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As new variants emerge, fourth injections of COVID-19 should be more accessible, experts say

Keith Muise, a 41-year-old man in Newfoundland, says it’s absurd that he can’t access a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine despite the emergence of new variants – and two health experts public agree with him.

Muise said he would register for a fourth vaccine when it first becomes available, but he lives in Stephenville, a city in western Newfoundland and Labrador, which is one of four provinces still limiting second booster injections for people aged 70 or over.

However, the province’s eligibility rules are consistent with current recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Quebec, meanwhile, offers a fourth dose to anyone over the age of 17.

“I want as much protection as possible,” Muise said in a recent interview, adding that he was also worried about his mother-in-law, who is 69 and has underlying health conditions.

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“Why is she sitting around waiting for this reminder?” He asked. “I don’t want her to have any less protection for, you know, a bureaucratic type decision.”

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Colin Furness, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Brenda Wilson, professor of community health at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador’s school of medicine, are d agreement with Muise. They say it’s time to allow widespread access to fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines across Canada.

“There are a lot of really good reasons why people should get vaccinated, and governments should support that,” Furness said in a recent interview. “I see no reason to hold back. I’m in Ontario; I’m 54 and I don’t qualify for a fourth dose, that’s stupid.

Ontario is offering second boosters to members of the general public aged 60 and over. Prince Edward Island also offers fourth injections to people 60 and older, while New Brunswick and Saskatchewan offer them to residents over 49.

In Nova Scotia, Alberta and British Columbia – like Newfoundland and Labrador – residents must be over 69 to qualify.

However, all provinces are currently offering a fourth dose to some high-risk residents.

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Regarding these good reasons for getting a fourth dose, Furness noted that protection against third injections is likely decreasing in the population, adding that the new highly contagious subvariants of the Omicron variant – BA.4 and BA. 5 – are increasingly responsible for new cases. of
COVID-19 across the country.

Vaccines only effectively prevent transmission for two to three months, he said, but they are very effective at preventing hospitalization and death. So while a well-coordinated effort to offer a fourth dose — and continue to encourage people to get a third dose — won’t end the pandemic, it could help temper a further rise in cases while preventing further people to be hospitalized, Furness said.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said last week that the number of COVID-19 cases was generally stable or declining across the country, but she said some regions were reporting increases. .

Wastewater data from Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Board, for example, detected an increase in the presence of COVID-19 in the past week.

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Hospitalization rates across the country were “high and variable,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said last week.

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Meanwhile, the disease continues to kill people – 174 Canadians died of COVID-19 in the week ending June 11, according to the country’s public health agency.

Furness said he thinks the National Immunization Advisory Committee is “dragging” and should have recommended wider access to fourth doses now.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for Health Canada said that while the advisory committee provides recommendations based on available studies, “provinces and territories make their own decisions based on their epidemiological situation and availability of vaccines.

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Wilson said she remains “fairly concerned” about the potential for a further increase in COVID-19 cases.

“It’s the vaccines that keep most people from getting seriously ill with the virus,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.
“They won’t stop the transmission?” but they will prevent people from being admitted to the hospital, from being seriously ill, from dying. And it is worth having.

As for ending the transmission of COVID-19, Wilson and Furness said governments must go beyond vaccines and at least recognize that the disease is airborne and plan accordingly.

“The fact is, every country that has tried to use a single strategy – whether it’s containment, vaccination or masking – has failed,” Furness said.

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This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 22, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press