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JCVI recommends spring COVID-19 booster for those at highest risk

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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the UK government that those at the highest risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered an extra booster vaccination this spring.

This includes adults aged 75 years and over, residents in care homes for older adults, and individuals aged five years and over who are immunosuppressed.

Eligible individuals will be offered the booster around six months after their previous dose, with NHS England due to confirm the operational details for the programme shortly. Scotland has yet to announce plans for its booster campaign.

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Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “COVID-19 is still circulating widely, and we have recently seen increases in older people being hospitalised.

“It is important that those at highest risk of severe illness do not become complacent and I would encourage everyone who is eligible to come forward once the booster programme starts.”

Included in its advice, the JCVI recommends that vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Sanofi/GSK and Novavax can be used for the spring programme.

As with previous campaigns, the vaccine offered will depend on a person’s age and local supply considerations, with all eligible children aged under 12 years to be offered a children’s formulation of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI’s COVID-19 committee, said: “Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 and the spring booster programme provides an opportunity for those who are at highest risk of severe illness to keep their immunity topped up.”

The committee has already advised that an autumn booster should be given to those at a higher risk of severe COVID-19, with Lim saying that a spring booster would “bridge the gap” between the two programmes and allow those who are most vulnerable to be well protected throughout the summer.

The advice represents the JCVI’s new scaled-back approach for future vaccination campaigns, prioritising boosters only for those considered to be at risk of serious illness.

It has also recently outlined that an emergency surge vaccine response may be required if a new variant of concern emerges that has clinically significant biological differences from the Omicron variant.

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Respiratory Outbreak Over: Jasper Place – Thunder Bay District Health Unit

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March 27, 2023 – The Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) and The City of Thunder Bay – Jasper Place confirm that the respiratory outbreak at Jasper Place, located at 1200 Jasper Drive, has been declared over. All outbreak restrictions have been lifted.

TBDHU recommends the public refrain from visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities and other high risk settings when feeling unwell to avoid spreading infections to those most vulnerable and at higher risk of severe outcomes.

The Health Unit reminds the public that they can prevent getting and spreading infections by:

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  • Staying at home when sick.  Wearing a well-fitted mask in indoor spaces, especially when around vulnerable people or when recovering from illness.
  • Keeping up-to-date with influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Washing hands often, for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Covering coughs/sneezes with the upper sleeve if no tissue is available.
  • Being familiar with the Ontario screening tool, to self-assess and know what to do next.

For more information on current outbreaks, please visit the following link: https://www.tbdhu.com/outbreaks.

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For more information – TBDHU Media: news@tbdhu.com

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Health Topics

COVID-19

Diseases & Infections

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COVID cold and flu assessment centre to close Friday

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It’s the end of an era of the pandemic.

The COVID Cold and Flu Care Clinic at 400 Southgate Dr. is closing at the end of the week.

The location will take patients until the end of day Friday.

Guelph General Hospital said in a news release the closure is because of the steady few months of low volumes and stable COVID hospital admissions.

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“The COVID, Cold, Flu Care Clinic played a significant role in meeting the needs of the community during the pandemic by providing community residents a much-needed alternative to the emergency department and primary care,” Guelph General Hospital president and CEO Marianne Walker said in a release.

“As care transitions back to community providers, I’d like to thank the over 100 team members from Guelph General Hospital, Guelph Family Health Team and other partner organizations for their valuable service during some very difficult times.”

The clinic opened in September 2020, after moving over from the Victoria Road Recreation Centre. The clinic also used to operate on Delhi Street.

The Southgate Drive location expanded last December to include treatment for cold and flu symptoms.

Anyone looking for COVID-19, cold and flu treatment are now asked to go to family doctors, walk-in clinics, pharmacies and clinics led by Guelph Family Health Team physicians and nurse practitioners.

Severe COVID cases should still go to the emergency department.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said it will still offer COVID-19 and flu shots at its Chancellors Way building.

The hospital does caution that COVID-19 is still prevalent in the community, and to continue taking precautions if you’re not feeling well.

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Whooping cough on the rise in southern Ontario

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Several public health units in southwestern Ontario say they’ve seen a spike in cases of whooping cough and are urging residents to get vaccinated against the respiratory illness that can be particularly severe in young children.

Southwestern Public Health – which serves Oxford County, Elgin County and St. Thomas, Ont. – said it recorded 82 cases of whooping cough from January 2022 to the end of this February.

“This was 40 per cent of the provincial total from that time period,” Dr. Ninh Tran, medical officer of health for Southwestern Public Health, said in an interview.

“It’s a significant increase … that is certainly striking.”

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Previous years have seen annual caseloads in the single digits, Tran said.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, can see a person’s cough intensify to the point where a “whooping” sound is heard when they try to catch their breath, Tran said.

Lower rates of immunization against whooping cough could be a factor in the rise in cases, he said.

“In our region, we have relatively lower rates of immunization compared to others,” Tran said.

“We’ve had a few cases that were hospitalized. That’s why we just really need folks to get up-to-date on their immunization.”

Huron Perth Public Health, which serves Stratford, Wingham, Listowel and Clinton, said it has confirmed at least 21 cases of whooping cough so far this year. In 2022, there were only three cases.

“The illness can be serious for infants younger than 12 months of age who are not vaccinated, or who have not received all doses of the pertussis vaccine,” Dr. Miriam Klassen, the medical officer of health for Huron Perth, wrote in a statement.

“Young children have the highest risk for severe complications, such as hospitalization and death, if they get sick.”

Klassen said the COVID-19 pandemic might have put residents of southern Ontario behind on routine immunizations, and urged residents to catch up on their vaccines.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said there had been “a recent dramatic rise” in whooping cough cases in its region. It said last week that it counted 18 cases since November 2022.

“Cases have predominately been clustered in the Leamington and Kingsville communities, and exclusively in children who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated,” it wrote in a statement, urging residents to get vaccinated.

The health unit noted that the cough brought on by pertussis can be so severe that it can cause vomiting. If left untreated in infants, young children and the elderly, it “can lead to complications such as pneumonia, dehydration, brain damage, hospitalization and death.”

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health said it recorded 12 cases over the fall and winter, which is “higher than normal for the region.”

“Many individuals may be behind in their vaccinations because they were unable to get them due to COVID-19,” it wrote in a statement. “Now is the time to get fully vaccinated as we engage in more community activities.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2023. 

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