Should you wait for your 4th COVID shot? Health Canada reviewing Omicron-specific booster

Carl Hanstke spoke with people in Toronto to see what their plans are as the UK approved an Omicron specific shot.

Have you had your fourth COVID-19 shot yet? Should you rush out to get it? Or is it better to wait?

Health officials in Ontario are urging residents to get caught up on their vaccines ahead of the fall, but some say they plan to wait for a COVID-19 booster that is specifically tailored to the Omicron variant.

That shot is currently under review by Health Canada and a version was recently approved for use in the United Kingdom, who became the first country in the world to authorize a shot that protects against two different variants.

CityNews spoke to residents outside Union Station in Toronto on Thursday morning, who were split on whether or not they would be waiting to roll up their sleeves.

“I want to wait until September,” one person said.

Pfizer and Moderna both have Omicron-specific vaccines being reviewed by Health Canada and the boosters here are also expected to be approved and ready for arms sometime in the fall.

“I would assume it’s going to be a better booster, I will wait,” says another resident.

Others say they will get a jab whenever it becomes available, “I’ll just get it when I can, basically.”

In Ontario, residents need to be at least three months removed from their previous booster to be eligible for the next shot. Meaning anyone who gets a shot now will need to would need to wait several months should the Omicron targeted vaccine be approved in the coming weeks.

In addition, the province recommends an interval of five months, or 140 days, between doses, despite the minimum interval being only 84 days.

A group of Ontario doctors recently spoke at a virtual panel hosted by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and advised people to keep up with vaccinations ahead of the fall when illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza, are expected to spread amid challenges with the health-care system.

Britain approves variant-adapted COVID booster

In a statement on Monday, British drug regulators said it had given the green light to Moderna’s combination “bivalent” vaccine, which will be used as an adult booster shot. Each dose of the booster shot will target both the original COVID-19 virus that was first detected in 2020 and the Omicron BA.1 variant that was first picked up in November.

“The first generation of COVID-19 vaccine being used in the U.K. continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives,” reads a statement from the head of the country’s drug regulator.

Health officials in the country say the shot will be part of the country’s booster rollout in September.

Ontario opened up bookings for a second COVID booster to all adults in July, at the time the province’s top doctor noted people who don’t have underlying health conditions could choose to wait for the fall when vaccines specifically targeting the Omicron variant may become available.

In addition to waiting for an optimal booster, pandemic fatigue and the fact that so many have already caught COVID-19 are playing in a factor in people holding off on additional jabs.

In Quebec, a provincewide COVID-19 vaccination campaign is being launched in an effort to prompt the population to roll up their sleeves. Government officials in that province have said that the low booster uptake is due to the fact that millions of Quebecers have already had the virus and consider themselves adequately protected.

The latest data from Health Canada shows more than 40 per cent of Canadians have yet to receive a third dose. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says they are hopeful the approval of the “bivalent” shots will improve uptake of boosters for Canadians which has fallen off since early 2022.

NACI has already said the early data is looking good, saying “Moderna’s vaccine demonstrates superior antibody response against Omicron.”

COVID-19 cases continue a downward trend across Canada. There were 25,000 confirmed cases across the country last week with 262 deaths.

With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press and Caryn Ceolin

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