As respiratory infection season looms, Canada’s Public Health Agency (PHAC) is urging Canadians to get a COVID-19 booster dose ahead of the fall and winter to increase their protection and ease the burden on the health-care system.
“The more we can be prepared… the better off we’ll all be,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said on CTV News Channel’s Top 3 Tonight.
Although so far in 2023, COVID-19 indicators have dropped to historically low levels, health officials are warning that both infections and hospitalizations have been on the rise over the last two months.
“We still need to take COVID-19… seriously,” Njoo told Merella Fernandez on Tuesday.
PHAC has also warned that although it is difficult to predict how COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza will circulate this early in the year, staying up to date with vaccinations is the best way to boost protection.
LATEST SHOT IS ‘MOST UP-TO-DATE’
On Tuesday, Health Canada approved the use of Moderna’s latest vaccine for all Canadians over the age of six months.
“This is the most up-to-date,” Njoo said. “It certainly targets what we call the XBB.1.5 variant.”
Njoo says that although the latest COVID-19 vaccines are “never a perfect match,” they offer excellent protection against the variants currently circulating within Canada.
“I wouldn’t hesitate,” Njoo said, advising Canadians to not try and wait for “something… different and better.”
HOW LONG DOES PROTECTION LAST?
Njoo says with the “evidence seen to date,” protection from COVID-19 vaccines offers immunity for about six months – a similar length of time as a prior infection.
“I would say (if it’s been) over six months since your last infection or your last COVID 19 dose, look out once the vaccine is available in your area.”
SENIORS ARE MOST AT RISK
Older Canadians have borne the brunt of COVID-19, Njoo says, by having “disproportionate incidence rates,” but they are also more at risk of suffering “severe consequences.”
What is Njoo’s message to those seniors?
“I would wholeheartedly… encourage you to get the latest vaccine once it’s available in your area.”
Click the video at the top of this article for the full interview and Njoo’s update on symptoms of the XBB.1.5 variant.
With files from CTV News’ Megan DeLaire