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The Woburn CI gym in Scarborough is filled with vaccine stations at Scarborough Health Network’s pop-up vaccine clinic on April 22, 2021. Some people camped out overnight, while many lined up at 7 a.m. and waited hours to get a ticket to return for an appointment.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Canada needs to make much more headway on the administration of the second shot of COVID-19 vaccines and the vast majority of adults need to have their first shot before the country can safely start lifting restrictions, the public-health agency said Friday.

To avoid another surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada showed at least 75 per cent of adults need to have their first vaccine shot and 20 per cent need to have their second shot. The information highlights that the acceptance of vaccines by the public is as important as the widespread availability of the shots.

Dodging the next wave

Two scenarios reveal how crucial a successful vaccination

campaign will be for Canada’s hopes of averting another

large surge in hospital cases of COVID-19 this year.

In each case, public-health measures are lifted after

20 per cent of Canadians have obtained a second dose.

Safe lifting scenario

First dose vaccine uptake is at least 75% among

adults Outcome: hospital capacity is not exceeded

Alternative scenario

First dose vaccine uptake is at least 55% among

adults Outcome: hospital capacity is widely

exceeded in Fall 2021

100

Vaccination

period

Measures

lifted

50

Hospital capacity

0

Feb. 2020

Jan. 2021

Jan. 2022

Jan. 2023

ivan semeniuk and john sopinski/THE GLOBE

AND MAIL SOURCE: public health agency canada

Dodging the next wave

Two scenarios reveal how crucial a successful vaccination campaign

will be for Canada’s hopes of averting another large surge in hospital

cases of COVID-19 this year. In each case, public-health measures are

lifted after 20 per cent of Canadians have obtained a second dose.

Safe lifting scenario

First dose vaccine uptake is at least 75% among adults

Outcome: hospital capacity is not exceeded

Alternative scenario

First dose vaccine uptake is at least 55% among adults

Outcome: hospital capacity is widely exceeded in Fall 2021

100

Vaccination

period

Measures

lifted

50

Hospital capacity

0

Feb. 2020

Jan. 2021

Jan. 2022

Jan. 2023

ivan semeniuk and john sopinski/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: public health agency canada

Dodging the next wave

Two scenarios reveal how crucial a successful vaccination campaign will be for Canada’s

hopes of averting another large surge in hospital cases of COVID-19 this year. In each case,

public-health measures are lifted after 20 per cent of Canadians have obtained a second dose.

Safe lifting scenario

First dose vaccine uptake is at least 75% among adults

Outcome: hospital capacity is not exceeded

Alternative scenario

First dose vaccine uptake is at least 55% among adults

Outcome: hospital capacity is widely exceeded in Fall 2021

100

Vaccination

period

Measures

lifted

50

Hospital capacity

0

Feb. 2020

Jan. 2021

Jan. 2022

Jan. 2023

ivan semeniuk and john sopinski/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: public health agency canada

“Achieving high vaccine uptake is crucial,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Friday. “The more people that get vaccinated, the safer it will be to lift restrictive public-health measures.”

The health agency reported that 24 per cent of the population has received its first shot and 2 per cent have received their second shot. The reporting of the information lags by one week and is accurate to April 17. The Friday modelling shows that Canada could hit enough vaccinations in July or August for authorities to start safely lifting restrictions.

Dr. Tam said the example set by Israel and Britain emphasizes the need for strong physical distancing restrictions to be kept in place while vaccination campaigns roll out. Both countries kept rules in place during their mass vaccination campaigns, she said, and avoided another surge in cases. In contrast, she said without tough measures the U.S. has not been able to successfully stamp out its latest wave despite widespread vaccinations. In April, Canada surpassed the U.S. rate of new COVID-19 cases per capita.

Coronavirus tracker: How many COVID-19 cases are there in Canada and worldwide? The latest maps and charts

Canada vaccine tracker: How many COVID-19 doses have been administered so far?

