Photo By: Jakayla Toney from Unsplash
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the province, many Ontarians have taken to social media to share concerns about vaccine effectiveness against the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Ontario saw a massive decline in COVID-19 cases during the summer of 2021, as close to 80 per cent of eligible recipients got vaccinated against the virus. As a result, the government even went as far as lifting capacity limits in high-risk settings (where proof of vaccination was required).
As schools reopened and social activities were gradually allowed to resume, many were under the impression that the pandemic would soon be declared over. However, the number of infections has skyrocketed in the wake of the Omicron variant, with over 164,000 positive cases reported in the last 14 days here in Ontario alone.
Staffing shortages and testing delays have made it difficult to track the number of infections in those who have been fully vaccinated (breakthrough infections), but the implementation of new measures in response to rising case counts has left many people questioning whether vaccines are effective or not.
“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” read a statement from Albert Bourla, Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer. “Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two-dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
It is important to consider that the vaccines approved by Health Canada (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson) were developed in response to the earliest strains of COVID-19 (Alpha, Beta, and Gamma). Their effectiveness is what allowed most of Canada to lift restrictions during the latter half of 2021.
It is not uncommon for viruses to change through mutation, but these details are nearly impossible to predict. The vaccines administered across Ontario were developed with the information available at the time, and while the situation has changed, data shows that vaccinated individuals are less likely to experience severe symptoms or require hospitalization.
If you are experiencing COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, immediately self-isolate and contact your healthcare provider if necessary. For more guidance, visit the Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 website.