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

Backgrounder

July 2022

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, guidance on how to reduce the risks to protect yourself and others, as well as self-assessment and mental and physical health resources.

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 (WTC) online portal. PocketWell, a free companion app to the WTC online portal, provides another way to help Canadians access online mental health and substance use resources, and measure and monitor aspects of their mental well-being. PocketWell is available as a free download from the App Store or the Google Play Store.

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

As we move past the crisis phase of the pandemic, Canada's stronger foundation of protection gained through the development and application of a range of tools can help us achieve a more balanced and sustainable approach to long term management of COVID-19. Striving to reduce serious outcomes, these tools, including vaccines, surveillance and public health, clinical and treatment measures, can help support vulnerable populations and reduce impacts on health systems, while minimizing societal disruptions.

Our best advantage going forward will be maintaining a state of readiness. At the individual level, readiness can be best achieved by keeping COVID-19 vaccinations up-to-date, including getting a booster dose (or doses) when eligible and continuing to follow public health advice tailored to local epidemiology and circumstances to guide your individual and family risk assessment and decisions on use of personal protective practices. Maintaining a Vaccines Plus approach can keep us better prepared and better protected against serious illness and other complications of COVID-19 infection, including post COVID-19 condition, also known as long COVID.

Things you can do to reduce your risk of infection and help reduce the spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 Vaccination

Vaccination is a proven way to reduce the impact of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us getting the illness. Evidence continues to demonstrate that getting vaccinated as recommended reduces your risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death due to COVID-19.

In particular, getting a booster dose if you are eligible and especially for those aged 50 years of age or older is very important. The latest evidence indicates that an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine booster dose can provide longer-lasting protection and better effectiveness, even if you have been previously infected.

Over time, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has evolved into multiple variants and sub-lineages that can partially evade vaccine-induced immunity.  For the BA.1 and BA.2 sub-lineages of the Omicron variant, two doses of COVID-19 vaccines offer lower protection against infection than for previous variants and this protection declines over time.  A third dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine restores the waned antibody response to the higher levels seen after the primary series. Evidence shows that two doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines protect well against severe outcomes for BA.1 and BA.2 and a booster dose further increases vaccine effectiveness against severe outcomes.

I encourage all Canadians to learn more about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines approved for use 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.

Canadians are encouraged to seek out trusted and reliable sources of information to help guide vaccination decisions, such as your health care provider, local public health authority or 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.

COVID-19 Treatment

If you are concerned about your symptoms, consult your health care provider or local health care resources in your community. They may recommend steps or medications you can take. In particular, if you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe outcomes, it is recommended that you learn about accessing early treatment before you get sick. There are different treatments available for COVID-19, including some that should be started promptly after symptoms appear. Knowing how to access treatment beforehand can help minimise delays in beginning your treatment in the event you do get infected.

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