Fully vaccinated Canadians who experienced a COVID-19 infection should wait at least three months to get a booster shot after symptoms start or testing positive, according to Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
NACI made the updated recommendation Friday as some provinces and territories begin easing COVID-19 restrictions.
In its updated guidance, NACI suggests that a longer interval between infection and vaccination could result in a better immune response and longer-lasting protection against Omicron and future variants.
“Individuals who experienced SARS-CoV-2 infection before starting or completing their primary COVID-19 vaccine series may receive their next dose eight weeks after symptoms started or after testing positive (if no symptoms were experienced),” NACI said.
“Individuals who are recommended to receive a booster dose and who experienced SARS-CoV-2 infection after completing their primary series may receive a booster dose three months after symptoms started or after testing positive (if no symptoms were experienced) and provided it is at least six months after completing a primary series.”
NACI added that while infection alone may provide some protection, vaccination strengthens the immune response and provides more robust and longer-lasting immunity against COVID-19.
“These suggested intervals between an infection and a vaccine dose aim to improve long-term COVID-19 protection and are intended to serve as a guide,” said Dr. Robyn Harrison, NACI’s vice-chair, in a statement.
“It is expected that evidence on the optimal timing between infection and COVID-19 vaccination will continue to emerge. The Committee will continue to assess new data and update guidance, as needed.”
The change in guidance comes after health officials warned Thursday the drop in COVID-related hospitalizations in some provinces could come to an end as public health restrictions are loosened.
Ontario’s top doctor held a news conference, his first since restrictions began to ease this week and discussed the modelling from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table that predicts a rise in cases in the coming weeks.
“We have to decide as a society how many public health measures we want to just recommend and/or maintain in a legal fashion to limit the spread of the viruses. I think that discussion should happen soon,” said Dr. Kieran Moore while addressing reporters Thursday.
Ontario and Quebec are allowing indoor restaurant dining at 50 per cent capacity.
Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Wednesday that data shows the province may have passed the peak of the Omicron-fuelled surge and restrictions on gathering sizes and people allowed at sports events will be relaxed beginning on Tuesday.
Alberta and Saskatchewan reported record numbers of people in hospital with COVID-19 this week as both provinces announced they hope to remove vaccine passport requirements by the end of the month.
But the president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association, Dr. Eben Strydom, says it is too soon to loosen, or remove, public health measures, warning of further strain on the health-care system, and those who work in it.
Saskatchewan’s premier said he’s committed to ending all COVID-19 restrictions soon, while most other provinces are laying out more gradual plans for easing public health measures.
“What’s necessary is your freedom. What’s necessary is getting your life back to normal,” Premier Scott Moe said in a video posted to social media. “It’s time.”
Moe, moving at a pace similar to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, is planning to have no restrictions by the end of the month. Leaders elsewhere are laying out a slower approach to easing orders.
As of Friday, Canada has more than three million COVID-19 cases and over 9,000 people have been hospitalized. Of those, more than 1,000 are in critical condition, according to COVID-19 Tracker.
However, public health experts say the numbers could be much higher since many parts of Canada are no longer providing laboratory tests for most people after capacity was overwhelmed by the spread of Omicron.
— with files from The Canadian Press.