Two women take a break from the line-up at a mobile COVID19 vaccine clinic at Parkway Forest Community Centre in Toronto on Monday, April 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Two women take a break from the line-up at a mobile COVID19 vaccine clinic at Parkway Forest Community Centre in Toronto on Monday, April 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

What can we do after getting a COVID vaccine? Experts say clear guidance is needed

In some households where only one member is vaccinated, confusion has already crept in

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is reaching hundreds of thousands of people per day, inching the country closer to a return to normalcy.

But experts say not to expect everyday life to change too soon.

While the vaccines have shown exceptional effectiveness after one dose, public health authorities still urge people to stick to safety measures, regardless of vaccination status.

With several provinces battling high levels of community transmission and roughly two-thirds of the population still unvaccinated, most experts agree it’s too soon to change guidelines for vaccinated individuals.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t start preparing our next steps.

“If you got your first dose, it’s reasonable a month later to think: Can I see my grandkids? Especially if you’re 85-years-old and haven’t seen them in a year,” says Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont.

While Chakrabarti says it’s not time to offer full concessions to partially vaccinated Canadians, he worries what might happen if people tire of waiting for official guidance.

Some will gather together regardless, he says, “so having a framework of what’s safe will help.”

In some households where only one member is vaccinated, confusion has already crept in.

Toronto educator Jess Frias received her first dose 10 days ago, but her husband is still waiting for his jab. While the vaccine gave Frias “peace of mind,” she doesn’t feel comfortable socializing until her friends and family get their shots.

Still, she’d like to know what’s allowed and what isn’t.

“It would be nice to give people some guidelines and I think it would be an incentive for some people (to get vaccinated),” she says. “I know there’s people that are like: ‘Why would I get the vaccine right now? It doesn’t change anything.’”

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals Tuesday, complete with a colour-coded graphic showing activities that are safe for either group – like going for a walk outside – and ones that still require masking regardless of vaccination status, like attending a full-capacity worship service.

Samantha Yammine, a neuroscientist and science communicator, says things are different in Canada, where second doses of the two-dose vaccines are delayed by up to four months.

Yammine says spreading out a limited vaccine supply meant more people get partial protection — but it also means fewer fully-vaccinated individuals than our southern neighbours.

Studies show the first dose offers around 80 per cent protection against severe COVID illness and death one month after getting the shot.

Yammine says having a majority of people protected by one dose will “get us out of crisis mode” and relieve pressure on hospitals.

But, she adds restrictions aren’t likely to lift until more people have their second dose, which pushes protection past 90 per cent.

“This is where I think Canadians are going to be really frustrated for the next few months,” Yammine says. “We’ve all had to be so patient, and it’s been a very hard year. But we are so close to the end.

“Our first dose, that’s going to help us end this third wave and hopefully avoid future waves. … (but) for the positive parts to come, where we can start hanging out in a more regular way again, that might take longer.”

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Friday that restrictions could start to lift this summer if 75 per cent of Canadians have their first dose and 20 per cent have their second by then.

READ MORE: ‘Not the time’: Feds decline to give new guidance to fully, partially vaccinated Canadians

Yammine expects clear guidelines to come soon from public health communicators, especially as family events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day approach.

While some Canadians may think it’s safe to visit vaccinated parents, she says risk is higher when COVID is circulating heavily in the community.

“There’s a really high effectiveness (with) the first dose, and that’s amazing, but you could still get COVID with symptoms, you could still pass it on,” Yammine says. “And so we’re not quite out of the woods yet.”

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease expert with the University of Alberta, says she has no problem waiting for definitive guidance on what vaccinated people can and can’t do.

While some studies suggest the vaccines also decrease the likelihood of spreading the virus, Saxinger says there’s still “not a lot of good evidence in that arena.”

She expects that’s the main reason public health officials urge caution. But having the same rules for everyone also fosters “community cohesion,” she says. And it recognizes the inequity of the rollout, where some people who deserve a vaccine haven’t been able to get one yet.

“If people who’ve been vaccinated get a get-out-of-jail-free card for gatherings and masks and absolutely everything in public life, that is really unfair to those who haven’t had a chance to get vaccinated,” she says.

Kelly Grindrod, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy, says that with more than 11 million people now partially vaccinated, it might be time for some semblance of “transitional advice for this in-between phase.”

She expects that to still include masking, limiting contacts and properly distancing for vaccinated people, at least until we decrease community spread.

Grindrod, who helps run a vaccine clinic in Waterloo, Ont., says we can hasten that process by taking the first vaccine available to us.

“If you can get your first dose now and your second dose in the summer, that dramatically increases the chance we’ll have less restrictions by then.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The College of Massage Therapists of B.C. says Van (William) Dinh, a registered massage therapist in Surrey and Langley, has had his licence suspended while an inquiry committee panel investigates allegations of sexual misconduct. (Unsplash photo)
Surrey massage therapist suspended amid sexual misconduct investigation

CMTBC received complaint Van (William) Dinh allegedly exposed ‘sensitive areas of the patient’s body’

Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil Friday evening (May 7) to remember 29-year-old corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, who was killed in last weekend’s brazen daylight shooting outside North Delta’s Scottsdale Centre mall. (James Smith photo)
Hundreds gather to remember victim of North Delta shooting

Corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, 29, was killed in what police say was a targeted incident

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
Surrey woman a face of World Ovarian Cancer Day campaign in London, New York

‘It’s so important we find better treatments,’ Catherine Eiswerth says

Flags flown at half mast out front of Fraser Regional Correctional Centre for slain corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa. (Neil Corbett/ The News)
Public vigil and flying flags at half mast done to honour slain prison guard

Maple Ridge corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, 29, is being remembered in a number of ways

Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford and Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux. (Contributed photos)
BC NDP ‘chose to create a system of chaos’ by holding back COVID-19 data: Cadieux

South Surrey MLAs criticize provincial government after BCCDC documents leak

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Mandeep Grewal was gunned down outside an Abbotsford bank in October 2018. Police said a violent gang war to control drug-line territory was going on at that time. Drug charges have now been announced against seven people. (FILE PHOTO: John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
7 people face 38 charges related to gang drug activity in Abbotsford and Mission

Police say investigation began in 2018 into expansion of Brothers Keepers’ drug line

Most Read