More than 80 percent of eligible Ontarians are now fully immunized against COVID-19 and with the possibility that the vaccine will be offered to young children in the coming months, the familiar wave-of-pandemic pattern of new infections may soon follow. can calm down.
Scientists believe that as more people increase their immunity to the virus through vaccination or infection, cases in Ontario are on track to fall to endemic levels in early spring, provided that a more transmissible and The vaccine-hiding version doesn’t lag behind his head during this time.
The implication of COVID-19 being endemic – that is, virus infection occurring at some consistent baseline level in a population – is that we simply have to learn to live with it.
“Unless we can vaccinate beyond the level of herd immunity, we will always have cases,” said David Earn, professor of mathematics and faculty of science research chair in mathematical epidemiology at McMaster University. “The herd immunity is this wonderful goal that seemed plausible at the start of the pandemic, but the delta version is so contagious and the vaccines aren’t perfect at stopping transmission, I think it’s an unattainable goal at the moment.”
Living with an endemic spread of COVID should not be a life sentence for our work and social lives, nor for our economy; To date, vaccination against the virus has proven to be incredibly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Experts hold a ray of hope that COVID will become like other endemic diseases to which we have become accustomed, such as influenza and rhinovirus, which cause the common cold, resulting in neither widespread negative health consequences nor Only serious public health restrictions.
In other words, we accept some risk but we don’t let it ruin our life.
“That’s the goal with vaccines – to make it so that we can turn a serious illness into a mild disease,” said Dr. Jeff Kwang, professor of public health and family medicine at the University of Toronto. “You get COVID and it’s like a cold… you’ll be sick for a few days, you’ll be fine and then you can go on with your life.”
While the hope is that we may reach the level of COVID-19 endemicity sometime early next year after immunization of children aged five to 11 in Canada, such an aspiration may be even more of a type. The emergence of the mighty can calm down. Permeable compared to the formidable delta, a landscape experts say is not out of the realm of possibility.
Already a new variant, called mu, has spread to nearly 50 countries, including Canada, since it was first detected in Colombia in January. Mu, which was added to the World Health Organization list of interest types In August, immunity is thought to be better at escaping than Delta, but it does not seem to be as permeable. Still, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist and WHO’s COVID-19 technical chief, says delta, which is on the WHO’s list of more serious types of concern, is prominent worldwide.
“In countries that have both mu and delta, delta outnumbers mu,” Verkov Said during the WHO media briefing this week, noting that the delta has now spread to over 185 countries.
“It’s more permeable and it’s surpassing other forms”, she said.
While endemism seems like the worst option at least, given that there will remain pockets of unvaccinated people across all age groups, if the delta turns into something stronger through its continued transmission, it will take more to get there. It may take time.
The more a virus reproduces, the more opportunities there are for random mutations to be introduced. Most mutations do nothing, but occasionally a virus will develop “gain-of-function” mutations that can make it more infectious and resilient. In the worst case, the delta changes to the point where it can get around our immune systems and vaccines.
“Unfortunately SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that is demonstrating that it may have evolved in a way that is relevant,” Arn said. “We have to get to the point where most of the world is vaccinated to reduce the number of new growth opportunities.”
On that score, Ontario has done relatively well. More than 86 percent of adults in the province have now received at least one dose, while about 81 percent have been fully vaccinated. And Pfizer-BioNtech announced this week that it plans to submit encouraging data on testing its vaccine in children aged five to 11 to the US Food and Drug Administration sometime next month, seeking approval in this country. may come before the end. Year.
Just this week, British Columbia health official Dr. Bonnie Henry said that his province is “actively preparing” to introduce the Pfizer vaccine to children between the ages of six and 11, if Health Canada approves it.
Dr. Andrew Morris, infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said most parents would be willing to vaccinate their children, but some would not.
“It is important that we do not alienate those who are sincerely concerned about the lack of data, especially because we know that the study sample size, about 1,500 vaccinations taking place, is insufficient to assure us of safety, ” They said. “That being said, for COVID, the vaccine is always better than the infection.”
Getting into the arms of young children won’t stop the pandemic, Ontario’s Scientific Director Dr. Peter Juni insists COVID-19 Science Advisory TableBut the face of it may change as we may become less concerned with the risk of transmission in schools. This will translate into fewer odds of being forced to close classes or schools due to outbreaks, as well as less chance that Ontario’s limited number of pediatric ICU beds become overwhelmed by infected children.
“The dangers for five to 11-year-olds in this pandemic were not as high as of now. For children, unlike all other age groups, there is no vaccine protection that partially compensates for the risk associated with delta…” The point is, once we vaccinate children, we have There will be one less parameter that we need to consider while controlling the pandemic.”
For its part, Pfizer Canada says it plans to file its testing data to Health Canada to support potential authorization, but could not provide a specific timeline.
“We share the urgency to provide data that can help support regulatory authorities’ decision to make the vaccine available to school-aged children as soon as possible,” said Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antonio.
Why won’t vaccinating children end the pandemic? Juni explained that there are still many people in other age groups who remain unvaccinated. Instead endemism would come through more painful means.
“It is this bumpy infection to endemic that includes the majority of people who are not getting infected and therefore developing immunity,” he said. “The final limit is actually reached when more than 95 percent of the entire population has reached immunity in some way.”