Protecting the Population Against COVID-19
Millions of Canadians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 thanks to the efforts of dedicated health care providers, including teams of pharmacy professionals across varied practice settings. The next stage of the battle against COVID-19 has begun, as the Omicron variant has emerged, and as predictions of another wave arise Ontarians are protecting their health and receiving booster doses. Pharmacy professionals play a key role in vaccinating the population, counselling patients, and addressing vaccine hesitancy.
Pharmacy professionals play a key role in vaccinating the population, counselling patients, and addressing vaccine hesitancy.
The Moderna SPIKEVAX COVID-19 vaccine provides protection against COVID-19 and complications caused by the virus and was approved in Canada for adults 18+ in December 2020, followed by authorization for children aged 6-11 in March 2022. In July 2022 Health Canada approved the Moderna SPIKEVAX COVID-19 for children 6 months to 5 years of age, making it the first vaccine permitted for this age group.
Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy
The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for pharmacy professionals to innovate, adjust the delivery of patient care, collaborate with health care providers, and improve and enhance their immunization skills and knowledge. Injection-trained pharmacy technicians especially played a key role in helping to meet demands. In response to the need for more immunizers, pharmacy technicians were authorized to administer COVID-19 vaccines, marking the first time pharmacy technicians were permitted to provide injection services.
Engrained perceptions and personal beliefs can pose threats to receiving vaccinations and many patients who are unsure about vaccines want reassurance that they are making a good and safe choice, for themselves or their loved ones.
With the onslaught of information from various sources, the public turned to pharmacy teams as a reliable source of vaccine information as new vaccine information and government policies changed frequently and rapidly. Early challenges in accessing the primary series of vaccines due to supply, combined with the announcement of need for booster doses presented unique challenges that pharmacy professionals need to be aware of when counselling patients and caregivers. Engrained perceptions and personal beliefs can pose threats to receiving vaccinations and many patients who are unsure about vaccines want reassurance that they are making a good and safe choice, for themselves or their loved ones. Vaccine misinformation and disinformation is plentiful, especially across social media channels. This has contributed to mistrust and vaccine hesitancy in some individuals, which pharmacy professionals have worked hard to correct.
The public has a high degree of trust in pharmacy professionals, and the pandemic highlighted the immense value of pharmacy teams. Equipped with the knowledge regarding the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, pharmacy professionals can provide education and help ease uncertainties and anxieties about the vaccines. Communication and techniques like the CARD (C – Comfort, A – Ask, R – Relax, D – Distract) system is an evidence-based framework that helps adults and children have a better vaccination experience. As the pandemic evolves, pharmacy teams continue to have a critical role within their communities to provide vaccines and protect the health of Ontarians.
The Next Form of Protection Against COVID-19
The bivalent COVID-19 vaccine targets specific mutations in the spike protein seen in both the original COVID-19 strain and the newer Omicron strains, which itself has spawned several more infectious subvariants driving infections today. The bivalent vaccines offer enhanced immunity and protection as they are a split between the original mRNA sequence and the new sequence.
In June 2022 Moderna (50mcg) submitted an Omicron-containing bivalent booster candidate to Health Canada for regulatory approval. On September 1, 2022, Health Canada authorized Moderna’s SPIKEVAX COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccine, mRNA-1273.214 (50 mcg) for persons 18 years of age and older. In addition to targeting the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, the SPIKEVAX Bivalent Original/Omicron also targets the Omicron BA.1 variant and is the first bivalent vaccine approved for use in Canada. Compared to a second booster dose of Moderna SPIKEVAX original (50 mcg), the Moderna SPIKEVAX Bivalent (50 mcg) generated more neutralizing antibody responses against the original strain, Omicron BA.1 and Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, among individuals with and without prior infections.
The bivalent COVID-19 vaccine targets specific mutations in the spike protein seen in both the original COVID-19 strain and the newer Omicron strains.
Moderna is continually innovating to address COVID-19 variants of concern. The approval of the Moderna SPIKEVAX Bivalent is a significant step forward in the efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and keep populations safe. Pharmacy professionals can learn more by visiting https://spikevax.com/en-CA/hcp and attending the upcoming webinars.