TORONTO -- While Canadians across the country hunker down as COVID-19 infection rates rise, an infectious disease expert says the vaccine is the key to ending lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

Provinces across Canada are entering another round of tightening restrictions and lockdowns as infection rates from more contagious variants grow. Provinces have been cycling through various states of restrictions and lockdowns since last March.

“There is a way to break the pattern, and the way to break the pattern is through mass vaccination,” Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTV’s Your Morning.

He said that we now have real-world data that shows just how well the vaccines work.

“When you have a significant proportion of your population vaccinated, things start to get better,” he said.  “You can look at places like Israel, the U.K., many parts of the United States, even here in Canada, you can look at places like long term care, which in the middle of a third wave has very, very few cases, whereas in waves one and waves two it was awful.”

Deaths in long-term care homes have dropped significantly during the third wave of COVID-19 after long-term care residents and staff were prioritized in vaccine rollouts across Canada.

Getting shots in arms will be the key to ending the current cycle of pandemic restrictions.

“The goal is really to vaccinate as many people as possible over the shortest period of time as possible. And frankly, that will really alleviate a lot of this cycling of lockdown and doubt,” he added.

While lockdowns in the country haven’t been popular, they’re one way to drive rising case numbers down quickly in hotspot areas.

“When your case numbers in the community are so high, you've got to get them down quickly because right now your healthcare system is being threatened to be stretched beyond capacity,” he said. “You don't have a ton of options at your disposal to help rapidly bring cases down and sadly, sadly, a lockdown will help with that front.”

Lockdowns are just one strategy, he added. With many infections coming from workplaces, it’s important to create policies that protect workers and get vaccinations to them quickly.

He said that paid sick leave and rapid testing need to be put in place so that employees don’t go to work ill, or return home from work and infect their family members. And getting vaccinations to essential workers will help.

“Priority vaccination is key.”