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'We need to be prepared': Dr. Bonnie Henry on new COVID-19 boosters, hybrid immunity and 'triple threat' of viruses

As fall approaches, B.C.’s top doctor is encouraging people to plan ahead for a so-called triple threat of respiratory illnesses—influenza, RSV and COVID-19.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says cases of the new EG.5 “Eris” coronavirus have been increasing since June and, while it’s not the dominant strain in B.C., she advises people protect themselves by staying up to date with their vaccines.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live Tuesday, Henry said that booster is expected to be available at the end of September, so British Columbians will be able to get it in conjunction with the flu shot.

“We need to pay attention to the things we can’t control—these viruses are going to come and so we need to be prepared for them,” she said.

A new report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday found that as of March 2023, most people in Canada have a combination, or hybrid, immunity due to COVID-19 vaccinations and infections.

“What we’re learning is that when you have that combination you get good memory immunity so that cell-mediated immunity helps protect us from more severe illness, hospitalization and some of the more severe symptoms of COVID,” said Henry.

However, researchers say that due to variations in coronavirus exposure and vaccinations between different demographics, combined with waning immunity and the threat of new variants, “public health policy and clinical decisions should be tailored to local patterns of population immunity.”.

“We know that a lot of older people got really good protection from early vaccination, so they don‘t have that hybrid immunity,” explained Henry.

She says the updated vaccine will help protect people from new strains of COVID-19 while boosting protection gained from previous infection or shots.

On top of personal benefits, Henry says people should continue getting vaccinations to protect those with compromised immune systems or underlying illnesses.

“Making sure we have masks, making sure we have a plan for when kids get sick, reminding ourselves of the importance of staying home, these are the things we know keep each other safe,” she added. Top Stories

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