OTTAWA: Canada’s nursing homes are among the worst affected in the world at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But now early data shows that transmission and deaths from the virus are drastically declining.
Despite the slow overall launch of the vaccine in Canada, health officials have gone ahead with vaccines in nursing homes across the country; About 85% of adults have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Almost a third have received two doses.
Data released this week from Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, indicates that the relative risk of death from Covid-19 among nursing home populations has dropped by 96%. Analyzes of other regions of the country suggest a similar trend. At the Ontario facility, the relative risk of Covid-19 infection was reduced by 89% among residents and by 79% among healthcare workers.
The findings were based on data as of February 23, by which time 92% of nursing home residents had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, compared with 55% among nursing home staff. . The authors measured how much treatment reduced the risk of poor outcomes relative to a group of unvaccinated adults aged 70 and over living in their own homes in the community.
“This is the first real good news for this sector of the population,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, geriatrician and assistant scientific director of the Ontario Covid-19 advisory panel, which produced the report with data showing the sharp decline. at risk of death.
Dr. Samir Sinha, head of geriatrics at the University Health Network group of hospitals in Toronto and co-chair of the Ryerson University Institute on Aging, said the number of Covid-19 outbreaks in the country’s 5,800 nursing homes has dropped. plummeted by 70% since the beginning of January. . This coincides with marked declines in the past two months in the seven-day average of confirmed Covid-19 cases, from more than 9,000 to fewer than 3,000, and related hospitalizations, from more than 4,000 to 1,600.
Dr. Sinha said that most of the Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and related deaths across the country now involve people 65 and older still living at home. “So the race has started to vaccinate as many of them as we can,” he said. Provinces, like Ontario, are now targeting that segment of the population in the second phase of their vaccination launches.
Nursing homes in Canada were hit harder than any other major economy during the first months of the pandemic, with approximately 80% of Canadian virus deaths related to such facilities. By comparison, nursing homes accounted for less than 40% of Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. For totals to date, nursing homes account for two-thirds of Canada’s Covid-19 deaths, but just 9% of cases, according to data tracked by the National Institute on Aging, part of Toronto’s Ryerson University.
When the pandemic struck, many of the country’s long-term care facilities, a mix of public-owned and for-profit housing, were understaffed, poorly equipped, and run-down. Canadian Army doctors and soldiers were dispatched to help regional officials control the outbreaks in these homes.
“Long-term care homes were the epicenter of the virus in [Ontario] during most of the pandemic. And vaccines have almost completely extinguished the fire, ”said Dr. Stall. He described the study’s findings as “spectacular” and added that the results justify the Canadian authorities’ decision to initially target nursing home residents and staff in the launch of the vaccination. And the UK, both well ahead of Canada to date in vaccinating their populations, also warned that nursing home residents are a priority.
John Yip, CEO of Kensington Health, a Toronto-based nonprofit that operates a nursing home for 350 residents, has seen a dozen residents die from Covid-19 in the past year. He said the mood among staff and residents has improved with the launch of the vaccination. To date, more than 95% of Kensington residents have received two doses and the nursing home has been Covid-19 free for about a month.
Yip said the spouse of a resident suffering from dementia wrote to him this week to convey that “things are looking up” and told him how the couple shared a dance, while masked, to an Elvis Presley song during a visit. Others, he said, sporty smiles for the first time in a long time.
“I think we’re almost there,” Yip said, referring to returning to a semblance of normalcy. The change in Canada comes as US federal authorities lifted restrictions on visiting nursing homes this week amid widespread vaccinations.
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Pandemic rules in Canada for nursing homes vary by region, though for the most part they remain strict: there is usually a limit on visitors, with a focus on family members considered essential caregivers.
The British Columbia Center for Disease Control said last month that a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine reduced the risk of transmission among long-term care residents and healthcare workers by 80% within the two to three weeks after vaccination. Data from Quebec, which has the majority of Covid-19 cases and nursing home-linked deaths, suggests that four weeks after inoculation, the efficacy of the vaccine in containing transmission between nursing home residents long-term reached 80%.
Canada’s vaccination rate, or adjusted doses, has risen sharply in the past two weeks to reach 7%, although it lags behind almost all major European economies and far behind the UK and the US. As of Thursday, the seven-day average of administered doses had increased 56% in two weeks, as Pfizer Inc.
and Modern Inc.
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Write to Paul Vieira at [email protected]
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