Canada NACI to answer urgent plea for COVID-19 booster directives in face of Omicron
13 omicron cases in Portuguese soccer team
TOKYO (AP) — Portuguese health authorities said Monday they have identified 13 cases of omicron, the new coronavirus variant believed to be more contagious, among team members of a professional soccer club. The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said Monday that one of those who tested positive at the Lisbon-based Belenenses soccer club had recently traveled to South Africa, where the omicron variant was first identified. The others, however, had not traveled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the very first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.
OTTAWA — The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is set to release new guidance this morning on the use of COVID-19 vaccine boosters as public health faces down the threat of the Omicron variant.
The new variant came to light late last week, and has sparked tougher border measures around the world as the World Health Organization warns the high number of mutations could signal that it is more transmissible than previous strains.
The government issued an urgent request to the advisory committee for new directives on the eligibility criteria for boosters to protect Canadians against the new version of the virus.
Omicron: How does it compare with other COVID-19 variants of concern?
The Omicron variant, first detected by South Africa, has become the latest and fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A variant of concern has the potential for increased transmissibility, severity of illness or decreased effectiveness of vaccines, treatments and public health measures, according to WHO. Cases of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and now the Omicron variant have been detected in Canada. Here is what we know so far about the Omicron variant and how it compares with the other variant of concern. Omicron The B.1.1.
"We know that Canadians are asking increasingly about whether they should … receive boosters, and that question is obviously of greater importance now with the new variant," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a press conference Tuesday.
"We are explicitly asking NACI to come up quickly with a revised view on where and how and to whom these boosters should be administered."
It was at the same press conference that ministers announced a series of strict new testing and isolation measures for travellers coming into Canada as part of an effort to make sure no one unwittingly imports a case of the new variant to Canada. The government has also barred foreign nationals who recently transited through 10 African countries from entering.
Omicron and travel: What new restrictions mean for refunds and insurance
If the new Omicron COVID-19 variant scuttles your plans this holiday season, will you get your money back? When the pandemic began some carriers adopted flexible booking options. If you were planning to travel to another country or province this holiday season, news about the Omicron COVID-19 variant is probably driving your anxiety levels higher.
Still, cases of Omicron have already cropped up across the country. Though most involve recent travel, one case, reported in Alberta, involved household transmission.
On Nov. 19, the advisory committee suggested there is no evidence to date of waning of protection against severe disease from COVID-19 in the general fully-vaccinated population.
Video: WHO assessing new coronavirus variant that could be 'worst yet' (cbc.ca)
The emerging evidence suggests that while the vaccine becomes less effective at preventing infection over time, protection against severe illness and death appears to be more durable.
The advisory committee has strongly recommended boosters for people who are immunocompromised, live in long-term care centres and people over the age of 80.
The committee has also recommended that boosters may be offered to several other groups, including people over the age of 70, people who received a full series of the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccine, people in or from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, and front-line health workers.
How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans
Countries are acting swiftly to isolate regions where COVID-19 variants of concern have emerged. Many scientists are not convinced that travel bans actually work. Some say bans encourage countries to downplay outbreaks or hide new variants. Others say bans can buy time.He made the remarks — which he tweeted out to the world — on board a government jet about to depart for a tour of Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday when it comes to boosters, the priority is to follow NACI's advice on who should get them, and when, in light of the Omicron variant.
Vaccine supply will not be an issue, he said.
"We have lots of vaccines for boosters in Canada, we're receiving more into the new year. We are fine in terms of quantity. The issue is, what is the best recommendation for people to get those boosters and when," he said.
Despite NACI's advice to date, many provinces have gone ahead with their own COVID-19 booster strategies and in some cases have pledged to offer them to any adult who wants one in coming weeks.
NACI officials are expected to hold a media briefing at 11 a.m ET.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
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