Immunization diminished the scourge of COVID-19 throughout Manitoba’s third wave as less than 10 per cent of all infections occurred in people who were vaccinated.

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Immunization diminished the scourge of COVID-19 throughout Manitoba’s third wave as less than 10 per cent of all infections occurred in people who were vaccinated.

Variants and vaccination

The provincial government has been keeping tabs on post-immunization infections since Dec. 16, when the first Manitoban was vaccinated against COVID-19.

To date, 235 fully vaccinated Manitobans have been infected with the virus. Of those, 129 infections were caused by a variant of concern. Variants are more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus.

The provincial government has been keeping tabs on post-immunization infections since Dec. 16, when the first Manitoban was vaccinated against COVID-19.

To date, 235 fully vaccinated Manitobans have been infected with the virus. Of those, 129 infections were caused by a variant of concern. Variants are more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus.

Sixty-two infections were caused by the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant, four were caused by the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, and two were from P.1 (Gamma). The B.1.351 (Beta), B.1.617 and B.1.617.1 (Kappa) variants were each responsible for one infection. Fifty-eight infections were caused by an unspecified variant of concern.

Among partially vaccinated people, 1,721 infections were reported, and 1,070 were caused by a variant. There were 439 Alpha infections, 16 Delta infections, 14 Gamma infections, 13 Beta infections, one Kappa infection and 587 caused by an unspecified variant of concern.

There were eight deaths due to COVID-19 infections among fully vaccinated people: two didn't involve a variant of concern, five were Alpha and one was unspecified.

There were 31 deaths among partially vaccinated people: nine were not a variant of concern, 16 were Alpha, three were Beta, one was Delta, and two were unspecified.

Yet for some, vaccination alone was not enough to ward off the deadly virus, underlining the need for people to be fully vaccinated as soon as possible to protect those who remain vulnerable.

Provincial data show that from April 11 to June 20, eight fully vaccinated Manitobans died after catching COVID-19 in the third wave. Twenty-five Manitobans who were partially immunized were infected by the virus and died during the same time period.

A total of 179 Manitobans died with COVID-19 during that time period.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the number of immunized Manitobans who caught the virus and died has not exceeded public health expectations.

"We know that these vaccines are not 100 per cent effective at preventing infections, so we always expected that we would see cases in individuals who had received one dose, and even in individuals who had received two doses of the vaccine," Reimer told the Free Press on Tuesday.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the number of immunized Manitobans who caught the virus and died has not exceeded public health expectations.

KEVIN KING / POOL / FILES

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the number of immunized Manitobans who caught the virus and died has not exceeded public health expectations.

"It’s actually been really encouraging to see so few cases, so few hospitalizations and deaths in people who had received two doses of the vaccine, especially given that we were in the midst of some of our highest numbers that we’ve seen in the entire pandemic so far, and with variants that were more aggressive than previous ones."

Of the eight deaths involving fully immunized people, seven were 70 or older, and one was over the age of 60. Among partially vaccinated Manitobans, all were older than 50, including 22 who were older than 70.

Age was the most common factor among the Manitobans who died, and with such small numbers, it is difficult to identify any other trends in the data, such as having a compromised immune system or specific underlying health conditions, Reimer said.

"Generally speaking, the people who die related to COVID, whether or not they were vaccinated, are still people who have a lot more risk factors for severe disease," she said.

"People have to take different approaches based on their own health status and protect themselves differently, so one of the best things we can do is to get everybody around those people immunized so everyone around them can’t spread the virus to that individual."

In the past six months, Reimer said just three fully vaccinated Manitobans (all of whom were over 60) and 44 partially vaccinated Manitobans were admitted to an intensive care unit.

"That’s incredible because we’re hearing about how our ICUs are full and we’ve had to transfer people out of province, and every day we’re getting five, 10 people admitted to ICU," Reimer said. "To only have three who are fully vaccinated over six months is remarkable.

"It might even be a better measure (of the effect of vaccines) than the deaths," she said. "We know that deaths can occur for a large variety of reasons, and may be related to COVID, but we don’t know directly if COVID is the cause. Whereas with an ICU admission, we have a lot more information about the management of the individual’s disease course."

Twenty-five fully vaccinated Manitobans and 169 partially immunized Manitobans have required hospital care throughout the third wave, which was officially announced on April 9. The province has reported 19,200 infections during the third wave.

Just 1,836 were among people who had received one or two doses of vaccine, with 226 cases in fully vaccinated Manitobans.

Vaccination reduced the overall height and severity of the third wave.

Between the second and third waves — the pre- and post-vaccine era, as Reimer described it — public health officials recorded a dramatic drop in cases among people over 70 years old, where vaccine coverage was high.

"If we extrapolate, we would have seen a much, much higher peak of our Wave 3 if we didn’t have that vaccine campaign that protected our oldest members of our population in Manitoba," Reimer said.

"It’s hard to even imagine how our ICUs would have been impacted if people in their 80s experienced the same rates in Wave 3 that they had in Wave 2."

Of all the Manitobans who have been fully vaccinated, just 0.1 per cent have been infected with COVID-19, Reimer said.

As of Tuesday, 26.9 per cent of eligible Manitobans had been fully immunized against COVID-19; 71.4 per cent were partially vaccinated.

As provincial public health officials prepare to roll back pandemic restrictions, Reimer said high vaccine coverage with two doses will keep the virus at bay, even if more infectious variants of concern such as the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant, become dominant in Manitoba.

"Even though vaccines aren’t 100 per cent, if 80 per cent, 90 per cent of us are vaccinated, that still just doesn’t leave enough room for the virus to circulate," Reimer said. "So we’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to keep numbers low with fewer public health restrictions in the not too distant future."

— with files from Michael Pereira

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
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Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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