COVID-19: Life after vaccination

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Canada’s winning strategy

Canada’s vaccine strategy has been to vaccinate as many people in Canada with a first dose of a 2-dose series as quickly and safely as possible for the greater benefit of everyone. The strategy has prevented many cases, and helped to save many lives, by protecting us as individuals and as a community.

You win with the:

You can also feel good about contributing to the protection of others in your family and community.

Progress is being made everyday as more and more people get vaccinated. Vaccination is a strong tool in our fight against COVID-19. When combined with public health measures and personal preventive practices, it’s much more impactful.

What’s happening in your community

We’re on track to meet and hopefully surpass our vaccination targets. When a lot of people in a community are vaccinated, we see the following things occur:

Provinces and territories are gradually easing restrictive community focused public health measures, like curfews and closures, based on:

What being vaccinated means for you

Regardless of your vaccine status, you need to continue to follow local public health recommendations and restrictions. It’s expected that these recommendations will change as COVID-19-related hospitalization rates become, and stay, very low.

Assuming vaccines remain effective against the circulating virus variants, this should happen as more people become fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated

Being fully vaccinated means that:

  • you have received your second dose of a 2-dose vaccine series or 1 dose of an approved 1-dose vaccine
    • currently, the only 1-dose vaccine approved for use in Canada is Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • your immune system response after your first dose will be boosted by your second dose

You won’t get maximum protection right away. However, by 2 weeks after your second dose, you’ll likely be well protected and:

  • your risk of serious illness will be much lower
  • the risk of other people catching the virus from you is likely very low
  • it’s likely you’ll have very good protection against infection, including against most current variants of concern

However, there’s a chance you still may not be completely protected. About 5 out of every 100 people could still get infected after 2 doses of an mRNA vaccine. This is more likely in those:

What you can do now

If you’re fully vaccinated and don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, you can now do more things safely. Public health authorities, business operators or your employer may still have measures in place that apply to everyone. These are for the safety of everyone.

Within the context of the current public health restrictions in your region, if you’re fully vaccinated and 2 weeks have passed since your last dose of vaccine, you may:

If you’re older and/or have certain pre-existing medical conditions, you:

  • are at greater risk of severe illness if you’re infected
  • may not get as much protection from vaccination compared to a younger person with no pre-existing medical conditions

You may still want to keep wearing a mask and avoid getting close to others in public even if you’re fully vaccinated. Other fully vaccinated people may also choose to keep these added layers of protection, just because they want to continue to minimize their risk of infection.

If you’re fully vaccinated and meeting with others who aren’t, such as:

  • children under age 12
  • people who can’t be vaccinated
  • or those awaiting their second dose

You may choose to reduce the risk for everyone by wearing a mask and physical distancing.

In some settings (like businesses, workplaces, public transit and health care facilities), you may still be asked to:

  • wear a mask
  • physically distance from others

This will be based on reopening plans and how many COVID-19 cases are being reported in your community.

Partially vaccinated

Being partially vaccinated means that:

  • you have received one dose of a 2-dose vaccine series
  • your immune system has started to build up your level of protection
  • after several weeks, you’ll likely have some protection

It’s important to know that:

  • about 1 out of every 3 partially vaccinated people could still get infected if they’re exposed to the virus
  • about 20% of partially vaccinated people who do get infected could develop severe illness
    • this is less likely in younger people, but severe illness can happen at any age
  • the chances of infection and/or severe illness may be higher with certain variants of concern
  • if you do get infected, it’s possible for you to spread the virus to others, even if you don’t have any symptoms

It’s still necessary to use a mask and not get close to others from outside your household. This is because you won’t know whether you were protected by your first dose or not.

The overall risk level will likely be lower if the people you’re engaging with:

  • are partially or fully vaccinated and
  • don’t have symptoms of COVID-19

Wearing a mask, not getting close to each other and continuing to follow public health recommendations will further reduce the risk to everyone involved.

Other factors that change your risk level

The likelihood that you or a member of your household may be exposed to the virus increases when you interact with more people. This is especially true when there are a lot of new COVID-19 cases happening in your community. Your vaccination status only changes your risk of catching COVID-19 and becoming ill. It doesn’t change your risk of exposure to the virus out in the community.

Different situations may shift your personal risk level or that within your household. For example:

A change in health status could make you more likely to have severe disease if you are exposed to, and infected with, the virus. It’s important to:

Engaging with others

When society is opening up and more activities are permitted, your vaccine status affects your risk and the risk to those around you. It’s important to choose and organize safer, less risky activities when going out or engaging with others.

Don’t get together with other people if you (or they) feel sick or have been told to isolate or quarantine.

Things aren’t the same for everyone, everywhere. Deciding what personal preventive practices, like masking or physical distancing, you can safely ease up on when and in what settings depends on several things. The decision isn’t based just on whether you’re fully vaccinated. These other factors include:

Consider all of these factors when deciding what measures to ease up on. Keeping at least some personal preventive measures in place when unvaccinated people are interacting (even with fully vaccinated people) further reduces the risk for everyone. For example, if an unvaccinated child is going to hug a fully vaccinated grandparent, the risk is further reduced by having the child wear a mask.

Resources are available to help you make safer choices. Learn more about:

To further guide your decisions, here are some examples of how various activities rate in terms of COVID-19 safety.

Safest activities

The safest activities with the lowest risk to you are:

Less safe activities

Less safe activities with more risk to you, particularly if you’re not fully vaccinated, are:

Least safe activities

The least safe activities with the highest risk to you, particularly if you’re not fully vaccinated, are:

When the pandemic is over

It’s unlikely that COVID-19 will completely go away. We may see ongoing outbreaks or a move to a more seasonal pattern like what we see with colds and flu in fall and winter.

There will likely be ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 in parts of the world where vaccination may not be available. Even in Canada, some individuals may:

Good preventive practices should always be part of our normal routine, now and after the pandemic, such as:

Wearing a well-fitting mask and not getting close to other people have proven to be effective during the pandemic. These practices could become part of your regular routine for the winter cold and flu season.

Some people may choose to continue to use masks regardless of the season. It’s important that we consider this to be a normal personal choice in our post-pandemic world.

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