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Alberta infectious disease experts encouraged new bivalent omicron-specific booster now approved

Health Canada approved a variant-specific vaccine Thursday which some Alberta infectious disease experts hope will encourage uptake as doses become available this fall.

The bivalent vaccine created by Moderna/Spikevax uses MRNA technology to increase an immune response to earlier editions of SARS-COV2 and has been designed to specifically target the Omicron variant BA.1.

One infectious disease expert said the updated version may lag behind more recent virus mutations in circulation, but the development is an encouraging tool in the pandemic.

"It's not a perfect match. This is based on the original Omicron variant, and since then, we've had some variants emerge. But it does bring that the vaccine composition a little closer to what the dominant strains in the community are at the moment," said Craig Jenne, infectious diseases specialist and associate professor at the University of Calgary.

Dr. Craig Jenne

Health Canada recommends the updated booster for adults over age 18 who've completed a full vaccine series, regardless of what type.

It's recommended to be administered between three to six months after a COVID-19 infection or vaccination.

"My hope is that people especially who have only had two doses will see this as something different and may provide increased protection, and therefore they will be more willing to get this booster," said Dr. Stephanie Smith, infectious disease physician based at the University of Alberta.


Vaccine advocates say provincial health officials should communicate the benefits of getting boosted, so that transmission and severe outcomes remain low and public activity remains free from public health restrictions.

"I think every emphasis around the importance of needing to protect ourselves and others as well in our community is going to be an important aspect of this messaging, as we come into the fall," Theresa Tang co-founder and chief operating officer of "19 to Zero," and organization that promotes safe pandemic behaviours.

In a statement to CTV News, Alberta Health says decisions and details for rolling out the newly approved vaccine have yet to be determined, but will be shared publicly.

"Availability will be subject to the allocation Alberta receives from the federal government," said Charity Wallace, communications assistant director with Alberta Health.


Some Calgarians are mixed on their approach to choosing another vaccine option.

"For myself, I have two vaccines and so I feel like the booster isn't something that I need to get," said Taya De Baat.

She added, "We probably won't be choosing to get boosted and won't be choosing to get my daughter boosted or vaccinated."

"It's a very targeted virus right now. It's grown and evolved so I think that a vaccine that addresses that is necessary," said Fraser Armstrong.

"I'm more interested in having protection against (Omicron) than a booster of the old variants," said Mitch Gamble.

More than 10 million variant specific booster doses are scheduled to ship to Canada in September. Top Stories

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