What you need to know about the new COVID-19  vaccine

By Nicole Garcia

If you’re wondering whether you need another COVID-19 shot this fall, the answer is yes, you may. Health Canada has approved a new version of Moderna’s Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine, which is designed to target the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant, the most dominant strain of the virus in Canada and around the world.

The updated vaccine is expected to be rolled out alongside other COVID and flu shots in October, as part of a campaign to protect Canadians from the potential impact of the respiratory virus season.

Here are some key facts about the new vaccine and why you should get it.

What is the new vaccine and how does it work?

The new vaccine is an mRNA-based shot, similar to the original Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that most Canadians have received. However, unlike those vaccines, which target the original spike protein of the coronavirus, the new vaccine targets a specific subvariant of the Omicron strain, called XBB.1.5.

This subvariant has several mutations that make it more transmissible and potentially more resistant to the immune response triggered by previous vaccines or natural infection. The new vaccine aims to boost the immune system’s ability to recognize and neutralize this subvariant, as well as other related strains.

Who should get the new vaccine and when?

Health Canada has approved the new vaccine for all Canadians who are six months of age or older. However, federal officials are not calling the shots boosters, but rather updated options that are more similar to an annual flu shot.

The idea is to update the vaccine every year or so, depending on how the virus evolves, to maintain a high level of protection against infection and serious illness.

Health Canada recommends that Canadians age five and up should receive one dose of the new vaccine, regardless of their COVID vaccination history. Meanwhile, children from six months to four years old should receive two doses if they have not been previously vaccinated with a COVID vaccine, or one dose if they’ve previously had at least one dose.

How effective is the new vaccine?

According to Moderna, the new vaccine showed a 96% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 caused by the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant in a clinical trial involving more than 30,000 participants in Canada and other countries.

The trial also showed that the new vaccine was 89% effective against hospitalization and 100% effective against death due to COVID-19 caused by any strain.

Where can I get the new vaccine?

The new vaccine will be available at various locations across Canada, including pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and mass immunization sites. The exact distribution plan will vary by province and territory, depending on their supply and demand.

In British Columbia, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that the updated COVID vaccine will be offered along with the flu vaccine in early October. She said that by mid-October, B.C. should be well into its vaccination program for both influenza and COVID-19.

Henry also said that B.C. expects to receive about 1.2 million doses of the new Moderna vaccine by the end of September, which will be enough to cover about 25% of its eligible population.

Why should I get the new vaccine?

Getting another COVID shot this fall is important for several reasons. First, it will help protect you from getting infected or seriously ill from the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant or other strains of the virus that may emerge in the future.

Second, it will help reduce the spread of the virus in your community and lower the risk of outbreaks in high-risk settings such as schools, long-term care homes and health-care facilities.

You should stay informed about the COVID-19 situation in your region and follow the advice of your local health authorities. You should also respect the rules and regulations of other jurisdictions if you are traveling within or outside Canada.

For more information about the new vaccine, you can visit Health Canada’s website or contact your health-care provider.






Guidance on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in the fall: NACI, July 11, 2023 – Canada.ca

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