Canada has now reached the milestone of giving a first dose of coronavirus vaccine to more than half of eligible adults, and a large number of kids and teens aged 12 and up. In many areas, the wait for a second dose has been reduced and more appointments are opening up so that people in specific groups can get fully protected. If you’ve received your first dose of one of the two-dose vaccines - Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Oxford-AstraZeneca - you might be wondering whether it’s worth the hassle of going through with a second appointment, or if you can skip it and consider yourself well protected with a single dose. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to see things through.
Two doses really are better than one
Except for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which is designed to be given as a single dose, all the other approved coronavirus vaccines are given as two doses, spaced several weeks apart. The design and the timing of the vaccines have been tailored to make use of the way our immune systems naturally work. The first dose “primes” the system to recognize the invader when it’s seen again, but then it takes about two weeks for our immune system to build up its full arsenal of defenses. Then at the second dose, the immune system mounts an even stronger reaction when it sees the same pathogen another time, And again, building full protection takes about another two weeks after that, which is why you’re considered to be “fully vaccinated” two weeks after your second dose.
Although the clinical studies of the two-dose vaccines did show that rates of infection were reduced by taking just one dose, somewhere in the range of 50 to 90% depending on the specific vaccine, getting two doses always provided even better protection against infection, upwards of 90% for all available vaccines. And importantly, completing the two-dose course gave the best possible protection against getting severely ill or dying from COVID-19.
For more on the science behind two-dose vaccines and the reasons for completing your second dose, these sites have some helpful information:
The rise of the variants
In many regions of Canada, the waiting time between first and second vaccine doses has been shortened to try to get ahead of the new Delta coronavirus variant, which is more easily transmitted than previous virus variants and has become the dominant strain in some parts of the world. The good news is that our existing vaccines look like they work well against Delta, as long as you get both doses. In particular, the current vaccines are very good at preventing serious symptoms or death from the Delta variant. Even though the vaccines were developed based on previous strains of the virus, they still work against new variants because they train your immune system to recognize a part of the virus that stays pretty much the same as the viruses mutate over time. There have been reports of “breakthrough infections” of Delta in fully vaccinated people, but so far these have usually only produced fairly mild symptoms. And unfortunately, Delta probably won’t be the last novel variant we’ll ever need to worry about - we need to be ready for new variations in the future. Thankfully, we can help limit the spread of current and future variants if most people are fully vaccinated as soon as possible - that way there won’t be as many places for the variants to get a foothold.
More freedom for you…
The Public Health Agency of Canada has recently released its colour-coded guidance on the activities and practices you can safely return to once you’re fully vaccinated. Based on your own vaccine status - and what you know about the status of other people involved - you may be able to get back to most normal indoor and outdoor activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, as long as the local rules and regulations are aligned. Beyond Canada’s borders, many countries are now allowing fully vaccinated international travellers to visit again, in some cases without undergoing COVID-19 testing. And recent changes to the rules mean that fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents will no longer have to deal with hotel or home quarantines when they return from those international trips.
...And for everyone else
The details of reopening plans vary a bit from province to province, but all of them generally rely on having a certain proportion of the population protected with first and second shots. The overall guidance from Health Canada is that reopening can start once 75% of people have one dose and 20% have two, and many provinces are now in this stage or reaching it soon. In Ontario, a 70% first dose, 20% second dose vaccination rate corresponds to Step 2 of reopening, while reaching Step 3 - where things like indoor dining and activities will be allowed again - will need us to reach 70 to 80% of adults with one dose and 25% fully vaccinated. So by adding yourself to those numbers, you can help with progress towards reopening and more summer fun for everybody!
Put us out of business - but please consider supporting us before you do!
As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, here at GiveAMask.ca we’re eagerly looking forward to the day that we can go out of business because people don’t need masks anymore. Getting yourself fully vaccinated is a big part of that process, but so is continuing to wear masks for as long as the public health guidance recommends it. So to get yourself through the last days of mask-wearing - and to help protect vulnerable populations - why not treat yourself to something cool from our store?