Janet Lang had two doses of coronavirus vaccine, but she still double-masks every time she leaves her house.
That’s because Lang, 73, takes oral chemotherapy to control a rare blood cancer. Although the drugs have helped to keep the cancer at bay, they also suppress her immune system, leaving her with the constant worry that although she’s fully immunized, it’s not enough to protect her against COVID-19.
“I’m feeling quite fragile,” Lang told CBC News in an interview near her home in Waterloo, Ont.
A booster shot, she said, would help ease her fears, especially when it comes to the delta variant, she said.
“I’d like to see it put on the agenda [in Canada],” Lang said.
Booster shots will be one of the next big decisions for Canadian officials, with the rise of the more transmissible delta variant, a lack of clarity over when boosters might be needed, and calls from the World Health Organization to get the planet vaccinated before rich countries worry about third doses.
In general, booster shots are used to increase the body’s antibody response to a virus after the immune system has been “primed” by the initial vaccination (for example, tetanus shots). Additional vaccine doses can also help the body fight off different variants of a virus (like the yearly flu shot).
Vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer and Moderna, are working on developing and testing the safety and efficacy of booster shots against Sars-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — and potential new variants.
At this point, Canadian experts say, the existing COVID-19 vaccine schedule is offering excellent protection, including against the delta variant. But it’s not yet known, they say, how long that protection lasts in various populations — and therefore when or whether a booster shot will be needed.
Still, Lang may get her wish in the coming months if Canada follows the lead of the U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which is already issuing guidance on potentially starting a booster shot campaign in about two months.
“The JCVI’s interim advice is that, should a booster programme be required, a third COVID-19 vaccine dose should be offered to the most vulnerable first, starting from September 2021 to maximise individual protection and safeguard the NHS [National Health Service] ahead of winter,” said Prof. Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 chair for JCVI, in a news release.
The British committee recommends that those who are immunosuppressed, living in long-term care or retirement homes, people aged 70 years and older, and front-line health workers should be the first to get a third dose of COVID vaccine, or booster shot.
The U.K.’s targeted approach to booster shots is “spot on,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
“People who live in long-term care facilities, people who are immunocompromised, do generate lower antibody levels and they decline faster over time,” McGeer said.
“There are likely to be some of those people who will not be well-protected come October or November and who might be better protected if they get an extra dose of vaccine.”
WATCH | COVID-19 vaccine booster being considered for the most vulnerable
Dr. André Veillette, an immunologist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute and member of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, said that although vaccines are doing an excellent job at controlling COVID-19 in Canada right now, he thinks it would be wise to offer booster shots to vulnerable populations in the fall.
“[In] light of the fact that we’re probably going to get in Canada more and more of this delta variant, I think it’s reasonable to start thinking that we’re going to need also a booster or a third dose,” Veillette said.
Both McGeer and Veillette agree that booster shots should go to people in long-term care, those who are elderly and people with suppressed immune systems first.
WHO chief slams booster shots
But some experts, including the World Health Organization, say that policymakers need to look at the broader picture when they’re considering whether to offer booster shots — including the fact that many people in the world have not yet been able to get even their first dose of a COVID vaccine.
“Some countries with high vaccination coverage are now planning to roll out booster shots in the coming months,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general, in a news briefing on Wednesday.
“Vaccine nationalism, where a handful of nations have taken the lion’s share, is morally indefensible and an ineffective public health strategy against a respiratory virus that is mutating quickly and becoming increasingly effective at moving from human-to-human,” he said.
Some Canadian physicians, including Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at Chu Ste. Justine in Montreal, share that concern — and argue that one of the best ways to protect vulnerable people against COVID-19 is to vaccinate as many people as possible to build herd immunity.
“If you give those [third] doses here, it means that you’re not giving them elsewhere, you know, worldwide. And at this point in time, what is absolutely needed is for the entire planet to be vaccinated, because if we want to stop the emergence of all those variants of concern that we’re seeing like day in, day out, we absolutely need to have everyone vaccinated,” Quach-Thanh said.
Both Veillette and McGeer, however, said that by the fall, everyone who wants to be vaccinated in Canada will likely have received their doses, and there should be plenty of supply to allow for boosters, especially if it’s limited solely to those who are elderly and those who are immunocompromised.
