Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer, October 7, 2022
October 7 2022 Ottawa (Ontario) Public Health Agency of Canada
Bonjour à toutes et à tous. Nationally, COVID-19 disease indicators, including weekly case counts have increased in recent weeks, which may be an early sign of fall resurgence. Despite the usual regional variation, virus transmission is occurring across the country. The omicron late summer wave appears to have declined very gradually before picking up again, after only a brief levelling off in many areas. With the ongoing transmission, hospital trends are still elevated - although critical care trends and deaths remain at a low level.
As our contacts and potential exposures increase with more time spent indoors this fall and winter, we could see further increases in COVID-19 activity. At the same time, we know that immunity from vaccination and/or prior infection decreases over time. Therefore, NACI recommends getting a COVID-19 booster dose 6 months after a previous COVID-19 vaccine dose or SARS-CoV-2 infection to maintain up-to-date protection.
Across Canada, as more people go beyond a six-month time lapse since their last vaccine dose or infection, population immunity is falling and leaving us all less protected. Without up-to-date vaccination to help prevent serious illness, many people could land in hospital due to COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccination may also help reduce the risk of developing long COVID (or post COVID-19 condition).
As of early September, Canada's booster dose coverage has remained quite low with just half of the population vaccinated with an additional dose. However, with over 82% of the population having completed their primary series, we have a great foundation to build on – to, once again, become a world-leader for up-to-date vaccination coverage.
With Health Canada's recent authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty bivalent vaccine, we now have two bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster formulations as options for restoring protection in people aged 12 years or older. Both the Pfizer and the Moderna bivalent vaccine formulations target the original virus strain and the highly infectious Omicron variant. Likewise, both bivalent vaccines are expected to boost immunity against Omicron variants and broaden the repertoire of our immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Nevertheless, if you recently received a booster dose of an original mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, you did the right thing. When it comes to COVID-19 protection, the most important thing is to stay up-to-date with your protection - and evidence continues to show that Canada's original COVID-19 vaccine formulations provide good protection against hospitalization and severe disease. So, if you have recently received a primary or booster dose with an original COVID-19 vaccine, you do not need to be re-immunized with a bivalent mRNA vaccine at this time.
It is also important to note that in some cases, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that a shorter interval of three months may be warranted. This could include cases where there is a heightened epidemiologic risk such as an immune-vulnerable individual or elevated levels of the virus in the community. Your health provider or local public health authority can help guide you in maintaining optimal protection with COVID-19 vaccines.
In the coming weeks, 2022-23 seasonal influenza vaccines will be rolled out across Canada. It is good to know that influenza vaccines can be can be given at the same as COVID-19 vaccines to people over 5 years of age. However, while this may increase convenience for some, if you are due for a COVID-19 vaccine dose or booster now, it is recommended not to wait.
Canada continues to closely monitor the monkeypox outbreak. As of today, a total of 1,411 cases have been reported nationally. With just 5 additional cases reported over the past week, the outbreak has slowed considerably. In Canada, use of precautions and risk reduction behaviours, particularly in outbreak affected populations and settings, have been crucial to control the spread and allow time for implementation and adaptation of vaccination programs to reach those at highest risk.
To date, over 86,000 individuals have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the Imvamune® vaccine across affected populations in Canada. Given adequate supplies, NACI recommends pre-exposure vaccination should be offered as a two-dose primary series, with at least 28 days between doses, to individuals at highest risk of infection. PHAC continues to support provinces and territories in their ongoing efforts, including through strong partnerships within communities, to maximize vaccination coverage.
Encouragingly, recent evidence from the US outbreak, demonstrates that incidence of monkeypox infection was 14 times lower for people vaccinated with a first vaccine dose compared to unvaccinated people at similarly high risk -concluding that people eligible for monkeypox vaccination should get vaccinated as soon as possible. Specifically, the US study looked at the JYNNEOS vaccine, which is the same formulation as the Imvamune® vaccine in use in Canada.
As we go into the Thanksgiving long weekend, let's do our best to –safely– gather in-person to celebrate all our efforts and recommit to not lose the gains we've made. Although no individual layer of protection is perfect, when used consistently and together, Vaccines Plus layers can provide excellent protection against COVID-19 as well as many other infectious diseases we may encounter.
In particular, improving indoor ventilation where you can and continuing to wear a good quality facemask, especially in poorly ventilated or crowded settings, are some of the most effective personal protective measures you can take to reduce your risk of exposure and spreading disease.
As for COVID-19 in particular, Dr. Tedros, Director General of the World Health Organisation, recently offered the encouragement that “we have never been in a better position to end the pandemic”. Though we are not there yet, the end is in sight and we can get there if we all step up and seize the opportunity now to reach and maintain our best protection. Getting your COVID-19 vaccinations up-to-date with an Omicron-targeting bivalent vaccine is a key step in seizing this opportunity!
Thank you – Merci – Miigwetch
Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.
Access more information on monkeypox, including symptoms to be aware of, and ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community: Monkeypox: Risks
Public Health Agency of Canada
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