If the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine goes as planned in B.C., British Columbians could be tossing out their masks and forgetting about physical distancing by next summer.
On Wednesday, Health Canada announced the approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the country, and the first 4,000 doses are expected to land in B.C. by next week.
Several different types of vaccines are expected to be approved in the coming months, but the massive rollout of the vaccines across the world means it will take some time before British Columbians can put the pandemic behind them for good.
About 380,000 of the province’s most at-risk people are expected to be immunized by the end of March, followed by a more widespread distribution to the rest of the population.
“It probably takes about 60 to 70 per cent of the population [to be vaccinated] … and then the virus has a very hard time finding a new person to infect that isn’t already protected,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday.
“In my experience with past pandemics, once we reach that place, transmission goes down very rapidly … In terms of timing, that means we’re looking at the summer, into the fall of next year is my best guess.”
Dr. Henry added that many of the restrictions currently in place to reduce the spread of the virus will likely be gone by next summer.
“I think we’re going to have a very different and much more social summer, and I think into next fall we’ll get back to some semblance of our normal ways of interacting with each other and being able to see each other again safely. And the pandemic, I hope, will be on its last legs,” she said.
“We probably won’t need to wear masks any more, we won’t need to keep those distances. We will of course still need to stay home and stay away from others when we’re not feeling well and always wash our hands.”
While the first 4,000 doses of the new Pfizer vaccine will be administered to healthcare workers in the Lower Mainland next week, more widespread distribution of the vaccine to places like the Interior is expected in early January.
While those most at risk will be first in line for the vaccine, the general population should have access to it by the spring.