Vaccines key to controlling surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations

With intensive care units (ICU) reaching a breaking point in Alberta, an Alliston-based physician says he supports the province's move to help.

While making a separate announcement in Tweed Friday afternoon, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed the province will provide assistance to Alberta as it sees a surge in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Dr. Barry Nathanson, the chief of staff at Stevenson Memorial Hospital, says this is the right move.

"Alberta is going through something that was without meaning to be hurtful entirely predictable and could have been planned for and avoided," Nathanson says to CTV News.

The province lifted most of its public health measures earlier this summer, something many physicians say laid the groundwork for the current surge in hospitalizations. Nathanson says there are lessons to learn from what the province is going through.

"We can see that when we underestimate the capacity of the COVID-19 virus…when we underestimate its capacity to leverage human behaviour to transmit itself and spread, it will take advantage of that," Nathanson says. "It leverages human behaviour, our social contacts, to spread itself, and to not only multiply but to also evolve. Alberta has given it the chance to do that."

Dr. Nathanson says the number of Ontarians who have chosen to be vaccinated against COVID-19 has played a pivotal role in controlling hospitalizations here. The Stevenson Memorial chief of staff also notes its key that the Ford government has remained cautious throughout the summer months.

"Ontario, in contrast to other jurisdictions, has maintained much of its guard politically, socially, through the summer, not declared a free-for-all, and we are reaping the rewards of that caution that we've maintained over the summer and now into the fall," Nathanson says.

At Stevenson Memorial, Nathanson says a majority of admitted COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. While many express regrets over not getting a COVID-19 vaccine once their symptoms worsen, Nathanson says some remain steadfast in their decision, relying on misinformation spreading online.

"We're hearing, and we're seeing statements that they are unwilling, and we're seeing attitudes amongst those people that are not all that appreciative of the efforts of health care workers today and over the past 18 and more months," Nathanson says.

However, with most Ontarians fully vaccinated against the virus, Nathanson says the situation the province faces would be much worse if vaccines were not available.