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Quebec health experts stress COVID-19 booster shot still necessary despite vaccine passport removal

Click to play video: 'Quebec health experts weigh in on removing vaccine passport' Quebec health experts weigh in on removing vaccine passport
Health experts say the COVID-19 booster shots are still needed to fight the pandemic even as Quebec begins to gradually lift its vaccine passport system. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports – Feb 16, 2022

Health experts stressed Wednesday that despite the loosening of vaccine passport restrictions in Quebec, the COVID-19 booster shot is still important.

With the proof of vaccination no longer required as of Feb. 16 to enter provincial cannabis and liquor stores including big box stores some health experts worry the lack of restrictions could lead to a decline of vaccination.

 READ MORE: Quebec to end COVID-19 vaccine passport system on March 14

“That is a very real concern,” epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos said. “If you remove that, it will remove at least one of those incentives to get the jab.”

Labos also questions the messaging behind the lifting of restriction and how it may play out in the public’s consciousness creating a false sense of security and letting their guard down.

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“There is still a significant segment of the population that needs to get vaccinated with their third dose, if we are indeed going to protect ourselves against any future variants,” Labos said.

READ MORE: Quebec adds 24 new COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations drop below 2,000

Proof of vaccination will not be required to access places of worship and funeral homes as of Feb. 21.

Quebec’s vaccine passport system will be fully lifted for all settings — including restaurants, bars and entertainment venues — starting March 14.

“I was pleased that this is being done gradually and not abruptly,” Dr. Catherine Hankins Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force Co-Chair said.

“I think the vast majority of people in Quebec who got vaccinated, did it to protect themselves and their family,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Quebec loosens more measures starting with vaccine passports in some locations' Quebec loosens more measures starting with vaccine passports in some locations
Quebec loosens more measures starting with vaccine passports in some locations – Feb 15, 2022

Dr. Hankins says while many people contracted the Omnicron variant despite being vaccinated over the holidays, symptoms were reduced or non-apparent and the majority were not hospitalized.

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“If you have not had that third booster this is the time to go and get it. You need it on board whether or not its required to enter a venue,” Hankins said.

Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim director of public health, said that about 600,000 people have been vaccinated since the passport was enacted last fall.

The government couldn’t expand the passport to three doses because nearly two million Quebecers caught the virus since the start of the fifth wave in December 2021, representing nearly 25 per cent of the population.

Boileau said those people should wait eight to 12 weeks from their infection before they get a third dose.

Boileau said that by the time those Quebecers get their third shot, the current Omicron wave is expected to be over.

Read more: Omicron COVID-19 cases appear to have peaked — but ‘prudence’ still vital: Tam

Health Minister Christian Dubé warned the province could reinstate proof of vaccination against the novel coronavirus if necessary.

It is also recommended people keep their passports on their phones, especially if they decide to travel.

Dubé added that the Omicron subvariant scientists have dubbed BA.2 has been detected in the Montreal area and accounts for about 10 to 15 per cent of new cases.

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While the new subvariant is about 30 per cent more transmissible than the original Omicron variant, it is not more severe.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Proof of vaccination required at big-box stores in Quebec' COVID-19: Proof of vaccination required at big-box stores in Quebec
COVID-19: Proof of vaccination required at big-box stores in Quebec – Jan 24, 2022

— with files from Global’s Raquel Fletcher, Kalina Laframboise and The Canadian Press

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