Note: Data in the charts last updated on June 21 at 7 a.m. EDT.
A new study in Nature shows how herd immunity works when a large amount of fully vaccinated people can help protect those still unvaccinated. The researchers studied Israel, which has a high level of full vaccination among people 16 and older, and determined “that, for each 20 percentage points of individuals who are vaccinated in a given population, the positive test fraction for the unvaccinated population decreased approximately twofold.” As it concluded: “These results provide observational evidence that vaccination not only protects individuals who have been vaccinated but also provides cross-protection to unvaccinated individuals in the community.”
Yet even that protection isn’t enough to stop outbreaks, especially when it comes to variants of concern. Yukon has 61 per cent of its entire population fully vaccinated, with 70.9 per cent having at least one dose. If it were a country, then it would being in the No. 1 slot on a vaccination list (Israel has fully vaccinated 57 per cent of its population with 61 per cent having at least one dose.)
In the past week, Yukon has reported 83 cases of COVID-19, almost half of its cumulative total of 187 for the entire pandemic. The disease is “now widely circulating throughout Yukon,” the government said in a press release on the weekend, with community transmission spreading among those who still aren’t vaccinated. At least 35 cases have been identified as being the Gamma (P.1) variant of concern, which ripped through the resort town of Whistler, B.C., earlier in the year. “If you have symptoms that feel like a cold right now, you should consider that it is COVID-19,” stated Dr. Brendan Hanley, chief medical officer of health.
The speed at which COVID-19 is spreading through Yukon is a reminder that, even if Canada were to fully vaccinated every eligible resident, then those under 12, who account for around 12 per cent of the population, would still remain unprotected as they currently aren’t eligible for shots.
The outbreaks in Yukon come on the heels of similar outbreaks in northern Ontario and in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, which are linked to the newest variant, Delta (B.1.617.2), which is up to 50 per cent more transmissible than the older dominant strain of Alpha (B.1.1.7).
At the same time, overall case counts continue to drop. On June 20, Canada’s daily average of new cases was 958, marking the first time it had dipped below 1,000 since Sept. 19. And it’s a marked drop from the peak of the third wave just two months ago, when the Canadian daily average hit 8,79 on April 18.
Vaccination efforts across the country, which are at record levels, are set to jump again as millions of doses of Moderna vaccine arrive in the country. Provinces are rapidly expanding eligibility criteria for getting second doses. In Ontario, which is averaging around 185,000 doses a day, second-dose eligibility expanded by 632,000 last week while another 2.3 million can book appointments as of Monday, June 21, according to data that Maclean’s obtained from the provincial Ministry of Health.
For the week that ended on June 19, Canada reported 161 deaths due to COVID-19. That’s the lowest weekly count since mid-October, and marks a continued acceleration in the decline of the weekly tally. Four weeks ago, the number of deaths had declined 7 per cent from the previous week. Now, the weekly decrease is 19 per cent. Of the seven provinces and one territory (Yukon) that reported deaths, the most were in Ontario, which accounted for 78 COVID-19 deaths.
June 21 note: As of June 20, 75.2 per cent of eligible Canadians 12 and older (and 76.8 per cent of adults) have received at least one dose of vaccine while 21.2 per cent have two doses; 350,000 doses were administered across the country on that day.