Though there may be rules south of the border for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, no similar rules have been released in Alberta and two infectious disease experts said there may be a few reasons why.
In March, the CDC in the United States released guidelines on what people who had been fully vaccinated could and could not do. The recommendations include visiting with other fully vaccinated people indoors and without a mask and travelling domestically and internationally without quarantining afterward.
Alberta Health has so far not released any guidelines for those who have been immunized, and there is no timeline on when they could be released.
Spokesperson Tom McMillan said those who are partially immunized with one dose or fully immunized with two doses must continue to follow all the health measures in place.
“This includes no indoor social gatherings, keep two metres apart from others, wear a mask in public, wash your hands, and stay home when sick,” he said in a statement to Global News.
“We must continue reviewing emerging evidence and immunize more of the population before we can consider safely altering public health guidelines.
“We will let Albertans know when rules for fully vaccinated people can be safely eased.”
Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta Hospital, said this may be because most people have not been able to access the vaccine.
“Are we setting up this two-tiered system where the vaccinated people get to do certain things and the non-vaccinated people don’t?
“I think that’s part of the equation… We don’t want to create more inequity,” she said.
Smith said another reason may be because there is still a risk of getting COVID-19 even if an individual is fully vaccinated.
“We have seen cases of that. It’s obviously way lower but I think that until we see rates decreasing and until we see there’s been equitable access to vaccine, we probably won’t see significant changes in restrictions for the vaccinated,” she said.
Dr. Ameeta Singh, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, agrees, saying vaccines do not provide 100 per cent protection.
“There’s still a small chance you could become infected and pass it on to individuals who have not been vaccinated or who have not had as good of a response to vaccines, for example, they have a weakened immune system or they’re elderly,” Singh said.
“It is really important right now, with so much COVID circulating, that even fully immunized individuals continue to follow public health guidelines.”
Singh said Alberta Health may be reticent to release recommendations because of concerns individuals may not follow public health guidelines, however, she said a release of some guidelines could potentially motivate people to get immunized.
“Because this is the reality: if you are fully immunized and you have a strong immune system and you’re not elderly, you are much, much less likely to acquire COVID infection or pass it on,” she said.
“This does mean our world is going to open up a lot sooner if we all get our vaccine.”
As of April 18, 1,165,223 doses had been administered in Alberta, and 233,340 Albertans are fully immunized.