A bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which targets both the original strain of the novel coronavirus and the Omicron variant, should be available for Quebeckers in less than two weeks, public-health director Dr. Luc Boileau said Wednesday.
He told reporters that health centres are expected to start receiving shipments of the new vaccine within the next few days – even though Canadians are still waiting on Health Canada’s approval of bivalent vaccine submissions from Moderna and Pfizer.
The COVID-19 vaccines currently available in Canada are designed to target solely the original strain of the virus, which has continued to mutate and prove adept at evading immune detection. Dr. Boileau said Quebec would stop distributing the older-generation vaccines when it receives the new ones, which are designed to recognize specific mutations in the spike protein of the Omicron BA.1 subvariant.
“It will be simple: When the new vaccine arrives, we will not use up the existing stocks we have of current vaccines,” Dr. Boileau said. “We’ll just move on.”
Dr. Boileau made his comments despite the fact Health Canada has not released a timeline for approving the bivalent submissions from Moderna and Pfizer. The federal agency was not immediately available to respond to an interview request on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Moderna said the federal government purchased 4.5 million new doses of its bivalent vaccine, for a total of 12 million doses.
Dr. Caroline Quach, chair of Quebec’s immunization committee, said Wednesday the bivalent vaccine will be first offered to priority groups, including immunocompromised people. “There should be enough for all vulnerable populations,” Dr. Quach said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Marie-France Raynault, a senior adviser to Quebec’s Health Department, defended the government’s choice to stop offering remote-learning options.
“Pediatricians have seen that those who went to school did very well and didn’t have as many complication as was anticipated,” Dr. Raynault said. She recommended that parents keep symptomatic children at home and test them, adding that Quebec will be distributing rapid tests to elementary and high-school students at the beginning of the school year.
Dr. Quach said the start to the school year will be the safest in two years. “There’s a good proportion of children who already have developed a good immunity through a natural infection or vaccination.”
“We changed tactics; we are going to treat this virus like any other respiratory disease,” she added.
Dr. Boileau said the province is advancing the schedule for booster doses, and he encouraged residents as young as 18 to book appointments Wednesday instead of next week. All Quebeckers 18 and over are eligible to book an appointment for a booster if it’s been at least five months since their last dose – or three months since their last COVID-19 infection.
The Health Department on Wednesday reported 29 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus and a 40-patient drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations. It said there were 1,959 people in hospital with the disease, including 46 in intensive care, a jump of four.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
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