COVID-19 information and resources: reducing your risk for infection and spreading the virus

Backgrounder

June 2021

Canadians can access comprehensive information and resources on COVID-19 on the Government of Canada coronavirus disease website Canada.ca/coronavirus, including updates on the current situation, self-assessment and mental and physical health resources. The website also provides guidance on limiting the spread of the virus to others in community, business and medical professional settings.

Immediate mental health and substance use supports are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to Canadians of all ages and at no cost, at the Wellness Together Canada online portal.

Additional information on the epidemiology of COVID-19 for public health professionals is available in the daily COVID-19 in Canada epidemiology update.

As always, I urge all Canadians to continue with our collective efforts to drive infection rates down to a low, manageable level, particularly as variants of concern now represent the majority cases nationally. A range of community-based public health measures are in place to interrupt the spread of the virus. Living with COVID-19 means remaining aware of the risks for exposure in your area and making informed decisions based on the latest advice, including recommendations of public health authorities in your jurisdiction and local area.

As vaccine eligibility expands, Canadians are urged to get vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated. As well, with provinces and territories accelerating second dose programs, those who are eligible are urged to get fully vaccinated, including getting the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series. The second immune-boosting dose substantially lowers our personal risk of infection and serious harms, provides stronger protection against certain variants of concern, and may make immunity last longer. 

Regardless of vaccination status, strong public health measures must be sustained where COVID-19 is circulating and individual precautions are important everywhere, even as we continue to see more benefits of COVID-19 vaccination. Where infection rates remain high, it is important to limit close contacts to just those in our immediate household and reduce in-person interactions to essential errands and activities, while consistently maintaining key public health practices. In addition, limit the time you spend in settings and situations that have not implemented measures, protocols and policies to reduce the risk of exposure. At this time, Canadians are advised to avoid all non-essential travel. If you must travel outside Canada for essential reasons, be aware of the requirements for visiting other countries and for returning to Canada.

To keep yourself and others safer during COVID-19, think about the risks: ask yourself the questions in the below "Quick Checks" table to consider your risk, based on (A) your personal/close contacts' risk factors and (B) risk factors posed by the setting/activity. Then, consider layering up with (C) things you can do to reduce your risk of infection and unintentionally spreading the virus.

As vaccine coverage increases across the country, it is still important to continue following local public health advice regardless of your vaccination status. Until vaccine coverage is sufficiently high to impact disease transmission more broadly in the community, we must maintain a high degree of caution with public health and individual measures and not ease restrictions too soon or too quickly where infection rates are high.

Quick Checks on COVID-19 Risks to Consider
A. PERSONAL AND HOUSEHOLD/CONTACT
RISK FACTORS CONSIDERATIONS
B. SETTINGS/ACTIVITY
RISK FACTORS CONSIDERATIONS
  1. Am I at high risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19 or would having to self-isolate/quarantine seriously disrupt my plans or priorities?
  2. Are there people at high risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19 in my household/close contacts that I could unintentionally infect?
  1. Are there measures in place in the setting to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, e.g. supporting physical distancing and requiring people to wear masks?
  2. Will I be able to make adjustments in the setting (e.g. stepping away if it gets crowded, wearing a mask and washing/disinfecting my hands frequently)?
C. THINGS YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF INFECTION AND UNINTENTIONALLY SPREADING THE VIRUS

Additional ways to reduce your risk:

