. Here’s how that will work. Read more »

Microsoft: Use deadline policies and a 'cloud cadence mindset' for faster patching

Credit: Microsoft / IDG Microsoft last week said the most important Windows policies enterprises can set to speed up Windows servicing are those configuring deadlines. “Setting Compliance Deadlines is the ... Read more »

Waikeria Prison Horticulture trainees donate 7000 plants to DoC for Whangamarino wetland

About 7000 native plants grown at Waikeria Prison have been donated to the Department of Conservation (DoC) and planted in internationally significant Whangamarino wetland, near Te Kauwhata. Whangamarino covers almost ... Read more »

Tyler Cruickshank: Who is the Love Island 2021 contestant?

Love Island is about to welcome three more singletons to the villa, just as the drama is kicking off among those already there. On Wednesday (21 July), a trio of ... Read more »

Kaz Kamwi: Meet the Love Island 2021 contestant

Love Island fever has officially descended upon us – the latest season of the popular reality series is well underway. After a year away from TV screens, the ITV2 show ... Read more »

Forestry course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa gives young father new perspective in life

Charlie Wallace, 18, has previously had some struggles, including minor brushes with the law, but has turned his life around after completing a forestry course through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa ... Read more »

Abi Rawlings: Who is the Love Island 2021 star?

Love Island is back, with the villa finally playing host to drama after far too many weeks of tedium. A major part of that has been tattoo artist Abigail Rawlings, ... Read more »

Chloe Burrows: Who is Love Island 2021 contestant?

Love Island is back – and that means a new line-up of telegenic singletons vying for true love and £50,000. The hit ITV2 reality series was postponed last summer due ... Read more »

Toby Aromolaran: Who is the Love Island contestant and what football team does he play for?

After a year away due to the pandemic, Love Island is finally back on our screens. Among the names in the villa this year is that of Toby Aromolaran, a ... Read more »

Peak hospital admissions seems to have been reached, 44% fewer new infections

Increase in IC In the past week, 541 new COVID-19 hospitalizations were registered compared to 564 the week before. “In the past week, there were 130 new admissions to the ... Read more »

The Path to Forgiveness When Someone Hurts You: How to Forgive, Let Go, and Protect Yourself

When you’ve been hurt by someone you trust, you might feel angry or resentful, especially if it keeps happening. Forgiving the person who is hurting you can rid you of ... Read more »