Joshua Freeman
Web Content Writer, CP24


Toronto Western Hospital is currently dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak “likely” caused by the Delta variant, and health officials say some of those infected have been vaccinated.

The outbreak in an area on the 6th floor was first reported on June 17th and has so far affected four patients and three employees.

Preliminary results show that the majority are “more than likely the Delta variant,” according to a notice sent to University Health Network staff Monday morning.

Some of those affected by the outbreak have received either one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think it’s important that everyone realizes that none of the people who have infected COVID have had a serious illness,” said Dr. Alon Vaisman, specialist in UHN infectious diseases, opposite CP24. “They were all either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic due to COVID.”

The hospital said it was still important to continue infection prevention and control, as well as public health measures such as masking, social distancing, limiting gatherings and hand washing to keep the virus at bay.

UHN said it sent the notice to employees to encourage them to get family and friends vaccinated and to continue to follow public health measures.

“It is disheartening that the Delta variant can infect people who have already been vaccinated, but it is crucial that we continue our vaccination efforts so that we can avoid hospital stays for COVID-19 infections,” the hospital wrote to staff.

Studies have shown that while the Delta variant, first discovered in India, is more contagious than other previously identified variants, vaccines are still highly effective in preventing death and serious illness in those who have become infected.

Vaisman said that while the infections are “worrying,” they also show that the vaccines are effective in preventing serious diseases.

“The main purpose of vaccination is to eliminate and reduce the risk of hospitalization or mortality,” he said. “People who get vaccinated are the best tool we have at our disposal, it’s the best tool to prevent what we recently had in the third wave.”

In a briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Ontario Monday afternoon, Dr. Dirk Huyer, who leads the Ontario Outbreak Response, said the current outbreaks underscore the importance of vaccination.

“We obviously want to make sure that we minimize the chances of outbreaks, especially in populations that may be at risk as people in the hospital may have other illnesses and this is clearly something we clearly don’t want,” Huyeryer said. “We know that the first dose of all the vaccines we have – AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer – all offer less protection against infection and infection, but offer significant protection against the severity of the disease.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the outbreak was further evidence that “we cannot take the Delta variant casually”.

Vaisman found that none of the vaccines 100 percent protect against mild or asymptomatic COVID-19, so it is “not surprising” that some cases still occur in vaccinated individuals.

“The most important thing is that none of them have developed serious illnesses,” he said.

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