Editorial – Prevent the fourth wave

Last week alarming data released by the Public Health Agency of Canada showed that spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant is increasing. Data from Public Health Ontario has seen over 200 new COVID-19 infections per day between July 28 and August 2. This number is slowly growing again and that has prompted warnings from Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam, that a fourth wave could be coming.

We saw this last year. After the Summer of 2020, with restrictions in place but activities allowed and lock-downs over, case counts began to increase. By September, the slow rise of the second wave of the pandemic had begun. By Christmas, schools were forced to close and more restrictions and shutdowns were in place. Along with the second and then third wave was the double tragedy of over-capacity hospitals and many deaths, mostly in long-term care homes.

There is a big difference between 2020 and 2021 – vaccines. Last year there was the promise of vaccines, this year many have received first and in some cases second doses. Data shows that vaccination mitigates the most serious consequences of a COVID-19 infection – death. During the second and third waves in early 2021, vaccines were delivered to those most at risk in long-term care homes. Fatality numbers plummeted as vaccine effectiveness was achieved. The success that has happened in decreasing COVID-19 infections and preventing serious illness has been due to vaccines.

Research by Johns Hopkins University Hospital shows that two dose vaccinations like Pfizer-BioNTech are up to 88 per cent effective at preventing the Delta variant. A single dose of a vaccine is only 36 per cent effective against that strain of COVID-19. People who are two-dose vaccinated can still contract the Delta variant, but severe outcomes are far less likely.

Knowing that two doses are better than one, and one dose is better than none, there are still those who have not rolled up their sleeves. And because of this, there are now thousands of doses set to expire and be wasted. There is no reason for this to happen. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit region lags behind much of the province for people between 12 and 29 who have not received two or even one dose of vaccine. The Delta variant is affecting more people in those age groups.

There are millions of Ontarians who cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19. These include over 1.3 million children under age 12 for whom no vaccine is yet approved. There are many who medically cannot take any of the vaccines currently available. For the rest of the province, there is no excuse not to get vaccinated against this deadly disease.

While we take exception to some public health officials styling the pandemic as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” we agree that this is now a pandemic of those who are unwilling to get vaccinated.

If we want life to return to more normalcy, those who can get vaccinated need to do so. To do less puts yourself and others at risk. Get vaccinated now so we can stop a fourth wave before it takes hold.

Since you’re here…

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