Canada says COVID-19 booster shots may be needed, closely monitoring variants

Canada on Friday said that while booster COVID-19 shots may be needed, it has received no request from Pfizer to approve one, and health authorities are currently studying the duration of protection from two doses.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to ask U.S. and European regulators within weeks to authorize a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, based on evidence of greater risk of infection six months after inoculation and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

"Emerging data to date shows good immunity in most people out to 9 months after receiving 2 vaccine doses," Canada's public health agency said in a statement.

"It is possible that Canadians will need a subsequent vaccination, or booster shot, after we have reached sufficient levels of community protection with the current rollout... Given the emergence of variants of concern, the need for future booster doses is being closely monitored," the ministry said.

Should Canada receive a submission for a booster, it will "evaluate the data provided."

Infections in Canada have fallen dramatically in recent months amid lockdowns and as vaccinations increased. Now the provinces have reopened for business, or are in the process of doing so.

The latest data show that over 78.5 per cent of people aged 12 years or older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 46 per cent are fully vaccinated across Canada.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Leslie Adler and Aurora Ellis)