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Are you fully vaccinated? Here’s what Canadian health experts say you can do safely right now – Toronto Star

Hundreds line up at Jimmy Simpson Park for COVID-19 vaccinations at a clinic earlier this month.

By May WarrenStaff Reporter

Jenna MoonStaff Reporter

Fri., June 25, 20214 min. read

Article was updated 2 hrs ago

Get ready for a two-dose summer.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has released new colour-coded guidance on what you can safely do, once you’re fully vaccinated.

That means you completed the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized in Canada at least 14 days ago — so two shots if you’re taking a two-dose vaccine (Moderna, Pfizer BioNTech, AstraZeneca) or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

If that applies to you, it means you can gather outdoors with a small group of other fully vaccinated people for things like a camping trip or a barbecue, without masks or physical distancing.

You can also gather indoors with a small group of people who are fully vaccinated (for a dinner party or movie night). You can even hug.

Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, called the guidelines “very clear and sensible.”

When people begin to mix more freely with those outside of their homes, “we’ll have to get more comfortable with asking others about their vaccination status,” Tuite said. She feels the framework is particularly helpful for people with children under 12, or people who cannot be vaccinated as it’s “been less clear” on how to protect people in different situations.

According to the guidelines, gathering outdoors with people from other households (for an outside wedding or a party, for example) whether they’re fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated (one dose) or you’re unsure of their vaccination status, is also OK if you are fully vaccinated.

If you’re inside with a group of people and you’re unsure whether they’ve been vaccinated (at a birthday party, a mosque or gym, for example) you can consider wearing a mask or physical distancing, even if you’ve been vaccinated, if you’re at risk. You should also keep doors and windows open if possible and follow guidance by organizers/owners.

The same goes for large outdoor gatherings, such as crowded concerts and sporting events (minus the windows).

The federal government has been under pressure to release clear guidance about what people can do once fully vaccinated, as more and more Canadians get their second shots.

As of Friday, by the Star’s count, 8.7 million people across the country — or about 23 per cent of the population — have been fully vaccinated. In Ontario it’s about 25 per cent.

In the U.S., which has been ahead of Canada in its vaccine rollout, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also developed guidance for the fully vaccinated.

While there’s nothing in Canada’s guidance that jumps out as unreasonable, the new information about masking did give Colin Furness, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, some pause.

The advice for being indoors with people from multiple households with mixed vaccination status – following measures in place by event organizers and for fully vaccinated people to “consider” wearing a mask and social distancing – comes “a little too soon,” Furness said. He added that we are still learning in real-time about the effects of the Delta variant, so more data may still be necessary.

“I think caution is the byword here,” Furness said, adding while he isn’t trying to be “panic-oriented,” he doesn’t yet feel comfortable being in a room unmasked with unvaccinated people.



“I would really want the communication from public health to let people know that this is a fluid situation” and that advice may need to change to match, he added.

The guidelines note that the advice is based on the current situation “and will be updated as vaccination rates continue to increase and cases decrease.” They also say individuals should continue to follow public health advice in public settings such as workplaces and transit. As a general rule, “the risk is always lower outside.”

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, said it is interesting that the government has opted to combine people with no shots or only one jab together. He called it the “right thing” because it’s not yet clear what people with one dose can do.

What might have made the guidelines stronger would be to make clear that they depend on how much the virus is circulating in a particular area, Deonandan said, adding COVID-19 is not an individual concern but rather a population crisis.

“You can do all these things — once the community is safe,” he said. “Is the community safe? That’s the question. No one’s answering that question or even exploring that question.”

Jenna Moon is a breaking news reporter for the Star and is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @_jennamoon