Case Counts and Severity: After multiple waves of COVID-19, we may be entering a period of relative dormancy, although uncertainty remains. We can expect to see continued cases of COVID-19 but with reduced levels of serious illness and hospitalizations. This situation could change in the late summer/fall due to the emergence of a new variant or a seasonal strain of the virus and the effects of waning immunity in the population.
Immunity: Both vaccine-induced and natural immunity after COVID-19 infection have protected people against infection and more significantly, serious illness. This is positive news overall, even as this immunity starts to wane over the coming months.
Risks: There is a risk of a BA.2 Omicron subvariant resurgence, as seen throughout Western Europe and parts of North America as restrictions are relaxed. COVID-19 hospitalizations in these areas have increased since the emergence of the BA.2 variant in late January. This trend has grown through February and into March as restrictions are relaxed. Thanks to mass vaccination campaigns, we appear to be through the worst part of the pandemic, however continued vigilance is necessary to ensure levels of immunity remain high to protect against a reemergence of serious illness.
Risks in Canada
The likelihood of a rebound BA.2 wave depends on the number of Canadians infected during the first wave of Omicron (BA.1). A higher infection rate during the first wave could reduce the number of cases during the current resurgence.
But even in the US, which had high case numbers during the first wave, a 10% increase in coronavirus genetic material has been detected over the past 15-days, according to the CDC’s wastewater surveillance website.
In Canada, workplaces should consider having measures in place to combat the impact of a potential resurgence of cases to their workforce.
What’s next: Endemic Phase
Beyond the current Omicron wave, the virus will likely enter an endemic phase as countries move to “living with the virus”. The UK SAGE group has described 4 potentialscenarios for the virus over the next 12-18 months:
Best-case: Small outbreaks in fall/winter 2022-23 but low levels of severe disease requiring hospitalization.
Optimistic: Seasonal wave of infections in fall/winter similar to Omicron wave.
Pessimistic: Unpredictable large wave of infections at any time from new variant, mainly in unvaccinated and vulnerable
Worst-case scenario: Very large wave of infections and more severe disease in the general population.
In each scenario, high vaccination uptake will be essential. Even the best-case scenario for COVID-19 resembles the current approach to vaccination for seasonal illnesses like Influenza.
Is vaccination tracking still important for businesses?
Vaccination policies have enabled us to exit the worst phase of the pandemic. Workplaces are going to be increasingly on their own as government mandates are relaxed. Vaccination policies supported by science can protect workers' health, reduce workdays lost due to illness, protect employers from liability and ensure businesses remain open. These policies will need to reflect the changing science. As experts in both vaccination technology and vaccination science, our solutions are designed to ensure that workplaces will be protected in the best way possible.
Having effective vaccination policies for employees not only protects their health but also reduces employer liability and absenteeism due to illness.
Vaccination protects against infection but, more significantly, against serious illness and long COVID. Vaccination immunity declines over time and a seasonal booster policy is likely to be needed to maintain robust immunity in the workplace.
Even now, as governments update regulation to reflect citizens “living with COVID,” the effects of high-absenteeism still impact global supply chains, workplaces, and healthcare systems.