NACI watching to see if boosters needed
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is watching the scientific data develop as they consider whether booster shots will be needed — or when, said Anna Maddison, spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, in a statement emailed to CBC News.
“Based on previous evidence, booster vaccines may be required when immunity decreases below levels of protection and if there is an increase in breakthrough disease,” Maddison said.
“Booster vaccines may also be required if the evolution of the virus, due to variants of concern, is no longer efficiently recognized by the natural immune system or the vaccine.”
Even if all the data on boosters isn’t in yet, Canada should be ready to use them as a proactive measure, Veillette said.
“I think the science may not be there [yet] to prove that elders need a third dose, but at the same time, do we need to go through what we went through before? Meaning, you know, outbreaks in elders’ homes and then people getting very sick, people dying?”
COVID-19 in B.C.: Over 200 new cases and over 1000 active cases; Fraser Health shifts to vaccine hubs; and more – The Georgia Straight
Today’s total and new case numbers are provisional but they are concerning.
Both new and active cases continue to rise and hit new highs in recent weeks, with the bulk of both of them still in Interior Health—which continues to have more new and active cases than both Fraser and Vancovuer Coastal Health combined.
Meanwhile, like the last heat wave, some immunization clinics may be affected by the high temperatures and at least one is already being relocated.
According to the B.C. Health Ministry, the following numbers for total and new cases are provisional due to a delayed data refresh.
For now, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 204 new COVID-19 cases today.
Currently, there are 1,055 active cases, which is an increase of 146 cases since yesterday.
The new and active cases include:
- 107 new cases in Interior Health, with 600 total active cases (an increase of 97 cases since yesterday);
- 58 new cases in Fraser Health, with 241 total active cases (33 more cases than yesterday);
- 23 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 139 total active cases (three more cases than yesterday);
- 14 new cases in Island Health, with 51 total active cases (10 more cases than yesterday);
- two new cases in Northern Health, with 19 total active cases (three more cases than yesterday);
- no new cases of people from outside of Canada, with five total active cases (same number as yesterday).
At the moment, 51 individuals are in hospital (four more people than yesterday), and 20 of those patients are in intensive care units (same number as yesterday).
Thankfully, no new COVID-19-related deaths have been reported, which leaves the overall total at 1,771 people who have died during the pandemic.
With 54 recoveries since yesterday, a cumulative total of 146,810 people have now recovered.
During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded a cumulative total of 149,648 cases.
The forecast heat wave may cause some clinics to be relocated again, as they were during the previous heat wave in June.
In preparation for the expected high temperatures this weekend, Island Health announced today that it will move the Eagle Ridge immunization clinic to the air-conditioned Victoria Conference Centre (720 Douglas Street, Victoria) tomorrow (July 30).
Also tomorrow, Island Health will hold a pop-up clinic from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Starlight Stadium (1089 Langford Parkway) in Langford, during the game between Victoria’s Pacific FC and Calgary’s Cavalry FC.
Meanwhile, Fraser Health announced today that it has now administered over two million vaccine doses—80 percent of eligible people in the region have received at least one dose, and over 60 percent have received their second dose.
Consequently, as of tomorrow (July 29), Fraser Health is transitioning from a network of immunization clinics to establishing four main hubs at existing clinics at:
- Ag-Rec Centre (32470 Haida Drive) in Abbotsford (for both COVID-19 testing and immunizations);
- Poirier Forum (618 Poirier Street) in Coqutilam;
- Guildford Rec Centre (15105 105th Avenue) in Surrey;
- North Delta Rec Centre (11415 84th Avenue) in Delta.
Immunization will also continue to be available at COVID-19 testing and immunization centres in Hope, Chilliwack, Mission, Langley, South Delta, South Surrey, Surrey 66, Coquitlam, and Burnaby. In addition, Fraser Health will continue to hold pop-up and mobile clinics, outreach clinics, and community initiatives (such as beachside clinics) to ensure easy access to immunizations.
