Omicron emphasizes
the urgency of vaccinations

di Priscilla Pajdo del December 9, 2021

TORONTO - From the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ontario has reported more than 626,000 confirmed positive cases, the majority of which were non-fatal. Unfortunately, 10,036 fatalities (as of December 8) were attributable to the virus.

Health authorities point out that following the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, the incidence of severe infection and fatalities decreased when higher vaccination rates were achieved among the population.

Previous editions in this series of pieces highlighted the vaccination status of Covid-19 cases, including those who required hospital intervention, over a one-year period (between December 14, 2020 and November 14, 2021). The data comes form a comprehensive report: The Confirmed cases of Covid-19 following vaccination in Ontario (November 2021).

In this final part of the series, the focus is on the vaccination status among the deceased with confirmed Covid-19. Of the 463,805 cases proved positive in that one-year period, 5,422 cases were fatal. That represents one percent of total infections reported in that time frame. (Graph 1)

Medical professionals maintain that vaccines provide the most effective means against infection and that fully vaccinated individuals have been shown to have significant protection against severe infection. To put that into context, an overwhelming 90% of those fatalities attributed to Covid-19 (4,873 cases) were unvaccinated individuals. Six percent of fatalities (349 cases) were partially vaccinated. Only four percent (200 cases) were considered fully vaccinated. (Graph 2, at the top of the article)

The medical community cautions that older people are especially vulnerable to severe illness, since more than 4,000 fatalities were reported among residents in the Province’s Long-Term Care system. To help protect seniors, Ontario prioritized vaccination starting with older age populations. The report indicates that the greatest number of fatalities were unvaccinated seniors over the age of 80 - 2,407 individuals with confirmed Covid-19 infection. That number drops to 229 fatal cases among those who were partially vaccinated and to 133 among those who were fully vaccinated. (Graph 3)

Although age-related complications may put one at greater risk of severe illness and possibly death, data shows that all 91 Covid fatalities reported in people aged 39 years and younger were unvaccinated cases. With infections on the rise, combined with the unknowns associated with the new Omicron variant, concerns mount over its impact on a health care system already under pressure.

Ontario’s Covid-19 Science Advisory Table stresses that “even without Omicron, ICU occupancy will likely grow to 250-400 beds in January, putting hospitals under strain again”. It was in the Spring when admissions reached a high of 900 people in the province’s intensive care units. Usually, ICU rates are a lagging indicator of the pressures on the healthcare system.

The Science Table suggests that Covid-19 cases may surpass current projections and present greater challenges for the health care sector in the weeks and months ahead.

Health officials advise the continued observance of public health measures to help reduce transmission. They also emphasize the need to increase vaccination, particularly among younger age groups.

P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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