COVID-19 vaccines aren’t foolproof, and so we can’t yet do away with other precautionary measures, warned Canada’s chief public health officer.
At a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Theresa Tam said that the government is still working on guidance for Canadians to help them determine their risk for COVID-19, even after they’re vaccinated.
The Public Health Agency of Canada, unlike the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S., hasn’t yet issued guidelines on what Canadians can and can’t do after they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As of Tuesday, 23 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated with two doses of vaccine, and 76 per cent Canadians have received at least one dose, according to the website COVID-19 Tracker Canada.
“I’m sure you’ve heard that vaccinated people can get infected,” Tam said. “So even the most effective vaccines are not absolutely perfect and it is really important for people to protect each other as well.”
That means, for now, still testing people at the borders, carefully monitoring local outbreaks and maintaining many public health measures in order to protect the most vulnerable members of the community, she said.
Eventually, each person must make their own risk assessment, she said. “What are my underlying medical factors and risk conditions? Who is it that I’m about to encounter or meet? And do I know anything about them? Are they vaccinated? Am I in an outdoor or indoor setting?”
All these factors make risk partly an individual choice, according to Tam.
“Because it’s not a straight black-and-white sort of ‘everybody take off their masks, everybody just do whatever you want,’ we would like to enable people to take themselves through that kind of risk assessment while respecting local public health requirements,” she said.
More information on how to do this would be coming “in the next little while,” said Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo at the Tuesday press conference.
A report released by PHAC in mid-May suggested that if 75 per cent of eligible Canadians had one dose of vaccine and 20 per cent had two – a level Canada surpassed on June 19 – then public health restrictions could start to lift and activities such as small outdoor gatherings and meals on restaurant patios could be allowed.
When 75 per cent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, anticipated by the fall, then restrictions could be lifted further, PHAC said last month. This could mean allowing indoor gatherings again.
At that May press conference, Tam suggested that mask-wearing would probably be among the last COVID-19 measures to go.
–With files from Global News’ Twinkle Ghosh and Rachael D’Amore
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