Although the discovery of vaccines against COVID-19 is great news, our fight against the coronavirus is not over and we must not relax our vigilance, experts say.
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While waiting for a critical mass of the population to be immunized, the coronavirus continues to be a threat to hospitals and to health, they stress.
That is why, in the meantime, compliance with other health rules, such as wearing a mask and physical distancing, remains crucial, while slacking off could have significant consequences, they say.
“There, we limited our contact with other people as much as possible. If we put all that aside and only 10% of the population is protected, clearly, we will end up with the same problem of overcrowding in intensive care, then in hospitals ”, believes Christian Jacob, president of the Association des microbiologistes du Québec.
In two times
In Quebec, the government gives priority to vaccinating the elderly and health workers.
Eventually, this should lead to a drop in the number of hospitalizations and deaths and allow a relaxation of the instructions, but not an immediate return to normal life.
Dose distribution in the general population will not begin until a second stage. We will have to be patient.
“If we have four times as many contacts [sociaux] in the month of April that we have right now, well, there are going to be people from the lower age groups who are going to be hospitalized too, and that would be, excuse the term, a little “silly” to cause more offloading of operations, in a perfectly manageable situation, ”says Mr. Jacob.
Because the coronavirus is a virulent infection that can also cause serious complications in younger individuals, even if it is rarer, recalls Anne Gatignol, a specialist in virology and professor at McGill University.
A matter of months
The risks of long-term consequences of the disease are not well known either, she notes. We have a few months to continue the measurements, she thinks. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the more we respect them now and for a few months, the more quickly these restrictions will be lifted. ”
Other reasons call for caution, even in people who have been vaccinated, according to these two experts.
Indeed, while we have demonstrated that the first vaccines prevent symptoms, we have little data on their ability to completely prevent infection and contagion.
In addition, despite their high efficiency, it is not 100% and “zero risk does not exist”.
Measures that save lives
Wearing a face cover
- “Wearing a mask is the most obvious thing […], it’s a respiratory virus, ”says Anne Gatignol, professor in the Department of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University. According to some studies, the face covering can reduce the emission of droplets by up to 80%. It protects others, but it protects you too, with an effectiveness that varies depending on the type of mask or fabric.
- The further away you are, the less chance you have of catching the virus. It is estimated that over 50% of transmission is caused by asymptomatic or presymptomatic people. Hence the importance of keeping your distance from others.
Limit your contacts
- The frequency of contact has a direct impact on the ability of the virus to proliferate in the community. This feeds on social exchanges, as evidenced by significant outbreaks, reported in recent months, which have occurred due to gatherings at weddings or private parties, for example.
Respiratory label and hand washing
- These are two simple and effective ways to protect yourself against COVID-19, which is spread primarily through respiratory particles, but also, to a lesser extent, through contact with contaminated surfaces. It is known that the virus can survive from a few hours to a few days on surfaces, depending on the type of material and the environmental conditions.
- If infection with the coronavirus is suspected, or if it is confirmed, isolation is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. These measures help prevent transmission from people who might be contagious without knowing it, for example after risky contact with an infected person or after returning from a trip.
What Doctor Béliveau thinks
The priority remains to vaccinate the elderly who are at much higher risk of developing severe forms of the disease and of being admitted to hospital (half of the patients who are currently hospitalized are over 70 years old). By preferentially targeting this subpopulation, we will therefore have a much greater short-term impact on the health system than if we vaccinated the population randomly.
But it is obvious that the virus will continue to circulate this winter in the population and it is only when a majority of people are vaccinated that we can really consider returning to our normal life. The good news is that we will get there soon and so it is definitely worth the extra effort until then.
The other very good news is that the latest data collected by Moderna indicates that the vaccine does not only decrease the development of COVID-19 but also infection (decrease in the number of asymptomatic people). Everything is therefore in place to put an end to the current pandemic during the year 2021.