December 9, 2023

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7 new COVID-19 deaths as N.L. expands boosters for seniors and teens

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says Newfoundland and Labrador is nearing the peak of the current COVID-19 wave. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

Newfoundland and Labrador will begin offering a first COVID-19 booster dose for people between 12 and 17 years old starting April 25, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday.

Fitzgerald said the decision is based on the evolving epidemiology of COVID-19, recommendations made by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization on Tuesday and the potential decrease in protection from vaccines over time.

People in that age group will be eligible for a booster when 22 weeks has passed since their second dose.

A second booster dose is also being offered to people who are 70 years old and up, people who live in communal living facilities and anyone who is 18 years old and older who is Indigenous or lives in a remote or isolated Indigenous community. 

People who fall into those categories are eligible for their second boost 20 weeks after the initial booster has been administered.

Fitzgerald said regional health authorities will begin administering second boosters in congregate living facilities and then will make booster appointments available at clinics.

“As many have learned by experience, COVID-19 vaccines may not prevent a COVID-19 infection. However, they will help reduce the severity of illness in the vast majority of individuals,” she said.

“Vaccine effectiveness can diminish over time. That’s why it’s so important to get your booster dose particularly if you are aged 70 or older.”

Watch the full April 13 update:

Fitzgerald said there’s no recommendation on booster doses from NACI for children between five and 11 yet, and studies are being done on when children under five will be able to be vaccinated.

Public Health recommends that people continue to wear masks in public places, said Fitzgerald.

“It is a simple way to protect ourselves and those around us,” she said. 

She said Public Health is also recommending that students continue to wear masks in schools after the Easter break.

1st COVID-19 death of person in their 30s

Wednesday was Fitzgerald’s first briefing since the middle of March, when the province removed almost all of its public health restrictions in an effort to return to normal life and living with the virus.

Since then, hospitalizations and deaths have skyrocketed across Newfoundland and Labrador while new cases continue to rise, something officials have said was to be expected as public health mandates were lifted. 

“In discussions with our science table, we feel that we are near the peak of the wave,” Fitzgerald said.

“While the peak may be more extended than ones we have seen previously, we do anticipate the epidemiology will start to improve in the weeks ahead.”

Newfoundland and Labrador will begin rolling out first booster doses to those between 12 and 17 years old and second booster doses for those 70 years old and older. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday the province reported seven new deaths, raising the total to 137, with 27 reported in April alone.

One was in the Western Health area, two were in Central Health and four were in Eastern Health.

Four of those people were at least 80 years old, two were in their 70s and one was in their 30s — the first reported COVID-19 death of a person in their 30s in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fitzgerald said the province will likely see another wave of COVID-19 in the fall, but the province isn’t planning to bring back mandates and restrictions.

“That’s certainly not our goal at this point. Our goal is to try to manage things in the least restrictive way possible,” she said.

The province also reported 451 new cases since Monday’s update: 205 on Tuesday and 256 on Wednesday. The case numbers are not an accurate representation of the true spread of COVID-19 in the province since the Health Department has restricted testing and is no longer releasing the data for tests completed.

As of Wednesday, 32 people are in hospital because of COVID-19, down three since Monday. Six people are in critical care.

Those cases are included in what the Health Department said was 119 people in hospital with the virus on Monday — either a person hospitalized because of the virus or a person who has the virus but is hospitalized for another reason —down from a peak of 144 on March 21.

“Hospitalizations lag behind cases. So if we’re thinking we’re at our peak with our cases then hospitalizations are going to lag a little bit,” said Fitzgerald. 

“I think we’ll see it go up and down, but things are looking favourable that we should start seeing a downward slope in the near future.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador