Time trends in social contacts of individuals according to comorbidity and vaccination status, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

BMC Med. 2022 May 23;20(1):199. doi: 10.1186/s12916-022-02398-x.


Background: As we are confronted with more transmissible/severe variants with immune escape and the waning of vaccine efficacy, it is particularly relevant to understand how the social contacts of individuals at greater risk of COVID-19 complications evolved over time. We described time trends in social contacts of individuals according to comorbidity and vaccination status before and during the first three waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in Quebec, Canada.

Methods: We used data from CONNECT, a repeated cross-sectional population-based survey of social contacts conducted before (2018/2019) and during the pandemic (April 2020 to July 2021). We recruited non-institutionalized adults from Quebec, Canada, by random digit dialling. We used a self-administered web-based questionnaire to measure the number of social contacts of participants (two-way conversation at a distance ≤2 m or a physical contact, irrespective of masking). We compared the mean number of contacts/day according to the comorbidity status of participants (pre-existing medical conditions with symptoms/medication in the past 12 months) and 1-dose vaccination status during the third wave. All analyses were performed using weighted generalized linear models with a Poisson distribution and robust variance.

Results: A total of 1441 and 5185 participants with and without comorbidities, respectively, were included in the analyses. Contacts significantly decreased from a mean of 6.1 (95%CI 4.9-7.3) before the pandemic to 3.2 (95%CI 2.5-3.9) during the first wave among individuals with comorbidities and from 8.1 (95%CI 7.3-9.0) to 2.7 (95%CI 2.2-3.2) among individuals without comorbidities. Individuals with comorbidities maintained fewer contacts than those without comorbidities in the second wave, with a significant difference before the Christmas 2020/2021 holidays (2.9 (95%CI 2.5-3.2) vs 3.9 (95%CI 3.5-4.3); P<0.001). During the third wave, contacts were similar for individuals with (4.1, 95%CI 3.4-4.7) and without comorbidities (4.5, 95%CI 4.1-4.9; P=0.27). This could be partly explained by individuals with comorbidities vaccinated with their first dose who increased their contacts to the level of those without comorbidities.

Conclusions: It will be important to closely monitor COVID-19-related outcomes and social contacts by comorbidity and vaccination status to inform targeted or population-based interventions (e.g., booster doses of the vaccine).

Keywords: COVID-19; COVID-19 vaccination; Comorbidities; Infectious diseases; Public health; Social contacts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Comorbidity
  • Contact Tracing* / statistics & numerical data
  • Contact Tracing* / trends
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Behavior
  • Time Factors
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data
  • Vaccination / trends
  • Vaccination Coverage* / statistics & numerical data
  • Vaccination Coverage* / trends