Health Canada has authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for all adults 18 and older, making official what some provinces were already doing with regard to boosters.
A third dose of the vaccine, also known as Comirnaty, is authorized to be administered at least six months after the second dose, according to information posted to Health Canada’s website on Tuesday.
This change makes official what some provinces were already doing and what the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) had recommended: administering booster shots to certain groups, like adults 70 and older and front-line health-care workers, Health Canada said in a statement.
“Provincial and territorial jurisdictions may have already chosen to offer an additional vaccine dose to specific populations to enhance their protection against COVID-19,” the regulator wrote. “This would have been considered off-label use since Health Canada had not, until now, authorized a three-dose regimen for any of the vaccines authorized in Canada.”
NACI and the provinces still have to make decisions on how the booster doses should be administered, who should get them, and when.
“People in Canada should consult their local public health guidance, informed by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, for details on which individuals or groups of people are recommended to receive a booster dose at this time,” Health Canada wrote in a press release Tuesday.
Booster shots are designed to help people maintain their immunity over time, though Health Canada notes that evidence continues to show that being “fully vaccinated” with two doses provides protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death, including against the Delta variant of COVID-19.
“There is currently no evidence of widespread waning of protection against severe disease in the general Canadian population who have been vaccinated against COVID-19,” Health Canada wrote.
To support use of the booster, Pfizer submitted trial data to Health Canada.
“After a thorough, independent review of the evidence, Health Canada has determined that the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine booster shot meets the Department’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements,” the department wrote.
A similar application for a booster dose of the Moderna vaccine is still under review by Health Canada.