I hope you had a lovely weekend with your family.
Let’s jump right into the bad news, good news, the most common questions of the week, and my silver lining.
What’s the bad news?
234 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, with almost 4.8 million deaths attributable to the illness.
In Canada, there have been over 1.6 million cases and almost 28,000 deaths.
School-aged kids now account for the highest percentage of COVID cases of any demographic in Toronto. This is most likely because this age group is not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The case rate in kids 4-11 has steadily increased since schools reopened in September and is now 64/100,000, up from 57/100,000 last week. According to Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, most infections are tied to household infections versus outbreaks in the classroom.
New data suggests that 26% of known COVID-19 cases in Ontario are associated with schools. As of Friday afternoon, the Ministry of Education was aware of 1450 active cases in schools across Ontario. One school in Courtice, Ontario, is closed.
Last year there were no more than 280 active cases, but this was pre-Alpha and Delta strains, and the school year started a week later.
In Saskatchewan, cases continue to rise, with most of those admitted to ICU and dying being unvaccinated. The Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahb, warned last week that citizens will not be able to celebrate the winter holidays or New Year’s with loved ones at the current rate.
The Red Cross and Canadian Armed Forces are trying to curb the significant mortality rate in Alberta. COVID-19 patients are being triaged; this is worrisome.
A possible link between the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and rare cases of deep vein thrombosis (clotting) was identified last week. As a result, this side effect was added to the list of side effects from the shot.
A slight increased risk of myocarditis and pericarditis in young adults who receive Moderna has led Ontario to recommend Pfizer over Moderna in people 18-24 years.
Dr. Dina, what’s the good news
Over 80% of eligible Canadian’s are vaccinated. This represents about 70% of the whole population when you take out kids 11 and younger who are not eligible.
The Ontario Science Table released optimistic projections last week. New cases, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions are not increasing. However, they found a wide range of projections and mentioned a high degree of instability as we soon move activities more indoors as it gets colder outside.
They suggest that continued control over cases requires high vaccination rates alongside ongoing public health measures.
More people are testing.
But fewer people are testing positive for COVID-19.
More people are vaccinated.
And vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death.
Questions of the week
When will the COVID vaccine be available for kids in Canada?
Pfizer submitted initial trial data on their vaccine for kids age 5-11 to Health Canada on Friday. Pfizer says their data showed a robust immune response in the 2268 kids they gave it to. The dosage given to these kids was 1/3 the dose that adults and teenagers get now.
Canada’s chief medical advisor, Supriya Sharma, said, “we would only authorize if it was shown that the benefits outweigh the risks, specifically for this group of individuals from five to eleven.” Full submission to Health Canada is expected by mid-October.
Is there is a pill for COVID-19?
Merck announced last week that they have created a pill that decreases the risk of hospitalization or dying from COVID in HALF. This oral antiviral medication has not been reviewed by regulators yet, and their data has not been peer-reviewed. But it is exciting if it is effective and safe.
Do COVID vaccines and other vaccines need to be given at different times or separated?
The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) announced last week that COVID-19 vaccines may be given simultaneously or any time before or after any other vaccines.
This is a big deal, as many of us worried about the timing of flu shots with COVID-19 vaccines this Fall and Winter, fearing we would have to time each vaccine 1-2 months apart.
There is a possibility of increased temporary side effects when a COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine are given at the same time or within a few days of each other, but no severe side effects are predicted.
When possible, giving vaccines at the same time is recommended versus administering a few days apart.
Should people 18-24 years of age receive Pfizer or Moderna?
Ontario Public Health recommends using the Pfizer vaccine in young adults instead of Moderna, as there is an increased risk of myocarditis/pericarditis following Moderna vaccination versus the Pfizer one. The risk is more common in males versus females. Currently, only Pfizer is recommended for kids 12-17 years of age in Ontario.
What do we know about Long COVID now?
According to the Ontario Science Table, 1/10 people with COVID will have symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks. The most common symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, pain, and ‘brain fog.’ This can impact people of any age and is not related to the severity of COVID illness. We want to continue to protect ourselves from infection.
The silver lining of the week
This weekend I ate inside a restaurant. This was the first time I dined indoors in almost two years. While I had been on patios for the last few months, eating indoors with strangers was anxiety-provoking for me.
My silver lining this week is that my community feels less scary to me now. We have a high vaccination rate and a stable rate of illness. I was comfortable sitting at a distance of other fully vaccinated people. It took some getting used to, but I got over the hump, and I am happy we can be freer now. And the meal tasted so good!
I hope you enjoy these warm Fall days, your kids are thrilled to be back in school, and you are healthy and happy.
Have a wonderful week, friends,
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.