Ask the Pharmacist – new vaccine

Q. I received an email suggesting that I contact my pharmacy regarding the latest Covid-19 vaccine. Gordon Pharmasave was listed as a pharmacy that will be included in this round of vaccinations. Can you shed some light on what is new with Covid-19 and who should be receiving a vaccine this spring?

A. It has been over four years since the beginning of the pandemic and though many would agree that the worst is over, we are still (and likely always will be) seeing Covid-19 cases circulating around. As the virus continues to mutate, we are witnessing several variants that have evolved. The beginning of 2024 saw the Covid-29 variants BA.2.86 and JN.1 and currently there are cousins of these variants that are finding there way across the country. KP.2 is the variant of concern at the moment and is a subset of the JN.1 Omicron variant as is KP.1 and KP.3. This latest variant has been nicknamed FLiRT based on the two mutations they witnessed. The amino acid phenylalanine (F) replaced leucine (L) and the amino acid arginine (R) is replaced by threonine (T). To make it sound like a known word, an “i” was inserted and thus we have FLiRT.

Since the majority of the population have either been infected with or vaccinated against Covid-19, there is not as much concern with these variants as was in the beginning of the pandemic. Since the latest variants have been offshoots of the Omicron line, the latest vaccines as well as Covid-19 infections have been able to give us a fairly good immunity against it.

That being said, the elderly and the young and those people who are immuno-compromised do need to remain diligent, as has been the case all along. That explains the emails that many seniors have received suggesting to get a booster dose of the current XBB vaccine to give them that extra protection over the upcoming summer months.

Should we all be looking to get a booster dose this spring? Here is an excerpt from Ontario Health website explaining who should consider getting vaccinated.

”In alignment with NACI, individuals who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 may receive an additional dose of an XBB COVID-19 vaccine in Spring 2024. The Ontario Spring COVID-19 vaccine campaign will run from April to June 2024. The Ministry of Health is recommending that the following individuals receive an additional dose this spring:

a. Adults 65 years of age and older
b. Adult residents of long-term care homes and other congregate living settings for seniors
c. Individuals 6 months of age and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised (due to an underlying condition or treatment)
d. Individuals 55 years and older who identify as First Nations, Inuit, or Metis and their non-Indigenous household members who are 55 years and older

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in Spring 2024 is particularly important for individuals at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who did not receive a dose during the Fall 2023 program. Eligible individuals may receive an XBB COVID-19 vaccine in Spring 2024 if it has been 6 months from the previous COVID-19 vaccine dose or known SARS-CoV-2 infection (whichever is later). NACI notes that a shorter interval (3 to < 6 months) can be used to support program implementation (including timing of the Spring 2024 campaign relative to previous and future Fall campaigns). All other individuals are not currently recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose in Spring 2024 and should wait until further MOH recommendations. This includes individuals who are not at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who did not receive an XBB COVID19 vaccine in Fall 2023, unless they are specifically recommended to receive a dose by their health care provider.”

So, according to the above, even if you missed out on the fall vaccination because you were sick with Covid-19 within three to six months, it is not recommended to get a Covid-19 vaccine now unless you are 65 years of age and older, live in a congregated setting, are immuno-compromised or 55 years of age and older who identify as First Nations, Inuit, or Metis and their non-Indigenous household members who are 55 years and older.

We have had many phone calls from people looking to book an appointment for their Covid-19 vaccine as apparently we are listed as a participating pharmacy. Unfortunately, as in previous years, Gordon Pharmasave has opted out of the spring Covid-19 vaccination program. To book your spring Covid-19 vaccine, Public Health is hosting a couple of clinics in the Grey Bruce area and there are various pharmacies that are continuing to administer Covid-19 vaccines in the Grey Bruce area as well.

For more information on this and any other topic, contact the pharmacists at Gordon Pharmasave, Your Health and Wellness Destination.