Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is now recommending COVID-19 booster shots for residents of long-term care homes and seniors living in other congregate settings.
According to the updated recommendation from NACI on Tuesday, seniors who have already received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine should be offered a third shot at least six months after their last dose.
However, a booster dose of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccine should only be considered when an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine — from Pfizer and Moderna — is contraindicated or inaccessible, NACI said.
In making the recommendation, the agency reviewed data on vaccine effectiveness and waning antibody responses after complete vaccination.
“NACI has determined that there is an immediate need to provide a recommendation for a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in residents of long-term care and seniors living in other congregate settings as they are at increased risk of infection and severe disease and due to signs that protection might not persist as long in these individuals as in other populations in Canada,” it said on its website.
Besides long-term care homes, other congregate settings include retirement homes, assisted-living facilities and chronic care hospitals.
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Earlier this month, NACI backed a third shot for some immunocompromised individuals.
Based on the recommendations released on Sept. 10, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, advised “an additional dose, or third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, for moderately or severely immunocompromised people who are more likely to have had a less than adequate immune response to the initial one or two dose COVID-19 vaccine series.”
Dr. Tam said the advice applies to people 12 and up whose immune systems are compromised for a variety of reasons, like being treated for a tumour or having an untreated HIV infection that has advanced.
Canadian studies have suggested that even though people in long-term care had a good antibody response to two doses of vaccine, the majority of residents did not have a detectable level of antibodies against the Delta variant six months later.
Before NACI’s announcement, several provinces had already approved COVID-19 booster shots for people in long-term care homes, including Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and most recently, Quebec.
On Tuesday, British Columbia also said it would start offering third doses to residents in long-term care and assisted living from next week.
“The intent of a booster dose is to restore protection that may have waned over time in individuals who responded adequately to a primary vaccine series,” NACI said, adding that the strategy would help prevent outbreaks among the vulnerable population.
Long-term care has borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, where aging residents and congregate living proved to be a tragic combination.
About 69 per cent of Canada’s total pandemic-related deaths happened in long-term care homes as of February 2021, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
— with files from Global News’ Twinkle Ghosh, The Canadian Press.