Canada Could See COVID Resurgence; Only 4 Percent of Population Have Had Both Shots

A prominent health expert said he believed Canada could experience a resurgence of COVID-19 cases even if the country vaccinates a majority of its population, citing the possibility of new or existing variants of virus spreading throughout the country which could cause this wave of new cases.

University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine discussed his concerns with Global News on May 21. He told the Canadian-based news outlet that the small East African island nation of Seychelles had at least 60% of its population fully vaccinated before it opened back up to tourism. He said what happened after the island was reopened to tourists could potentially happen in Canada.

The tourists returning to the island resulted in an eventual surge "driven by variants," Muhajarine said. "So you know, we are seeing these cases of countries seeing a resurgence of the virus, and they in fact have lots of people fully vaccinated—and we will see that too, we will see that going forward."

A coronavirus particle
Stock image showing an artist's illustration of a coronavirus particle. An epidemiologist warns Canada may soon face another COVID surge. iStock

Canada reached the milestone of 50% of the population receiving at least one shot of the vaccine on Saturday, according to COVID Tracker Canada. (In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 50% of adults had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine by mid-April.) However, Our World in Data showed only 4% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, i.e., received both doses of the vaccine. Health Canada has not begun distribution of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CBC.

The most dominant coronavirus variant in Canada thus far has been the B.1.1.7 variant, which is believed to have originated in the U.K. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are thought to be effective against the B.1.1.7 variant. Moderna also reported its vaccine works against the B.1.351 variant that is believed to have originated in South Africa.

A couple of variants first found in India have also been detected in Canada. Early reports indicated the vaccines available may also be at least somewhat effective against these variants.

Muhajarine said federal and provincial governments need to get as many people fully vaccinated as quickly as possible. He also called on more virus monitoring and more rapid testing.

His warning came just as Canada began celebrating a long holiday weekend with Victoria Day on Monday. Social gatherings around holidays have seen public health officials and frontline workers expecting an uptick in the amount of admitted COVID patients.

Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba, told Global News he also expects some news cases from increased amounts of people congregating for holidays. He also expressed concern about the variants, but he also said it may be too early to bet on another surge just yet.

"It's tough to say ... What I can say is the virus continues to be unpredictable — we don't have a blueprint for COVID-19," Kindrachuk said.

Newsweek contacted Nazeem Muhajarine for further comment, but did not heard back as of press time.

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