Even after Toronto administered over a half a million COVID-19 vaccinations to front-line healthcare workers and older residents of the city, infections are still spiraling "out of control," according to members of the Canadian COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
The city also reached a record high number of individuals requiring intensive care, according to the Toronto Star.
"We are where we are today because of decisions we made yesterday," Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious diseases specialist, told the Star. "This is what happens when you don't pay attention to science."
Earlier this year, the Ontario government was told by science table members to vaccinate by postal code, rather than by age, to help curb the spread of the virus to those most at risk. They determined that elderly first vaccine protocols reduced the number of deaths and curtailed the spread of COVID in long-term-care facilities, but the wider community still suffers.
"At the heart of what got us here," Morris said, "is a mismatch between who is getting the vaccine and who is most likely to spread the virus."
COVID-19 variants spread more easily and might cause more severe disease, which has caused Toronto to face its third wave of the virus, the Star reported. Epidemiologists the Star spoke to agree vaccines are not enough to stop COVID-19 variants.
With 421 COVID patients in ICUs as of Wednesday morning, the province's capacity to care for the sick has diminished significantly.
"With exponential growth in infections, any health system would be overwhelmed," according to Dr. Peter Juni.
Right now, Juni said, the province "will have to pivot and be flexible in its strategy to combat the virus." Age being the only criteria for vaccine priority is not working.
The Star reported it is not primarily the elderly populating the ICUs. They are instead seeing many younger patients, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Occupancy in the ICU is 28% higher than at the start of the last lockdown, according to a brief on the advisory table's website, reports the Star. The percentage of those COVID patients who are younger than 60, it says, is now 50% higher.
While Canada had a slow start to rolling out the vaccines, Juni said, the pace of vaccinations is picking up. And there are different mechanisms being built into the vaccine rollout that will build in equity, he said, including lowering the age of those eligible in burdened neighborhoods, by vaccinating hot spots and, say, prioritizing those who cannot work from home.
"When the demand significantly outweighs the supply," he said, "you have to prioritize in an equitable way."
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