Why is there a 3rd wave if adults are getting vaccinated?

CBC Kids News • Published 2021-04-09 08:32

The ‘variants of concern’ are driving us back indoors


Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they have.

Schools in parts of Ontario and Quebec are closed as lockdowns are once again in place.

Tighter restrictions are also back in B.C. and Alberta.

Yes, the third wave has officially arrived in many parts of Canada, which means we’re seeing another spike in COVID-19 cases.

“If I was a kid, I would be annoyed right now. These grown-ups can't get their act together and solve this thing for me.” - Dr. Srinivas Murthy

COVID-19 in Canada, Daily new cases (7-day avearage) as of April 8, 2021. A graph showing the first, second and third waves.

When the third wave started in Canada, there were still more than 2,000 new cases every day, compared to the start of the second wave, when there were fewer than 1,000. (Graphic design by Philip Street/CBC)

But wait a minute. Hold up.

Thousands of people are getting vaccinated in Canada every day.

Why is the pandemic getting worse, not better?

An empty highway with the CN Tower and the city skyline in the background.

Rush hour in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, is very quiet now that the province is in lockdown again. (Image credit: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Variants are more contagious

The three variants of concern are a big part of the third wave, said Dr. Srinivas Murthy, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia.

Variants are like an imperfect copy of the virus.

“Every single person who gets this virus probably has a slightly different virus compared to the person before them, because of the way the virus constantly changes,” said Murthy.

Sometimes, the copies aren’t concerning, but sometimes they are.

Specifically there are three variants, first identified in the U.K. (called B117), South Africa (called B1351) and Brazil (called P1), that are more transmissible.

“When one person has the disease, he or she is more likely to give it to somebody around them with these variants compared to the previous disease,” said Murthy.

Students wait to cross the street in Mississauga, Ontario, on April 1 as the province prepared for its third lockdown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have closed in parts of the province as cases of the disease surge. (Image credit: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

What else is driving the 3rd wave?

Other factors could be contributing to the third wave, said Murthy, such as the time of year.

“Maybe there's some seasonality to it as well,” he said, “because this is around the time last year when we had a giant surge in some parts of the world.”

Some experts are also saying that governments are partly to blame.

People dine outside at a restaurant in Vancouver. On March 29, B.C. banned indoor dining at restaurants and bars as part of a three-week measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 (Image credit: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Back in February, Dr. Irfan Dhalla, a physician and University of Toronto medical professor, said restaurants in Toronto shouldn’t open for in-person dining.

“It's pretty obvious that if we just went back to normal, there would be a third wave and it would be absolutely brutal,” she told CBC News in an article published on Feb. 13.

Toronto restaurants did reopen, and now her prediction about the third wave appears to have come true.

Dr. Leyla Asadi, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, backs up the idea that maintaining tighter restrictions might have helped.

She said the third wave is happening now as a result of “our reopening too quickly,” combined with the variants.

COVID 19 cases in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec shows the first, second and third wave as of April 8, 2021

COVID-19 cases are increasing again in Canada’s biggest provinces. (Graphic design by Philip Street/CBC)

In Ontario, restaurants have closed again and health-care workers in that province are treating the highest number of patients in ICUs since the start of the pandemic.

ICU stands for intensive care units, where the sickest patients are treated in hospital.

What about the vaccines?

Although your grandparents may be vaccinated, not enough people have been fully immunized to protect us all against COVID-19.

“Vaccinations are certainly starting to pick up, but we're nowhere near where we need to be to get this thing under control,” said Jason Kindrachuk, a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Manitoba.

Seniors receive their COVID-19 vaccinations in Montreal on March 1. (Image credit: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

As of now, about two per cent of Canadians have received both doses of the vaccine.

We need to have about 80 per cent of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

Herd immunity happens when a large group of people develop a resistance to an illness.

Canadian adults aren’t expected to be fully vaccinated until September.

So what can we do?

Even if the variants are more transmissible, Murthy said, we don’t need to do more than we’re already doing.

The regular precautions still apply.

For example, you don’t have to wash your hands for 40 seconds instead of 20, or stay three metres apart instead of two.

That said, now is not the time to get lazy, Murthy said.

“We just need to do the same things that we've been doing for the past year and a bit. But just do them better,” he said.

Kids play on rocks on the edge of a lake

Even with the variants of concern, when you're outside, ‘there’s no real role for wearing masks unless you’re in very, very close contact with people around you,’ said Dr. Srinivas Murthy. (Image credit: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

And if you’re getting frustrated, that’s totally understandable.

“If I was a kid, I would be annoyed right now,” he said. “These grown-ups can't get their act together and solve this thing for me.”

With files from Adam Miller/CBC
Top image credit: Shutterstock

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