TORONTO — More than half of Canada’s population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to CTVNews.ca’s vaccine tracker.
On Saturday morning, the percentage of the Canadian population that has received at least one dose of vaccine tipped over 50 per cent after New Brunswick reported that it had administered another 11,383 first doses.
The percentage of those fully vaccinated – meaning they’ve received two doses – is at just over 4 per cent.
In total, the country has administered more than 20 million vaccine doses.
Dr. Michael Silverman, chief of infectious diseases at the London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London in London, Ont., said Canada reaching 50 per cent for first doses was an important milestone.
“It’s exciting,” he told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “Everybody can do a little dance at home, but we’re not wanting everybody to go out and dance together just yet. It means we’re really on our way to getting back to normal.”
On Friday, Canada surpassed the U.S. in the number of first doses administered per capita. However, the U.S has a far higher percentage of the population that has been fully vaccinated with two doses.
As of Saturday afternoon, 47 per cent of Americans had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 37 per cent had received two shots.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average daily pace of COVID-19 vaccinations is down almost 50 per cent from a peak in April.
Despite the slowdown in vaccinations, the U.S. has given the green light for fully vaccinated residents to resume many activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, even indoors.
Silverman cautioned against this approach for Canada, however.
“Although our first dose numbers are very impressive and rising quickly, our [number of] fully vaccinated is still only 4 per cent, so we’re not able on any widespread basis to roll out what the CDC is recommending in the U.S., which is really for people who have had two doses,” he said.
Silverman urged Canadians to continue wearing masks, physically distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings, even as more people are vaccinated.
“We need to get up our vaccination rate as high as we can to have herd immunity so that people can return to normal,” he said.
While Canada is currently behind the U.S. and other countries on the administration of second doses, Dr. Howard Njoo, the country’s deputy chief public health officer, said Canadians could be getting those second shots sooner than expected.
“Canada does not have a one-dose strategy, we’ve always had a two-dose strategy,” he said during a press conference Thursday. “The issue is about extending the dose interval between the first and second doses, so I think obviously more doses coming to the country very quickly, we’re well on track to offer that second dose.”
On Friday, Njoo said that vaccinations have doubled in the past five weeks and daily COVID-19 cases have dropped by 25 per cent over the past seven days. He added that while hospitalizations, deaths, and critical-care admissions remain high, those numbers are also decreasing.
Although the increase in vaccinations is a cause for celebration, federal and provincial officials have spent much of the last week pleading with Canadians to abide by public health measures a little longer, particularly with the Victoria Day long weekend in full swing.
“Our actions this long weekend could not be more important,” Njoo said. “COVID-19 resurgences have followed social gatherings during past holidays and long weekends.”
“With important work we have left to do, this weekend is not the time to let our guard down.”
Globally, the small British overseas territory Gibraltor continues to lead the world in vaccinations per capita with 107 per cent of its population fully vaccinated, according to CTVNews.ca’s vaccine tracker.
With files from The Canadian Press
This story has been corrected to show that Canada passed the 50 per cent mark for first doses when New Brunswick reported its vaccine numbers.