Some Ottawa-area public health experts would like to see the province's COVID-19 vaccine passport require Ontarians have a booster shot in order to enter a range of indoor establishments.
Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday the province will begin lifting public health restrictions at the end of the month, and said no changes to the two-dose requirement are currently planned.
"Fish or cut bait," said Dr. Doug Manuel, an epidemiologist and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. "[A] two-dose passport is almost worthless…You might as well just throw it away — or you bring the three-dose."
Several indoor settings will reopen at 50 per cent capacity on Jan. 31 to those with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The province plans to lift most restrictions by mid-March.
Manuel said two doses of COVID-19 vaccine is not enough protection to prevent Omicron cases from surging once current restrictions are lifted. Two doses, he said, are only about 20 per cent effective in protecting against Omicron infection, although the same dosage is more effective in protecting against severe infection and hospitalizations.
"There's a universal agreement with epidemiologists that if we lift [restrictions] off too quickly, we're just going to surge." Manuel said.
The Ontario Ministry of Health didn't respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Three-dose passport supported elsewhere in region
Medical officers of health for Renfrew County and Eastern Ontario Health Units echoed Manuel's position.
"If we can mandate two vaccines, we can move ahead with three," said Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for Renfrew County. "What we've seen is that people who've had a third vaccine do very well."
Cushman said "ample" evidence suggests healthcare workers who are struggling to return to work after being infected by COVID-19 are less likely to have received a booster dose.
"If we have more vaccination, we have more protection and less serious disease from Omicron," he added.
A spokesperson for eastern Ontario medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the health unit's top doctor also supports a third dose for vaccine passports.
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark medical officer of health Dr. Paula Stewart was not available for comment. Ottawa Public Health opted not to take a position on the issue.