Following the decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Canadians who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can visit the U.S. when new travel rules come into effect next month, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, said she is "confident" that individuals who received mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be allowed to travel as well.
"They had a very structured approach to how they were providing immunization in the U.S and it was really following the manufacturer's recommendation," Dr. Henry said at a press conference on Tuesday. "We have taken a more flexible approach using what we knew about immunology."
"In Canada, we are one of the countries that is leading the world in publishing this data about the effectiveness of the mix and match schedules... I am confident, although I can’t guarantee it, but I know that my colleagues in the U.S are looking at these, seeing that it works and seeing that it might be important for the U.S., as well, as they’re starting to introduce booster doses."
Dr. Henry specifically referenced concerns around whether a booster dose is needed for those in the U.S. who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and whether it would be best for them to receive a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine, like the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
"I also think globally this is really important," B.C.'s provincial health officer said. "We don’t want countries to have to hold doses back or wait for a manufacturer to be able to give people the full protection they need."
Masking will be required 'for a while longer'
Looking locally, Dr. Henry indicated that she believes masking will "need to be with us for a while longer."
"We know, and now there’s some good evidence that keeps coming up, that even in fully vaccinated populations, when you’re crowded together indoors for a period of time, it makes it safer for everybody to be wearing masks," she said.
In line with that, the public mask mandate in B.C. is changing and will require anyone age five and older to wear a mask in all indoor settings.
Dr. Henry said officials are "very concerned" about the COVID-19 situation in B.C.'s north.
"COVID-19 is spreading at higher than average rate," Dr. Henry said about that region. "People are becoming severely ill, even young people, mostly unvaccinated younger people, and hospitals are pushed to the limit across the north."
"We need to get back to the basics, the things that we know prevent transmission of this virus, this virus that we transmit to the people we are closest to."