Statement from the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health (CCMOH) on the importance of staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines


April 5, 2022 | Ottawa, ON

After two years of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all looking towards the months ahead with optimism. We are in a stronger position than ever before, largely thanks to the collective actions of people living in Canada to be vaccinated against COVID-19. With over 85% of eligible people in Canada having at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. In addition, as of March 27, 2022, over 84% of seniors aged 70 years or older and 68% of those aged 50-69 have received a third dose.

Although we move forward with hope and resilience, the pandemic is not over and the SARS-CoV2 virus continues to circulate and evolve. The BA.2 sub-lineage of Omicron is now the dominant variant in many communities in Canada. Several jurisdictions are experiencing an increase in cases as we transition to a more sustainable approach to managing COVID-19 by easing public health measures. Canada’s Chief Medical Officers of Health are closely monitoring and responding to signals of increased transmission while preparing for additional waves and new variants.

Vaccination remains the most important tool to protect ourselves and our communities against the impacts of future waves of COVID-19. As with all vaccines, to maximize protection, vaccination guidance will change as the epidemiology and characteristics of circulating SARS-CoV-2 virus variants evolve. As COVID-19 transmission increases, getting a booster dose is very important, especially if you are at higher risk. Evidence indicates that an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine booster dose can provide longer-lasting protection and possibly better effectiveness against variants, even if you have been previously infected with COVID-19.

This is why we recommend individuals stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines by receiving all doses recommended for them, including booster doses. As the pandemic evolves, eligibility for booster doses may change. Scientific evidence and expert advice continue to inform the most effective use of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recently released recommendations that residents of long-term care homes or other congregate living settings for seniors, as well as adults 80 years of age and over living in the community, be prioritized for second booster doses. Given the current trend in COVID-19 cases, NACI recommends that the provinces and territories prepare for rapid deployment of second booster doses, which may also include adults 70-79 years of age and adults younger than 70 years of age in or from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. Canada's Chief Medical Officers of Health welcome NACI's analysis and thank them for providing their expert advice.

As jurisdictions lift public health restrictions and shift from mandates to recommendations, our individual actions will continue to have a critical impact on the health of all those living in Canada. As individuals, we can contribute to reducing the impact of COVID-19 by continuing to layer personal protective measures, even when they are not required. This includes our core protection of keeping COVID-19 vaccinations up-to-date, as well as taking important precautions like staying home when sick, choosing to wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public settings, maintaining good ventilation in indoor spaces, and cleaning hands regularly.

Staying up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines provides you with strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization and helps to reduce the overall impact and severity at the population level. While there will be differences in how each jurisdiction assesses risk and responds to the needs of their communities, Canada’s Chief Medical Officers of Health are committed to providing evidence-based advice to help keep individuals and communities safe.

The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health includes the Chief Medical Officer of Health from each provincial and territorial jurisdiction, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, the Chief Medical Advisor of Health Canada, the Chief Medical Officer of Public Health of Indigenous Services Canada, the Chief Medical Officer from the First Nations Health Authority, and ex-officio members from other federal government departments.

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