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Your (Two) Best Shots at Protection From COVID-19 Complications

It has been long studied that the COVID-19 specific vaccines have had benefit in reducing morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 infection in those who have completed a series (2 or more doses). Efficacy amongst these vaccines vary slightly, around 90%, with the mRNA-based vaccines (Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna). While the news media may be quietening down on COVID-19 news, research and development endures behind the scenes on these vaccines, especially as the virus continues to mutate with new variants.

In addition to COVID-19 vaccines, additional protection has been shown with completion of the pneumococcal-conjugate vaccine, Prenvar-13. This routine vaccine offers protection from the most invasive types of pneumonia that often result in hospitalization. Development of pneumonia as a complication with COVID-19 has been common, so it has been prescribed to certain groups for added protection, such as those aged 50+ or anyone with a chronic illness aged 18+. It is also provided to infants as part of Health Canada’s routine immunization schedule.

Recent research has discovered that those who have had Prevnar 13 had marked improvements. The risk of contracting COVID-19 was reduced by 35%, along with a 32% risk reduction of hospitalization and death (Kaiser Permanente, 2021) compared to those aged 65 and older.

Ongoing prevention and risk reduction of COVID-19 still involve taking personal preventive measures depending on the situation. These will vary with local jurisdiction and be unique to everyone’s risk-level and preference. Preventive measures include:

    • regular handwashing and/or use of hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 65%
    • use of a face mask in public settings or within close quarters (i.e. transit, mass gatherings)
    • respiratory hygiene (covering mouth/nose when coughing/sneezing)
    • physical distancing
    • avoiding areas with poor ventilation
    • avoiding contact with ill individuals

Despite taking preventive measures, there is still an ongoing risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.  For a small subset of the population, they may qualify for certain medication to assist in their recovery and reduce the risk of hospitalization.  It is called Paxlovid, and each province has its own eligibility criteria when someone becomes infected. Basic eligibility criteria includes:

    • Confirmed COVID-19 infection and it has been less than 5 days
    • Unvaccinated to COVID-19 (or incomplete series of 2 or more doses) plus additional criteria that your health professional will review
    • Immunocompromised
    • Living in long term care facility
    • No contraindications to start the medication based on personal medical history

If you feel you meet the basic criteria, you can review the information with Alberta Health Services or BC Health Services. Healthcare professionals in the community can now prescribe this medication and will discuss this treatment option and review your eligibility.

The prevention, management and treatment of COVID-19 continues to evolve. Research is growing in this area as more data is collected and your public health authority and healthcare providers strive to ensure best practices are implemented. The most promising approach for curbing COVID-19 in our communities is completion of the COVID-19 immunization series, following personal preventive measures, and if eligible, completing the Prevnar-13 vaccination. Reach out your healthcare provider if you would like to learn more about this topic and to determine if the Prevnar-13 immunization is right for you.  


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We would like to acknowledge with gratitude that we operate on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations in Vancouver, and of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Mountain Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3) in Calgary. With appreciation, we recognize that these lands have been stewarded by them since time immemorial.

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