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Quebec recommends booster only to vulnerable never infected with COVID-19

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Quebec is changing its vaccine strategy: public health officials are now recommending booster shots only for vulnerable people who have never had COVID-19.

Quebec public health director Dr. Luc Boileau made the announcement at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

"There is no need to get vaccinated if we have had the experience of COVID-19 infection and that we have been vaccinated so far, at least two doses," he said.

Public health is recommending only vulnerable individuals who have never had COVID-19 receive a booster shot, six months after their last dose. Healthy individuals do not need another dose this winter or spring, he said.

Immunocompromised or dialysis patients, whether or not they have contracted COVID-19, should get a booster.

Vulnerable people who should get a booster include those who are:

  • living in long-term care or group homes
  • aged 60 and over
  • immunocompromised or living with a chronic disease
  • health-care workers
  • pregnant
  • living in remote or isolated areas

Anyone who wants a booster in the coming months can still book an appointment, public health officials said.

HYBRID IMMUNITY OFFERS BETTER PROTECTION

The new recommendation has to do with hybrid immunity, explained Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, a pediatrician and microbiologist-infectious disease expert at CHU Sainte-Justine. She is also the president of the Quebec immunization committee (CIQ), which has a mandate to advise the Health Ministry on vaccination strategies in Quebec.

"What that does is it gives you a protection that is more solid over time," she explained.

The data suggest about three-quarters of Quebecers under age 60 and half of Quebecers over 60 have been infected with COVID-19 at this point.

"What we are seeing in the surveillance data and the effectiveness data is that people who have been infected even though they were infected prior to the Omicron wave, so that's over a year ago, we still have good protection against hospitalization and mortality," she said.

Quach-Thanh said hybrid immunity provides much better protection against infection compared to vaccination alone for infection alone, adding that no one should purposely infect themselves.

IF YOU'RE SICK, STAY HOME

Anyone who is sick with COVID-19 or any respiratory illness should continue to follow public health guidelines and avoid exposing others, said Boileau.

"If you have an infection, just consider that you are contagious. If you are sick enough to stay at home, stay at home. If you wish to go out for essential matters, then you can go, but wear a mask. Be careful to not be in contact with [people] that are at risk to be more sick than you," he said, adding that this guideline "will not change." 

According to the Ministry of Health's daily update released Thursday, there have been five additional deaths related to COVID-19, but all occurred more than a week ago. In hospitals, 1,439 patients have the coronavirus, including 452 who were hospitalized specifically because of the disease. Of these, 25 people are being treated in an intensive care unit.

In addition, 2,230 health-care workers are off the job due to precautionary withdrawals, isolation or pending test results.

- With files from The Canadian Press

Correction

A previous version of this article said anyone who has not had COVID-19 is recommended to receive a booster shot. The article has been  updated to reflect the Quebec government's recommendation that people who are both immunosuppressed and have not contracted the virus get the booster. 

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