Ontario’s COVID-19 indicators are heading in the right direction ahead of what looks to be a “calm summer,” potentially followed by another round of vaccinations for people at high risk in the fall, the province’s top doctor said Thursday.
Dr. Kieran Moore, the chief medical officer of health, says COVID-19 levels in wastewater are declining, as is the test positivity rate and the number of people hospitalized due to the virus.
“If we continue along this trajectory, I think we’ll have a low level of endemic activity throughout the summer,” he said in an interview. “I think we’ll have a calm summer with intermittent activity throughout all of our communities.”
But Moore said he is already preparing for the fall, when more activities start to take place indoors, where the risk of transmission is higher.
“Over the summer, we’re working on catch up on third doses, also ensuring that those most at risk to severe outcomes _ so 60 years of age and up and/or immune deficient in any means, stay up to date with their vaccinations,” Moore said.
“Then in the fall, we would have another round of vaccine at a high-risk population level, that’s what we’re anticipating, potentially with a more specific vaccine for what’s circulating at present. So it may have a component protecting us against Omicron as well as the base vaccine.”
Moore said keeping up to date with vaccinations is key in stopping the spread, whether virus activity is high or low, and encouraged people to get booster doses because immunity wanes four to six months after the last dose.
Ontario has been offering fourth doses to everyone 60 and older since early April, but only 21.8 per cent of people in that age group have received four shots, Moore said. Among people 80 and older the uptake is 40 per cent, but fourth doses have been available to long-term care residents for much longer.
Moore said he is “very concerned” by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, which have been detected in South Africa but have not yet been detected in Ontario. They are 10 per cent more transmissible than the already highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant that took off in late winter in Ontario, he said.
It also has the potential to evade vaccine protections, Moore said.
“But it’s very early days,” he said. “We do think at present, though, there will be significant protection against severe outcomes still, and hence the strategy of maintaining the vaccine status up to date is key.”
Ontario reported 14 new deaths linked to COVID-19 Thursday, after reporting 29 new deaths on Wednesday.
The province said there are 1,451 people hospitalized with the virus, down from 1,528 the previous day. The number of people in intensive care decreased slightly to 175 from 176 the day before.