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Updated bivalent COVID-19 booster rolling out in northern Ont.

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Northern public health officials tell CTV News they had been advising people to consider waiting for Moderna's updated bivalent booster shot, since it's more effective against the Omicron variant.

Now that it's rolling out across the region, with priority given to highest risk groups and health care workers, experts hope to see more people getting boosted.

"The bivalent vaccine will provide greater protection against the strains that are currently circulating," said the Porcupine Health Unit's COVID-19 planning manager, Kendra Luxmore.

"Which is certainly what we want to see this fall, where we do expect to see higher case rates."

The bivalent booster targets both the original COVID-19 virus and the first Omicron variant that emerged late last year.

According to regional health data, between 50 and 60 per cent of eligible people got the first booster dose that targets just the original strain, but still offers some protection against Omicron.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts' (PHSD) COVID-19 planning manager, Nastassia McNair, said the new shot is proving more effective.

"Studies are showing that, when given as the second booster dose, the bivalent vaccine is demonstrating a higher antibody response against the virus, at this point in time," said McNair.

Everyone is able to book a spot for the booster now, but health officials are asking that those in good health wait until Sept. 26, when it will be more widely available to the general public.

The current COVID-19 situation in the northeast is seeing 28 active high-risk outbreaks, as of Friday. That breaks down to:

  • 17 in Greater Sudbury
  • Five in Algoma
  • Five in Porcupine health district
  • One in North Bay-Parry Sound

Though testing data is limited, officials expect that the virus will likely circulate more over the coming weeks and that it's best to be prepared.

Health experts advise people to wait at least six months after their last COVID-19 shot or infection to give their immune system a better jumpstart, though people are eligible for the booster after three months.

"It's essential that we protect ourselves, we protect our community, we mask-up (and) follow that guidance, as needed," said Luxmore.

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