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COVID-19 vaccines: What would a ‘one-dose summer’ really look like?

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EDMONTON —
 

As the rate of Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 rises, so do hopes for a return to normalcy – mainly one free of public health restrictions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that as vaccinations ramp up, Canada is on track to have what he referred to as a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall,” where students can go back to school and a more normal life can return.

But with just 3.41 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, those who have only received one jab are left wondering what they can and can’t do safely while they wait for their second dose, asking themselves “What would a ‘one-dose summer’ look like?”

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‘A SLIGHTLY BETTER SUMMER’

While first doses of the two-shot COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada offer some degree of efficacy, health officials are urging Canadians not to let their guards down while they wait to receive their second doses.

On Tuesday, Trudeau noted that there is hope for a “slightly better summer,” but added that restrictions need to stay in place until at least 75 per cent of the population has their first shot and 20 per cent have been fully vaccinated.

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According to data compiled by CTV News, if doses arrive as scheduled, Canada could hit that target by June.

But that doesn’t mean the pandemic-era habits we’ve become used to will go away.

“You’ll still need to keep up with some of the basic personal health measures; wearing a mask, personal hygiene measures and social distancing measures,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Wednesday during a CTV News Channel special on vaccines.

“You need more than one dose… you need the second dose to get maximum protection and maybe increased duration of that protection.”

And although the federal government has yet to issue clear guidance on what Canadians can and can’t do safely after their first and second COVID-19 shots, experts say a one-dose summer will allow for some of the social interactions we’re craving.

“If you get one dose in you and you are outdoors, the risk of transmission is really almost zero. Not quite zero, but pretty close,” infectious disease expert Dr. Abdu Sharkawy told CTV News.

“No indoor fitness studios and a lot of other activities [that] still lend themselves to transmission. We can’t count on partial immunization to protect us against that.”

Tam has also suggested that more outdoor activity with people in your household or part of a small bubble may be possible, but it’ll depend on local pandemic realities.

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Once approximately 75 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated, that’s when you can expect some of the old joys of life to return.

“We say the fall because… it takes two weeks after you’ve received your full vaccine dose to get maximum protection. When you add up all those weeks, we say towards the fall,” Tam said.

“We hope to get there faster, with our supply we probably could. But giving a buffer zone for people to get their maximum protection, we can look towards what I would call getting out of that crisis phase.”

IS THERE A CHANCE I’LL BE FULLY VACCINATED SOONER?

Despite Trudeau’s remarks, some provinces are pushing back, saying they’re determined to have a two-dose summer based on vaccine shipment timelines.

“It’ll be a two-dose summer in Manitoba, we will get through our second dose campaign by mid to end of July,” Johanu Botha, co-lead of Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force, said Tuesday.

During the third wave, provinces have been under increasing pressure to provide a first dose to as many people as possible in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Those efforts, coupled with an initial lack of supply, have left many waiting months to receive their second dose.

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As of last week, Procurement Minister Anita Anand’s office was saying that by the end of June, Canada is expecting to have cumulatively received between 48 and 50 million doses of Health Canada-authorized vaccines, and more than 100 million doses by the end of September, leaving many hoping that provinces will accelerate the timeline for second doses.

“Now that we are seeing a more abundant supply… this is an absolute must,” Sharkawy told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.

“In transplant patients and cancer patients, we’ve seen trial evidence that immunity really starts to wain around the three to four-week mark…. We cannot afford to extend the same issue into others who are elderly or immune compromised.”

– With files from Annie Bergeron-Oliver

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