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Ontario to soon regularly report how many COVID-19 cases are in unvaccinated people

TORONTO — Ontario is planning to soon provide more regular updates on how many COVID-19 cases are in vaccinated and unvaccinated people, as the province's top doctor said Tuesday the risk of getting the disease is 6.

TORONTO — Ontario is planning to soon provide more regular updates on how many COVID-19 cases are in vaccinated and unvaccinated people, as the province's top doctor said Tuesday the risk of getting the disease is 6.4 times higher for unvaccinated people.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said that it's complicated work to tie individual cases to vaccination status, but it's important information. There are about 1.8 million eligible Ontarians who still need a second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, he said, and the Delta variant is expected to cause a rise in cases in the coming months.

"I think that’s essential information to be able to relay to Ontarians, the absolute benefit of the reduction in risk of getting COVID if you’re immunized versus not immunized," he said. 

Ontario reports new case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths daily, but does not provide the vaccination status of those people.

Public Health Ontario releases biweekly reports with some of those numbers based on vaccination status, and the Ministry of Health said Tuesday it is in the process of revising that report to include rates of cases in vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

But the totals in the report are cumulative back to December, when very few people had received shots, making it difficult to get an accurate picture of recent cases.

Family physician Dr. Jennifer Kwan said she looked at two recent reports and spent hours calculating percentages of vaccinated and unvaccinated people that have been hospitalized or died in the previous month. 

She found that between June 12 and July 10, nearly 96 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in the province were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.

All but one of the 11 deaths during that time in fully vaccinated people were in individuals aged 80 and older.

In that same time period, 99.5 per cent of all COVID-19 intensive care unit admissions were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people. Just one fully vaccinated person during that month ended up in ICU due to COVID-19.

Kwan creates charts and graphs based on daily case numbers and posts them on her widely followed Twitter account. She said she is often asked to indicate how many of the cases were in vaccinated people, but that information is not readily available.

She said it would be great if Public Health Ontario would regularly publish something similar to show recent effects of vaccinations on cases, hospitalizations and deaths. She is just one person using a spreadsheet.

"The data is showing that people who are fully vaccinated have a much lower risk of severe outcomes, and that the vast majority of hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths are occurring in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people," she said.

"This will help people to make an informed decision about vaccination to protect themselves and their loved ones."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that only half of one per cent of COVID-19 cases being recorded are in fully vaccinated people.

In British Columbia,  the most recent reports from the BC Centre of Disease Control shows that fewer than five per cent of COVID-19 cases from June 15 to July 15 were in fully vaccinated people. During the same time period, 78 per cent of people hospitalized in B.C. with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Manitoba provides daily statistics on hospitalizations but does not include how many of those people have received vaccines. Manitoba health officials sometimes will mention the percentage of unvaccinated people among hospitalized cases at weekly briefings.

Ontario reported 129 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and five more deaths. There were 127 patients in intensive care due to COVID-related critical illness and 81 patients on ventilators.

More than 92,000 doses of vaccines were administered in the previous day, for a total of more than 19.1 million.

Meanwhile, Canada's largest airport is no longer splitting arriving international passengers into different customs lines based on their vaccination status.

Toronto's Pearson International Airport announced last week it may be sorting travellers arriving from the U.S. or other international locations into vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated queues.

But a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said the practice has been discontinued as of Monday.

Beverly MacDonald said in a statement that the airport has determined separating vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated travellers into different customs lines "results in minimal operational efficiencies."

She said entry requirements related to vaccination status will now be enforced once a passenger reaches a customs officer.

Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents are now able to forgo a 14-day quarantine when arriving in Canada from abroad.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press