Although the U.S. will soon offer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to the general population, Canadian experts aren’t sure that Canada should follow suit.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the announcement Wednesday that they are planning to offer a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to Americans, eight months after they had their second dose.
They expect to start offering booster shots to people in September, as Americans who received their shots first become eligible. The overall plan is awaiting a Food and Drug Administration evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose, the officials said.
The CDC decision was expected, said Alyson Kelvin, a Canadian vaccinologist who works with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon, but she’s not sure it’s the right one. “Looking at the evidence, I think that many scientists are conflicted whether or not the general public does need booster shots,” she said.
The CDC points to three pre-print studies released Wednesday that examined how well vaccines protected against infection and hospitalization with COVID-19 in the real world. However, all three studies measure vaccine effectiveness over a period before and after the Delta variant became the predominant COVID-19 variety in the U.S..
In other words, it’s hard to tell from these studies whether increasing case numbers are due to people’s immunity fading over time, or whether it’s due to vaccines being less effective against the Delta variant.
“This study could not differentiate the independent impact of the Delta variant from other factors, such as potential waning of vaccine-induced immunity,” reads one study, which examined people in nursing homes. “Further research on the possible impact of both factors on VE (vaccine effectiveness) among nursing home residents is warranted.”
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To some leading scientists, the studies “would not be sufficient, in and of themselves, to make the case for a booster,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, and a liaison to an expert advisory panel that helps the CDC form its vaccination recommendations.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that other studies looking at antibodies suggest that immunity fades over time and higher antibody levels might be needed to combat the Delta variant. Giving a third dose causes a “dramatic increase” in antibody levels, he said.
Even though it is calling for a booster shot, the CDC emphasized that the vaccine remained effective against catching COVID-19 and helped prevent serious outcomes from the disease. “While we are still learning about how these vaccines perform over time and how long they will last against emerging variants, one thing is very clear: Getting vaccinated can keep you out of the hospital. Getting vaccinated can save your life,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
In recent weeks, several other countries have decided to offer booster shots to older adults and people with weak immune systems, including Israel, Germany and France. European Union officials said on Wednesday they do not yet see a need to give booster shots to the general population.
“I think that there’s some evidence that immunity does wane,” Kelvin said. “This happens with all vaccines or even infections.”
When it comes to new variants though, Kelvin isn’t sure how much a third dose of the exact same vaccine will help. “Is this a boost of the same vaccine or is this a boost that’s matching the most prominent circulating variant?” she asked.
If your antibodies are different from the circulating virus, “It doesn’t matter if you get another vaccine to the original SARS-CoV-2 spike protein because it’s a mismatch already,” she said.
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Reaching the right people
The Public Health Agency of Canada didn’t respond to specific questions about the CDC decision by deadline, however it noted that people in specific populations who are immunosuppressed might not mount as strong a defence against the virus as others after they get vaccinated. The National Advisory Council on Immunization is reviewing evidence for a booster shot in this population, PHAC said, and will update its recommendations “in the coming weeks.”
People who take immunosuppressant drugs, such as organ transplant patients who take them so they don’t reject their new organs, often have weaker responses to vaccines, said Dr. Deepali Kumar, director of transplant infectious diseases at the University Health Network in Toronto.
“It’s not surprising that that the response to mRNA vaccines would be low in immunocompromised people, and third doses seem to somewhat overcome that problem,” she said. “If a transplant patient gets COVID, they are more likely to end up in the hospital, more likely to end up in the ICU and more likely to die. And so this is a population that we really need to protect.”
Ontario recently announced that it will give booster shots to certain at-risk populations, and other provinces are considering similar measures.
Until we have more specific data though, Kelvin thinks that Canada’s vaccination focus shouldn’t be on giving third doses to fully-vaccinated people in the general population.
“Helping vaccines reach underserved communities in North America is really going to help us achieve our goal of reducing COVID-19 infections,” she said. She thinks it’s more important to reach people who haven’t gotten their first and second doses.
“My perspective as a vaccinologist would be: trying to get as much vaccine coverage both in areas of North America as well as all over the world, is going to help bring down the virus circulating and the number of COVID-19 cases that we’re seeing.”
Kumar agrees. “We need to focus on making sure that the first and second doses are in people’s arms first,” she said. “I mean, we still have a good proportion of the younger population that hasn’t had their first or second doses. So I think, if we’re going to stop the pandemic, we need to cast a broad net and make sure that that everyone’s vaccinated.”
