Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization “strongly” recommends Adults age 50 and older should be given the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.
According to the NACI, booster shots of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine “can be offered” to adults aged 18 to 49 at least six months after their second dose.
NACI made the recommendations Friday after the Canadian government requested an advisory group to quickly provide the latest instructions on booster use as the Omron version spreads around the world.
“NACI has reviewed the latest data that suggest protection against infection decreases after the completion of the primary COVID-19 vaccine series,” the group said on Friday. “Protection against serious illness generally remains high, but may decrease over time for some people, such as older adults.”
As part of NACI’s updated guidance, boosters are strongly recommended for people living in long-term care homes or other mass living settings who have been fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. Frontline health workers in First Nations or its adult, Inuit and Métis communities and those with direct personal contact with all patients.
“Giving a booster dose will help ensure that protection against serious disease remains high, and that its effects can spread in the community,” NACI President Dr. Shelley Deeks said in a written statement. “It is important to note that there is no information yet on the effect of the newer variant, Omicron, on the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
Deeks said NACI will continue to monitor and provide updated advice as more information is received about Omicron.
Until now, the third shot has been administered to a mostly vulnerable population in parts of Canada. Omicron’s discovery last week has increased the pressure on the provinces to formulate their strategy.
As it stands, eligibility for boosters varies from province to province. In most cases, the provinces recommend that boosters be given at least six months after the second dose.
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In Ontario, the province announced Thursday that it is lowering the age of eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots for people age 50 and older. They will be able to take their shots from December 13.
Alberta announced Wednesday that it is expanding booster shots to all adults age 18 and older. Quebec In the meantime giving a third dose for people 70 and older.
British Columbia It’s administering booster jabs to the elderly and those most at risk until the December holiday, and then in January will expand to include all adults age 18 and older.
NACI’s previous guidance on booster use recommended mRNA shots such as Pfizer or Moderna have been offered for people who are immunocompromised, those who live in long-term care centers, and people over the age of 80.
At the time, the organization said it made its decision based on evidence that showed the immunity provided by the vaccine could diminish over time.
However, the discovery of Omicron and the unanswered questions about its behavior prompted many countries to take measures to protect themselves.
Canada has seen several Omicron infections since the mutation was discovered in South Africa last week.
The federal government has placed travel restrictions on several African countries, even though the mutation has spread beyond the continent.
The World Health Organization has classified Omicron as a variant of concern and said it poses a “very high” risk to the world fighting the pandemic.
The variant, which has multiple mutations, is not yet known to be more lethal or more transmissible than its counterparts. It is also unclear whether this makes existing vaccines less effective.
Scientists are continuing to study this version, and the WHO said on Wednesday that the world would know about Omicron “in a few days”.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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