The imminent roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine in Canada as early as next week has ushered in renewed hope and optimism, even as parts of the country remain under lockdown.
On Wednesday, Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine after completing its review of the U.S. drug maker’s clinical data, deeming the vaccine safe for use.
The news comes two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canadians could start receiving the Pfizer doses as soon as next week.
While the news is welcomed, experts and public health officials warn that the return to normal will not be immediate.
Colin Furness, infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, told Global News: “We can’t expect to see the vaccine make any significant inroads in transmission until a majority of the population receives the vaccine.”
Dr. Barry Pakes, a public health physician and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, agrees.
“In the foreseeable future, we will continue to wear masks, stretching society and limiting interaction,” he said.
Furness says at least three-quarters of the population will need to be vaccinated before transmission can be reduced to less severe levels and this could potentially take a year or longer to do so.
Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said: “Knowing safe and effective vaccines are within sight might lead some to think that COVID-19 is no longer a problem, but the reality is very different.” She stressed the need to continue to follow local public health guidelines.
Furness said the “quickest way” to reopen and loosen restrictions will depend on rapid testing, not vaccines.
“The vaccination is going to take a year or more. Rapid testing could be deployed within weeks and it could actually change the situation for restrictions within months.”
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