COVID-19: Canadian public health is preparing for the worst as the virus evolves | Coronavirus
Dr. Tam indicated that public health fears the emergence of variants that escape existing vaccines .
Canada's Chief Public Health Officer says she's preparing for “worst-case scenarios” in the evolution of the COVID-19 virus as cases appear to be on the rise in the fall.
Testifying before the Commons Health Committee on Tuesday, Dr. Theresa Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada was monitoring closely especially the evolution of Omicron variants, which are the most common subvariants in the country, but also any new mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which causes COVID-19.
We haven't detected any truly exceptional sightings so far, but it's a scenario we're preparing for, Dr. Tam said during her virtual testimony.
At the start of the pandemic, in 2020, the virus was mutating in all sorts of ways, because people were not immune due to previous infection or thanks to the vaccination.
Today, because the virus was somehow thwarted, several subvariants of Omicron began to develop identical mutations – a natural phenomenon called in biology “evolutionary convergence”.
When there is broad population immunity, the virus is under pressure to find new strengths, such as escaping our existing immunity, Dr. Tam explained. .
The worst-case scenario, she said, would be for a variant to find a way around the effectiveness of vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatment. We haven't detected one yet, but we need to be prepared for it, she said.
The COVID-19 situation in Canada has remained relatively stable since the first week of October, although the weather has cooled and students have returned to school. Signs of a potential resurgence are beginning to be seen, however, with the number of hospitalizations increasing in some parts of the country, Dr. Tam said.
Meanwhile , only 18% of eligible Canadians received a first series of two doses of vaccines and a booster dose in the past six months, said the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
The good news is that we now have bivalent vaccines, which target both the original strain of COVID-19 and newer offshoots, she recalled. So far, about 5% of eligible Canadians have received a “bivalent injection”.
Dr. Tam said the federal agency wants to take advantage of the x27;arrival of these new vaccines to try to increase the number of people who will be vaccinated this fall.
But Dr. Tam has received a barrage of criticism, from conservative members of the committee, over her communications throughout the pandemic. Tory MPs have argued that people have lost faith in institutions like the Public Health Agency.
If another really bad virus comes along and requires lockdowns and #x27;other health measures, Canadians wouldn't listen to you, Tory MP Randy Hoback of Saskatchewan told Dr. Tam.
They would say, "Never. We will never do that again. We don't trust you, we don't listen to you.” And then we would see mass deaths.
Alberta MP Laila Goodridge told Dr. Tam that the Public Health Agency's recommendations were out of touch with reality everyday life of citizens in rural Canada. She suggested that the scientist visit these places in person.
Several MPs also asked Dr. Tam if there would be a retrospective analysis of Canada's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She agreed that it would be important to learn lessons from how the country has handled the virus, but she did not comment on specific plans.