Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press
Canada currently has 112 confirmed cases of monkeypox, the overwhelming majority of which, 98, are in Quebec.
The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and her deputy, Doctors Theresa Tam and Howard Njoo, provided an update on the outbreak of this virus on Friday in Ottawa.
In all cases they are men aged 20 to 63 and the majority of them have had sexual relations with other men. Dr. Tam, however, recalled that “the virus can be transmitted to anyone following close contact with an infected person”.
The increase in the number of cases in one week in Quebec was, however, much less than during the previous two weeks, but Dr. Njoo did not want to venture to say that we managed to curb the spread.
“Honestly, it’s too early to draw conclusions. (…) We will see in the days and weeks to come what is the evolution of the epidemic curve in Quebec, but also across the country.
“We hope that with the strategy of continuing to follow up contacts and the offer of vaccines in places where there are high-risk events, it will have an impact on the epidemic curve,” said the doctor.
Massive vaccination: neither necessary nor possible
The other cases identified are nine in Ontario, four in Alberta and one in British Columbia. The national microbiology laboratory is also looking into other suspected cases.
“We are preparing for the confirmation of other cases in the days and weeks to come,” warned Dr. Njoo.
National public health, however, believes that no mass vaccination campaign is required at this time. The new recommendations surrounding the administration of the IMVAMUNE vaccine suggest that a single dose be administered only to people at high risk of exposure to the virus and to those in settings where the risk of transmission is high.
A national vaccination campaign would be unthinkable anyway since there are not enough vaccines, also recognized Howard Njoo.
“The Government of Canada is still working with the manufacturers to procure other vaccines (…) but we must also always keep in mind the possibility of a biological event with smallpox,” he added. he explained, implying that Canada cannot afford to be completely exposed if ever an outbreak of “traditional” smallpox occurs.
“We do not have an unlimited quantity of vaccines, but if we use them with a good strategic approach, with caution to cool the outbreak if possible, because it may only be the beginning, we have a better chance of preventing the establishment of monkeypox here in Canada,” he added.
The two doctors also indicated that the Canadian cases are all linked to the international outbreak that is currently affecting other countries around the world.
COVID-19: “We have passed the sixth wave”
Doctors Tam and Njoo also provided an update on the COVID situation, specifically addressing the issue of vaccination.
“In general, we can say that now we have passed the last wave, the sixth wave, across the country and normally, during the summer, the activity of the virus decreases compared to the winter if we believe the past. But it’s still important to keep monitoring because we don’t know what will happen in the fall and winter when people start to gather indoors again, “said Howard Njoo.
Theresa Tam, for her part, says she is planning a new awareness campaign in the fall to encourage people to get a third dose. “Two doses are not enough to provide protection against infection with (the variant) Omicron because immunity wanes over time and certainly after six months. So you need a third dose to bring the immunity back to a higher level,” she said.
The data collected by numerous studies on the subject prove him right. Thus, she explained that after six months, the protection offered by two doses against infection by Omicron drops to less than 20%. On the other hand, protection against the serious consequences of an infection remains strong, between 65% and 85%, depending on the studies, the populations studied and so on.
Adding a third dose, on the other hand, provides 50% to 60% protection against infection, although the studies as a whole show a much wider range (40% to 80%). On the other hand, protection against serious consequences is very robust, at 90%, with a third dose.
Theresa Tam, however, warned that, here too, the protection will not be eternal.
“It’s going to decline over time, but we don’t have enough data to measure it yet,” she said. It could not only decrease over time, but a variant could also change the game and reduce protection. It is never a static number.