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Canada's COVID-19 vaccine efforts doubled over 5 weeks as daily cases drop

Last Updated May 21, 2021 at 1:46 pm EDT

Families and youth aged 12 and older line up for a COVID-19 vaccine at Gordon A Brown Middle School in Toronto on May 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canada’s deputy chief medical officer says the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rates have doubled in five weeks, reaching nearly 20 million doses administered to date, while daily cases continue to decline.

But Dr. Howard Njoo says Canadians should take care to maintain the country’s progress this Victoria Day long weekend.

Njoo is urging people choose lower-risk outdoor activities and follow the public health advice of their respective jurisdictions.

Daily COVID-19 cases have dropped by 25 per cent over the past seven days, Njoo says, and while hospitalizations, deaths and critical-care admissions remain high, those figures are also decreasing.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says Canada is extending its ban on incoming flights from India and Pakistan for another month through June 23.

The flight ban that began April 22 was set to expire on Saturday.

Intergovernmental Affiairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says 58 per cent of adults have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. He says the country is on track to administer a first vaccine dose to all eligible Canadians by the end of June, and to fully vaccinate them by September.

Njoo says Canada has seen a 10 per cent decrease in hospitalized cases, and a four per cent drop in ICU admissions compared to last week. Deaths are down 15 per cent.

Earlier Friday, Ontario’s top doctor said the province is moving forward with administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for second doses only.

Dr. David Williams says the National Advisory Committee on Immunization does not recommend mixing vaccine doses — getting an mRNA vaccine for a second jab after receiving a first dose of AstraZeneca — because trial data is still not available.

Several provinces stopped administering AstraZeneca for first doses earlier the month, citing dwindling supply and risk of a rare blood clotting disorder seen in a small number of recipients of the viral vector vaccine.

Manitoba, which has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases this month, is expanding its vaccine rollout to allow all Indigenous people in the province to book a second vaccine shot on May 24. Manitoba reported a record 603 COVID cases on Thursday.

The public health lead for First Nations says Indigenous people have made up 40 to 60 per cent of intensive care admissions during the second and third waves of the pandemic.

Ontario, which administered a record 158,000 vaccines on Thursday, reported 1,890 new cases Friday with 27 more deaths linked to the virus.

Quebec reported 752 new cases and nine more deaths, but none in the past 24 hours.