Specific guidance for vaccinated people coming eventually, B.C. health officials say

Health officials in British Columbia are planning to release specific guidance for people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, but not until the province's immunization program is further along.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about recommendations for vaccinated B.C. residents on Monday after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared new recommendations aimed at fully immunized Americans.

The U.S. guidelines allow vaccinated people to gather indoors without wearing a mask or physically distancing from each other, though both of those precautions are still advised when vaccinated people are out in public.

"I think those are fairly reasonable guidelines and I think ours will be very similar," Henry said, adding that it's too soon for B.C. to release such recommendations.

"Right now, we're not at that point where we have enough of the people who are at -risk immunized that we can have overall guidance."

The U.S. has now vaccinated about one-quarter of its population, while Canada has only vaccinated about five per cent. But B.C. health officials have estimated that everyone in the province who wants a vaccine should be able to get their first dose by the end of July.

Henry also revealed Monday that officials could soon be easing some of the tough COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place across the province since November, and promised to release new guidelines for long-term care homes by the end of March that will allow for increased visitations.

While the vast majority of seniors in care have received at least one dose of vaccine, Henry noted that COVID-19 can still spread among people who are immunized. She pointed to a new outbreak at Cottonwoods Care Centre, where all residents and staff were offered vaccine and many accepted.

"This serves to remind us that while we are very confident that vaccine is very effective, and prevents particularly severe illness and death, it doesn't necessarily mean that all transmission will be stopped," she said.

Experts have stressed that for now, people visiting elderly loved ones who have already received the vaccine should continue to mask up and keep their distance.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan