Prince Edward Island's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison expects 40 per cent of eligible Islanders will be fully vaccinated with two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week.
That prediction comes as P.E.I. prepares to open its borders on July 18 to fully vaccinated Canadians from outside the Atlantic region who have a PEI Pass.
"I think it's a positive step because we are all trying to manoeuvre our way and walk our way out of this pandemic," Morrison said in an interview with Louise Martin on CBC News: Compass.
"I'm sure I share with many Islanders that feeling of wanting to reconnect with many people outside Atlantic Canada."
So far, provincial officials have received more than 163,000 PEI Pass applications and 70,000 travellers have entered the Island since borders opened to vaccinated Atlantic Canadians on June 27, Morrison said.
More than 24,000 PEI Pass applications had been submitted from outside Atlantic Canada as of Thursday.
Increasing vaccination rates
As of Wednesday, Morrison said, about 38 per cent of eligible Island residents had received two COVID-19 vaccine doses and 86.1 per cent had gotten at least one dose.
That puts P.E.I. among the provinces with the highest rates of single-dosed residents — but the Island has one of the lowest rates when it comes to people with two doses.
Morrison said it's important that a high percentage of older Island residents are fully vaccinated because elsewhere in the world, people over 60 have tended to have higher rates of hospitalization and death when they contract COVID-19 than those in other age groups.
P.E.I. figures as of Wednesday show that:
95 per cent in the 80-and-above age group have been fully vaccinated;
89 per cent of those in their 70s are fully vaccinated; and
67 per cent of Islanders in their 60s are fully vaccinated.
Regardless of vaccination status, Islanders are still being asked to seek a COVID-19 test if they experience any symptoms, Morrison said. Breakthrough cases have been reported among double-dosed people, but the severity of symptoms in those cases has been much lower.
Delta variant, booster shots and masks
On another topic, Morrison said her office is observing the impact of the delta variant in other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom and South America. It is considered to be much more contagious than the original coronavirus that sparked the COVID-19 pandemic.
It just reinforces to me the importance of people getting both doses of the vaccine. - Dr. Heather Morrison
"It just reinforces to me the importance of people getting both doses of the vaccine and continuing to do some of the measures they are at international borders, testing people prior to arrival," she said.
P.E.I. also has measures in place to protect the general population against the delta variant, Morrison said.
Travellers entering the province from Atlantic Canada who don't have a PEI Pass are still being tested at the border — and even after July 18, Canadians from outside the Atlantic region with only one vaccine dose will be required to isolate for eight days and receive a negative test before leaving isolation.
Booster shots may be in P.E.I.'s future
Regarding booster shots, Morrison said she anticipates Islanders will need them at some point, but the province has no definite plans yet.
She said P.E.I. will look to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization for guidance on booster shots.
Last week, P.E.I. dropped its mandatory mask requirement for most indoor spaces, but Morrison repeated her earlier caution that the province recommends people with one vaccine dose should continue wearing masks in indoor public spaces.
She said Islanders should consider their health, the health of others around them, and how crowded a space is when they decide whether or not to wear a mask.
There are currently no active cases of COVID-19 on P.E.I. The province has confirmed 208 cases since the pandemic began, with no deaths and only two cases severe enough to require hospital treatment.
COVID-19 cases on P.E.I.
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