Dr. Catherine Hankins told CBC The House that there are still too many unknowns about COVID-19 immunity and vaccine efficacy to move quickly beyond the pandemic measures currently in place, such as mask warrants and limits on social and business activities . “We still have a lot of questions about immunity, even against natural infection with the wild virus. How long does the protection last? Is it reinforced when you are exposed again? What will be the impact if you receive a vaccine and have had a previous infection with COVID-19? Hankins said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
“But we are working very hard now to see how we can differentiate natural immunity from vaccine-induced immunity. ”
Many medical experts see the arrival next week of the first doses of a vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech as a light at the end of the tunnel – the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
Canada is expected to receive up to 249,000 doses by the end of the year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that “the first 30,000 doses are expected to arrive on Canadian soil in just a few days” and that the vaccine will be “free for Canadians” with the federal government covering the costs.
Each province will decide who will have priority access to the vaccine.
Millions of additional doses will arrive in the coming months now that Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The Trudeau government has also signed agreements with other vaccine makers that are currently under review by regulators – including one with Moderna. Canada has a contract to purchase up to 56 million doses of the Moderna product.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are both believed to be about 95% effective.
How long does immunity last?
Hankins agreed that the news on the vaccine front is exciting. The job of her immunity task force in the weeks and months to come, she said, is to understand the differences in immunity levels between those who have recovered from COVID-19 and those who have recovered from COVID-19. received the vaccine.
” We will search [at], for those who have had an infection and for those who have received the vaccine, how durable is this protection that they get? “, did she say.
“How long does this last?” How does he react if they are re-exposed in the community? Do they get a boost when re-exposed? Do they have worse symptoms? These are things we need to determine. ”
Health experts aren’t the only ones asking these questions. Governments and businesses are already considering the vaccine as a sort of passport for a number of activities.
An “immunity passport” and civil rights
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed this week that the province intends to issue some sort of “proof of vaccination” to those who get vaccinated. She called it an essential tool.
“It will be very important that people have trips, maybe for work, to go to the theater, the cinema or any other place where people will be in closer physical contact when we go through the worst of the pandemic”, she told me.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association insists that the idea of a vaccine certificate or an immunity passport is a violation of the rights of Canadians.
“It discriminates. It violates privacy and dignity. It is coercive and it violates the mobility rights of Canadians, ”said the association’s executive director, Michael Bryant. The House this week.
“Just because we’re looking for herd immunity to a virus doesn’t mean we need a herd mentality to tag people with the scarlet letter of COVID. We live in a free and democratic society, and this means that we do not publicly stratify the population on the basis of their private health status, even if it is a private health condition that poses a hypothetical risk to others. ”
“This is not absolute proof of protection”
Hankins said these concerns were legitimate.
“I think it requires a whole-of-society discussion of how we’re going to do this, because it’s not just proof of vaccination. I mean, if you’ve had COVID-19, you’ve got a level of immunity too, “she said. The House.
“So we’re going to have to think about how we do it in such a way that it’s not coercive and people understand that it’s not absolute proof of protection either. ”
At a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated his call on Canadians to remain vigilant and adhere to public health guidelines.
“We have set aside enough doses so that all Canadians who want a vaccine can get it before the end of 2021. Vaccinations will help end the pandemic, but for now our fight against COVID-19 is a long way off to be finished. Again this week, far too many provinces have reported record levels of cases and hospitalizations. These numbers must go down. ”
Hankins said it will be some time yet before Canadians can get their lives back to what they were before the pandemic.
“And we all know we’re heading for the shortest day of the year. It’s a cold, dark winter ahead… we really need to buckle down and do whatever we’re told to do, ”she said.
In the meantime, Hankins has suggested Canadians make an effort to be socially connected while remaining physically distant as the holidays approach.
When it comes to freebies, that may not seem like a lot. But in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic, this might be the best gift we can get.