Do you need a COVID booster this fall? Here’s what NACI recommends

Click to play video: 'NACI recommends fall COVID-19 booster'
NACI recommends fall COVID-19 booster
WATCH: NACI recommends fall COVID-19 booster – Jul 11, 2023

Canada’s national immunization panel is recommending Canadians get another COVID-19 booster for the fall if it has been at least six months since their last vaccine shot or since last getting infected with the virus.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said on Tuesday it was recommending a dose of the new formulation of the COVID-19 vaccine for people in the authorized age groups.

“Vaccine manufacturers are developing updated formulations of COVID-19 vaccines to provide better protection against currently circulating variants,” NACI said in its updated recommendations on July 11. “These vaccines are expected to be available in the coming months.”

NACI said additional doses are particularly important for people older than 65 years of age, residents of long-term care homes, pregnant people and people who are high risk due to an underlying medical condition. It also strongly recommended the boosters for First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, members of racialized communities and essential workers.

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Click to play video: 'WHO changes guidelines for COVID booster shots'
WHO changes guidelines for COVID booster shots

“NACI anticipates that new COVID-19 vaccine formulations could be available this fall, and the committee is recommending that jurisdictions plan to offer a dose of the new vaccine if it has been at least six months since a previous dose of vaccine or a SARS-CoV-2 infection,” NCAI chair Dr. Shelley Deeks said.

“While we have seen that COVID-19 can peak at any time of year, we typically have a very strained health system during the respiratory virus season, which typically occurs during the fall and winter months,” she added.

“Offering another dose of COVID-19 vaccine starting this fall is expected to increase protection and will be particularly important for those at increased risk of COVID-19 infection or severe disease. This will benefit individuals and also may help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health system.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, echoed those comments, saying boosters will help prevent some of the stress on Canada’s health-care system.

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“An additional dose using the latest vaccine formulations will be an important tool to not only build back protection against severe disease that wanes over time, but also protect against currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Tam said in NACI’s report Tuesday. “This additional dose is especially important for those at increased risk of COVID-19 infection or severe disease.”

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Experts who recently spoke to Global News say it’s a good time to get a booster shot if you haven’t already.

After more than three years of COVID-19, new cases have decreased or plateaued in Canada – as has vaccine uptake.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared in May that COVID-19 was no longer considered a global health emergency but cautioned that the virus still poses a threat.

The updated roadmap from WHO outlines three priority-use groups for COVID-19 vaccination: high, medium and low, and is designed to prioritize vaccines for those at greater risk of the disease.

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The WHO recommended additional booster doses for high-priority groups such as older people, immunocompromised people of all ages, front-line health workers and pregnant people. But for those who fall under the low and medium-risk group, WHO did not recommend additional COVID-19 boosters, citing “low public health returns.”

Canada is in a “much better” place right now than before, Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious disease physician at Sinai Health System in Toronto, told Global News last month.

But, she noted, COVID-19 is still a “significant contributor to hospitalization and death.”

– with files from Global News’ Saba Aziz and Katie Dangerfield 

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