After 3 years of COVID-19, here’s how Canada’s ‘endemic’ future may look – National
On March 11, 2020, the world screamed to a halt when the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic.
Schools around the world have closed, workplaces have become remote, and the rapid spread of the virus has exposed the fragility of many countries’ health systems.Since then the virus 7 million livesmore than 51,000 Canadians.
COVID-19 now appears to be in a ‘steady state’ in Canada
Fast forward 3 years, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are down, Over 70% of Canadians have been infected with the virus at least once, effective vaccines and treatments Coupled with previous infections, many were able to lead somewhat normal lives again.
Some experts now say the pandemic is progressing slowly transition to epidemic — When a disease like COVID-19 is often present consistently within a particular region or area. Examples include influenza, malaria, Ebola, and hepatitis B.
“I think we’re seeing the point,” explained Dr. Zayn Chagra, an infectious disease physician and associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.
“Since the pandemic began, mortality rates have declined, we have seen health care utilization slow down, and we have seen people develop immunity to this,” he said. I was.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Teresa Tam, echoed this sentiment.
At a press conference on Friday, she said Canadians shouldn’t expect COVID-19 to surge in the coming months.
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“Canada is now at a point where COVID-19 activity has reached a relatively steady state. There have been no distinct subspecies waves in recent months,” she said. “Over the past six to eight months, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have remained relatively stable despite the continued spread of Omicron variants.”
In light of the good news, Chagra warned that COVID-19 will be around “for quite some time as it reaches every corner of the planet.” This means there are future challenges with infections and hospitalizations. Like the flu every year.
But if the virus is here to stay, can society recover, at least for the foreseeable future, when the persistent threat of new variants remains just over the horizon?
“Adapt to this new reality”
Chagla warned that new variants are likely to circulate, but the impact may not be as severe as in 2020 or 2021.
“Many people have been infected with Omicron or have been vaccinated, and most of the population has seen the virus and the vaccine, so the barriers for destabilizing health are high,” he explained. Did.
Danielle Rice, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at McMaster University, said if there were more subspecies on the horizon, it might cause anxiety for some, but many people would He said he may be accustomed to the consistent threat of new variants.
Rice, who is also a clinical and health psychologist at St. Joseph’s Health Care, said people’s mental health was “resilient” during COVID-19 and is likely to continue.
“There have been challenges such as people who may be struggling with the reality that we may be living with COVID-19, but on the other side are people adapting to this new reality.” she explained.
“Generally, this is how anxiety works: the more you are exposed to something, the less anxiety you face.”
Will there be future tests?
Chagla said testing for COVID-19 may not be as widespread, although new variants may emerge in the future.
Instead, he added, messages from health officials might just let you stay home if you’re sick.
“I think the instruction to stay home when sick is more effective from a long-term perspective,” he explained. and.”
At the end of January, Health Canada announced it would stop shipping rapid antigen tests to provinces and territories.
Ottawa and state health officials have stockpiled millions of rapid tests, so supplies aren’t an issue. But demand appears to be weakening, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ottawa has stopped shipping COVID-19 rapid tests
Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said:
“So a year or so from now, rapid testing may not always be useful,” he told Global News.
As the virus mutates over time, the emergence of new variants has also reduced the sensitivity of antigen tests, Evans said.
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But Evans argued that reducing supplies could make it harder for people who want to continue testing themselves, and many may end up having to bear the costs. bottom.
If people end up having to buy them, Evans speculates that most people won’t be keen to spend out of their own pockets.
And what about future boosters?
last week, Canada’s National Immunization Advisory Board Starting this spring, I advised those at high risk to get another booster shot of COVID-19.
According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendations, people at high risk of serious illness, including the elderly, those living in long-term care facilities, and Canadians with weakened immune systems, should: Additional vaccinations may be offered.
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Chagra explained that focusing on increasing the population at risk is likely the approach Canadian health officials will continue to use in the future.
“We’re starting to see a shift[of booster campaigns]to focus on the most at-risk populations and less on the lower-risk populations,” Chagla said.
He noted that although vaccination coverage is declining among the lowest-risk populations, it is still too early to tell whether Canada will soon recommend annual COVID-19 boosters.
In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told scientific advisers to simplify COVID-19 vaccination, encouraging most adults and children to get an annual shot to protect against the virus. requested that it be considered.
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Under this proposal, Americans would no longer have to keep track of how many injections they received or how many months had passed since their last booster.
Canadian health officials have not said if they are considering similar proposals, but Health Canada said in a statement to Global News that the NACI “has no evidence of the potential need or benefits of booster shots. Including, we will continue to monitor evolving evidence and update our recommendations as follows.” need. “
“Back to normal life”
As Canadians begin to enter a new chapter of COVID-19, federal health officials are moving to treat the virus like a “recurring disease,” with experts forgetting about vulnerable populations. I warn you not to.
“Entering this pandemic phase … for most people, it means a return to normal.
“If we are going to reduce testing, we need to make sure that testing is still happening for high-risk populations. We need to be able to inoculate.”
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She explained that pre-pandemic society was focused on protecting infants, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems from being infected during cold and flu season.
It will be the same battle going forward with COVID-19.
“These are transferable skills that can actually respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and potentially head towards this endemic situation,” she said.
— Using files from Teresa Wright and Saba Aziz of Global News