Canada is on its way to a fourth wave of COVID-19, according to one expert, but he said it will look very different depending on your vaccination status.

According to Dr. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, there will be a stark divide between those who are fully or partially vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated.

“We’re going to have a fourth wave in the fall. I think that’s pretty clear,” Furness told Narcity via Zoom. “But the fourth wave will be driven by and suffered by unvaccinated people, millions of them.”

Can fully vaccinated people relax?

Furness said it will be “rare” for a fully vaccinated person to end up in the ICU, and the numbers suggest it will be rare to even catch COVID-19 at all.

According to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated Canadians make up approximately 0.5% of all reported COVID-19 cases since the vaccine rollout began.*

Additionally, only 0.2% of Canadians who received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine reported a COVID-19 case after the fact.

So while fully vaccinated Canadians can relax a bit, Furness said caution is still required — especially in environments like large indoor gatherings.

“My message to anybody who’s been vaccinated is you still want to be careful,” he explained. “You don’t want to expose yourself to COVID. You just don’t want to do that.”

What’s the risk of being unvaccinated?

Furness cautioned that the risk of COVID-19 is much higher this summer than it was last summer for unvaccinated people, largely due to more dangerous strains of COVID-19.

“The Delta variant, for example, is about 50 or 60% more transmissible than [the Alpha variant, which is] 50 or 60% more transmissible than the original strain,” Furness said. “So you’re more than twice as likely to get infected in a given situation.”

“That means […] aerosols, specifically, those small particles that float around, […] last summer, you may have been exposed, but to a very low viral dose that didn’t get you sick. This summer, the same exposure could get you very sick indeed. So if you’re unvaccinated, your risk has gone a lot higher,” he added.

Why are some people still unvaccinated?

“Millions” of Canadians are still unvaccinated, Furness said, though he expects the number to go down as the risk becomes more and more evident for those without protection from COVID-19.

That said, he explained that people need to reserve judgement sometimes when it comes to unvaccinated people.

“People who don’t want to get vaccinated are actually suffering primarily a problem of trust. That may not be their fault at all,” Furness said.

“If you belong to an ethnic group that has been on the short end of the stick with respect to state interference or provision of health care, there’s not a lot to trust.”

Instead, Furness said Canadians should approach the issue with compassion.

“Soon as we start name-calling, I think we have to sort of give up and say, ‘Well, we’re not even trying to change people’s minds.’ That’s what I want to do. I want to change people’s minds.”

More stories: