VICTORIA -- Lockdowns, social unrest and an invisible threat are just some of the hallmarks of what many people will consider a terrible year. With 2021 upon us, and new vaccines rolling out, there’s renewed hope for a return to some kind of normal, but experts warn there will be a lingering hangover.

“We are going to need public health measures for months to come,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix at a news conference Wednesday.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Brian Conway agrees, saying until those who are fuelling the COVID-19 pandemic are vaccinated, we can expect stringent public health measures.

“As we get into groups that are fuelling the pandemic right now younger adults engaging in high-risk behaviours, we should see slowly but surely a decrease in the number of cases,” he told CTV News.

B.C. officials plan to get 10 per cent of resident immunized by the end of March. Mass immunization will start in the spring, beginning with older British Columbians and decreasing in five-year age increments.

Dr. Conway believes it could take until the fall of 2021 to see the impact of the vaccines.

“The first thing that we should see as an effect of the vaccination protocols are in place is a reduction in hospitalizations and mortality so that would tell us that we're vaccinating, the highest risk population and the vaccine is being affected and it is preventing them from getting infected.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, also an infectious disease expert, is calling on governments to vaccinate people as quickly as possible, saying it’s the best way to protect those at highest risk of dying.

“It’s going to be a while until we see an impact on daily case counts,” he said, adding, “the metric I can’t wait to see is decreased deaths.”

Dr. Bogoch adds it’s not unusual or unexpected to see mutations of the disease. Some may become more infectious, and he insists that’s why we need to put vaccines in people’s arms and not in freezers. Scientists will be watching to see how approved vaccines stand up to mutations.

Hand sanitizer, masks and physical distancing will likely still be part of our new social fabric. The goal is to vaccinate 60 to 70 per cent of people against the novel coronavirus, which would provide “herd immunity,” and that number could increase to protect against new variants.

What it means – large, indoor events won’t return for some time. Dr. Conway says events inside arenas may be one of the last experiences to return, even when the province achieves herd immunity. He says a significant portion of people may not be immunized and data is still being collected on how effective vaccines are.

With Dr. Theresa Tam and others cautioning Canadians the next few months could be extremely challenging, Dix is also setting expectations.

“We really need to dig in.”