Get your booster dose as new Omicron offshoot spreads: Canada's top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, urged people to get their booster shots Friday as COVID-19 activity continues to fluctuate in the country.

COVID-19 booster uptake lags for all eligible age groups

Theresa Tam wears a mask at a press conference.
Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam encouraged people to get booster doses at a press conference Friday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Canada's top doctor is urging people to get their booster shots as COVID-19 activity continues to fluctuate in the country. 

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, emphasized that many Canadians who are eligible for a booster dose haven't gotten it yet.

"We still have a ways to go, even for the 65-plus population," Tam said on Friday.

According to federal data, most people aged 12 years and older have completed their primary series, but the number of Canadians eligible for a booster dose who received one in the past six months drops considerably for most eligible age groups. 

Bivalent boosters were made available last fall, but many Canadians have yet to get a bivalent shot. Federal data shows that for the 60 to 69 age group, about 46 per cent have received a booster dose in the last six months. 

On Friday, Tam emphasized the importance of getting a booster.

"Like the winter weather, it can be difficult to predict exactly what we're going to see next, but we do know it's too early to put away our winter coats and boots," she said.

"Similarly, it's still too early to stop taking the personal protective measures that have helped us weather the COVID storm."

XBB.1.5 cases expected to increase

Tam says officials are seeing an increase in the number of cases of the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant. 

XBB.1.5 was circulating at around 2.5 per cent during the week of Dec. 25 until Jan. 2.

This proportion was expected to rise to approximately seven per cent by mid-January, Tam said. 

But, she says, the absolute number of COVID-19 cases is not surging, "nor is there evidence of increased severity with this or other new variants."

In updated guidance for booster doses, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) says the evolutionary trajectory of SARSCoV-2, including the emergence of novel variants of concern, is still "uncertain," and the seasonality of SARS-CoV-2 has not been established.

RSV, flu cases have 'settled'

As COVID-19 cases continue to fluctuate, Tam says the number of flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases are winding down in the country, and "have settled into expected seasonal levels."

But it doesn't mean the flu season is over. 

Pharmacies are now reporting shortages of adult's cold and flu medications, after a shortage of children's pain medications seen across the country. 

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Friday some 1.1 million bottles of children's medications will be available in pharmacies sometime this month. 


Stephanie Dubois is a journalist with CBC News. Share your story ideas with her at

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