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Health Canada authorizes first variant-targeting COVID-19 booster shot, doses to start arriving Friday

Ottawa, September 1: Health Canada has authorized the use of the country’s first variant-targeting COVID-19 booster shot, marking what health officials are calling a “milestone” in Canada’s pandemic response.

On Thursday, the federal health regulator announced it has given the green light to Moderna’s Omicron-targeting bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, for those ages 18 years and older.

The “Spikevax Bivalent” booster dose is an adapted version of the original Moderna mRNA vaccine, and targets both the original strain of COVID-19 as well as the Omicron variant.

The mutated and highly-transmissible version of the novel coronavirus and its subvariants has been circulating in Canada since November 2021, currently making up the majority of new cases.

Health Canada said, according to a study comparing individuals immunized with the bivalent shot and those who received the original Moderna mRNA dose, the findings indicated that the updated vaccine “provides better immune response to the Omicron BA.1.”

Moderna submitted its bivalent booster to Health Canada for regulatory approval on June 30.

“After a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, Health Canada has determined that the bivalent Moderna Spikevax booster is safe and effective,” said the health agency. “It was also found to generate a good immune response against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.”

This news came ahead of Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’s afternoon announcement about “the importance of COVID-19 vaccination as we head into the fall.” Duclos said that an initial 780,000 doses of Moderna’s bivalent vaccine will begin arriving in Canada on Friday, with more than 10 million more coming by the end of September.

“Since vaccine protection decreases over time, it is important to stay up to date,” said Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo. “If it has been six months since your last dose, or six months since being infected with COVID-19, get another booster dose.”

Asked what he’d say to Canadians who may be feeling overwhelmed by the evolving vaccine options, Njoo said people should know there is nothing wrong with the original COVID-19 vaccines offered, either as a primary vaccinations series or as booster doses.

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