We did it! That is, for better or worse, we made it through a full year of a global pandemic.

And if you’re one of most British Columbians who have been doing their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we can’t thank you enough for your efforts.

We’re all weary and look forward to resuming the activities we all miss, but we’re getting there, and with more British Columbians getting vaccinated every day, we can take solace in the fact that brighter days are ahead.

Those brighter days are thanks to the vaccines that are now available to us and that we are currently administering to our high risk populations. Actually, when you consider that it generally takes years for a vaccine to go from development to trials to approval and distribution, it’s pretty incredible that less than a year from the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, we find ourselves with a handful of vaccines approved by Health Canada, ready to be put into arms.

While there’s a misconception that our COVID-19 vaccines were rushed into production and hastily pushed through prematurely for approval and as such not to be trusted, you can rest assured that our COVID-19 vaccines go through the same rigorous trials and testing as any other vaccine would.

At the same time, we must not mistake the vaccine as an end-all, cure-all, but rather, an additional layer of protection.

What this means is that in addition to continuing to follow public health guidelines like washing our hands, staying home when we feel unwell, keeping a safe physical distance from others, and wearing a mask if and when able, getting vaccinated is another line of defence.

Throughout the next several months, more and more of the general population of British Columbians will be getting vaccinated, and the goal is to reach “community immunity“–current evidence suggests this requires about 70% of the population to be vaccinated.

In the meantime, and even post-vaccination, we urge you to stay committed to using ALL your layers of protection and here are three big reasons why.

To protect yourself

Once vaccinated, it takes a few weeks to build immunity, meaning you can still get infected if you’re exposed to someone who is carrying the virus. Plus, our data show that age is the highest predictor of illness and death from COVID-19.

Modelling slide from Dr Henry, March 11, 2021

However, as you can see above, we’ve also begun to see individuals in their 30s dying from COVID-19, meaning, we’re discovering that few of us are an exception to serious illness and death. So, we all need to continue to do our best to keep ourselves safe, regardless of age.

To protect others

Think of your layers of protection as a 2-way street—they’re not just for your own safety, but for the safety of others, too. Keep in mind that there are, and will be, members of our population who want to get the vaccine, but for various medical reasons, can’t. Due to other factors, there will also be people who choose not to get the vaccine, though we hope this number is low.

“Our individual actions give us collective safety.”

-Dr Bonnie Heny

There’s simply no real way of knowing who is vaccinated in our community and who isn’t, including our family, friends, coworkers, neighbours, and people we may encounter and interact with on a daily basis. By protecting ourselves, in turn, we help protect others.

There’s much we still don’t know

We have yet to learn how well the vaccine prevents spread of the virus, how long protection lasts, and how well our vaccines work in preventing asymptomatic infection.

Which means two things:

1) Vaccinated or not, we must continue to adhere to the latest public health orders and use all our layers of protection, and

2) We urgently need vaccine-related research to learn more.

What you can do and how you can help

When it comes to studying COVID-19 vaccines, our public health researchers and experts have informed us of knowledge gaps that need to be studied. As a public health organization, it’s our responsibility to support vaccine-related research in order to learn more about the effectiveness of these vaccines.

You can directly support this urgent and critical research by donating to our Emergency Response Fund.

Because the faster we can learn about how these vaccines work in the real-world, the better we can make informed decisions that will protect our population now and into the future. This is how we Activate Health.

So let’s all Activate Health by following public health orders, and using all our layers of protection (vaccine included), to help keep ourselves, our community, our family, friends, seniors, and elders, safe from COVID-19.

And yes, as we move into spring and then summer, we can look forward to brighter days ahead.

For more information and Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 vaccines/vaccination, visit Immunize BC’s website, the BC Centre for Disease Control’s evidence-based immunization website.

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