Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, September 10, 2021

September 10, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the mental health of Canadians. World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to raise awareness, provide hope and promote actions that help prevent suicide.

This year’s theme is “Creating Hope Through Action”. If you are interested in learning more about World Suicide Prevention Day activities in Canada, please visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: suicideprevention.ca

If you think someone you know may be considering suicide, you can help by listening to them and showing you care. Get support from a local crisis centre. There is also the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (1-833-456-4566), Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), the Hope for Wellness Help Line (1-855-242-3310) for Indigenous people, 1 866 APPELLE (1-866-277-3553) for Quebec residents, and the Wellness Together Canada online portal which offers free and confidential mental health and substance use support, available 24/7.

National epidemiology and modelling results, presented last week, show how the Delta-driven resurgence could evolve through the fall and winter. COVID-19 vaccines continue to demonstrate substantial protection against infection and serious illness; however, now that many restrictions have eased, and with activities moving indoors, we could see infection rates increase to levels higher than we’ve seen thus far. Due to predominance of the rapidly spreading and more severe Delta variant, there is a risk that hospitalisation rates could overwhelm capacity, unless we quickly increase vaccination coverage or implement other measures to slow the continued acceleration.

Nationally, the average number of daily new cases reported is now over 3,700. On average, 1,600 people with COVID-19 are being treated in our hospitals each day, including 546 in intensive care units and an average of 18 deaths are being reported daily. Reported cases, severe illness and death are predominantly occurring among unvaccinated people. From late July to late August, the average weekly rate of new COVID-19 cases was 12 times higher, while the average weekly rate of hospitalisations was 36 times higher in unvaccinated people than in fully vaccinated people.

This week we reached 85% coverage with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines and 78% fully vaccinated coverage for the eligible population 12 years or older in Canada. But, with 7.3 million eligible Canadians, not yet fully vaccinated with two doses, and 4.8 million too young to get the vaccine, there are still far too many susceptible people and opportunities for the virus to spread. From the community level up and across all eligible age groups, every vaccination counts. Stopping one infection prevents a chain of transmission, to potentially protect many other people. Likewise, your vaccination protects you and indirectly protects others who can’t get vaccinated or who may not mount a strong immune response.

This is why it is so important to take action quickly. Increasing the overall rate of vaccinations and raising fully vaccinated coverage among young adults aged 18-39 years in particular, could slow epidemic growth enough to reduce the risk of exceeding healthcare capacity through the winter. Rapidly achieving these gains could also reduce the need for more disruptive measures that may be needed to control activity if and when healthcare capacity is threatened.

Today Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released updated advice regarding an additional or third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for moderately or severely immunocompromised people, who are more likely to have had a less than adequate immune response to their initial 1 or 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine series. NACI continues to examine the need for booster doses, which unlike additional doses, are intended to restore initially adequate immune protection that may have waned over time.

Regardless of our vaccination status, we can all take steps to lower our risk, while supporting and protecting others, including those at high risk. Continuing our well-practiced wash – mask –space habits and finding safer ways to connect, continue to be important COVID-19 prevention practices!

Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.

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Public Health Agency of Canada