Ontario’s top doctor hopes new COVID-19 vaccine will convince holdouts

Vaccine holdouts in Ontario can get shots of the more “traditional” and recently approved Novavax COVID-19 serum starting in mid-March, says chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore.

“It’s a great alternative for those who don’t want an mRNA vaccine,” Moore told his weekly news conference Thursday. “It is highly effective against multiple strains of COVID, including Omicron.”

Novavax is made with a recombinant protein to trigger immunity, much like flu vaccines in wide use for years. It’s hoped that similarity to the annual flu shot will help increase vaccination rates. Many Canadians have safely received doses of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

Meanwhile, the plant-based Medicago vaccine developed in Canada and approved by the federal government Thursday won’t come to the province until “May or June,” Moore added. The Medicago shots also use proteins to trigger immunity.

The options are coming as vaccination rates have slowed and the province continues easing COVID-19 restrictions, with capacity limits in restaurants, gyms, cinemas and other venues lifting Tuesday along with the proof-of-vaccination system for entry into non-essential venues.

Just over 3,000 Ontarians got first doses Tuesday, almost 7,500 had their second shots and about 17,000 rolled up their sleeves for boosters. Overall, 81 per cent of Ontarians of all ages are double-dosed and 47 per cent have had three shots.

Moore urged more people to get their boosters, especially as 12 per cent of those being tested using PCR tests show positive results for COVID-19 and sampling of wastewater shows stubborn pockets of the virus, particularly in areas in north Toronto and northeastern Ontario.

“It’s not gone yet,” Moore said. “The risk is still there. The virus is still present. It’s just that the impact on the health-care system has stabilized.”

The number of patients in hospital for COVID was at 1,066 in Thursday’s report from the government, with 302 in intensive care units and 2,404 new infections detected by the limited PCR testing.

As virus levels continue to decline, Moore said he expects mandatory masking in indoor public settings and schools — now under review — will be lifted at the same time, but would not set a date.

Masking in high-risk settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and on public transit will likely remain, as is the case in England, he added.

When mask mandates are lifted, Moore said Ontarians may want to continue wearing them, especially those who are older or at greater risk of complications from COVID.

Masking remains an important tool. We need to be respectful of individual choices once masking is no longer required.”


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