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Your behaviour has been modified

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Newfoundland and Labrador’s VaxPass system wasn’t without its share of detractors when it was first introduced last fall, and some now feel they’ve been vindicated as the Omicron variant seems to spread indiscriminately among vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike.

“Vax doesn’t stop spread. So therefore the VaxPass doesn’t work. Do you understand?” is a typical refrain from the alt-epidemiology brigade on social media.

Indeed, a high proportion of the exposure alerts on the provincial website came from restaurants and bars — that is, until the virus became so widespread they stopped even posting them.

Premier Andrew Furey said Wednesday, Jan. 12, that he has no qualms about keeping the system in place, despite new challenges.

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“I think it’s had the desired impact in preventing the spread of Delta, if nothing else,” he said.

And Furey iterated something he’s said in the past — that the system is as much a motivator for vaccines as it is one that offers actual protection against spread.

“It’s also, I think, nudged people’s behaviour in the correct direction towards getting vaccinated so that they can avail of restaurants, pubs, concerts and other things,” he said. “We are always looking at that instrument in particular, how it relates to boosters moving forward. But I would certainly argue that it has had its desired impact of not only keeping people safe, but in modifying behaviour.”

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Consider yourselves modified.

But the premier’s not the only one saying that.

Asked this week if it still endorses the VaxPass, the St. John’s Board of Trade said in a statement it still supports the system as “an important defence against COVID-19, and it provides business owners and operators with piece of mind knowing they are taking every measure and precaution they can to protect themselves, their employees, and their customers.”

As well, it said, “the NL VaxPass has been an effective incentive for vaccinations.”

Most provinces still back vaccine passports. Quebec even plans to expand their mandate to larger retail stores such as Costco and Canadian Tire.

But boosters will play a key role.

Preliminary studies suggest immunity from mRNA vaccines wanes so much after four months that they are only marginally effective at preventing infection and symptomatic disease, though they do still offer reasonable protection against hospitalization.

But boosters can bring much of that protection back.

“Fortunately, a third Pfizer dose reversed much of the loss in protection and increased VE (vaccine effectiveness) to 91.7% (95% CI: 91.0-92.2) against Omicron, which was slightly higher than waned Pfizer VE against Delta,” one study out of California reported.

The authors found results were similar with Moderna.

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Anyone who’s had a third shot can update their VaxPass status by going online and downloading their QR code as they did the first time.

Digital Government announced Friday to expect some delays in uploading booster status where vaccine clinics have been using paper records.

The app allows you to delete your old record afterwards to avoid confusion.

But the booster is still not required for a valid QR code.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said last week the province is still gauging if and when that will happen.

“Those discussions will have to be going on in the coming weeks.as we see better how boosters are performing and just what the effects on severe disease are,” she said.

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