Population immunity targets are a major factor in re-opening the province. THE COAST & COMMUNICATIONS NOVA SCOTIA
Population immunity targets are a major factor in re-opening the province. THE COAST & COMMUNICATIONS NOVA SCOTIA

Why 75% herd immunity is really 85% vaccinated

It’s going to take high vax rates in all eligible age groups to reopen the province.


For months, Canadians have heard whispers of 75 percent. That’s the magic number, the percentage of Canadians who would need to be vaccinated before the country begins to re-open, according to Health Canada.

Once we get there, likely sometime in the fall, “then local public health will be able to lift more measures and you should be able to do more activities indoors with people outside your household.”

But the wording is key. The chief medical officer of health for the province, Robert Strang, says that for 75 percent of the total population to be vaccinated, 85 percent of eligible Nova Scotians will need a jab.

That’s because for now, only people over the age of 12 are approved to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in Canada. There’s also a number of people in each age cohort who are unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons, whether it’s a weak immune system, cancer, high-risk pregnancy or another pre-existing condition. And don’t forget the hopefully-small portion of the population who will refuse to get a vaccine.

“If you focus on just 75 percent of those who are eligible,” Strang said yesterday at the provincial COVID briefing, “that means you’re down to just about 60 percent only of the entire population, which in my mind is not sufficient.” In Nova Scotia, Strang hopes we’ll do even better than the target, and some older age groups have already shown high vaccine uptake.

“All Nova Scotians who are eligible to get vaccinated will be able to book an appointment for their first dose before the end of May and for vaccination in June.”

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“Right now, Nova Scotians 65 and over are leading the way, over 90 percent of them have been vaccinated with at least a first dose,” said Strang. “And the next two age groups, 60 plus and 55 plus are not far behind.”

On Monday, Strang said 40 percent of Nova Scotians have had one or more doses, and 72,000 more appointments are booked for this week alone. But the doctor continues to voice his worry that younger people won’t get the vaccine, saying, “if we’ve learned anything from this third wave it’s that younger people are affected by these variants in serious ways, and even if you’re not worried about your own health, think of your parents and grandparents.”

With age cohorts opening up every three days, Strang says vaccination is ahead of schedule. “We’ve opened to Nova Scotians aged 30 and older today,” he said Monday. “We hope to open to all remaining age groups by next week. That means all Nova Scotians who are eligible to get vaccinated will be able to book an appointment for their first dose before the end of May and for vaccination in June.”

Second-dose appointments may also get moved up based on increasing availability of vaccines. “We’re now looking at whether we can deliver second doses faster than originally planned,” said Strang. “Provided our vaccine supply is steady and stable we should be able to meet that and start doing second doses for some people in late June and early July.”

About The Author

Victoria Walton

Victoria has been a full-time reporter with The Coast since April 2020, covering such topics as COVID-19, small business and politics. Originally from the Annapolis Valley, she graduated from the University of King’s College School of Journalism in 2017.

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