What you need to know if you’re offered the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 Social Impacts Network, a project that monitors public attitudes toward vaccines in Canada and the United States, said there has been a gradual but steady upward trend in vaccine acceptance in both countries. In Canada, 80 per cent of those surveyed say they now intend to get a COVID-19 vaccine, up from 63 per cent since last October. The respondents are a demographically representative group selected by the polling firm Leger.

“Clearly the people who have questions are getting some of their questions or fears addressed, so there’s room to move,” said Lori Wilkinson, a University of Manitoba sociologist who leads the project.

The numbers are less encouraging when the responses are broken down by vaccine. Just 53 per cent of Canadians said they would trust the AstraZeneca vaccine and 69 per cent would trust the vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson. Both vaccines have been connected to rare cases of blood clots, although health officials stress that COVID-19 remains a far greater heath risk in general.

On Friday, the National Advisory Council on Immunization lowered its recommended age for the AstraZeneca vaccine to 30 and over if they do not want to wait for an alternative. However, the next confirmed shipment of that vaccine is only in June.

Vaccine shipments, driven mostly by deliveries from Pfizer-BioNTech, will increase dramatically in May and it’s expected Canada will have more than enough vaccines for everyone eligible to get their first shot by June, with second doses also rolling out by then. However, the modelling shows that if public-health measures are lifted when just 55 per cent of adults have their first shot and 20 per cent have their second shot, then another wave of COVID-19 could hit Canada with “hospital capacity widely exceeded in Fall 2021.”

The federal modelling shows the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is levelling off. The change is owing to declines in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, Dr. Tam said. Provincial-level data shows the growth in cases in Alberta and Manitoba has not yet abated. The modelling that public-health officials release is meant to warn about possible surges in cases so that governments can impose stricter rules before hospitals are overwhelmed.

Truth in numbers

Ontario’s third and now worst wave of the COVID-19

pandemic was accurately predicted by a model

made available to the province in February.

Model prediction

Infections prior to forecast

Infections after forecast

95% certainty

5 thousand

Forecast

date

Lifting of

stay-at-

home

order

4

3

2

1

0

Dec.

Jan.

Feb.

April

March

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: mcmaster university

Truth in numbers

Ontario’s third and now worst wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

was accurately predicted by a model made available to the

province in February.

Model prediction

Infections prior to forecast

Infections after forecast

95% certainty

5 thousand

Forecast

date

Lifting of

stay-at-

home

order

4

3

2

1

0

Dec.

Jan.

Feb.

April

March

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: mcmaster university

Truth in numbers

Ontario’s third and now worst wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was accurately

predicted by a model made available to the province in February.

Model prediction

Infections prior to forecast

Infections after forecast

95% certainty

5 thousand

Forecast

date

Lifting of

stay-at-

home

order

4

3

2

1

0

Dec.

Jan.

Feb.

April

March

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, soURCE: mcmaster university

In Ontario, which is in the midst of the country’s worst wave of the pandemic so far in terms of total cases, a rapid increase in variant cases was foreseen in epidemiological models more than two months ago.

On Monday, a team at Hamilton’s McMaster University that provides information to Ontario’s modelling table posted its Feb. 21 forecast showing what would happen if the province loosened public-health restrictions. At that time, case numbers were dropping but the variants had not yet taken off.

“My real hope was that seeing that graph would be enough to make them think we’d better not open up,” said David Earn, a mathematician who leads the McMaster group.

Instead, measures were lifted in early March and cases climbed steeply, almost exactly as the model predicted. At that point, the fraction of people who had received a COVID-19 vaccine was too small to affect the outcome.

“It was a race between the spread of this thing and getting vaccine coverage high enough – and we clearly lost,” said Troy Day, a mathematical biologist at Queen’s University in Kingston who also sits on the province’s modelling table.

The new federal models show why vaccination is now so crucial to avoiding a repeat of the same scenario across the country this fall.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government has struck a deal with Pfizer to buy vaccine booster shots in 2022 and 2023, with an option for 2024. The federal government did not allocate any money in future years for COVID-19 vaccines and the government did not clarify on Friday if the deals required upfront payment or payment on delivery.

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