Researchers from Canada’s University of Toronto applied a simulated model to study the effect of mixing vaccinated people with unvaccinated ones, in order to understand the complex dynamics that viruses like SARS-CoV-2 exhibit. 

The modeling study found that unvaccinated people increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission in people who are immunized against it. 

In the study, the researchers mixed groups of people who shared contact and other life factors, through simulation.  

“Many opponents of vaccine mandates have framed vaccine adoption as a matter of individual choice,” said David Fisman, from Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

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“However, we found that the choices made by people who forgo vaccination contribute disproportionately to risk among those who do get vaccinated,” Fisman added. 

Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the study revealed that the mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people can lead to several new infections in vaccinated people, even if they project high immunization rates. 

According to the researchers, the study can be helpful if new variants or waves of SARS-CoV-2 emerge.

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“Risk among unvaccinated people cannot be considered self-regarding. In other words, forgoing vaccination can’t be considered to affect only the unvaccinated, but also those around them,” the authors of the study said.

“Considerations around equity and justice for people who do choose to be vaccinated, as well as those who choose not to be, need to be considered in the formulation of vaccination policy,” they added. 

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The researchers also acknowledged how anti-vaccine stances fueled by disinformation have resulted in suboptimal use of vaccines that are widely available in several countries. 

While the study suggests that unvaccinated people can put vaccinated people at risk, it is crucial to remember that immunization is currently the best weapon against the virus that has killed millions.