VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The widespread benefits of vaccinating the Canadian public will start to impact our daily lives sooner than later, says an infectious disease expert with the Ontario Vaccine Task Force.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch says Canada is among a small group of nations ending this year on a high note, with access to two life-saving vaccines against COVID-19 and long term care residents in B.C. receiving their first doses on Christmas Eve.
“They both seem to have very good safety profiles and, at least in the clinical trials, the efficacy looks impressive. It really does appear that they provide significant protection,” he says.
As of Christmas Eve, 8,178 people in B.C. received their first injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech drug and data suggests they will benefit from some level of protection much sooner than hypothesised.
“Initially we thought it would take well over a month before people started to see some protection but if fact they’re going to see protection about 10 days after their first dose,” says Bogoch.
“Essentially what this boils down to is there will be a pretty significant benefit to people who get vaccinated but also to people around them, pretty soon after vaccine programs start. There’s a lot of good related to these vaccines and it’s just wonderful to see them rolled out in such short order in Canada.”
The province’s vaccine rollout is full-steam-ahead over the holidays, including on Christmas Day, while many of us take a much-needed respite and others are left alone and forgoing annual traditions because of pandemic restrictions.
Health Canada does not recommend everyone get vaccinated right away. Some are being told to wait for more data to roll in from the general public and others are working with their health care providers to determine if their conditions preclude them from vaccination.
While some doctors are telling patients to wait, Bogoch says he thinks the prevailing opinion in Canadian Health care will soon shift to recommending everyone receive the vaccine.
“I have a suspicion that this will be offered pretty broadly to those, including those who have immunocompromising conditions, including pregnant women, including women who are breastfeeding,” predicts Bogoch.
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“I think the [current Health Canada] wording is such that it is ‘not recommended’ but there certainly is a caveat allowing for people to choose to have it if they do have a conversation.”
He says American researchers are gathering data on millions of people and counting people who have been vaccinated there and they are monitoring outcomes that were not studied in clinical trials.
“If there is growing evidence from people who are immunocompromised or pregnant are getting this vaccine, and that database is growing quickly … we might see the shift in popular sooner than later in Canada,” Bogoch says.
Vaccine haves and have-nots?
A hypothetical post-vaccine world, where some are granted access to spaces and places by proving their immunization, is one suggested solution to help the world open up economies and communities ahead of ‘herd immunity.’
Bogoch says he doesn’t know if that’s the right approach, and ultimately it will require “some pretty deep public conversations to really sort this out,” as officials work to balance public safety and the right to make personal choices about your open body.
Whether or not it becomes the norm to show proof of vaccination in the near future, Bogoch says it is important to make sure you obtain electronic and paper documentation of your doses.
He’s also shutting down criticism from a Cranbrook doctor, after James Heilman said it was “incredibly disappointing” to see Public Health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry at the front of the line for vaccination.
“If you actually see a senior health official who, quite frankly, knows the ins-and-outs of the vaccine, the nuances of the safety and benefits of the vaccine, if you watch them make that choice for themself and make that choice for themself, it basically demonstrates to the general public that this is safe and that the calculus [Dr. Henry’s] brain significantly weighs in favour of getting the vaccine,” says Bogoch.
Seeing politicians jumping the queue to get the #COVID19 vaccine in British Columbia is so incredibly disappointing. These people have the luxury to self isolated / socially distance, a luxury not available to front line health workers. https://t.co/BFmGecvn4l
— James Heilman (@WikiDocJames) December 23, 2020
Bogoch says public health officials should be leading by example.