Canada’s vaccine advisory committee releases new guidance on COVID-19 shots

Canada’s vaccine advisory committee releases new guidance on COVID-19 shots
Canada’s vaccine advisory committee releases new guidance on COVID-19 shots
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Toronto Public Health nurse draws a dose of Moderna into a syringe at a Toronto vaccination clinic on Feb 3, 2022.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

Canada’s immunization advisory task force published new guidance on Friday that strongly recommends a fall COVID-19 shot for seniors, people with underlying medical conditions and anyone else in a higher-risk group.

Other high-risk groups who should get an updated vaccine include people who are pregnant; people living in long-term care or other congregation facilities; individuals in or from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities; members of racialized and other equity-deserving communities; and people who provide essential community services.

People aged six months and older who are in lower-risk groups and have been previously vaccinated “may” get an additional dose, says the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

In its new vaccination guidance document, NACI notes that the use of the word “may” reflects a balance between known benefits and unknown disadvantages or uncertainty in the evidence.

The fall 2024 advice differs from last year, when the group recommended that anyone in an authorized age group receive a newly formulated COVID-19 vaccine, provided it had been six months since their last shot or infection.

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The change also reflects, in part, how the risk of COVID-19 has shifted thanks to the arrival of effective vaccines in 2021 and the exposure of many people to the virus, which has built immunity throughout the population. Newer variants in circulation are also less severe than those going around in the early part of the pandemic.

Last year, the rise of new subvariants prompted pharmaceutical companies to develop updated vaccines to more closely match the strains in circulation. A monovalent vaccine targeting the XBB.1.5 subvariant was approved last autumn, which was supplanted by the JN.1 subvariant as the fall respiratory virus season hold.

In its new guidance document, NACI notes that COVID-19 has not yet reached a level of predictability of other seasonal viruses, such as the flu, that would warrant the rollout of population-wide booster campaigns.

The NACI document also notes that more work is needed to fully understand how the newest iteration of COVID-19 vaccines hold up over time in terms of reduced rates of infection and protection against severe illness.

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