It’s vacation time and we all hope to take full advantage of it. Here’s a little guide to not ruining those precious moments of freedom as new, highly contagious variants of COVID-19 take effect as summer begins.
Will the summer of 2022 be different from the previous ones, marked by a lull in the pandemic?
Unlike previous summers (2020 and 2021), which were marked by a significant drop in COVID-19 cases, this year we are faced with “different variants that are more contagious. In addition, we released the hygiene measures ahead of time,” emphasizes the Dright Don Vinh, a microbiologist and infectiologist at McGill University Health Center. “Specifically, we have stopped wearing masks in schools before the end of classes. We didn’t really encourage the use of the third dose [que seulement 55 % de la population a reçue]unlike the first two doses [dont 87,95 % de la population s’est prévalue]. We have abandoned the collective effort for vaccination compared to last summer and unfortunately we are beginning to see the consequences,” he stresses.
What precautions should you take to avoid contracting COVID-19 while on vacation?
dr Vinh encourages people planning to travel outside of Quebec, particularly to the United States, Europe or Africa, where the BA.4 and BA.5 variants circulate freely, to get a booster dose a week or two before they travel , to act preventively, the effect is greatest during travel, since the protection against infection is short-lived. This booster dose consists of a third dose for those who only received the first two, or a fourth for those who received a third dose a few months ago.
“If you get a dose of vaccine as early as possible, immunity will be high enough to fight back against the virus, whatever the variant, that is, to avoid contagion,” adds Roxane Borgès Da. Silva, a professor in the School of Public Health, at the University of Montreal, who flew in with her 11-year-old son last week. The latter, who did not have access to the third dose due to his young age, contracted COVID-19 at the airport or on the plane. His mother, who recently had COVID-19 in addition to her three doses of the vaccine, was spared.
Although the researcher claims her case is not a representative sample, she still concludes that “a dose of vaccine a month ago or COVID-19 not that long ago will definitely help you not catch it or just develop it very badly mild symptoms”.
“But the biggest challenge is not getting COVID, which can only cause mild symptoms, but the fact that we are obliged to comply with the health regulations of the country we are visiting,” she recalls, using the example of France, where seven days of isolation are required.
She therefore advises people who received their third dose a few months ago to get a fourth dose two weeks before they travel, as this booster dose is “a thrust immune system that allows you to either not get COVID-19 or develop milder symptoms, [et assurément de ne pas être hospitalisé, car] Nobody wants to experience a hospital stay abroad! »
Benoit Barbeau, a virologist in UQAM’s Department of Biological Sciences, is reluctant to recommend using a fourth dose given the current vaccine’s lower potency against newer variants. “You would have to take it two weeks in advance and the protection would not last long,” he specifies. “Vaccinating with a booster dose is not going to bring that much benefit. Rather, it is important to carry out as few risky actions as possible in less well-ventilated places. You need to think about doing more outdoor activities and wearing a mask in the busiest places. »
Should we keep barrier gestures?
Busy airports, airplanes and crowded boats are environments conducive to transmission of the virus as ventilation in these closed places is not ideal. Wearing a mask — although it’s no longer mandatory on public transportation (including planes and boats) and most airport terminals (except in Canada) — is a simple measure that will likely save you the inconvenience of contracting COVID-19 during your trip to suffer . Although the vaccine will likely save you from a hospital stay, headache and sore throat, a high fever and severe fatigue could ruin part of your vacation, says Dr.right Vinh.
“Even if the fact of being infected or having been adequately vaccinated [c’est-à-dire avoir reçu trois doses de vaccin] or both at the same time rule out a serious infection that requires hospitalization and could lead to death, it does not provide a sufficient level of antibodies to indefinitely prevent infections from the currently circulating variants,” states the Dright Vinh.
“And above all, the infection will force you to isolate yourself for several days, thus preventing you from continuing with your holiday plan,” emphasizes Mme Borges da Silva.
“There are a lot of waiting times at the airports and especially in Montreal. The queues in front of the baggage check and security check are impressive. These long coils in a confined space and without adequate ventilation create ideal conditions for virus transmission and capture when you are not wearing a mask. These tremendous crowds and long wait times increase the likelihood that travelers will come into contact with a person infected with a variant described as highly contagious,” continues the researcher, who advises people who do not want to contract COVID when traveling to wear an N95 mask, if not a surgical mask, at airports and on airplanes.