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Province, VIDO encourage booster doses as COVID-19 is once again on the rise

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University of Saskatchewan researchers say the viral load of COVID-19 in Saskatoon’s wastewater has shown a week-over-week increase the past month, potentially meaning cases of the virus are on the rise.

“As you see the wastewater levels go up that means, it may not be one-to-one correlation, but that means there is more infections coming up,” said director of business development for VIDO Paul Hodson.

“There's more spread, and as we know, from any infectious disease that transmits through aerosols or through the air, that population density or close contact or dense crowds will will increase the rate of transmission.”

Throughout the pandemic, cases have dropped in the summer months and increased when the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors, and we should expect that trend to continue in 2022.

“In Australia, for example, coming out of their winter season in the southern hemisphere,” said chief medial health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

“With no public health measures, they've seen all the respiratory viruses come back, so influenza, other coughs and colds, COVID.”

Hodgson and Shahab say vaccination remains the most effective way to limit severe infection from the virus.

“I think in Saskatchewan right now about 82 per cent of the eligible population are vaccinated with two doses,” said Hodgson.

“We know that the primary purpose of the vaccine was not necessarily to stop infection but stop hospitalization, which we see the outcome of that now. Definitely the hospitals are less inundated with patients.”

Amanda Slogotski and Clarissa Thomas both went to receive their second booster dose at the walk-in clinic at Merlis Belsher Place on Wednesday, one of the six walk-in clinics in Saskatoon.

“I haven't tested positive for COVID yet and I've always gotten my boosters right when they're available. So trying to hold that luck I guess, and I'm going to Chicago in a month And it seems like a smart idea,” said Thomas.

“I just want to get my immunity up before the school season starts and I know there's more COVID going around lately, so just want to make sure I'm protected,” said Slogotski.

Shahab says fewer than 50 per cent of people in the province have received their first booster dose. He is encouraging those who haven’t to get it as soon as possible.

For those considering a second dose, Shahab says it can likely wait until the fall when bivalent vaccines are expected to be available.

“Some of the companies like Pfizer-BioNTech are actually making bivalent vaccines where they have two antigens,” said Hodgson.

“One from the ancestral strain and one for some of the new variants, in an effort to make them more effective."

Hodgson says new COVID-19 vaccine rollouts will likely occur in the future.

“The general murmurings around through the physicians, public health and scientists is that the vaccine doesn't seem to cause sterilizing immunity,” he said.

“We're not eliminating the viral infection from the vaccines we've had, we're eliminating the hospitalizations. So by that nature, and the continued variants of concern that keep rolling out, I would suggest that's probably what we're looking at.”

Thomas says she’s prepared to receive those vaccinations.

“We've collectively kind of come to the realization that we've got to live with [COVID-19], and getting a booster is important,” she said.

“Making sure your kids are vaccinated is important when they go back to school."

“I just want to make sure that I'm doing everything that I can to stay safe for my kids,” said Slogotski.

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