As Nova Scotia continues to receive more COVID-19 vaccine supply, the province’s top doctor expects a different environment come June.
“I want to be optimistic,” Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said at Friday’s COVID-19 briefing. “I think we’ll be in a much different and much less restrictive environment as we get high levels of population immunity.”
By then, Strang said Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada will have to assess its progress and review epidemiology.
As of now, he said there’s not enough information to know what the environment and restrictions will look like at the end of June.
But nationally, chief medical officers of health across Canada are looking at what restrictions they can comfortably “let go” after reaching a high level of population immunity.
“There’s a lot we’re waiting to learn more about the vaccines,” he said. “Right now, we know that the vaccines are effective at preventing symptomatic illness. Certainly, very good at preventing severe illness and hospitalizations.”
Currently, there’s not enough proof the vaccines prevent asymptomatic spread.
“Right now, if somebody’s immunized, we don’t know for sure that they couldn’t still become infected [with] no symptoms and still be passing the virus around,” Strang said. “For now, until we get better evidence, people — even if they’re immunized with one or two doses — still have to follow all the COVID protocols. We still have to have COVID restrictions at some level.
“I do use the term ‘game-changer,’ but still we have to understand we’re going to have COVID restrictions and COVID protocols for a number of months as we learn ultimately what is the ultimate impact of having people — large numbers of people — vaccinated.”
If a large number of people get immunized, the chances of widespread infection and severe illness lessens.
Health Canada just approved the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine making it the fourth approved vaccine in the country.
In Nova Scotia, reservations for getting the COVID-19 vaccine has opened for those 80 and older. Clinics for those appointments will begin on March 15.
“Some of it is just knowing the science but also seeing how the epidemiology evolves,” Strang said. “One of the outstanding questions there is, ‘What’s going to happen with the variant? Are we going to get a resurgence or a third wave with a variant?’
“All of this means that we still, in the short term or the next two to three months, we need to remain very cautious.”