After more than three years of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that over 763 million infections, and nearly seven million deaths, have been attributed to SARS-CoV-2.
COVID-19 vaccination was deemed crucial to prevent the continued spread of the disease, protect those infected from experiencing severe effects, counter the rise of new variants, and ultimately end the pandemic.
The WHO has lifted the Public Health Emergency of International Concern, but ending the ongoing threat of COVID-19 still depends on vaccination and other protective behaviours. Understanding the effectiveness of vaccines remains crucial.
Primary doses and boosters
Today, more than 5.5 billion people (72.3 per cent of the world’s population) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A total of 5.09 billion people have completed a primary COVID-19 vaccination series (i.e., two doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a one-dose vaccine).
At the end of 2021, several countries began offering booster doses in response to research indicating that the effectiveness of the vaccines may diminish over time, especially against the Omicron variant, which emerged in late 2021, and has become the dominant circulating variant.
With this in mind, we sought to answer two questions. First, how well does the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines protect people (against infections, hospitalizations and deaths) four months or more after completing vaccination? Second, how well does the first booster dose protect people three months or more after receiving it?
Answering these questions will provide invaluable information for policymakers to make evidence-based decisions, such as the timing of administering COVID-19 vaccine booster doses.
To answer these questions we sought to identify all studies that:
Compared people who were vaccinated (either with the primary series or a booster) to people who were unvaccinated;
Followed people for at least 112 days after a primary series, or 84 days after a booster dose, and;
Looked at who got infected, was hospitalized or died due to COVID-19.
In total, we identified 68 studies that met these criteria, representing 23 countries. We then combined all the data to better understand how the vaccines’ protection changes over time. The results were published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Protection against COVID-19, in general
The WHO has set standards to define whether a vaccine offers adequate protection. Specifically, vaccines should show at least 70 per cent protection against infections and 90 per cent protection against hospitalizations and deaths.
We found that the primary series offered excellent protection against hospitalizations and deaths in the short term, showing over 90 per cent protection against both outcomes within 42 days after vaccination. This protection waned over time, going below the WHO recommendation, but stayed relatively high, at around 80 per cent against hospitalizations at eight months post-vaccination, and around 85 per cent against deaths at six months post-vaccination.
The primary series also offered good protection against infections in the short term (over 80 per cent within the first 42 days), but that protection fell to around 60 per cent after four months, and 50 per cent after nine months.
The initial protection of a booster dose was around 70 per cent against infections and 90 per cent against hospitalizations within the first month after vaccinations. Protection then fell to around 45 per cent against infections and to around 70 per cent against hospitalizations after four months had passed. Too little data was available to track the long-term effects against deaths.
Overall, the vaccines work at preventing infections, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19, but their effectiveness does decline over time, particularly against infections. Boosters restore protection lost, but may need additional boosting over time.
Protection against the Omicron variant
Within 42 days after vaccination with the original COVID-19 vaccine formulations, the primary series only reached around 60 per cent protection against Omicron-based infections, and this dropped to around 30 per cent after five months.
The primary series’ protection against hospitalization for Omicron infections reached around 70 per cent within the first 42 days, but also dropped over time, reaching closer to 50 per cent after six months. None of these reached the levels recommended by the WHO.
The boosters did fare better in protecting against Omicron. Within the first 28 days after the booster, protection hovered close to the 70 per cent threshold against infections and 90 per cent threshold against hospitalizations recommended by the WHO.
For context, if individuals delayed the administration of the booster by six months after completing the primary series, their protection levels would be around 20 per cent against Omicron infections and around 50 per cent against hospitalizations right before receiving the booster.
Yet, booster protection also waned over time, falling to about 40 per cent against Omicron infections and 70 per cent against hospitalizations after four months post-booster. Too little data was available to comment on long-term effects against deaths.
With Omicron, boosters are particularly needed to maintain adequate protection, but this protection also needs additional boosting as it wanes over time.
New formulations of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines that target the Omicron variant were introduced in fall 2022, and are recommended for booster shots by Canada’s National Advisory Commission on Immunization. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommended in March 2023 that people at high risk of severe COVID-19 get an additional booster shot.
In May, the WHO recommended that new formulations of COVID-19 vaccines should target Omicron XBB variants, which are the dominant variants currently circulating.
Behaviour-based prevention measures remain necessary
While vaccines provide reasonable protection against COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths, their effectiveness is imperfect and wanes over time, particularly against the now-dominant Omicron variant for people vaccinated with the original vaccines.
Notably, waning is especially pronounced against infections. This means that although being vaccinated is likely to protect most people against becoming severely ill, vaccinated people are still at risk of catching the virus and transmitting it to others — some of whom will be at higher risk of severe complications from the disease.
That means measures like wearing a mask, washing one’s hands, and staying at home when sick remain essential complements to vaccination. Contrary to vaccines, these measures do not decline in effectiveness over time and are particularly well suited to protect people against infections.
Eliminating the threat of new COVID-19 infections will continue to rely heavily on a combination of vaccination and behaviours, whereas new vaccine doses will continue to protect those who are infected from severe complications like hospitalizations and deaths.
This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. If you found it interesting, you could subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Nana Wu receives funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Keven Joyal-Desmarais receives funding from the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Simon Bacon receives funding from Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Weston Family Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC), Quebec Ministère de l’économie et de l’innovation (MEI), Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC), Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI), The Auger Foundation, Concordia University, CIUSSS-NIM.
The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life
Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.
That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.
What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?
Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.
Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.
Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations
As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.
Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:
- Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
- Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
- Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.
Determining a Fair Payment Plan
Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.
Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.
Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers
When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:
- Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
- Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
- Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
- Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.
Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.
Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.
Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home
THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.
The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.
No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.
Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.
Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister
Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.
Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.
“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”
Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.
“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.
LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.
“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.
The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.
LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.
From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.
On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.
“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.
LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.
“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.
She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.
Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.
LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.
“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.
–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News
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