I hope you had a wonderful week and your kids are enjoying the start of the school year.
Thank you for all the lovely feedback on the newsletter last week. I am so grateful for your comments and encouragement. You are welcome to share with loved ones, or they can subscribe here.
As we do each week, let’s review the bad news, the good news, and the most common questions of the week. Finally, we will end on my silver lining.
What is the bad news?
More than 231 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide. The reported global death toll stands at more than 4.7 million. This is likely a significant underestimate.
There have been 1.6 million cases in Canada, with around 27,600 deaths.
Last week it was reported that 1/500 Americans have DIED from COVID. I couldn’t believe this figure. But after much review, it is true. As of last Tuesday, 663,913 people in the U.S. had died of COVID-19. The U.S. population was 331.4 million as of April 2020. 1/480 Black Americans have died, 1/390 Hispanic Americans, and 1/240 Native Americans have died from this illness. This is disheartening and devastating.
Alaska took the drastic step last week of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system. As a result, a significant surge of COVID-19 has forced the rationing of strained medical resources.
As the numbers climb, it can be challenging to put the significance into perspective. We can become desensitized to the lives lost. Two thousand new deaths are being reported each day in the U.S. alone. More than 675,000 white flags were planted beneath the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. to memorialize those who have died from COVID. More flags are being planted hourly.
This photo essay is worth looking at. My heart goes out to every single person who has lost a loved one to this illness.
Alberta hospitals remain filled with COVID patients, and their ICUs are overwhelmed. The Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to help. Aircraft will be transferring ICU patients across the country.
Saskatchewan is also in trouble. They have the highest new daily hospitalization rate and second-highest death rate in Canada. Their children’s hospital ICU is taking adult patients. Sick Kids in Toronto did the same last summer as adult ICUs filled.
Importantly, Saskatchewan reports that 25% of new patients are kids under age 12, and 40% are under 19.
Through comparison (Eligible 12+), 85.8% of Ontarians have received one dose of a COVID vaccine, and 80.3% have received both. In Alberta, 84.1% have received one, and 72.5% have received both. In Saskatchewan, 79.1% have received one, and 70.6% have received both.
The vaccines work.
(I’m going to interrupt the newsletter briefly. Each week I receive a few nasty emails from anti-vaccine advocates. If you don’t believe in COVID-19 vaccines, that is your choice. But you don’t need to attack me for merely presenting the objective, scientifically sound data. I wish you well, but please stop emailing me.)
Dr. Dina, what is the good news?
Last week, we reached a vaccination milestone with 80% of eligible people (12 and older) now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is more than 26.5 MILLION Canadians!
86% of eligible Canadians have received their first dose, and almost 80% are fully vaccinated. This is remarkable.
Portugal is removing most COVID-19 restrictions after a very successful vaccine rollout. Almost 85% of their population is fully vaccinated. As of October 1, it will remove limits on how many people can be in restaurants, shopping malls, concerts, cinemas, weddings, and baptisms. Bars will reopen, although only for fully vaccinated people with negative COVID tests. Face masks will remain mandatory on public transportation, in malls, hospitals, and care homes.
Quebec’s National Assembly voted unanimously to pass a bill prohibiting anti-vaccine protestors from demonstrating near hospitals, COVID testing and vaccine centers, schools, and daycares. In addition, protesters will be fined up to $12,000. I know we would value this in Ontario and across the country.
What’s the deal with the Ontario vaccine passport?
Ontario began enforcing a vaccine passport for non-essential businesses last week.
How do you get your vaccine certificate?
There are two stages of vaccine passport rollout:
1. Go to the provincial website to retrieve your vaccine receipts. Print your receipts or save them as a PDF on your mobile device. This is your proof of vaccination.
2. October 22, 2021 – Ontario’s Q.R. code and verification app will come into effect.
Proof of a negative COVID-19 test or a recent infection will not replace the vaccine certificate.
If they are not vaccinated, people will not be prevented from accessing medical care, foods from a grocery store, or basic essentials.
- Ontarians will need proof of vaccine in most non-essential settings, such as:
- Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios)
- Nightclubs (including outdoor areas)
- Meeting and event spaces
- Sports and fitness facilities
- Sporting events
- Concerts, music festivals, theatres, and cinemas
Other public health measures, like distancing, masking, and screening, will still apply even in areas where you need a vaccine certificate.
What are the medical exemptions to the COVID vaccine?
There are two exemptions.
1. Allergic reaction to a component of the vaccine. An allergist or immunologist must confirm this.
2. Pericarditis or myocarditis after the first dose of the vaccine.
Is the Delta variant worse for kids?
There is no substantial evidence that kids get sicker from Delta, but it is more contagious and can spread more quickly.
The best data comes from the U.S. Weekly infection rates in September topped 250,000, according to the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than 5 million kids in the U.S. have had COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
In the U.S., the COVID hospitalization rate was less than 2/100,000 kids in September 2021, but the portion of kids requiring hospitalization from severe disease has not changed significantly. This is because most infected kids have a mild or asymptomatic infection and do not require hospitalization.
Notably, among kids who are vaccine-eligible (12 years and older), the weekly hospitalization rate in July 2021 was ten times higher for unvaccinated teens than those who had been vaccinated. (The vaccines work.)
Will we be able to eat our vaccine?
Now, this is cool. Scientists at the University of California, Riverside are studying whether they can turn edible plants, such as spinach and lettuce, into mRNA vaccines that people can grow independently.
They are looking to see if DNA containing mRNA vaccines can be successfully integrated into plant cells and whether plants can replicate enough mRNA as equivalents to vaccines.
Their goal: “Ideally, a single plant would produce enough mRNA to vaccinate a single person. We are testing this approach with spinach and lettuce and have long-term goals of people growing it in their own gardens. Farmers could also eventually grow entire fields of it.”
Another team of scientists, led by Dr. Allyson MacLean in Ottawa, is working on viral antigens in plants like lettuce and spinach too. Testing of their vaccine has already begun in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital.
If these edible vaccines work, they could be stored at room temperature, enabling more accessible storage and transport. And we could avoid the needles!
We have come a long way in less than two years!
My silver lining of the week
This last question highlights the silver lining of the week.
COVID came on fast and furious, quickly causing devastation the world over.
The speed at which researchers and scientists came together to create life-saving strategies is incredible.
With all the pro and anti-vax rhetoric out there now, we may not spend time thinking about the amazing scientific discoveries coming from this pandemic. Great minds from around the world, coming together with the same goal of keeping people alive and healthy. That is a great silver lining.
Imagine, one day, we are eating our vaccines in lettuce?!
Have a wonderful week, everyone.
Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.