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In today's Morning Brief, the timing of your next COVID-19 vaccine may be more important than ever as highly contagious Omicron subvariants are on the rise and waning immunity from previous vaccination and infection threatens to fuel another surge.

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Why the timing of your next COVID-19 shot is so important

The timing of your next COVID-19 vaccine may be more important than ever, as highly contagious Omicron subvariants are on the rise in Canada and waning immunity from previous vaccination and infection threatens to fuel another surge.

Canada is once again a hotbed for variants, with BA.2.12.1 now making up more than 40 per cent of COVID cases, while BA.4 and BA.5 are quickly gaining ground at more than 10 per cent combined in late May — a major jump from less than one per cent weeks earlier.

But the latest available federal data is weeks out of date and modelling experts CBC News spoke to estimate the true proportion of BA.4 and BA.5 cases is more than 20 per cent — and could be as high as 50 — with one of them likely to become dominant in the coming weeks.

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said recently that the country's path forward with COVID-19 will not be straightforward, and officials are bracing for a "potential resurgence" that could lead to "severe impacts" in the future as the Omicron subvariants battle for dominance, and new variants could still emerge. 

"Omicron has evolved and it's so much different than our vaccines and infections prior to Omicron — the type of immunity that you got is just a different beast," said Sarah Otto, an expert in modelling and evolutionary biology at the University of British Columbia. 

"And so what we're seeing with vaccine protection is that it's not so much the number of doses as it is how recent your last dose has been, and I think that's because the neutralizing antibodies in our bloodstream, they're not recognizing the virus as well." 

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) strongly recommended second boosters for seniors aged 80 and up and other vulnerable groups back in April, but stopped short of recommending a fourth shot for all Canadians.

The reason for that decision may have come down to timing, with updated vaccines on the horizon that might fare better against Omicron subvariants, and a quieter stretch of COVID activity in the summer buying us time before another vaccine rollout may be needed.

But the NACI guidance also recommends that those eligible wait six months after their last dose for a second booster, saying that timing "may need to be balanced with local and current epidemiology" and that "shorter intervals" could be needed if another wave hits.

"When we start to see BA.4 and BA.5 leading to rising cases, then I think we should be nimble and expect to need to get the boosters — but it's this waiting game," said Otto. Read the full story here.

Making a splash

(Anna Szilagyi/The Associated Press)

Team Japan competes during the team free preliminaries of artistic swimming at the 19th FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday.

In brief

This week the Liberal government announced it will ban some single-use plastic items in an effort to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, but only a limited number of products fall under the ban and some of the prohibitions don't kick in until 2025. The six categories of single-use plastics being banned make up about three per cent of the plastic waste generated annually in Canada, and while the list is short, not everything on it is being outright banned. For example, some plastic straws are banned but there are exceptions that only restrict others. CBC News took a look at the regulations to see what is being banned and when, how the policy announced this week will impact the campaign to cut back on plastics globally and what was left off the banned list. Read the full story here.

WATCH | Ottawa to ban many single-use plastics by end of 2023:

Ottawa moves to ban many single-use plastics by end of 2023

8 days ago
Duration 2:02

Single-event sports betting has been legal for less than a year in Canada, so there isn't data yet on what its explosion in popularity has meant for problem gambling, but experts in the field say well-educated young men are the demographic most at risk. According to research, being male, young, single, tech-savvy and having a higher level of education are "pretty robust risk factors" when it comes to sports betting, said Shauna Altrogge, the director of the Gambling Awareness Program with the Canadian Mental Health Association's Saskatchewan division. "I think anyone that feels that they have a really solid knowledge base and skills around sports in general, they may have a sort of a sense that, 'I know more than the average person, therefore, I'm going to place that bet because my chances are pretty solid,'" she said. Shelley White, CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council, said that sports betting has some unique risk. "Because of that illusion of control, because of the social aspect of it, because there is a tendency for people to be drinking or using substances while they're watching sports," she said. Read more on this story here.

WATCH | NHL writer on the pitfalls of sports betting: 

The pitfalls of sports betting with expert Dom Luszczyszyn

29 days ago
Duration 8:45

 

In late May, not long after he'd gotten through a mild bout of COVID-19, Peter Kelly spiked a sudden fever. He quickly realized it wasn't the tail end of a COVID-19 infection. Over a period of several days, the Toronto resident became exhausted, and his muscles began to ache. His temperature oscillated between chills and night sweats. Then, strange sores started to appear on different parts of his body — eventually around two dozen that he could see, mostly on his legs, and painful ones hidden from view in and around his rectum. He said he'd never experienced something as excruciating as the unexplained lesions emerging on sensitive areas of his body. "This was on another level," he recalled. "You can't control it. It feels like razor blades in a way, shocking you constantly." What followed was nearly a month of tests, three emergency room trips, one infected sore and, finally, a lab-confirmed diagnosis: Monkeypox virus, or, as it's known throughout the scientific community, MPXV. Read more on this story here.

