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December 18, 2020 • read

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Will life go back to normal after we get the COVID-19 vaccine?

With the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out across Canada, life after the pandemic is becoming more imaginable. It’s a major victory for the scientific community, and for everyday Canadians.

But, the vaccine is only one piece of the puzzle. There will be other challenges before we can finally say we’ve overcome COVID-19. Here’s an idea of what those are, and how they’ll shape life for the foreseeable future.

Vaccine rollout times will impact how fast we return to normal

The speed at which populations receive the vaccine will influence how soon the pandemic ends. The timeline will rely on our stockpiles of vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies can only make so many doses of a particular vaccine at once. The first vaccine in Canada is by Pfizer, but there are other pharmaceutical companies working on vaccines too. Once they’re approved by Health Canada they’ll be distributed, increasing the total number of COVID-19 vaccines we have in-stock.

Vaccinations will be given in priority order

People who are most at risk of developing severe health complications from COVID-19 will be vaccinated first. 

When it comes to deciding which populations need to be vaccinated urgently, provinces will use suggestions from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. The following population groups will likely be vaccinated first.

Long-term care home staff and residents 

Elderly folks are especially susceptible to the worst effects of COVID-19. To prevent COVID-19 from spreading through long-term care homes, vaccinating residents and staff is a top priority.

Older adults 

Outside of long-term care facilities, adults over 80 years old are the highest priority population, followed by adults 70 years of age and older. These groups are at high risk of needing hospitalization if they get sick. Minimizing the spread in older adults will help reduce patient volumes, and ease the burden on our hospitals.

Health care workers 

This includes medical professionals, hospital staff, and personal support workers who visit patients’ homes. It will also include the health care providers who will eventually administer the vaccines. 

Indigenous communities

Adults in remote Indigenous communities have less access to medical care. This means a COVID-19 outbreak would have disproportionate consequences.

The next phase of vaccinations will go to:

  • Any medical personnel not covered by the first batch of vaccines.
  • People who live in very close quarters with other people. This group includes migrant workers, people in homeless shelters, and people in correctional facilities.
  • Essential workers who can’t work from home or socially distanced environments. Grocery store staff and public transit operators are examples of essential workers.

After these two phases of vaccination, doses will be available to everyone else. The speed at which vaccines are approved and administered will determine how long these phases last.

The more people vaccinated, the faster we stop COVID-19

The vaccine can only be effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19 if people choose to get it. Exactly how many people need to be vaccinated to wipe the virus out is still unknown. Evidence from other pandemics suggests if about 70% of the population is immune, a disease slows down or is eradicated completely.

How long vaccinations last is still an open question

Sometimes vaccines require more than one dose to take effect. With some COVID-19 vaccines, you’ll need to get two shots to be fully vaccinated. 

After the initial dosage — whether it’s one or two shots — some vaccines require booster shots to ensure your system has built up immunity. 

Sticking to public health guidelines is still important

Public health guidelines are still incredibly important, even with a vaccine in sight. As vaccines roll out, continuing to socially distance, wear masks, and use hand sanitizer will keep the number of new cases low. If we’re able to slow the spread in communities that aren’t yet vaccinated, we’ll get back to normal much faster.

When will we return to work?

The most common estimate for when we’ll be able to safely return to our office desks is spring or summer of 2021. It will heavily depend on how many people receive their vaccination, how fast vaccines work, and a continued effort to stop the spread. 

Mass gatherings like conferences or sporting events could be on hold for years. However, small scale socializing could be back on the agenda much sooner.

Life after the pandemic will undoubtedly be different from life pre-2020. But, the prospects are bright. A vaccine is a major victory and a great reason to be optimistic. Until COVID-19 is fully behind us, continue wearing masks, washing your hands frequently, and practising physical distancing. If you need medical help, you can see our doctors from the comfort of your home over your smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

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