Some urge vaccine certificates to require three doses as Ontario prepares to reopen

Restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and many other businesses in Ontario are set to reopen Monday to fully vaccinated customers, but with COVID-19 levels likely just past a peak, some are wondering if “fully vaccinated” should be redefined.

Businesses and facilities that were closed earlier this month in response to the surge in cases caused by the highly transmissible variant of Omicron are allowed to reopen with capacity limits and will have to operate under the vaccine certificate system. . This means only allowing customers who present proof that they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently considered fully vaccinated. But experts noted that the vaccine certificate system was designed when the Delta variant was dominant and two doses offered robust protection. against serious diseases and infections. Omicron, now responsible for nearly all COVID-19 related activity in the province, is a different beast and the government has urged residents to get vaccinated.

Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease physician and member of Ontario’s science advisory table, said three doses should now be the definition of fully vaccinated.

“I think there are a lot of us who, understanding the science of vaccines and looking at how we deal with other types of vaccines for various infectious diseases, really said this was probably a vaccine. three doses,” he said in a recent interview.

The Ontario Science Table highlighted evidence that two doses of an mRNA vaccine are approximately 35% effective against Omicron infection 14 weeks after receiving a second dose, while three doses can offer 75% protection in the first month.

When it comes to preventing not just infections but also serious illness and death, this booster dose can be 90% or more effective, said infectious disease physician Dr. Andrew Morris.

“We know that for most people after the second dose, because of the time since they received the last dose, the immunity has waned quite significantly and therefore is not as protective as it is. was,” he said.

“So it’s important to have that extra dose, I think, overall for public control and for people to feel relatively safer wherever they congregate indoors, whether in restaurants or stores, etc. So I think there are many opportunities to mandate a third dose as part of any vaccine strategy.

Given that booster shots only began to become widely available in late December, it may be wise to announce that a third dose would be mandatory for the vaccine certificate system at a later date, said Morris.

But Premier Doug Ford quickly dismissed a recent question about whether the system would be updated to require three doses instead of two.

“Not fair at this point,” he said when announcing the province’s reopening plan.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca called for vaccination certificates to require a third dose, saying it would help encourage more people to get boosters.

“With lives and livelihoods at stake, we cannot afford Doug Ford to spoil another reopening,” Del Duca wrote in a statement this month.

“He needs to strengthen the vaccination certificate now to make sure this reopening is permanent, so we can all get back to doing the things we love sooner, and so businesses aren’t closed anymore.”

Horwath suggested Ontario hasn’t updated its vaccine certificate requirements because the government has “failed” to get third doses into arms.

“I get it,” she said earlier this month. “You have to give people some time to get those booster shots, those third doses, but that time has passed.”

More than 80% of people aged 70 and over received a reminder, but this percentage drops to 70% for people aged 60 to 69. Around 56% of people aged 50 to 59 received a booster, with much lower percentages in younger age groups.

Meanwhile, Dr Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease doctor, said he would “strongly disagree” with calls to define fully vaccinated as having three doses.

Third doses prove beneficial for people over 60 and immunocompromised people to help them avoid serious illness, he said, but evidence shows young, healthy people are still well. protected against hospitalizations with two doses, even nearly a year after receiving a second dose.

“Once you start getting past the age of about 65, your risk really starts to climb for serious illness,” he said. “So a 20-year-old man with two doses is very different from a 65-year-old man with two doses. So making a one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t make sense.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 30, 2022.

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