Well, hello friends,
I hope you enjoyed your (first) week of March break. Some of your kids are off for another week. In true Ontario fashion, they have enjoyed beautiful, snowy days, then double digits temperatures and sunshine!
Let’s dive into the bad news and the good news of the week. I will answer your most common questions of the week and end on my silver lining.
Dr. Dina, what is the bad news?
There have been almost 3.4 million cases of COVID reported in Canada, with around 110,000 active cases and over 37,000 deaths.
There are currently over 3600 people hospitalized in Canada with COVID and 435 ICU admissions.
Over 460 million cases have been reported globally, with 6 million known deaths from COVID-19.
According to the World Health Organization, new COVID-related deaths dropped last week by 17%, but the number of new cases was up by 8%.
The Ontario Science Table released new projections last week. They note that case numbers, hospital and ICU admissions have stopped declining but are not trending upwards. They suggest that given the relaxation of public health measures, including masking, cases, admissions, and severe illness, will likely increase, but likely not as significantly as in January 2022.
They highlight the rise in cases. The risk of contracting COVID-19 will depend on the number of close contacts (especially indoors without masking), vaccination status, and the spread of the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant. Masking and complete vaccination (currently two doses for children, three doses for adults, and four for individuals living in long-term care facilities and other eligible high-risk groups) is the best defence against becoming infected with and spreading COVID.
What is the good news?
Over 11 BILLION vaccines have been given worldwide, representing 64% receiving the first dose and 57% receiving at least 2.
89% of eligible Canadians (12 years +) received one dose, and 86% received at least two.
Starting next week, travellers entering the United Kingdom will no longer be required to test for COVID before or after arriving.
As of April 1, fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada will not need to show proof of a negative COVID test. The Canadian government announced that we are entering into a ‘transition phase’ of the pandemic. Travellers may be subjected to random PCR testing at the airport and will need to use the ArriveCAN app for proof of vaccination.
Hospitalizations related to COVID are levelling off across Canada. Though case numbers have stabilized, the Ontario Health Minister cautions that the Omicron BA.2 variant spreads quickly and could soon account for half of the cases.
Questions of the week
Does Moderna’s vaccine work for kids?
Moderna announced last week that Canada authorized its COVID vaccine for use in children aged 6 and 11 years of age (the Pfizer vaccine is approved for kids five years and older). The Moderna vaccine was already approved for kids in Australia and the European Union. Moderna says its two-dose vaccine is as safe and effective at creating virus-neutralization antibodies in kids as in adolescents and adults.
Are there more antibodies in the breast milk of individuals who received an mRNA vaccine?
A study in JAMA Pediatrics found that 96% of lactating people who received the Pfizer vaccine and 97% of those who received the Moderna vaccine had detectable antibodies in their breast milk, compared with 48% of those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 39% who received the AstraZeneca vaccine. The researchers say that mRNA-based vaccines may be better for parents who want to transfer antibodies to their babies.
Is long-COVID a thing for kids?
Unfortunately, several studies demonstrate that many kids have symptoms weeks after infection. A recent analysis of 21 studies involving over 80,000 children and teens with COVID found that 25% of children have symptoms of long COVID. The researchers found that mood symptoms (such as anxiety), fatigue, and sleep disorders were the most common ongoing symptoms. They found that children with COVID were ten times more likely to experience loss of smell or taste and were twice as likely to have persistent breathing problems and ongoing fevers.
Does COVID cause croup in kids?
A study published in Pediatrics found a dramatic increase in cases of croup in children at the same time as cases of Omicron were at a peak. Children that had croup at this time had higher rates of hospitalization and the need for dexamethasone, the oral steroid we commonly give to children with respiratory distress from croup. The researchers say their findings lend compelling evidence that Omicron causes croup.
I, too, have seen numerous cases of COVID present as croup in the last three months.
Should we continue to wear masks?
I was asked hundreds of times last week if I continue to recommend mask use. I do. Masks are one of the most effective public health measures to reduce the likelihood of contracting and the transmission of COVID-19. As I reviewed last week, studies from the CDC demonstrate clearly that masking consistently reduced the incidence of COVID. Wearing a mask protects the person wearing it and those around them. Therefore, the community benefits from masking when more people are wearing them.
Should I complete the vaccine series?
I am also asked whether parents should get their boosters or give their child their second or third (booster) dose several times a day. My response: YES!
Data from Ontario and worldwide shows that many people are not getting their boosters, particularly young people and marginalized, vulnerable populations.
Being fully vaccinated leads to higher antibody levels and is protective against COVID, severe illness, and death.
My silver lining of the week
Winter can be depressing, isolating, and exhausting. There is something special about Spring. We have much more sunshine these days, and the snow is melting. Our family is spending a lot more time outside, riding our bikes, going for runs, and playing soccer or basketball. Moving our bodies outside is freeing and uplifting. Everyone is happier. And that is something to celebrate!
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.