It's best to hang on to your masks and sanitizers for now. Meanwhile, get your booster shot!
A message from Dr. Helena Swinkels, Office of the Chief Medical Officer
After a long two years of trying to avoid COVID-19, many of us are starting to feel like we can breathe safely again. As mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions have become a matter of personal or community choice, it may even feel like the pandemic is over.
While that may be true to some extent, COVID-19 is definitely here to stay—as an “endemic" virus, which means one that affects far fewer people and is manageable, like the seasonal flu and other respiratory viruses.
Knowing this, we need to find the right balance to live with COVID-19 and its many variants (known and yet to be identified) while minimizing its impacts. In doing so, we must be mindful to move forward with thoughtfulness, kindness, and consideration towards individuals and communities for whom the risk of COVID-19 infection remains high.
Many restrictions and mandates were eased because as “community immunity" increased through vaccination, booster doses, or acquired immunity (recovered from COVID-19), medical professionals have determined there's less overall risk: less risk the virus will circulate, and less risk that those who are vaccinated will get sick and overwhelm our health care system as in the previous two years.
However, this does not mean there is no risk. The elderly, people who are vaccinated but are immunocompromised or have underlying conditions, and those who are unvaccinated, will continue to have a higher risk of getting very ill if they contract COVID-19. The virus will continue to circulate and outbreaks may recur as we have seen on the news in other parts of the Canada and the world.
The COVID-19 safe practices we have been following, including social distancing, wearing masks and using sanitizers, lower the risk of getting all respiratory viruses – including influenza and the common cold – so keep them up! They're great habits regardless of risk of COVID-19.
If you haven't got your immunizations or your COVID-19 booster shot yet, the medical officers at the FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer strongly encourage you to do so. The immunity we get from some vaccinations lasts for life, and for others it decreases over time. For vaccines where immunity decreases over time, getting booster shots over and above your primary vaccine series is key to maintain immunity.
Just as you get your seasonal flu shot every November, COVID-19 vaccines may now be considered as a routine shot to top up your immunity from time to time. Boosters keep your immune system strong to help your body combat the virus and its variants. Vaccines are effective and remain our best protection against COVID-19.
First Nations communities will of course continue to determine timelines and protocols that best suit their community's needs, with the knowledge that some communities and/or community members have higher risk factors for COVID-19 transmission and serious disease. The changes in the provincial orders can be used by First Nations communities in BC to inform their own planning according to their specific needs.
COVID-19 might not be going away but with vaccines, we can learn to live with it.