Will Canada have COVID booster shots this year? Probably, but not for everyone, say experts
Janet Lang has received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, but she still masks twice every time she leaves her house.
That’s because Lang, 73, is taking oral chemotherapy to control a rare blood cancer. While the drugs have helped keep the cancer at bay, they also suppress her immune system, leaving her with constant worry that even though she is fully immune, it is not enough to protect her against COVID-19.
âI feel pretty fragile,â Lang told CBC News in an interview near her home in Waterloo, Ont.
A booster, she said, would help allay her fears, especially when it comes to the delta variant, she said.
“I would like that to be put on the agenda [in Canada]”Lang said.
- CBC News contacted Janet Lang via [email protected] This is where we collect your pandemic stories, questions and advice. We’re also live in the comments.
Booster injections will be one of the next big decisions for Canadian officials, with the rise of the more communicable delta variant, a lack of clarity on when boosters might be needed, and calls from the World Health Organization. health to vaccinate the planet before the rich countries. worry about third doses.
In general, booster shots are used to increase the body’s immune response to a virus after the immune system has been “primed” by the initial vaccination (for example, tetanus injections). Additional doses of the vaccine can also help the body fight off different variants of a virus (such as the annual flu shot).
Vaccine makers, including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are working to develop and test the safety and efficacy of booster shots against Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – and new ones potential variants.
At this point, according to Canadian experts, the existing COVID-19 vaccine schedule offers excellent protection, including against the delta variant. But it is not yet known, they say, how long this protection lasts in various populations – and therefore when or if a booster will be necessary.
Still, Lang could achieve his wish in the coming months if Canada follows the lead of the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), which is already issuing guidance on the potential launch of a recall campaign in about two months.
âJCVI’s provisional advice is that, if a booster program is needed, a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine should be offered first to the most vulnerable, from September 2021 to maximize individual protection and protect the NHS [National Health Service] before winter, âsaid Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 President for JCVI, in a press release.
The UK committee recommends that immunocompromised people living in long-term care or retirement homes, people aged 70 and over and frontline health workers be the first to receive a third dose of the COVID vaccine, or a reminder.
The UK’s targeted approach to booster shots is “on the spot,” said Dr Allison McGeer, infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
“People who live in long-term care facilities, people who are immunocompromised, generate lower levels of antibodies and they decline more quickly over time,” McGeer said.
“There will probably be some of these people who will not be well protected in October or November and who may be better protected if they get an extra dose of the vaccine.”
WATCH | Recall of the COVID-19 vaccine envisaged for the most vulnerable:
Dr AndrÃ© Veillette, immunologist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute and member of the Canadian COVID-19 Vaccine Working Group, said that while vaccines do a great job in controlling COVID-19 in Canada in terms of At the moment, he thinks it would be wise to offer booster shots to vulnerable populations in the fall.
“[In] Considering the fact that we are probably going to receive more and more of this delta variant in Canada, I think it is reasonable to start thinking that we will also need a booster or a third dose, âsaid Night watch.
McGeer and Veillette agree that booster shots should first be for people in long-term care, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.
WHO chief denounces booster injections
But some experts, including the World Health Organization, say policymakers need to have the big picture when considering offering booster shots – including the fact that many people around the world don’t have to. not yet been able to get their first vaccine. dose of a COVID vaccine.
“Some countries with high immunization coverage are now planning to roll out booster injections in the coming months,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, during a press briefing on Wednesday.
“Vaccine nationalism, where a handful of nations have won the lion’s share, is morally indefensible and an ineffective public health strategy against a respiratory virus that mutates rapidly and becomes increasingly effective at moving from human to human.” , did he declare.
Some Canadian physicians, including Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist in Chu Ste. Justine in Montreal, share this concern – and say one of the best ways to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19 is to vaccinate as many people as possible to boost herd immunity.
“If you give these [third] doses here, that means you don’t give them anywhere else, you know, around the world. And at this point, what is absolutely necessary is that the entire planet be vaccinated, because if we want to stop the emergence of all these worrying variants that we see day after day, we absolutely must have everyone vaccinated â , said Quach-Thanh.
However, Veillette and McGeer both said that in the fall, anyone wishing to get vaccinated in Canada will likely have received their doses, and that there should be enough supply to allow for recalls, especially if that is. is limited only to the elderly. and those who are immunocompromised.
Pfizer to seek FDA clearance for booster
On Thursday, Pfizer announced plans to seek US clearance for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Pfizer chief scientific officer Dr Mikael Dolsten told The Associated Press that early data from the company’s booster study suggests that people’s antibody levels are five to ten times higher after a third dose. , compared to their second dose months earlier.
In August, Pfizer plans to seek emergency clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a third dose, he said.
But FDA clearance would only be a first step – it wouldn’t automatically mean Americans would be offered recalls, warned Dr William Schaffner, a vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Public health authorities should decide if they are really needed, he said, especially since millions of people still have no protection because they have not received the two regular doses.
NACI is monitoring to see if recalls are needed
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is monitoring the evolving scientific evidence as it determines whether booster injections will be needed – or when, said Anna Maddison, spokesperson for the National Immunization Agency. Public Health of Canada, in an emailed statement to CBC News.
âBased on previous evidence, booster vaccines may be needed when immunity declines below protective levels and there is an increase in breakthrough disease,â Maddison said.
“Booster vaccines may also be necessary if the evolution of the virus, due to variants of concern, is no longer recognized effectively by the natural immune system or the vaccine.”
Even though all the data on boosters is not yet available, Canada should be prepared to use it as a proactive measure, Veillette said.
“I think the science may not be there [yet] prove that seniors need a third dose, but at the same time, do we need to relive what we’ve been through before? Which means, you know, epidemics in nursing homes, then people getting really sick, people dying? ”
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