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If the variants rapidly spread and evolve, there’s a risk the virus could become resistant to vaccines, said Brinkman.

It’s why one of the most important things people can do while the rollout of the vaccine takes place is to keep physically distant and to wear masks when it is not possible to do so, said Brinkman.

B.C.’s phased rollout plan would provide enough vaccine for the population by the end of September, but less than 10 per cent by the end of March.

“If we stay physically distant as much as we can during the (vaccination) period, we can make this a one, two punch of 2020 and 2021, and then it’s all over,” said Brinkman.

Caroline Colijn, a Canada 150 research chair in mathematics for evolution, infection and public health with Simon Fraser University, said she fears it is just a matter of time before variants take hold.

“One of the things we do know, is that if we just do the same thing we’ve been doing, it’s not good enough,” said Colijn.

Colijn welcomed recent government measures including increased restrictions on international travel and rapid mass testing of students and staff at a Maple Ridge school where someone had an exposure to a more-easily spread COVID-19 variant.

She said, however, more thought needs to be given to restrictions on interprovincial travel and also examining if protocols around distancing and virus aerosols in indoor spaces need to be tightened because of the faster-spreading variants.

In late January, Colijn published research with the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis that showed that if a faster-spreading variant became established in B.C. it would take six weeks for cases to suddenly skyrocket, doubling every one-to-two weeks.

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