As Canada continues to hit further thresholds in vaccinating its population against COVID-19, the country’s top doctor is warning that still unvaccinated populations — especially children under the age of 12 — are at risk of another outbreak of the virus.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters that the risk of future outbreaks in vaccinated and under-vaccinated populations was “a reality going forward.”
She pointed to the Yukon as an example of a community having a highly vaccinated population that still saw an outbreak in its under-vaccinated younger population, which then spread to other populations such as young kids in daycares.
“So one does have to still have some plans in place in terms of reducing risk in those settings in which children will congregate,” she said.
Tam said several measures, like better ventilation, were now being considered to help protect kids from infection, especially heading into the fall school semester.
“It is a difficult space at the moment, but I think the objective is to keep children engaged in social and school settings for as much as possible.”
Keeping up high vaccination rates in the community as well as low transmission rates was also a key aspect in helping younger populations who have not received their vaccines yet, Tam said.
Currently, COVID-19 vaccines have still not been approved by Health Canada for those under the age of 12. Both the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are approved for ages 18 and up, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for those 12 and older.
To date, at least 68 per cent of Canada’s population has received one dose and 39.9 per cent have been fully vaccinated, after taking into account those under the age of 12.
New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Russell said earlier this week that while there are less serious outcomes from contracting the disease for younger people, “any unvaccinated part of our population is at a higher risk of contracting COVID.”
A Pfizer spokesperson said that they hope to submit potential approval for their vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 sometime in the September-October timeframe.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said that authorized vaccine manufacturers were still planning or conducting studies for young children.
Canada on Thursday added another 565 new cases of COVID-19, pushing total cases in the country to over 1,419,000.
Another 18 deaths were reported as well, raising the country’s death toll to 26,405, while a total of 1,387,265 patients have since recovered from COVID-19.
Vaccine uptake in Canada is continuing to increase at a rapid pace. The country administered another 621,000 doses on Thursday, bringing the total number of vaccinations administered in Canada to over 41.3 million.
Over 78 per cent of all eligible Canadians have since received one dose while 45 per cent are now fully vaccinated.
— With files from Callum Smith