A Manitoban epidemiologist says speed is an important factor in our vaccine rollout strategy.

Cynthia Carr has been an epidemiologist since 1994 and even spent over a decade working for Southern Health. She notes she now owns a consulting company called Epi Research Inc.

These days, Carr says her job includes tracking cases, contact tracing, and pouring over COVID-19 data to figure out how it is spreading and how to stop it. She is also a member of the Protect MB Advisory Committee helping the province put together a reopening plan.

Listen to the whole conversation with Cynthia Carr:

Carr says it is important to vaccinate our population quickly, because the longer we wait, the stronger the variants become and the better they are at infecting people.

“If we had done things quickly, our critical vaccination threshold would have been about 63% of people that we need to block those targets because the virus isn't great at transmitting or as good as it is going to get. If that goes up to five, so now one person could infect five people, now we have to vaccinate at least 84% of the population because we have to stop even more targets and that is why speed matters.”

Carr says the Delta Variant, which is the latest variant we are dealing with in Manitoba, is particularly good at spreading.

“When you talk to someone with a case, you would ask them who they have been in contact with, say it is 10, now on average of those 10 people, if they are not vaccinated, 5 to 8 of them can become cases. It used to be, the first version we had here, it would have been 3. Now it is 5 to 8 so that is an enormous difference and that is why we have to protect as many people as possible.”

Despite the strength of these new variants, Carr says the data shows that the vaccine is still very effective.

“Absolutely, the vaccine is still effective at preventing infections, but here is the key, it has got to be the two doses and then the 14 days after. Remember, your body needs about two weeks to take that information in and to create that immune response. Kind of like baking a cake, you get all the ingredients, you put it together and you get it in the oven. The cake isn't made immediately, it takes some time.”

Though there has been a lot of talk these days about the Delta Variant, Carr says it isn't the biggest threat.

“The consensus right now is that the biggest threat to reopening the economy, getting there safely and keeping it open is not being vaccinated.”

Carr notes that data shows that there are very few patients in hospital and in ICU that are vaccinated and those that are, are almost always only partially vaccinated. She urges Manitobans to get vaccinated to protect the province, to protect your friends and family, but most importantly to protect yourself, because you matter.