In a post-pandemic world, you still need to protect yourself (and others) against COVID-19

The initial response to COVID-19 across Canada was swift, with governments, public health authorities, and individual communities implementing broad measures to limit the transmission of the virus. There was urgency and willingness to make sacrifices in order to protect the most vulnerable in society. Society in general followed challenging public health guidelines like masking, limiting social gatherings, social distancing, and more. As the pandemic continued, though, there was a gradual relaxing of public health measures and an understandable desire for society to re-open.

In May 2023, the WHO formally determined that COVID-19 no longer constituted a public health emergency of international concern. As well, the general public’s willingness to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through behaviours, such as mask wearing or isolating when sick, decreased dramatically.

However, COVID-19 remains a leading cause of hospitalization across the country. To date, over 57,000 Canadians have died from COVID.  More than 81% of COVID19 deaths occur in people over age 65.

Clearly, as much as we might all like to forget about the risks of COVID-19 transmission, the reality is that we still need to protect ourselves — and in doing so, also protect those in our community who are are vulnerable, such as older Canadians and those who are immunocompromised.

The good news is we have multiple layers of protection available to us. We just need to use them.

Protective Measures

Along with common sense measures such as wearing masks, hand washing or sanitizing and avoiding dense crowds indoors where viruses can transmit more readily, there are a number of significant levels of protection available to older adults and those with compromised immune systems.

Vaccinations and Boosters

Free vaccines are available for everyone in Canada.

According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be very effective at preventing severe disease, including hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. Public Health authorities recommend that you should get vaccinated even if you’ve been previously infected or think you may have been infected. While a previous COVID-19 infection can provide some protection against reinfection, that protection also fades over time.

See NACI’s latest guidance:Guidance on an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccines in the spring (2024) for individuals at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 

Primary Series

Most COVID-19 vaccines begin with 2 doses. These initial doses are called a primary series.

The immune response to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is not as strong or sustained as two doses. The second dose is essential for better, longer-lasting protection.

Booster Doses

Doses of the COVID-19 vaccines received after the primary series are called booster doses. Booster doses increase your defences by activating your immune response to restore protection that may have decreased over time.

If it’s been 6 months or longer since your last vaccine dose or COVID-19 infection, get a booster dose by contacting your local public health unit, or health care provider. Staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, remains the best way to protect yourself. This may also help prevent long-term complications from COVID-19 infection.

Bivalent Vaccine

Scientists and vaccine manufacturers are updating COVID-19 vaccines by to specifically target the circulating virus strains. A “bivalent” vaccine booster targets two coronavirus strains. This helps to create a broader immune response and improve the strength and duration of protection against circulating variants.

Whether it’s a booster dose or a primary series, you may be offered a different COVID-19 vaccine than the one you received previously. It’s safe and effective to do so.

Learn more from the Government of Canada about:

Protection for Immunocompromised Canadians

While vaccines can provide excellent protection for most Canadians, those who are immunocompromised may receive little to no protection due to their weakened immune systems. In essence, a weakened immune system cannot mount an adequate response to vaccines, which means it cannot create an immune memory leading to protection against infection.

In response to some of the concerns faced by immunocompromised Canadians, in 2022 the Canadian Immunocompromised Advocacy Network (CIAN) was formed to raise awareness and advocate for this population. CIAN is comprised of patient advocates and organizations representing a range of immunocompromising conditions.

Late last year, CIAN created a position paper that has four main calls to action to support immunocompromised Canadians:

  • Increased and ongoing knowledge generation and dissemination around COVID-19
  • Greater alignment on definitions of immunocompromised across Canada
  • Targeted infection control measures (e.g., masks in healthcare settings) to protect immunocompromised patients
  • Easier and more equitable access for prophylactic and therapeutic options for COVID-19 and other potential infectious diseases or pandemic pathogens.

 CIAN is committed to not only improving the overall quality of life for immunocompromised Canadians, but also to collaborating and supporting their network members with important resources to inform their constituents and advocate for equitable and timely access to life saving therapeutics.  If you or someone you know would like to join or endorse the Canadian Immunocompromised Advocacy Network, please email [email protected]

What do CARP Members think? 65% of all non-immunocompromised respondents believe that immunocompromised Canadians should have additional protection and support in dealing with COVID-19.

Vulnerable Populations Who Have Tested Positive for COVID

If you are considered vulnerable and test positive for COVID-19, there are also treatment options available to you, such as antivirals and monoclonal antibodies.  All patients who are at higher risk of severe outcomes based on clinical assessment (including immunocompromised individuals and those over 60 years of age), have tested positive, present within five days of symptom onset, and do not have contraindications are eligible.

Antivirals are drugs used to treat COVID-19 that stop the virus from multiplying, which can help the body to overcome the infection and may help an individual to become better faster.

These medications should be taken in a short window of time after testing positive for COVID-19, so be sure to act quickly following a positive COVID-19 test.  In some provinces, pharmacists can prescribe the antivirals.

Monoclonal antibodies and antivirals are not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination is recommended.

Options available to the Immunocompromised Community

Prevention Treatment



Vaccines are the primary option for preventing COVID-19.  They work by causing the body to produce its own protection (antibodies) against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 infection.



Antivirals are drugs that stop the virus multiplying, which can help the body to overcome the infection, and may help a person get better faster.



Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal Antibodies are proteins that work by attaching to specific targets on the virus that is causing infection, preventing the virus from entering and infecting the cells within your body.  This may help reduce the risk of the infection getting worse and/or reduce the risk of hospitalization.



CARP encourages everyone to keep up with the recommended vaccine schedule for COVID-19 and to speak to your health care professional about all of the options available to help protect you from a virus that has not gone away and poses its greatest risk to older adults and those who are immune compromised.