Experts encourage vaccination against COVID-19 and influenza
With respiratory illness season already in full swing and Montreal’s hospital ERs alarmingly over capacity, experts are urging everyone to stay up to date with COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.
Health Canada states that COVID-19 vaccination and booster doses can help protect children from experiencing serious illness and complications. “Vaccination continues to be one of the most effective tools to protect families, communities and ourselves against COVID-19. Evidence indicates that all mRNA COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada continue to be very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
Who can get vaccinated
Everyone aged 6 months and older is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
For children 6 months to 4 years old, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (two doses at an interval of eight weeks or more). A booster dose is not approved for this age group.
Children from 5 to 17 years can receive a booster dose, five months after the initial vaccination.
Health Canada approved the bivalent vaccine — which is an updated version of the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine — on October 7, 2022 for use in those 12 years of age and older. This vaccine targets the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant, which makes up more than 90 percent of recent cases.
Experts urge caution and prevention
During the provincial COVID-19 update on October 12, 2022, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé stressed the importance of boosters, especially as colder temperatures approach and we spend more time indoors and socializing during the upcoming holiday seasons. Quebec health officials urge everyone to keep their COVID vaccinations and boosters up to date. People whose last shot was more than five months ago, or whose last infection was more than three months ago, should get another dose.
Children with compromised immune systems should speak with their healthcare professionals for guidance on vaccine schedules.
“Data continue to show that children under 5 years of age may be more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than older children,” says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. “Parents and caregivers are encouraged to seek information from credible sources to help with making informed and confident decisions about COVID-19 vaccinations for children in their care.”
Flu shots also encouraged
With the dramatic resurgence of respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children, Quebec health professionals are also urging the public to get their flu vaccine, even if they’re vaccinated against COVID-19. With a flu season that is expected to be more harsh than usual, the province started its annual vaccination campaign on October 5 — about a month ahead of schedule.
The flu shot can be safely administered at the same time or at any time before or after COVID-19 vaccine to those 5 and up.
For children 6 months to 5 years of age, NACI recommends that COVID-19 vaccines not routinely be given on the same day as other vaccines as a precautionary measure. “There may be situations when a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine needs to be given at the same time – a healthcare provider can help with this decision.”
Those eligible to receive the flu vaccine free of charge include those 6 months to 74 years with certain chronic diseases (including pregnant women, regardless of the trimester), pregnant women in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of their pregnancy, family members in the same household as a child under 6 months of age or a person at higher risk of being hospitalized (such as a child with asthma), healthy children aged 6 to 23 months and anyone aged aged 60-74 years.
To make an appointment for the flu or COVID vaccine, you can visit portal3.clicsante.ca or call 1-877-644-4545 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
All Quebec residents are eligible to be vaccinated. If you do not have a health card, bring identification demonstrating that you meet the specific criteria to be vaccinated.
“We encourage everyone to get those vaccinations to keep pressure off of our hospitals, off our frontline heroes who are working so hard to keep people safe, but also to keep pressure off of our economy and communities,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while speaking at an Ottawa event on October 17, 2022.
Respiratory virus surging in Montreal