  • Stay informed, be prepared and follow the advice of your local public health authority, including advice on:
    • gathering size limits for both indoor and outdoor settings
    • non-essential trips out of your home or community
  • If you have any symptoms, even if mild, stay home and isolate, keep away from others and contact your local public health authority to be guided safely to testing and care.
  • Plan for, register, and get vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated
  • Regardless of vaccination status, take measures to protect yourself and support others at high risk of COVID-19 severe disease or outcomes by being prepared and finding safer ways to connect.
  • Use layers of effective personal preventive practices to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus:
    • Minimize non-essential in-person interactions with people from outside of your immediate household. If you have to interact with people you don't live with, make sure interactions are:
      • as few and as brief as possible
      • from the greatest physical distance possible
    • Improve indoor air quality in shared spaces through increased ventilation
    • Wear properly, a well-constructed and well-fitting face mask when:
      • you're in a shared space (indoors or outdoors) with people from outside of your immediate household, or
      • advised by your local public health authority
    • Practice frequent hand, cough, and surface hygiene.
  • Avoid or strictly limit your time spent in settings/situations where public health measures are not in place to reduce the risk of infection when with people from outside of your immediate household, including private gatherings, particularly if in:
    • Closed spaces with poor ventilation
    • Crowded places
  • It is particularly important to avoid settings where these factors overlap or include activities such as close-range conversations, singing, shouting or heavy breathing, for example, during exercise.
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Quality information is crucial for safety and success. There is a lot of misinformation circulating online and on social media so it is important to fact check against trusted and credible sources. Canadians can go the extra mile by sharing credible information and updates with others.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Vaccination is a proven way to reduce the impact of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines will help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us getting the illness. Currently, we are still collecting evidence to be able to determine how effective COVID-19 vaccines will be in creating longer-term immunity.

On December 9, 2020, we achieved a key milestone in our COVID-19 response with the regulatory authorization of Canada's first vaccine against COVID-19 (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine (Tozinameran or BNT162b2)). This was followed by regulatory approval of the Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccine (mRNA-1273) on December 23, 2020. On February 26, 2021, Health Canada authorised the first viral vector-based vaccines approved for use in Canada: the AstraZeneca COVID-19 viral vector-based vaccine (ChAdOx1-S), developed in partnership with Oxford University, and the Serum Institute of India's version of the AstraZeneca vaccine. On March 5, 2021, Health Canada authorised an additional viral vector-based vaccine, the single-dose Johnson and Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine (Ad26.COV2.S). On May 5th, Health Canada authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for safe and effective prevention of COVID-19 in children aged 12 to 15 years.

Given we have begun a phase of sustained increase in vaccine deliveries, allowing for a greater number of people to be vaccinated faster, we can realistically expect that all eligible people in Canada will be offered a vaccine by fall 2021.

I encourage all Canadians to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines in Canada, including how vaccines are developed and what to expect at your vaccination. Visit Canada.ca for more information on Canada's rigorous approval process for reviewing and authorizing vaccines to ensure safety, efficacy and quality standards, and ongoing monitoring for vaccine safety and effectiveness. The availability of vaccine will continue to expand over the coming weeks and months of 2021, providing everyone in Canada who is eligible with the opportunity to be vaccinated. The Government of Canada has developed a roadmap, anticipating what spring, summer, and fall might look like in Canada in terms of public health advice and easing of public health measures. Maintaining control measures until infection rates are low enough and vaccine protection is high enough will allow for safer lifting of restrictions without overwhelming health systems.

Canada's COVID-19 Immunization Plan provides more details on the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines to all Canadians. A key component of the vaccine process in Canada involves The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), an External Advisory Body that provides the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) with independent, ongoing and timely medical, scientific, and public health advice. For over 50 years, NACI has safeguarded our health, reviewing the research on vaccines, and making recommendations for the use of vaccines currently or newly authorized for use in Canada.

As we move towards widespread and lasting control of COVID-19 through the use of safe and effective vaccines, Canadians must continue with public health practices to protect themselves and their loved ones as well as people and communities at high risk for severe outcomes. Our continued efforts are not only helping public health to quickly interrupt chains of transmission, we are also assisting the broader health workforce and partners to plan for and rollout out one of the most complex immunization campaigns in Canada's history.

Canadians are encouraged to seek out trusted and reliable sources of information to help guide vaccination decisions, such as Canada.ca and Immunize.ca. If you are reading or sharing information through your social media channels, please make sure that the information is from an original source that you can trust.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: