Omicron's COVID-19 booster eligibility expands, flu shots begin Tuesday

Omicron’s COVID-19 booster eligibility expands, flu shots begin Tuesday

Starting Tuesday, New Brunswickers 18 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine for Omicron if five months have passed since the last dose or infection, and annual flu shots will also be available that day.

“As the weather gets colder and more time is spent indoors, the chances of viruses spreading increases,” Dr. Yves Leger, acting chief medical officer for the Department of Health, said in a statement.

“Vaccination remains the best way to prevent severe symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza.”

To date, only New Brunswickers 50 or older, those 12-17 years old who are immunocompromised or have a high-risk medical condition, and those 18 or older who live in a First Nations community are eligible For a divalent booster.

Moderna’s Spikevax was the only booster available. It targets both the original coronavirus and the Omicron BA.1 variant that appeared late last year and led The largest wave of infection and hospitalization in the epidemic.

Pfizer’s new bivalent approved

Health Canada on Friday approved Pfizer’s new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which targets the original virus as well as the strains now most common in New Brunswick and across the country — the highly prevalent Omicron sub variants BA.4 and BA.5.

Among the most recent county random samples submitted for sequencing, 6 percent were Omicron BA.4 and 94 percent were Omicron BA.5.

The updated version of the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use as a booster dose in people 12 years of age or older.

CBC has asked the Health Department for information about the new bivalent, such as when it will soon be available in the county, and whether people will be given a choice between the two, and a response is awaited.

Dr. Howard Ngo, Canada’s vice president of public health, said Friday he was confident there would be enough of the two vaccines to meet Canadian demands.

“If we talk about the Moderna B1 vaccine, there are 10.5 million doses in the country right now,” he said. “If we are talking about a new vaccine from Pfizer, we expect to deliver doses next week.

“We have a contract for about 12.6 million doses…and between the two I think it’s enough at the moment to cover the expected demand for booster doses.”

Moderna’s divalent has proven its popularity so far, according to Léger. He told CBC on Tuesday that the number of doses taken had jumped by more than 4,000 in the past week to just over 6,200.

Dr. said. Yves Leger, Acting Medical Officer for Health. (Provided by Dr. Yves Leger)

“We strongly recommend that New Brunswickers stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, including getting a fall or winter booster… regardless of how many doses of COVID-19 vaccine they have received in the past,” Leger said.

“This is especially important for those most at risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19,” he said, including people 50 and older, who are immunocompromised, have chronic diseases, or have not been fully vaccinated and boosted. , if they qualify.

As of Tuesday, 22.1 percent of eligible New Brunswickers had received a second booster dose, 53.7 percent had received a first booster dose, 85.4 percent had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 90.5 percent had received a single dose.

Booster doses are available at select pharmacies throughout the county and at public health clinics in some areas.

Some pharmacies offer online scheduling, while others require people to call to book an appointment. List of participating pharmacies: Available online.

Flu season warning

Public Health recommends that the flu vaccine be safely given at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.

Leger emphasized that the county is expected to see an increase in flu activity this year, after two years of relatively low numbers.

With fewer people choosing to get a flu shot over the past two years due to a lull in flu cases, and the end of last spring for COVID-19 preventive measures, such as masking and physical distancing, more people are at an increased risk of catching the flu, according to experts.

The 2022 flu season in Australia also offers some clues as to what may be hiding in New Brunswick. The flu hits Australia first, and infections there have been above the five-year average – with the number of infections rising markedly, then declining, earlier than usual.

The Department of Health says influenza vaccination will help reduce potential stress on the health care system.

New Brunswick had 442 cases of the flu last season, which ended August 27, compared to one in 2020-21. Of those, 92 were hospitalized and five died. (stock struggle)

The flu vaccine is recommended for all New Brunswick residents aged six months and older, with a higher dose for those 65 and older.

It will be available for free at Several pharmaciesas well as through primary care providers, such as physicians, nurse practitioners and public health nurses.

Out-of-district students can get influenza vaccinations through the Student Health Services at their post-secondary institutions. New residents and non-residents who do not have a medical card can get a free flu shot from a pharmacist.

It may take up to two weeks before the vaccine provides protection against the flu.

The 2022-23 flu season began on August 28, but as of Friday, the Ministry of Health was unable to provide any statistics.

Spokesman Adam Bowie said the first flu report of the season is due to be published “soon.”

“Due to low activity at this time, flu reports are currently issued monthly,” he said in an email.

New Brunswick has already seen an extraordinary return of the flu, with about 400 cases documented over the summer, bringing the 2021-22 season total to 442, as of August 27.

92 people were hospitalized during the season and five died.

In 2020-2021, only one case of influenza was reported across New Brunswick, with no hospitalizations and no deaths.

By comparison, in 2019-20, at the start of the epidemic, there were 2,351 cases at the district level. And in 2018-2019, pre-pandemic, 3008.

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