What you need to know about a possible fall COVID recall campaign
Get ready to roll up your sleeves, now that Canada’s national vaccine advisory body has issued guidelines that could lay the groundwork for a fall recall campaign – and reinforced the urgency of recommendations for that people sign up for more vaccines.
Generally speaking, no matter how many COVID shots you’ve already had, you should consider getting another one this fall, according to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Known as NACI, the group is made up of independent experts responsible for providing advice on immunization in Canada.
While final decisions will rest with provinces who will make decisions based on the local spread of the virus, the new guidance specifically targets people over the age of 65, living in long-term care facilities and other group settings. , or who have underlying medical conditions. But anyone over the age of 12 can nominate one, the council concludes.
Here’s what you need to know about why this advice was made, the evidence reviewed by NACI, and what another shot of the vaccine might mean for you.
I thought we were finally going to get past the pandemic. Which give?
There have certainly been signs that the virus is on the decline, NACI says in its decision. The Omicron wave trended downward, and hospitalizations and deaths followed. But Ontario could now be the star of a summer wave. The mix of variants continues to change, with BA.2 and BA.2.3 decreasing while BA.4 and BA.5 increasingly take over.
While people tend to get less sick with Omicron, the strain is more successful in evading the protection afforded by vaccines.
As a result, there is still « considerable uncertainty » about whether and when a future wave could emerge, and it is possible, NACI notes, that like other respiratory illnesses, COVID could worsen over time. fall or another variant may emerge.
« More recently, some areas have reported increases in indicators of disease activity, such as lab test positivity and sewage signals, » federal public health official Dr. Theresa Tam.
Did I lose my immunity from my first two hits?
If you had them last year, you lost a lot of them.
“The immunity conferred by a first series of two doses of vaccines administered in 2021 is now weakened,” Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Thursday.
« Although you may have been infected, the risk is high that you could be reinfected with the whole fall, including the risk of developing symptoms of long COVID. »
Immunity induced by the vaccine and infection fades over time, says NACI, but can be started with a booster dose.
Some people say that means vaccines don’t work, so should I still get one?
Vaccines still work, but not as well as they once did.
Vaccines, it should be noted, have two distinct jobs.
The first is to prevent you from contracting COVID. The current crop of vaccines isn’t doing as well as it used to, and when people say vaccines don’t work anymore, that’s what they’re referring to.
However, vaccines are also meant to keep you from getting seriously ill, and they’re still pretty good at that. So if you’re vaccinated, you’re more likely to get COVID these days than in previous waves, but still much less likely to die from it than someone who isn’t vaccinated.
However, NACI says studies suggest that a booster can increase your protection against infection by up to 60%, which then decreases over time, while your protection against hospitalization remains at around 75% for five month.
Tam says vaccine effectiveness data from this spring — when the Omicron was high — showed people who were vaccinated with two initial shots plus a booster were hospitalized at a rate five times lower than those who didn’t. were not vaccinated.
Their mortality rate was seven times lower.
How protected am I if I only have two injections?
To put that into numbers, when the first mRNA vaccines were developed, they made headlines for studies that showed them to be over 90% effective against infection from the original strain.
But they are less effective against Omicron, and coupled with the fact that immunity decreases over time, protection is « minimal » six months after the second hit. In previous recommendations, the NACI cited a New York study: protection against Omicron in adolescents increased from 76% just two weeks after a second injection to 46% just one and a half months later.
Meanwhile, two shots of the vaccine remained about 65 to 86 percent effective against severe illness and death in adults, according to NACI. Some studies have shown that decline over time, others have not. In a New York study, two shots of the vaccine remained about 73% effective in preventing teenagers from going to the hospital.
Some people have already received boosters, so what’s up?
Official recommendations have said since last fall that older people and those living in group homes should receive boosters.
Since then, they have recommended that those most at risk, then the youngest, be offered boosters, and that some groups even get a second booster. Much of this advice came as the Omicron variant was spreading widely, as it was particularly effective at circumventing previous vaccine protection, so another shot was recommended to help boost your immune system.
But these new recommendations say anyone at increased risk should get a booster this fall, and anyone over the age of 12 should get one.
Can I get a reminder if I recently had COVID?
A lot of people in Canada now have what’s called hybrid immunity, where they’ve had COVID and also been vaccinated. A survey of Canadian Blood Services donors found that up to 37 per cent of adults had been infected by the end of April. Other studies have shown that about half of children under five have had COVID.
Studies suggest that hybrid immunity is actually stronger than immunity from vaccination or vaccination alone, although it’s not clear how long it lasts or how well it works against all variants. according to the NACI.
In previous recommendations, NACI has said you should wait three months after your symptoms started or you tested positive, or six months since your last shot, whichever is longer.
Are reminders safe?
They have roughly the same safety profile as the first two vaccines, according to NACI.
However, they have mainly been given to older populations so far, so monitoring is ongoing in case anything shows up in younger groups.
Does the fourth move work better against the new subvariants?
Currently, booster shots are the same vaccine recipe that has been used around the world since last year. They would therefore help to strengthen your existing immune response.
Many vaccine makers, including Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna and Novavax, have started making vaccines suitable for the new variants and hope to have them ready by fall, although it is not yet clear how well they would work and how quickly they would be available.
“For now, we know that the vaccines we have can boost protection,” Tam said. « So I think Canadians should focus on that particular fact when making the decision to get the recalls. »
NACI says it will provide further recommendations on new vaccines as they become available.
How many people even received a third injection?
Although more than 85% of eligible people in Canada received at least two doses, only slightly more than half received a third dose.
However, 40% of people over 80 had actually received four doses in total.
What qualifies as « fully vaccinated »?
It’s a topic of debate right now, with many health experts saying that « fully vaccinated » should now require at least three injections, not two.
Speaking on Thursday, Duclos said the government now thinks about vaccination based on whether someone is up to date – you are up to date if you have had your last shot in the last nine months.
Am I going to have to keep getting reminder after reminder forever?
While NACI says it’s not yet clear what the virus will do in the future, some vaccine experts have said it’s not unlikely that COVID will become a regular vaccine, much like the vaccine. against the flu.
What shot should I take?
Currently, NACI recommends an mRNA injection – i.e. Pfizer or Moderna – as a booster injection, although it says it will release more information.
Does that mean I can run out and get one today?
Not necessarily. While NACI is responsible for providing nationwide recommendations based on the latest evidence, the final decision on how vaccines should be distributed rests with the provinces. So each province will have to decide how they offer boosters, although in the past they have largely followed much of the NACI guidelines.
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