Monday, September 26, 2022

Experts are concerned that only 47 percent of Canadians have received a COVID-19 booster shot

People walk through a vaccine clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic on April 13 in Mississauga, Ont.Nathan Dennett/The Canadian Press

Many health experts say they are concerned about the slow progress of the first booster shots nationwide, warning that two doses of COVID-19 vaccines do not provide sufficient protection against the Omicron variant and that many Canadians are unintentionally at risk. can be. Result.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, only 47 percent of the population, or 57 percent of people age 18 and older, have received a booster shot. Experts say this is a growing concern, as mounting evidence suggests that three mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations are necessary to provide adequate protection against the Omicron variant.

“It’s a minimum three-dose vaccine,” said Katherine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association. “We haven’t got everyone at that finish line. For some people, that will mean they die.”

Dr. Smart said governments and health agencies haven’t done a good enough job of highlighting the importance of booster shots first, and that standing by a podium repeating the same message is “nothing to do” and even That is to bother some.

“In the noise, we have lost people,” she said.

This week, Health Canada reported that nearly 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines have been exhausted since January, indicating that both primary series shots and boosters have experienced a sharp decline.

Complicating matters is the fact that last week the National Advisory Committee on Immunization urged a focus on “rapid deployment” of second booster shots for high-risk individuals, including older seniors in the community and all long-term care residents. While second boosters are important to protect those vulnerable, some experts say they are becoming more concerned about the consequences of not receiving their first booster.

“It’s three shots to protect against Omicron,” said Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Center. “If we’re going to tell people they need a fourth shot, people who haven’t got a third shot will be even more behind.”

The issue of booster doses is important because the now-dominant Omicron variant is able to avoid some of the protective effect offered by the two doses of mRNA vaccines currently available, particularly in more vulnerable individuals. While the third and fourth doses, or booster shots, do not always prevent people from becoming infected, they work very well at preventing hospitalization and death. For example, a US study published in the British Medical Journal in March found that two doses of the mRNA vaccine were only 65 percent effective at preventing Omicron-related hospitalizations in people 18 years of age and older. For people who received three doses, the effectiveness of preventing hospitalization increased to 86 percent.

In light of a new surge of COVID-19 cases across Canada, this week, the NACI strengthened its recommendation for the first booster shots, saying that adults age 18 and older should be given at least one dose after their last dose is completed. Additional mRNA vaccine should be offered after six months. (Recommendations for vaccination timing vary based on age, health status, and prior COVID-19 vaccines and infection. For many healthy adults, the first booster will be the third dose of mRNA vaccine.)

But some say that in order to get more people in line, official communication about the importance of boosters needs to change.

“I think it really treats us to be serious,” Dr. Smart said. “Where do we go from here with our health communications?”

Dr. Conway said some people may feel tired or disillusioned because advice on vaccine schedules varies. but The SARS‑CoV‑2 virus is changing and as scientific understanding of vaccine safety develops, so should public-health guidance, he said.

The best available evidence suggests that three and, in some individuals, four mRNA doses, provide the best protection. A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people age 60 and older who got a second booster shot were less likely to experience serious COVID-19 consequences than those who didn’t. , who received only one booster dose.

Because the Omicron version is still so new, it’s not clear how long the protection from serious consequences will last. But most health experts agree that it is likely that people will be offered boosters on a regular basis, possibly similar to annual influenza vaccination campaigns.

Many experts are urging the public health agency and other health organizations to stop using the term “fully immunized” to refer to people who have received two doses of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

“I don’t think it’s a term that works scientifically or practically works,” said Doug Manuel, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and member of the Coronavirus Variant Rapid Response Network. “I think it’s misleading. I think it’s wrong.”

Asked whether the public health agency was going to stop using the term “completely immunization,” a spokeswoman sent an excerpt from a news conference this week during which Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam said: This is an ongoing discussion.

With a report from the Canadian Press

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