The following clinics, however, will be closed on the dates listed below:
- July 28: South Surrey Rec Centre and Chuck Bailey Rec Centre;
- August 1: Abbotsford test collection centre at the University of the Fraser Valley will close and testing will relocate to Abbotsford Ag Rec;
- August 7: Agassiz Agricultural Hall, Langley Events Centre, Anvil Centre, and Christine Sinclair Community Centre;
- August 14: Chilliwack Mall, Hope Legion, Cloverdale Rec Centre, Surrey North, and Haney Place Mall;
- August 30: Mamele’awt Community Indigenous Centre, Stó:lō Service Agency, Fraser River Indigenous Society, Mission Friendship Centre, Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre.
As part of its effort to increase vaccinations amid the recently declared outbreak in the Central Okanagan, Interior Health will hold pop-up immunization clinics from 3 to 7 p.m. from Friday (July 30) to Wednesday (August 4) at the Kelowna Yacht Club (1370 Water Street) in Kelowna, and vaccinations are available for eligible drop-in visitors.
In the ongoing provincial immunization program so far, B.C. has administered 6,732,309 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.
As of today, 81 percent (3,753,057) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose and 64.1 percent (2,971,793) have received their second dose.
In addition, 81.9 percent (3,543,503) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 66.8 percent (2,890,948) have received their second dose.
None of the five regional health authorities declared any new healthcare or community outbreaks, or listed any new business closures or public exposure events.
Currently, there are two active healthcare outbreaks, both in longterm care facilities: Holyrood Manor (Fraser Health) and Nelson Jubilee Manor (Interior Health).
No changes expected as COVID-19 cases surge in Central Okanagan: Kelowna airport – Revelstoke Review – Revelstoke Review
With new restrictions announced specifically for the Central Okanagan today (July 28), the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) said they are not expecting any changes to their operations.
Senior manager of airport operations Phillip Elchitz said that with the COVID-19 safety plan already in place at YLW, they don’t expect much more to change.
Elchitz also said that they’re not expecting much impact on passenger numbers because of the new restrictions.
“YLW is not anticipating a reduction in commercial scheduled flights as a result of the new provincial health guidelines specific to the Central Okanagan,” he said.
“YLW currently has a mandatory mask policy in place for all areas of the Air Terminal Building and on aircrafts due to Transport Canada requirements.”
Individual passenger temperature is also checked just before they go through security as an added safety measure.
Earlier in the afternoon on July 28, the province announced that masks will be mandatory again in indoor public spaces throughout the Central Okanagan, which includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country.
The province is also discouraging non-essential travel to and from the Central Okanagan, especially for those who are not vaccinated or who don’t have both doses yet.
Nenshi says lifting Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 health orders is the ‘height of insanity’ – Global News
The mayor of Calgary says it’s the “height of insanity” that Alberta is moving ahead with removing almost all of its remaining COVID-19 public health orders, even as cases climb in the province.
Alberta has ended isolation requirements for close contacts of people who test positive and contact tracers will no longer notify them of their exposure. The province has also ended asymptomatic testing.
Further measures are to be eliminated Aug. 16. People who test positive will no longer be required to isolate. Isolation hotels will close as quarantine supports end.
“It is inconceivable to me. It is the height of insanity to say we don’t even know what’s happening,” Nenshi said Thursday.
“It is putting the health of Albertans at risk. To stop contact tracing, to stop testing people for the coronavirus and to become one of the first _ if not the first — jurisdictions in the world to say that people who have tested positive, who are infectious, can just go about their lives.”
Majority of Canadians worried about lingering COVID-19 threat, according to poll
Naheed Nenshi, who was making an announcement at the Calgary airport, said if he were in another jurisdiction he would be thinking hard whether to put travel restrictions on Albertans starting Aug. 16.
“I’m aware of no science that backs this up. It is clear for the last month or so on this file (that) our government has been grasping and struggling, just trying to get some good news out of something,” he said.
“To say we don’t want to know who has the coronavirus, we don’t want to track outbreaks. Even the most fervent of the anti-maskers wouldn’t say (to) unleash people who are actually infectious into the population.”
Nenshi said he worries that the decision to lift the health orders is politically motivated and has nothing to do with science at all.
“The only possible explanation here is a political one. It might be that they’ve run out of money, but you know what? Don’t spend $1.5 billion on a pipeline you know isn’t going to get built if you’re running out of money.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press
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