Health Canada approves new booster vaccine for 12-17 year olds

Ontario’s health minister said the delivery schedule « is still being confirmed », with the first delivery of Pfizer’s bivalent vaccine « in the coming weeks ».

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Young people aged 12 to 17 are now eligible for the latest COVID-19 booster shot as Ottawa is hit by a new wave of the virus.

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Health Canada on Friday approved a bivalent or combined Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It targets both the original virus that caused the disease when the pandemic began in 2020 and the later subvariants, Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which now dominate in Ontario.

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Health Canada has approved the bivalent Pfizer vaccine for anyone over the age of 12.

The approval « means Ontarians aged 12 to 17 will be able to get a booster shot in the fall as we head into the colder months, » Health Minister Sylvia Jones said in a statement. written statement.

Another bivalent vaccine from Moderna was already available, but Health Canada only approved it for people 18 and older.

The bivalent Moderna vaccine targets the original viral strain and Omicron BA.1, the variant that dominated Ontario last winter and spring.

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Some Ontario parents of children ages 12 to 17 have expressed confusion on social media about whether their children can get a second booster dose this fall.

(The primary vaccine dose is two shots, so a second booster is a fourth shot.)

Ottawa Public Health has clarified the issue: young people in this age category are eligible for monovalent mRNA booster doses at a recommended interval of six months after their last injections, regardless of how many injections they have already received. (The monovalent vaccine targets the original coronavirus.)

For example, a 12 to 17 year old who received a third injection six months ago can receive a fourth monovalent injection now.

The interval can also be moved up to three months.

Immunocompromised young people aged 12 to 17 can receive the bivalent Moderna vaccine as a booster, but only off-label with clinical consent, OPH said.

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Every child between the ages of 5 and 11 is eligible for a booster dose. Children under five are eligible for a « primary » series, which is two doses, but no boosters.

It’s unclear when Pfizer’s new bivalent vaccine will be available in Ontario, but it could be soon.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said 2.8 million doses of the new Pfizer recall would be shipped to Canada next week, and 11 million by the end of 2022.

Given the slowdown in the use of boosters in Canada, 11 million doses will likely be more than enough to give boosters to those who want them.

In Ontario, the press release from the Minister of Health indicates that the delivery schedule « is still being confirmed », with the first delivery of the bivalent Pfizer vaccine « in the coming weeks ».

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British Columbia health officials have announced that the bivalent Pfizer vaccine will be available there next week.

This bivalent Pfizer vaccine was licensed through a process similar to that used for annual flu shots, which means approval could be much faster. The vaccine has already been given to nearly five million Americans and no safety signals have emerged, said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser.

Another common question for people over 18 is whether to get Moderna bivalent boosters now or wait for the Pfizer bivalent targeting Omicron BA.4 and BA.5.

Sharma says there isn’t much difference between the results of being boosted with one or the other, even though BA.4 and BA.5 are the dominant strains currently in circulation.

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The original vaccines licensed almost a year ago now were very good at preventing infection, but Omicron has thrown a big wrench at that. While vaccines remained great at preventing serious illness and hospitalizations, they stopped being great at preventing people from getting infected.

Sharma says it’s not yet fully clear how infection rates will be affected when the new booster is rolled out, as many different strains are circulating.

There are at least four different versions of the BA.4 and BA.5 strains alone.

“I think it’s really kind of an interesting place in the pandemic where we’ve never been before; there is a bit of a variant soup there,” Sharma said.

“There is evidence that at least some of the best candidates for those who may emerge in the next wave would be covered by these vaccines. But I think it’s, you know, we’re still learning as we move forward with the pandemic. »

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According to Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, although the updated Omicron combination vaccines are good, people who have recently received boosters using one of the original vaccines do not have to worrying about not being able to get Omicron boosters for another three to six months.

« Evidence continues to show that the original mRNA vaccines provide good protection against severe disease and hospitalization, » he said.

Ottawa Public Health says the city is now in the midst of a new wave of COVID-19, with high levels of the virus circulating.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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