Toronto: Canadian health authorities are asking citizens to get a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, amid an uptick in the number of cases of the Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.5.
New guidance was issued by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on Friday strongly recommending that at least one booster shot should be offered to those aged 12 and above if they are at an increased risk of severe illness.
NACI also said bivalent mRNA vaccines should be “the preferred booster products for all individuals 5 years of age and over”. Such vaccines target both the original Wuhan variety of coronavirus and the Omicron variant. They have been available in Canada since September last year.
The recommendation to increase uptake of booster doses comes as the percentage of cases caused by the XBB.1.5 sub-variant is projected to rise to 7% of the total this month, while it was detected at a 2.5% frequency between December 25 and January 2.
“While XBB variants are expected to increase in Canada, it is not known whether they will become the dominant lineage,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam said.
However, concern over a sharp rise in cases caused by Omicron as in early 2022, remains muted. As Tam said, “Nationally, the absolute number of cases is not surging at this time, nor is there evidence of increased severity with this or other new variants.”
Preventive measures should be sufficient not to cause widespread infections.
In 2022, the Omicron variant resulted in the highest numbers of infections in Canada to date. However, over time there has been a general trend towards decreased severe outcomes such as critical care admissions and deaths among hospitalised patients, she noted. This may reflect the impact of vaccine and infection induced immunity, changes in the characteristics of people infected, and changes in circulating strains.
She added it was “still too early to stop taking the personal protective measures that have helped us weather the Covid storm.”
According to the latest update, Canada added 16,540 cases in the week ending January 16.