-with files from the Associated Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Ontario reports 653 new COVID-19 cases, 6 more virus-related deaths – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Ontario is reporting another week-over-week decline in its daily COVID-19 case count with fewer than 700 new infections confirmed over the past 24 hours.
Provincial health officials logged 653 new COVID-19 cases today, up slightly from 640 on Saturday but down from 715 one week ago.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases continues to drop, hitting 620 today, down from 709 last Sunday.
Of the new cases confirmed today, 499 are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 154 are in those who are fully immunized.
With 31,063 tests processed over the past 24 hours, officials are reporting a provincewide positivity rate of two per cent, compared to 2.3 per cent seven days ago.
The province says there are now 177 people with COVID-19 receiving treatment in Ontario intensive care units, declining by five since last Sunday.
Six more virus-related deaths were reported over the past 24 hours but the province says three of those fatalities occurred last month.
Ontario’s active COVID-19 caseload now sits at 5,591, down from 6,396 last Sunday.
More than 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians have now received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In an effort to boost vaccination rates, the city is holding vaccination clinics in a variety of locations with high foot traffic, including malls across Toronto this weekend.
Dr. Omar Khan, an assistant professor with the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, said Ontario’s high vaccination rate will help keep ICUs from filling up.
“By having people vaccinated, that keeps them out of the hospital, keeps them out of the ICUs, and then lets the medical system catch up with everything that’s been piling up,” he told CP24 on Sunday morning.
The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.
COVID-19: N.B. reports person in 40s has died, as province adds 82 new cases – Globalnews.ca
A person in their 40s is New Brunswick’s 54th COVID-related death.
The province said in a news release Sunday that the person was from Zone 1 (Moncton region).
The news marked six COVID-related deaths in the province since last Wednesday, under a week ago.
“Each life taken in New Brunswick by COVID-19 is more than a number,” said Premier Blaine Higgs in a news release.
“These are people’s parents, children, friends, neighbours and coworkers.”
The death was announced on the same day the province reported 82 new cases — 64 of which involve people who are not fully vaccinated.
There are now 33 people in New Brunswick hospitalized due to the virus, 15 of whom are in the ICU.
With 33 recoveries reported, the number of active cases is now 628.
Public Health data shows 79.2 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 88 per cent have received their first dose of vaccine.
New cases breakdown
The new cases are:
Zone 1 (Moncton region) – 27 cases
- 12 people 19 and under
- one person 20-29
- three people 30-39
- two people 40-49
- two people 50-59
- two people 70-79
- three people 80-89
- two people 90 and over
Eighteen cases are under investigation and nine are contacts of a previously-confirmed case.
Zone 2 (Saint John region) – four cases
- a person 20-29
- a person 40-49
- a person 60-69
- a person 70-79
Three cases are contacts of previously-confirmed cases and one is under investigation.
COVID-19: the upward trend in cases among children
Zone 3 (Fredericton region) – 30 cases
- 16 people 19 and under
- six people 20-29
- one person 40-49
- three people 50-59
- four people 60-69
Twenty-two cases are under investigation and eight are contacts of previously-confirmed cases.
Zone 4 (Edmundston region) – 14 cases
- four people 19 and under
- two people 20-29
- six people 30-39
- two people 80-89
Thirteen cases are under investigation and one is a contact of a previously-confirmed case.
Zone 5 (Campbellton region) – two cases
- a person 30-39
- a person 70-79
Both cases are contacts of previously-confirmed cases.
Zone 6 (Bathurst region) – four cases
- three people 30-39
- one person 40-49
Three cases are under investigation and one is a contact of a previously-confirmed case.
Zone 7 (Miramichi region) – one case
- a person 30-39
This case is under investigation.
State of emergency reinstated
On Friday, the province reinstated a state of emergency due to the current level of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Physical distancing, indoor masking and a proof of vaccination policy for certain services and businesses are now in effect.
Anyone entering New Brunswick must also pre-register through the New Brunswick Travel Registration Program.
New Brunswickers react to reinstated state of emergency
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Outbreak declared at Prince George's University Hospital of Northern BC – BC News – Castanet.net
A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Prince George’s University Hospital of Northern BC Sunday.
Northern Health says nine patients and one staff member on the hospital’s Primary Care Medical Unit have tested positive for the virus, and more testing is currently underway.
As a result, the hospital has restricted the unit to essential visitors only.
The condition of the infected people was not disclosed.
An outbreak at the same hospital last December through January left eight people dead, after 33 people tested positive.
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