Dr. Gandhi pleased he 'got it wrong' with grim COVID-19 fall outlook
Just as the province enters the final phase of the rollout of its enhanced vaccine certificates, the past president of the Ontario Medical Association says recent data leaves him optimistic about the future.
Dr. Sohail Gandhi is a physician practicing in Stayner, Ont. Gandhi says the new QR codes, which as of Monday were made available to everyone eligible, will make engaging in recreational activities a more straightforward process.
"I'm not sure it will have an impact in controlling the spread," says Gandhi. "What it will do, however, is it will make a lot of our lives easier. It will be much easier to get into those venues that we want to that require screening."
As the enhanced certificates are being rolled out, Dr. Gandhi says he's been pleasantly surprised by the relatively low number of new cases that have been recorded over the past month.
As students were heading back to class in September, Dr. Gandhi was one of many physicians who predicted a surge of more than 1,000 new daily cases by the end of that month, case counts that never materialized.
"I am very pleased to be able to tell you that I was actually quite wrong," says Gandhi.
"If you look four weeks ago when we did this interview, I was concerned that we'd hit 1,000 cases a day. I said that on television. I'm very pleased to be able to say that I was wrong. I wanted to be wrong, and I'm glad I was."
As the Ford government continues to loosen more COVID-19 restrictions, the Stayner-based physician says he supports its approach, one he calls slow and measured.
"I think it's kind of hard to say that they aren't [doing it correctly] when you look at how well we're doing compared to places like Alberta or Saskatchewan or even British Columbia," says Gandhi. "They've had to introduce more restrictions in British Columbia over the past few days."
As the world mourns the loss of Colin Powell, who died from complications of COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated, Gandhi points out there is much to learn from his case.
While Powell, a fixture in American politics for decades, was fully vaccinated, he suffered from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body's ability to fight infection.
It's unknown if Powell had received a third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, something Gandhi says he would be qualified for based on his cancer diagnosis. In recent weeks, Gandhi has begun recommending a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to many of his vulnerable patients.
"I do anticipate sometime within the next month we will be looking at an age-based rollout for the third doses, so that's to say, people who are over 65, I imagine will start first in terms of being eligible for third doses," says Gandhi.
Just as two doctors have been banned from giving medical exemptions to patients who request one, Gandhi says the process to get one is not easy. He says very few people meet the requirements.
"The reality is that there are very, very few legitimate exemptions for getting that kind of letter," says Gandhi.
While he's been pleased with the case counts recorded recently, Gandhi says everyone should accept that COVID-19 will most likely never permanently be eliminated.
"I do think we have to accept the fact that COVID will always be with us to some degree, just like the flu is with us to some degree, just like the common cold is with us to some degree," says Gandhi. "We'll always have a low-level amount of COVID in the atmosphere."