Young people walk into a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Saturday, May 22, 2021. More than 50 per cent of Canadians have now received at least one dose of vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Young people walk into a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Saturday, May 22, 2021. More than 50 per cent of Canadians have now received at least one dose of vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

More than half of Canadians have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose

Canada edged ahead of the United States in its proportion of inoculations on Thursday

Canada’s race toward widespread COVID-19 immunity reached a milestone on Saturday, as numbers showed half the national population has received at least one dose of vaccine meant to protect against the virus.

The news came hours after the country’s top vaccine advisors issued further guidance on second doses, potentially clearing the way to mix and match shots of the same overall type.

Data compiled from federal, provincial and territorial health authorities showed more than 20.6 million doses have been injected across the country as of Saturday, with 50.01 per cent of the population getting at least one jab.

Canada edged ahead of the United States in its proportion of inoculations on Thursday, when just over 48 per cent of Americans had received their first dose.

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa, said the 50-per-cent threshold represents an important marker for Canada, adding such a visible sign of progress stands to offer Canadians a much-needed psychological boost.

“It is a milestone,” Deonandan said. “It’s like: Hey, we as a society have passed an important point in this marathon and we can almost see the finish line. And even though we’re all tired, we’re going to sprint to the end together.”

Nonetheless, Canada remains far back of the pack in the full-vaccination race, with about four per cent of Canadians fully immunized, according to Health Canada.

The one-dose milestone marks a dramatic turnaround for Canada, which just a month ago remained well behind global leaders such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, Israel and Chile.

Federal figures show an average of about 330,000 people joined the vaccinated group each day over the past week.

Canada’s chief public health officer said current case numbers are about 30 per cent lower than they were in mid-April when the pandemic’s third wave crested.

Dr. Theresa Tam issued a statement Saturday saying strong public-health measures must remain in place where COVID-19 is circulating, particularly in light of Monday’s Victoria Day holiday that creates a long weekend across the country.

“As resurgences have followed social gatherings during past long weekends and holidays, maintaining precautions this long weekend remains critical for sustaining our progress,” she said.

Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has updated its guidance on second shots, recommending that patients receive the same vaccine in round two as they did at their first appointment.

But if that vaccine is unavailable, NACI suggests taking Johnson & Johnson in place of Oxford-AstraZeneca, and taking Moderna in place of Pfizer-BioNTech — both are mRNA vaccines — or vice-versa.

When it comes to the viral vector vaccines AstraZeneca and J&J, however, the question is moot for the time being. Plans to distribute the initial 300,000-dose shipment of Johnson & Johnson remain on hold after Health Canada learned parts of the batch were manufactured at a Maryland facility mired in quality-control problems.

An mRNA vaccine in place of a second AstraZeneca shot may be an option, but NACI is waiting on more data.

A Spanish study released initial results last week showing a second dose of Pfizer for AstraZeneca recipients produced a stronger immune response, but more information is pending.

A U.K. study earlier this month found that the same sequence produced some stronger initial side effects, but that they were temporary and mixing the vaccines was deemed safe. Further data on whether the blend yields similar or better results than two doses of the same vaccine is expected in a few weeks.

Matthew Tunis, executive secretary to NACI, told a parliamentary health committee Friday that AstraZeneca recipients should wait 12 weeks to get a second dose in order to elicit a stronger immune response. NACI has previously said that up to 16 weeks will suffice.

Canada’s earliest AstraZeneca recipients got their first dose in mid-March, which means a few weeks remain before the three-month marker hits. The window leaves some time for more evidence to come in on vaccine interchangeability.

The mounting percentage of vaccinated Canadians hasn’t eased concern across the board, nor had an immediate impact on lowering case counts in some hot spots.

Manitoba reported 476 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths on Saturday as the percentage of people testing positive, averaged over five days, continued to climb.

Premier Brian Pallister has asked the U.S. government to give the province’s vaccine drive a boost by allowing individual states like North Dakota to begin exporting shots on their own.

Pallister said the U.S. has exported vaccines on a country-to-country basis, but argued allowing individual states to do so could speed up the process.

He said he has written to U.S. President Joe Biden on the issue, but has not yet received a response.

“The vaccines are sitting in freezers miles away (in North Dakota). We have people here waiting and we need those vaccines up here,” Pallister said.

In Nova Scotia, officials announced community spread of COVID-19 in both the central region and Sydney, saying they will increase testing in “areas of concern.”

Nova Scotia also marked an immunization milestone Saturday, administering its 500,000th dose of vaccine.

But it was Ontario that led the recent surge in vaccinations, administering more than 190,000 shots on Friday. The province logged 1,794 new infections on Saturday, along with 20 virus-related deaths.

Quebec, meanwhile, recorded the lowest number of new cases since September when it added 505 to its provincial count.

Infections also ticked downward in Nova Scotia, which reported 64 new cases and one associated death. Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new infections, while New Brunswick tallied two.

Further west, Saskatchewan reported 180 new cases on Saturday while Alberta logged 621 in addition to six new deaths.

— With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa, Steve Lambert in Winnipeg and Danielle Edwards in Halifax

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

lotto max logo
Are you the lucky winner?

A $1 million ticket was bought in Burns Lake for Friday’s Lotto… Continue reading

The 2021 Walk to End ALS took place in Burns Lake on June 19. A walk around the LDSS track and a draw for the quilt made by Jenny Pirie was organized by Ronda Payne for her friend Barb Wilson. Wilson was diagnosed with ALS in 2016. The draw raised roughly $6,300 from all across Canada, with tickets being bought from as far as Ontario. Burns Lake local won Patti Dube won the draw and the quilt. The money raised will now go to the ALS Society which in turn will be going towards more ALS research and for ALS Societies to provide support to other individuals and families living with this disease. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
VIDEO: Walk to End ALS held in Burns Lake

The 2021 Walk to End ALS took place in Burns Lake on… Continue reading

Grad 2021 parade through the village. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
VIDEO: LDSS graduation 2021 parade in Burns Lake

Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS) in Burns Lake had a graduation parade… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve. (Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week)
Tk’emlups preparing for archaeological work at B.C. residential school site where remains found

The 215 graves are, to the band’s knowledge, undocumented deaths for which it is still collecting records

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

Most Read