On pace to double influenza and pneumonia deaths
By Timothy Easling, Senior Columnist
In Canada, influenza and pneumonia were responsible for 8,511 deaths in 2018; COVID, with no vaccine, is on pace to do less than double that figure over the course of the entire year
As COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines it is important to note that the disease is not drastically outnumbering yearly influenza and pneumonia deaths in Canada. Many major media outlets are focused on highlighting case numbers, but do not emphasize that total deaths remain relatively low. While all deaths are tragic, the panic among average Canadians is arguably exaggerated; the data shows COVID still predominantly affects those of advanced age and weakened states, not healthy persons or really even those below the age of 80.
Unless stated otherwise, all statistics in this piece are from available government data with age demographics (99.9 percent of cases). Since November 9 there have been 485 deaths, and 97 percent of those (471) are from those 60-and-up—often in long term care homes (LTCs), acute care, or assisted living, and with multiple comorbidities. Since the start of COVID, 7,659 (71 percent) of Canada’s 10,789 deaths have been from those 80-and-up. The population of Canada is 38,005,238.
Countrywide from November 9-16, the 0-39 age bracket suffered 1 additional death, the 40-49 age bracket, 3, and the 50-59 age bracket, 10. The massive case numbers serve to indicate the low fatality rate of the disease for those not of ill health; the 0-39 age bracket saw 13,889 more cases, the 40-49 age bracket had 4,683 more, the 50-59 age bracket observed 4,049 more, and the 60+ age bracket recorded 6,062 more. Just from the last week of cases, the fatality rate for each bracket was 0.007 percent (0-39), 0.064 percent (40-49), 0.247 percent (50-59), and 7.8 percent (60+).
Hospitalization increases remained relatively low and steady—and with almost none of them (again, for those not of advanced age and weakened states) resulting in death. The vast majority (71.5 percent) of hospitalizations were from the 60+ age bracket (820 more) with the lower age brackets registering small totals: 0-39—114 more, 40-49—62 more, 50-59—143 more. ICU admittances remained much the same with only 159 more. Of those 159, 72.3 percent (115) were from the 60+ age bracket. The remaining 44 cases were divided among the lower age brackets: 0-39—10, 40-49—10, and 50-59—24.
British Columbia has suffered 9 deaths from 2,271 cases since November 9 as Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry’s two-week health order enters its second week. The population of the province is 5,147,712.
COVID-19 vaccines are often reported as the solution to the disease, but data raises some questions. In Canada, influenza and pneumonia were responsible for 8,511 deaths in 2018; COVID, with no vaccine, is on pace to do roughly double that figure over the course of the entire year—prompting the question of whether not enough attention is paid to the flu and pneumonia, or whether too much attention is paid to a very comparable disease (in terms of total fatality numbers). Additionally, despite the extremely accessible and well-advertised nature of the flu shot, only about a third of Canadians typically get vaccinated (a slight increase in recent years). Influenza vaccines have been developed since WWII and have almost 80 years of data to work with but have been reported as little as 10 percent effective—as in 2018.