OTTAWA – The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is now strongly recommending that COVID-19 boosters be offered to adults over the age of 50, while those between the ages of 18 and 49 are exposed to individual risks and where they live. Boosters can be offered on the basis of
In its latest update of its booster shot recommendations released Friday, the NACI is also reiterating its previous recommendations to prioritize boosters:
living in long-term care homes;
people who received two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of Janssen vaccine;
some immunocompromised individuals;
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adults in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities; And
Front-line health care workers who have direct close physical contact with patients.
NACI continues to align with Health Canada’s authority to introduce the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines as boosters for anyone 18 years of age and older at least six months after the primary vaccine course. can go.
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However, citing evidence of low reported rates of myocarditis or pericarditis following the Pfizer vaccine, the NACI is suggesting that it is the preferred vaccine to administer as a booster to people aged 18 to 29. .
In general, the groups that the NACI is now strongly recommending to be offered boosters were among those with a preference for the initial vaccine dose, meaning they were more likely than younger groups six months after their second dose. After that it is close.
NACI is suggesting that these considerations be weighed in determining the need for booster doses: local epidemiology, regional health system capacity and access, and the rate of vaccine updates in a population.
At the same time, Canadians should also consider whether they are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, an increased risk for protection from low, or risk of transmission to others in deciding whether to receive a booster dose. high risk.
Announcing the NACI, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said, “NACI recommends, and health officials in Canada agree, those who are eligible, but have not yet received the primary series, continue to be given the highest priority in Canada.” should be kept.” The latest findings during a press conference on Friday.
“The modeling results suggest that the booster dose is expected to reduce infections and severe disease in the population, at least in the short term,” the NACI report said.
- Province and Territory-wise COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Eligibility in Canada
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, provinces and territories are responsible for deciding their vaccine rollout eligibility strategies and whether or not to follow NACI recommendations.
The update comes amid OMICRON fears
this update advice The request on Tuesday by the federal government comes after NACI “early” reviews its guidance on prioritizing COVID-19 booster shots in light of concerns over the Omicron version.
Asked why he sought this update, when most provinces are already deciding who to prioritize for boosters, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Friday that it was because nationwide “There is a significant level of variability”.
“There is no intention of a one-fits-all set when it comes to boosters across Canada, but I think there is a need, and I am calling for NACI at the federal level to help the provinces. I would also say a responsibility. Come closer together,” he said.
Health officials have expressed concern that Omicron may become more vaccine-resistant, as it is highly mutated. However, it is not clear how contagious and serious an infection with type B.1.1529 can be.
“Now and during the winter months, while the virus continues to spread around the world, and the importance and impact of the Omicron version of the concern is being assessed, there remains a need for extreme vigilance,” Tam said.
While the NACI said the emergence of Omicron was considered in updating this guidance, immunization experts added more evidence of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and the potential benefits and safety of booster doses. did.
“NACI acknowledges that the epidemiology of COVID-19 … and the evidence on booster doses of COVID19 vaccines is rapidly evolving, and continues to monitor the evidence,” reads the latest report.
When asked what his advice would be for people who are now considering waiting to get a booster if a potential new vaccine targeting Omicron is produced, Tam said that should happen. It may be several months before another vaccine is available.
“Omicron variant-specific vaccines are going to take months, but for now we have the potential for delta growth,” she said.
Will the third shot become mandatory?
With the NACI now strongly or discretionarily recommending a third dose of mRNA Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for all adults, questions were raised on Friday whether the current two-dose vaccine series could be expanded to require three doses. so that it can be fully considered. Vaccinated.
In their report, the NACI states that while they are currently describing these third doses as boosters – intended to stimulate an immune response once protection has subsided – they continue to monitor whether the third The shots should be considered part of the primary series to establish a strong immune response. ,
“NACI will adjust terminology as needed,” reads the latest guidance.
In an interview on Granthshala News Channel on Friday ahead of NACI’s update, Dr. Peter Juni, Scientific Director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, suggested that Canada should not call these third doses “boosters.”
“For many age groups this will be only the third dose that will be needed,” he said.
Stating whether a third dose might be needed, Tam said it would become clearer as more time passed and the long-term efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines would be better understood.
“It’s an evolving story … Historically in other vaccine programs I think it’s worth noting, such as hepatitis or human papilloma virus, that the original authorized programs evolved over time, over the years, as we and learn … and we learn how to refine and optimize the program within the series,” NACI Executive Secretary Dr. Matthew Tunis said during the press conference. “This is a fairly common progression within vaccine programmes. When products are first authorized and clinical trials go through, you start with what’s available, and then over time, we iterate, study and develop.”
Does Canada have a booster supply?
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said if there were calls to expand COVID-19 booster shot access, so would supplies.
“I can assure you that our country has access to more than enough vaccine doses for all eligible Canadians,” Procurement Minister Philomena Tasi said Friday after the NACI update.
“Thanks to our robust procurement strategy, we will be able to deploy those booster shots quickly and provide additional protection for Canadians,” Duclos said.
Part of the calculus with Canada’s booster supply plays into ongoing questions about whether Canada should offer a third dose to healthy adults, rather than prioritizing sending doses to other less-vaccinated countries potentially exposed to the virus. Should help prevent further mutation.
“We can’t have cake and eat it too. Either we now take these vaccine doses in our freezers and ship them to low- and middle-income countries, or we use them here. There is no point in playing safe and putting them in the freezer,” Juni said.
“So either we protect our population… if they start to see now that we really have a challenge with Omicron, or we just go ‘Okay, we’re ready to gamble’ and then We give these third doses away. The point is really that it doesn’t help anyone if they stay in the freezer, and that’s one of those discussions we should be having,” Juni said.
Through COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing initiative, Canada has pledged to donate 200 million doses by the end of 2022, although about 8.3 million doses have been donated so far.
Ministers are expected to say more about the federal COVID-19 response and Canada’s vaccine procurement and distribution program at the 1 a.m. EST press conference.
With files from Granthshala News ‘Sarah Turnbull’