A report in the journal Health Affairs has found that proof-of-vaccine mandates may be an effective way to increase vaccination uptake across certain age groups, after studying the policy enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fall 2021, proof of COVID-19 vaccination was mandated for all non-essential businesses and venues across 10 Canadian provinces.
A group of researchers said the announcement increased first-dose uptake by 290,168 people, or 17.5 per cent, but the numbers stopped climbing within six weeks.
“These behavioral changes were short-lived,” the study read. “Uptake returned to preannouncement levels — or lower — in all age groups within six weeks, despite mandates remaining in place for at least four months.”
The study said the decline happened early and was more prevalent among people ages 12 to 17.
“What that tells us is that the announcement itself actually has a positive response, particularly with younger people,” said the University of Saskatchewan’s Nazeem Muhajarine, a community health and epidemiology professor and a co-author of the Health Affairs research report.
“When a policy is introduced, you have a sudden uptake in whom the vaccine uptake was relatively low. In older people — 70 and above, 80 and above — the vaccine uptake was relatively high so there wasn’t a whole lot of room to improve on top of that.”
He said that now, without the vaccine passport in place anymore, the uptake for additional shots has been very slow in people under age 50.
Now, there are two new COVID-19 vaccines — reformulated by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — to fight the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant, which has become dominant across the country.
“It is not a booster dose,” Muhajarine said. “It is a new vaccine, reformulated vaccine, that target currently circulating variants of the virus.”
He and other Saskatchewan doctors said it is vital to get the new vaccine.
“It can protect you from serious outcomes like hospitalization,” said Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.
According to Shahab, the new formulation will protect people for one year, similar to a flu vaccine.
“Most people now getting COVID, for most people it is fever, sore throat for a couple of days and then they are fine, but still, it can be an issue for those who are immune-suppressed, who have underlying heart or lung disease, who are older and also those who are in congregated living facilities.”