People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth

For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours.

It was a sharp turn around in a little over three months, from the country’s worst ever death toll in the pandemic, to almost none.

It’s also something, health experts say, Canadians can look to with hope.

“The U.K. shows the best way forward for Canada,” said Dr. Fahad Razak, an internal medicine specialist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

The way, said Razak, is about getting more vaccines into arms, and keeping smart public health measures in place for as long as possible, to let the vaccines do their thing.

In January, the U.K. saw record numbers of new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions. They were three to five times the worst numbers Canada has ever seen.

On January 8, more than 68,000 people were diagnosed with COVID-19, on Jan. 20, more than 1,820 people died. There were that month, more than 39,000 people in hospital on the worst day, and more than 4,000 in intensive care.

Now, after half the British population has had a single vaccine dose, one-quarter have had two, and the entire country faced a strict lockdown with a gradual, staged, reopening, the U.K.’s picture isn’t just better, it’s a whole new world.

Every one of those statistics is down. New cases? Down 96 per cent. Deaths? Down 99 per cent. Hospitalizations and ICU patients? Down 97 per cent.

“This is the remarkable effect of getting those vaccines into people’s arms, and effective and smart restrictions on public health measures,” said Razak. “This is the effect, you’re seeing it right now.”

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months, so that more people can get protected from at least one dose faster.

It was, in both countries, an experiment with many critics. With a pandemic underway and the need to get clinical trials completed quickly, vaccine makers had generally tested their products with three and four-week delays between two doses.

But with the B.1.1.7 driving crisis-levels of infections, and loaded with vaccine science that says delaying a second dose often generates a stronger immune response, Britain decided to push the second dose to 12 weeks.

Canada decided in March to delay second doses for most people up to 16 weeks, as production issues delayed deliveries and doses were in short supply.

Razak said it was, in both cases, “absolutely the right decision.”

“We’re going to see the benefit of that if we continue our aggressive vaccine rollout,” he said.

The U.K. — which was in a strict nationwide lockdown in January and February — is gradually returning to normal. Kids are back in school, hair salons are open, restaurant patios are hopping, and even small backyard gatherings are allowed.

It has all been done in calculated stages, with restrictions gradually lifting every few weeks starting in early March.

Next week, on May 17th, comes one of the biggest steps forward yet: restaurants will be allowed to have indoor dining and people can entertain up to 6 friends and family from two households indoors. Outdoor gatherings will be increased to a limit of 30 people. Children’s play places, movie theatres, hotels and indoor fitness classes, will once again be allowed.

On the 21st of June, the British government hopes to be able to lift all restrictions completely.

They can do that, said Razak, because there are more people vaccinated, and therefore fewer people available for the virus to infect.

The U.K. was fast out of the gate with vaccines, having made smart deals to get early doses from Pfizer, investing heavily in Oxford-AstraZeneca early on, and expanding production to make some of it at home.

In January, it outpaced even the United States in vaccinations, trailing only Israel and the United Arab Emirates in doses given per person.

Still the U.K. is not without supply woes. Vaccinations slowed considerably in April, as AstraZeneca couldn’t get all its deliveries to the U.K. and Moderna reduced British deliveries along with Canada’s.

Canada, with vaccine deliveries in May expected to be greater than the last five months combined, is catching up. It outpaced the U.K. in much of April, and expects to get a first dose to everyone over the age of 12 by the end of June.

The U.K. is targeting that by the end of July.

Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of Canada’s National COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, said the sharp down curve of British COVID-19 statistics can happen here.

“I would be not surprised and very relieved if we actually see a pretty significant pickup (in) the drop in case counts when we once we get about 40% first doses, which we’re heading toward quickly,” Naylor said.

On Friday, Canada hit 14 million people vaccinated with at least one dose, more than 37 per cent of all Canadians. At current rates of vaccination, Canada should get to 40 per cent by mid-week.

With vaccines coming in faster now, the 50 per cent marker should come before Victoria Day.

“When we get about 50% then I think we should see a lot more light at the end of the tunnel,” said Naylor. “I just hope there isn’t a bunch of premature opening up at that time, because that could that could set us back.”

Razak said there is no magic formula for when and how to lift restrictions but he said it has to be driven by the data. If it is done too quickly, before enough people are vaccinated and the virus has limited places to take hold, a fourth wave is very likely.

Naylor said, if things are done right there is no reason why Canada can’t be where Britain is now, in the not too distant future.

“We are in a position here with this flood of effective vaccines to really go after this virus and get ourselves out of limbo and get our lives back,” he said.

READ MORE: Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Workers had a busy time today repairing a broken main water line. (District of Houston photo)
Water service being restored

Main line on 13th had broken

Flags at the District of Houston administrative building were lowered last week following the news that the remains of as many as 215 children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The flags were raised back up yesterday. (Houston Today photo)
Flags lowered in memory

Flags at the District of Houston administrative building were lowered last week… Continue reading

Bruce Tang- Unsplash photo
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

“Older adults in our communities continue to find themselves in vulnerable situations… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Most Read