To this day, over 60% of the total population in Canada have received at least one dose of one of the approved vaccines against COVID-19, which are available for free to everyone in the country. These long-awaited immunizations have proven to be safe, high quality, and effective in protecting people from contracting or developing complications from the virus, so it makes sense that many people wonder if they can stop practicing social distancing, wearing masks, disinfecting, and sanitizing after a COVID-19 vaccine. And the answer is no.
The Government of Canada explains that even when enough people are vaccinated, cases are down, and restrictive public health measures are lifted, “COVID-19 won’t be eliminated. You’ll still need to follow some public health measures like physical distancing and wearing a mask.”
Read More: Understanding the COVID-19 Variants
For this reason, cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing spaces will be always important, and not just because of COVID-19, but because there will always be other viruses like the common cold, the flu (influenza), or chickenpox circulating in the air or present in high-touch surfaces long enough to spread. Proper disinfection is the best way to completely protect our family and ourselves from contaminants.
In Canada, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna, and Pfizer-BioNTech are the are four COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved, but not all of them are available in all areas of the country. Additionally, there are other vaccines currently under review or under clinical trials.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine, developed as Tozinameran or BNT162b2 by the German biotechnology company BioNTech in collaboration with Pfizer Inc, the American pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation. It is approved for people who are 12 years of age and older. It was first authorized by Health Canada in early December 2020, for people 18 or older, and then in early May 2021, its authorization was expanded to include teenagers aged 12 to 15.
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, developed as mRNA-1273 by the American pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Moderna, is also approved for people who are 18 years of age and older. It was authorized by Health Canada in late December 2020.
The Janssen COVID-19 (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine was developed as Ad26.COV2.S by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which is a subsidiary of the American company Johnson & Johnson. It is approved for people who are 18 years of age and older, and it was authorized by Health Canada in early March 2021.
The AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, developed as ChAdOx1-S AstraZeneca and Oxford University, is being manufactured by AstraZeneca and by Verity Pharmaceuticals and Serum Institute of India (SII) in collaboration with AstraZeneca.
This particular vaccine was initially approved for people who are 18 years old or older in the entire country, but last May, after a million doses had been administered, Ontario and Alberta decided to stop giving out first doses of AstraZeneca due to evidence of an increased risk of a rare but serious blood clotting condition. The vaccine is still approved as a second dose for those who received an initial dose if they choose to do so; if not, they can get another brand of mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).
After a COVID-19 Vaccine
After receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, some people can feel certain temporary side effects that can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. As explained by Health Canada, this is just “the body's natural response, as it's working hard to build protection against the disease.” These side effects can include symptoms at the arm or other body part where the vaccine was applied (redness, soreness, etc.), and symptoms that are similar to the flu (fatigue, headache, mild fever, etc.)
Anyone who receives a vaccine should anticipate these possible symptoms and have in hand some over-the-counter medicine to treat any pain or to lower a fever. In case of swelling at the injection area, it is recommended to apply a cool washcloth, exercise the arm, and stay hydrated.
It is important to know that people who are waiting for a first or second dose, and people who have already completed their immunization treatment should continue to follow public health measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. This is especially true now that new variants of the virus are being identified, such as the Delta variant (previously known as variant B1.617.2 and originated in India), which is raising the most concerns due to its ability to spread more easily and increase the severity of the disease.
It is not yet clear how much can vaccines protect people against the Delta variant and others, but a study conducted by Public Health England in the UK suggests that one dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine is around 33% effective in preventing symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant. After two doses, they found the Pfizer vaccine is 88% effective against it, while the AstraZeneca is 60%.
Considering these numbers, the Government of Canada is encouraging people to use multiple personal preventive practices at once and to apply this layered approach regardless of their vaccination status. This means to not stop practicing social distancing, wearing masks, disinfecting, and sanitizing, especially because research has shown that the virus may live on surfaces and objects for a few hours or up to several days depending on the material, humidity, and temperature of the space.
Disinfecting and Sanitizing Surfaces and Spaces
High-touch surfaces and high-traffic spaces are most likely that others to become a source from where viruses spread. Even after most of the people in the country receive two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, it will always be important to maintain a disinfecting and sanitizing regime to reduce the possibility of these surfaces and spaces becoming contaminated with bacteria and germs.
To protect your family, your community, and yourself against these contaminants, without having to invest countless hours and manpower in cleaning and disinfection tasks at home or at work, we recommend getting the right tools and products that will make it easier and much less time-consuming.
Additionally, we recommend disinfecting and sanitizing using one of Health Canada’s listed hard surface disinfectants that are likely to be effective for use against COVID-19, such as Ultra-Lyte Disinfectant, Vital Oxide Disinfectant, or Environize Anolyte Disinfectant. These products are much more effective than bleach and don’t cause any of the respiratory symptoms that bleach causes.
In conclusion, vaccination is one of the most effective ways to get protection against COVID-19. However, what vaccines are most effective at is preventing serious outcomes, such as severe respiratory illness, hospitalization, and death; but they don't fully protect you against contracting the virus. That is why we need to continue practicing safe measures like disinfecting and sanitizing high-touch surfaces to ensure our environments remain free of contaminants, safe, and healthy for all.