COVID-19 variants are impacting younger Canadians in the current third wave of the pandemic.
One expert says older people being vaccinated first is one of the reasons why younger people are disproportionately affected this time.
“Part of the shift is that we have fewer infections in older people now, and at the same time we have a lot of circulating virus,” said Ashleigh Tuite, professor of the Epidemiology Division at Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus.
She said because of the shift there are more cases involving younger people.
Health Canada data of more than 1.15 million people who had COVID-19, about 19.9 per cent were between 20 and 29 years old, and 17 per cent between 30 and 39. Those 19 and younger account for 19.1 per cent.
“In the third wave, we’re starting to see more young people get infected,” Tuite said. “More young people are showing up in hospitals.”
Tuite said of all the variants, B.1.1.7, which first emerged in the United Kingdom, is the variant that has quickly become the most dominant infecting young Canadians.
Other variants that are circulating is the P.1, which emerged in Brazil, the South African variant B.1.351, and the Indian variant B.1.617, which was first discovered in late 2020 now circulating in Canada.
Health Canada reported April 27 there were 94,575 suffering with the U.K. variant, 578 with the South African variant, and 3,240 with the Brazil variant.
Younger people working in essential jobs where they are exposed to the public are a at higher risk in getting infected.
Dr. Mina Tadrous of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto said workplaces that bring people back to work after every lockdown is a major cause of the growing number of cases among young adults.
“A lot of recent cases are people getting into essential work settings, such as warehouse construction sites and other workplaces like that, are why we see it spreading to young people so rapidly,” Tadrous said.
Tuite said people working in crowded conditions, not being provided with the appropriate protective equipment and having to go to work because there are no paid sick leave all contribute to the spread in young people.
“Young Canadians who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, are vulnerable to getting infected and end up hospitalized,” she said.
Tadrous said the virus can cause long-term effects among those with pre-conditions who were hospitalized.
“There are long haulers and people feeling the effects of the virus,” he said. “It’s not a quick three day thing where you feel better like a mild flu.”
Young people aged 18 and over who are in neighbourhoods that are the most affected by the virus and have high risk getting infected are eligible to get vaccinated.
Tuite said Black, Indigenous and other minority groups are the most affected by the virus and those who are living in hotspot neighbourhoods are also at high risk.
“If you’re eligible and living in a hotspot, get vaccinated and help those who are around you to get vaccinated,” Tuite said.
Tuite said one of the ways to avoid hospitalizations is to avoid getting infected.
“By adhering to all of the different public health recommendations in terms of minimizing contact as much as possible with people outside of your household,” Tuite said.
“If you’re having contact with people outside of your household, try to do that outdoors if you are doing it indoors, whether it be for work purposes or for others, wear a mask and maintain two metres distance,” she said.
Tuite believes getting the COVID-19 vaccination booster shot every year will be the reality in the future to help prevent and protect people from getting the virus.