WATCH | What it's like to recover from monkeypox: 

What it’s like to recover from monkeypox

7 days ago
Duration 1:57


During the Republican gubernatorial primary in Pennsylvania, a political ad ran against Doug Mastriano, accusing the state senator of wanting to "outlaw abortion," of being "one of Donald Trump's strongest supporters" who "led the fight to audit the 2020 election." However, the ad was not funded by any of the Republican opponents of Mastriano — often labelled a "far-right" conservative — but by the Democratic nominee for governor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro. According to some political observers, while it may sound like a typical negative political ad, it's actually not meant to hurt Mastriano's chances against his Republican rivals. Instead, it's meant to boost his profile and conservative credentials to the Republican party base. It's apparently all part of a Democratic strategy aiming to help those seen as extremist Republican candidates to secure their Republican party's nomination. (Which Mastriano did win.) The hope for Democrats is that those extreme Republican candidates would be much easier for Democrats to beat in the November elections. But the strategy has raised some concerns about effectiveness and whether it could have unintended consequences. Read the full story here.

An overtime goal by Nazem Kadri has the Colorado Avalanche on the brink of winning their first Stanley Cup since 2001. Kadri's OT winner gave Colorado a 4-3 win Wednesday, and a 3-1 series lead over the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lighting. It was Kadri's first game back in the Colorado lineup since he suffered a thumb injury on June 4. The game ended in some controversy. Without specifically saying his team felt Colorado had too many men on the ice for the winning goal, Lightning coach Jon Cooper suggested Kadri's goal should not have been allowed. "We're all in this together. Players, coaches, refs, everybody. But this one is going to sting much more than others," Cooper said. The four on-ice officials said they didn't see a too many men on the ice situation on the play. The call is not subject to video review. Colorado can wrap the series and raise the Cup when the two teams face off in Game 5 on Friday night in Denver. They have a 7-2 win-loss record at home during these playoffs. Read more from the game.

WATCH | Nazem Kadri's overtime winner in Game 4: 

Avalanche edge Lighting with Kadri's overtime goal to take 3-1 series lead in Stanley Cup final

6 days ago
Duration 1:37


Now for some good news to start your Thursday: Near the back of the Jens Haven Memorial School in Nain, on Labrador's northern coast, there's a wood shop filled with a variety of power tools and projects in progress. No electric tools are buzzing as a group of Grade 8 students, their principal and their kayak-building instructor crowd around a large kayak frame. Instead, there's only the sound of planers and hand saws as the students quietly work on placing the kayak ribs in their slots. "It's a little bit complicated for me, but I like doing it. It's fun," student Michael Earle said. "[Noah]'s a good teacher. He's very good with the stuff." Earle is referring to Noah Nochasak, the kayak revival lead with the Nunatsiavut government's Department of Language, Culture and Tourism. His project — in which 15 teenagers in the Inuit community are teaming up to make a kayak similar to watercraft their ancestors used for centuries — has been a dream of his for some time. Read the story here.

Opinion: A 'glass cliff' may threaten UCP women running for leader

While the "glass ceiling" for women in Alberta politics may well have cracked, there are many reasons to think that the party's leadership is nothing but an increasingly crowded glass cliff, writes University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young. Read the column here.

Front Burner: Anti-LGBTQ threats loom over Pride

t's Pride month, but a string of violent threats and extremist confrontations are looming over the celebrations.

Police arrested 31 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near a Pride event in Idaho, saying the men were planning a riot. Proud Boys and other extremists have protested and stormed drag performances. And a teen in Mississauga, Ont., was arrested and charged for allegedly threatening a mass shooting at an event in Florida.

Today, a conversation about the forces behind a right-wing surge in anti-LGBTQ sentiment, and how the rhetoric is driving real-world threats. Guest Parker Molloy spent years with progressive media watchdogs, and she's been covering recent threats in her newsletter The Present Age. 

Today in history: June 23

1817: Montreal Bank, the forerunner of today's Bank of Montreal, is founded by a group of nine merchants.

1887: Parliament passes legislation renaming Banff Hot Springs Reserve as Rocky Mountains Park and expanding it to 674 square kilometres. The move marked the start of Canada's first national park. It would be renamed Banff National Park in 1930.

1978: The House of Commons passes legislation giving everyone the right to a trial in either French or English.

1985: Some 329 people, including 280 Canadians, are killed when a bomb explodes aboard an Air India jet off the Irish coast. The flight had originated in Toronto and stopped in Montreal before heading to London and Bombay. Only one man, Inderjit Singh Reyat, has been convicted in relation to the bombing and is now free, having served 30 years for lying at trial and for his role in the crime.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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