FNHA: Office of Chief Medical Officer Warning on COVID-19 Omicron Variant

Press Release

Dec 22, 2021

The FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer would like to share the following information about Omicron with all First Nations people in BC as our health and wellness partners and collaborators.

What is the significance of Omicron variant?

  • The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has proven very effective in quickly spreading throughout the world. Based on information to date, Omicron is about three times more transmissible than the Delta variant of COVID-19.
  • As of Dec. 15, 2021, only about 30 per cent of cases of the Omicron variant in Canada are travel-related. This means it is now established in Canada and spreading in communities.
  • There is a high risk of large community outbreaks, and the number of cases with the Omicron variant infection is doubling every two to three days throughout the world. International measures implemented at borders have had limited success in preventing the spread.
  • The Omicron variant is likely to become the dominant strain (most common variant) within the next few weeks.
  • The Omicron variant appears to cause relatively mild symptoms in cases identified so far, but people are still reporting fevers and respiratory symptoms, and could spread the infection to others who might be more vulnerable for severe illness.

How many cases of Omicron are there in Canada and in BC?

  • The number of laboratory-confirmed Omicron variant cases continue to rise rapidly with hundreds of cases identified across the country to date. More importantly, current numbers are likely underestimates, as there is a time lag for confirmation of tests. In addition, infected individuals are less likely to seek medical attention and testing due to the mild illness.
  • So far, we have not received information about First Nations cases of Omicron in BC but two First Nations cases were identified in Ontario in the week of Dec.13, 2021. Additionally, Alberta is reporting a cluster of confirmed and probable Omicron cases on reserve, initially associated with travel to the US and then spreading within the community. All cases from this Alberta cluster are mild and there was no hospitalization among them as of Dec. 16, 2021.
  • Most reported cases in BC to date have been among younger people who participated in large gatherings.

How you can protect yourself, your family, and your community members?

  • Those who are not yet vaccinated are at the greatest risk of being infected by any COVID variant.
  • While there is some evidence that COVID-19 vaccines may be providing less complete protection against the Omicron variant, the reduced protection is more pronounced in those who are not fully immunized, or in those who were fully immunized (two doses), but there has been a relatively long time since their second dose. This highlights the importance of immunization with:
      • two doses of the mRNA COVID vaccines (the initial or “primary” immunization), and
      • a Booster dose as soon as possible when eligible
  • It is still very important for everyone to follow public health measures such as hand washing, physical distancing, mask wearing and limitations to gatherings.

We urge everyone to stay safe and keep informed by reading information on our website and following all public health recommendations – including getting the COVID vaccine. Unvaccinated people are at the greatest risk from any strain of COVID-19.

We encourage everyone to continue to support each other with later al kindness. We will get through this, together.

IHT5

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