COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all adults is a 'slippery slope,' expert warns

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An infectious disease expert has voiced his disapproval of COVID-19 vaccine boosters becoming available for all adults in Canada.

Dr. Neil Rau, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said on The Roy Green Show on Sunday that Canada has to be “pragmatic” when it comes to how we distribute the boosters.

He argued that the current vaccine offers one to three months of preventing transmission of the virus before the “immunity starts to wane,” therefore one booster wouldn’t prevent spread for too long of a time.

“You can’t have a situation where people aren’t current every three months,” he said. “You have to be pragmatic here.”

He also was skeptical about revaccinating the entire population with a booster of the vaccine that’s directed at the same “classic” variant of COVID-19.

“If we had a booster that’s directed at the new dominant strain, I could see there being more of an argument that certain populations might get reboosted,” he said, referring to the Delta variant of COVID-19.

Instead, he thinks Canada should currently be focussing on vaccinating those who are vulnerable, such as the elderly, organ transplant recipients and chemotherapy patients, as examples.

He mentioned the policy of offering boosters to health-care workers, which has been approved in Ontario, but the purpose would be to stop transmission, which, again, would require a new dose every three months or so.

“I hope we don’t move down this slippery slope of trying to get everybody to be boosted,” he said. “Can’t do it.”

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His take comes in contrast with the direction of some policies in Canada, such Manitoba approving the booster for all adults over 18 years old.

Health Canada has also approved both the Pfizer and Moderna boosters for all adults over 18, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has not yet recommended booster shots to the general population.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said a recommendation could come at some point next year, though.

“We need to do a risk-benefit or cost-benefit analysis because it would be a big decision to have a third dose for everyone,” he said.

Another infectious disease expert, Queen’s University immunology professor Dr. Gerald Evans, said that there is “emerging consensus” that a third dose will be needed in most people to get the “maximum benefit” from the vaccines.

“A third dose is useful,” he said.

Evans said that protection against contracting the virus wanes across the population as time passes after the second shot, which means case numbers could rise and that could put someone vulnerable into hospital.

“If we delay too long, we need to be very careful because it could result in increased hospitalizations again, and of course, ultimately, the bad stuff — dying of COVID.”

He did stress though that two doses still does provide very good protection — about 90 to 95 per cent against severe illness for the general population and about 85 per cent against contracting the virus at all.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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