Though COVID-19 vaccine mandates have largely gone by the wayside here in the United States, many of our friends to the north still live with the threat of a return to mandates. And recent comments from Canadian Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos will likely only exacerbate those concerns.
On Monday, Duclos told reporters that "fully-vaccinated" is no longer a term recognized by health officials and the Canadian government. Instead, they will begin referring to "up-to-date vaccinations."
"But what exactly do we mean by 'up-to-date vaccination'? Let me be very clear: 'Up to date' means you've received your last dose in the past nine months," Duclos said in a prepared statement.
And while Duclos thanked those Canadians who had already received a booster, he still recommended that everyone learn whether they "are eligible for a second or a third booster to remain up to date."
Last week, Duclos and Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam called for Canadians to get boosted against the Omicron variant, which they claimed would soon ravage the country.
"We're behind most other G7 countries in our rate of third doses and we shouldn't be behind, we've been ahead of all those other countries with two doses. We know we have the capacity to do better and we will be doing better," Duclos said at the time.
"As any physician or health expert will tell you, it's critical you go and get the shot that's waiting for you," he continued. "Like the virus, immunity also evolves and Omicron has cruelly made us understand that two doses is no longer enough."
Though Duclos claimed that Canada is "behind" in boosters, 86% of Canadians age 5 and older have received at least the initial two-shot vaccinations.
"If you look at our vaccination rate, we had the highest in the entire G10," Dr. Fahad Razak said. "We had the lowest number of people infected and lowest of people dying."
G10 refers to the G7 countries, plus Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
But despite these high rates of vaccination, officials are still preparing for a resurgence of COVID this fall, and Duclos refused to rule out the possibility of more vaccine mandates. When reporters asked him about a return to mandates, Duclos gave nebulous, boilerplate responses.
"We must continue to fight against COVID," he said. "We want to be prepared for next fall and that requires an up-to-date vaccination, which is based on the nine months."