The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is appealing to federal, provincial and territorial governments to work together to minimize the impact of the current wave of COVID-19 using the tools, experience, and expertise gained from the last two years of the pandemic. The CMA is concerned that the latest wave coursing through the country may leave the health system unable to recover.
“We have gone back in time to overwhelmed hospitals, cancelled surgeries and testing. Most schools across the country are closed for in-person learning, and there is a growing labour shortage. Health care workers have reached the limit of burnout and exhaustion,” says Dr. Katharine Smart, CMA President. “We must now double down on using tools and experience to blunt the impact of Omicron and plan for future waves.”
The CMA believes Canada can mitigate the pandemic by:
- Raising vaccination rates. Data from around the world clearly illustrates that our single greatest tool against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 is vaccination. While most eligible Canadians (82.56 per cent) have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, there is a significant portion of the population that remains unprotected, putting them disproportionately at risk. Across the country, Canadians are being denied care because of overburdened, under-resourced health systems. Vaccination not only protects individuals, it helps protect the community, and the health system so that it is ready when we need it. We encourage all eligible Canadians to get vaccinated, including booster doses, as soon as possible.
- Stabilizing our testing and monitoring capacity. Many provincial governments have had to make the difficult decision to abandon testing and contact tracing due to limited resources and widespread outbreaks. This has left many Canadians unsure about how to confirm cases of COVID-19 or how to communicate risk to others. We must immediately make rapid tests available for the general population and provide PCR tests for medically vulnerable populations, health care and other frontline workers.
- Preparing for safe school re-opening. Our children need and deserve an in-person education. We must work to immediately install proper air filtration systems where needed and to supply better masks to ensure schools are safe spaces for students, teachers, and staff. We must also increase vaccine confidence among parents and caregivers to ensure all eligible children receive their shots.
- Improving communication. Canadians continue to be bombarded by unclear, inconsistent or contradictory news about COVID-19. Governments must collaborate across jurisdictions to address this “infodemic,” including the spread of false or misleading statements.
- Planning now for the next variant. Omicron will not be the last COVID-19 variant. Governments must be prepared to react more quickly to emerging evidence from around the world to ensure we are better prepared for potential future waves.
- Following public health measures. Canadians have a role to play, and they already know the routine: Wear well-fitting, multi-layered masks and respirators when possible, keep your distance and isolate yourself if you experience any symptoms.
- Expanding global vaccine efforts. Approximately 60 per cent of the world’s population has received only one dose of vaccine, and many countries are almost completely unvaccinated. We must dramatically expand vaccination efforts globally to help ensure equitable access and to curb the growth and spread of new variants.
“We know Canadians are tired and frustrated. Physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory technologists and other health care providers are beyond exhausted right now. And we need all hands-on deck to stabilize our health system to care for COVID patients and all others requiring care,” says Dr. Smart.