Spring is just around the corner. Should you get an updated COVID shot?

As spring approaches, the decision about whether to get an updated COVID-19 dose may be on the minds of Canadians, especially if travel plans are in the works.

In January, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued guidance for administering an updated dose of COVID-19 vaccines in the spring, specifically for Canadians facing an elevated risk of severe illness from the virus.

“Older adults continue to be at the highest risk of a severe outcome and are less likely to have experienced previous SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to other age groups,” NACI stated.

Since fall 2023, newly revised formulations from Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have been accessible to Canadians. The XBB.1.5 COVID-19 vaccines specifically target a more recent lineage of the Omicron variant.

Starting in the spring, NACI recommends that the following individuals who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 may receive an additional dose of XBB.1.5 COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Adults 65 years of age and older.
  • Adult residents of long-term care homes and other congregate living settings for seniors.
  • Individuals six months and age and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

“The wording is very important because they are using the word ‘may’ not ‘should’,” explained infectious diseases expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch. “They are talking about who may get a vaccine in the spring of 2024 and it is really the higher risk groups… like people on the older end of the spectrum, people in congregate care settings like retirement homes and nursing homes, people with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk for severe infection.”He added that the guidance also clearly indicates that people over the age of 80 are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, which he believes is “fairly appropriate and well-worded.”

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