Despite having enough doses for all, just 35 per cent of Canadians boosted

Canada has enough supply of COVID-19 vaccines to offer booster doses to all who are eligible, though so far just 35 per cent of Canadians have received their third shot, according to the federal health minister.

“We must continue to accelerate our vaccination efforts to trend towards universal coverage,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Wednesday, alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an update on the federal government’s COVID-19 response.

Health Canada has authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines to be offered to anyone 18 and older, at least six months after the primary vaccine course. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, decisions about the rollout and who has been given priority access to boosters is up to the provinces and territories.

During the press conference the prime minister also made note of a lagging uptake so far in COVID-19 vaccines among children ages five to 12. According to the government, 48 per cent of children in this age group have received at least their first dose.

“We know as we get back to school, as kids are re-engaging, parents are worried about the health of their kids. Therefore, get them vaccinated. The vaccination rate for kids five to 12 is too low in Canada,” he said.

“Which means not only are kids more vulnerable, but all of society. Whether it’s teachers, whether it’s grandparents, whether its frontline health workers risking getting overwhelmed when those people start to get sick. We need to do what’s right… That means getting our kids vaccinated, it is safe and effective and the right way to get through this pandemic,” Trudeau said.

He also once again sought to appeal to the approximately 6.5 million Canadians who remain unvaccinated, saying that it’s “better late than never,” to get vaccinated.

“We now have enough doses so that everyone can be vaccinated and even receive a booster dose, so there is no excuse. People must be vaccinated,” Trudeau said in French.

The press conference was held as provinces are waiting for more deliveries of the promised 140 million rapid tests this month, and are sorting out the distribution of the still limited supply of newly authorized at-home antiviral prescription drug treatment for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Trudeau and Duclos spoke about their outstanding commitments to deliver these tests and treatment courses, but offered no update on accelerated or increased future shipments.

With national modelling projecting that the Omicron wave of COVID-19 infections could peak imminently and restrictions remaining in place across the country, the government indicated no changes to the existing COVID-19 aid programs.

“Though the risk of hospitalization is individually lower for Omicron, the sheer volume of cases will likely keep increasing hospital admissions. These forecasts underscore that we must continue to exercise considerable prudence in order to limit the coming surge,” Duclos said.

“We cannot overstate the importance of individual practices. Let us continue to wear a mask in public places, let us continue to limit our contacts, and most importantly, let us get vaccinated and when eligible get boosted as well.” 

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