Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed Tuesday that there will be enough COVID-19 vaccines coming into the country to offer every eligible and willing Canadian their first shot by this summer, and enough doses for everyone to be fully vaccinated “by September.”
“A one-dose summer sets us up for a two-dose fall, when we’ll be able to talk about going back to school, back to work, and back to more normality,” said the prime minister.
Though, questions remain about when the federal government will be issuing clear guidance around what degree of risk certain activities pose to vaccinated people, and what Canadians can, and can’t do safely after their first and second COVID-19 shots.
Touting Canada’s ranking among G20 countries when it comes to daily vaccination rates—while the overall percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated remains low—Trudeau said that while the country is not finished fighting COVID-19, nearly 50 per cent of eligible adults have received at least one shot.
“There is hope,” Trudeau said, for a “slightly better summer,” but added that restrictions need to stay in place until at least 75 per cent of the population has at least their first shot and community transmission is better controlled through testing, tracing, and tamping down on spread.
“We can’t ease public health restrictions until cases are way down. We all want to have a summer where we can see our loved ones and invite friends over for BBQs. We can have that summer,” said the prime minister. “That’s what I’m excited about.”
According to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, case counts are “slowly declining” nationally but the third wave is still severe in several provinces.
WHAT CAN YOU DO THIS SUMMER?
While first doses of the three two-shot COVID-19 vaccines in use in Canada offer some degree of efficacy, it isn’t enough that Canadians should be letting their guards down while they wait to receive their second doses.
With cases still high, even with more Canadians getting vaccinated, the federal government is facing ongoing calls to more concretely outline what degree of easing of restrictions will be possible over the summer with the vast majority of Canadians set to only be half vaccinated.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu has previously said guidance similar to the extensive advice the United States has offered its citizens was coming “shortly”, a promise reiterated by Procurement Minister Anita Anand on CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Tuesday.
“We are working on those guidelines now. I know that the Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, is deeply engaged on this issue, and we will be releasing guidelines for Canadians in the near future,” she said.
For example, fully vaccinated Americans have been told they no longer need to wear masks outdoors unless in a large crowd of people, can resume domestic travel without taking COVID-19 tests, no longer need to self-isolate after arriving back from an international destination, and can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing.
On Tuesday, Trudeau said changing the guidance will depend on case counts dropping enough and vaccination rates rising enough to not spawn a fourth wave when public health precautions are eased, but didn’t offer an explanation as to why even discussing what might be possible isn’t concretely happening yet.
Tam did offer some potential examples, suggesting that more outdoor activity with people in your household or part of a small bubble may be possible, but it’ll depend on local pandemic realities.
“Everybody is frustrated with lockdowns, I think that’s a very normal thing. Everyone is frustrated and wants to know when we can start seeing our family again. Everyone wants to know when we can start going out and enjoying the connections that make our lives so important,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh during a press conference on Tuesday ahead of Trudeau’s address.
“It really heightens the responsibility of governments, particularly the federal government to provide a clear plan, let people know what do we need to do to get back to a place where we’re safe again. How many people need to get vaccinated? How do we get there? The more transparency, the more clarity in that plan, the more it helps people who are frustrated.”