Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Canadians to get their influenza and COVID-19 vaccines soon to avoid the need for additional health measures this winter.
Speaking at an announcement in Kanata, Ont. on Monday, Trudeau encouraged Canadians to ensure they receive the full complement of COVID-19 and seasonal flu vaccines.
"If we are able to get a high enough of level of vaccination, we reduce the danger of having to take other health measures to make sure that we're all safe and not overloading our hospitals," Trudeau said.
His remarks came as health officials express concerns over recent upward trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said last week that he'll recommend the return of mask mandates if the province's health care system becomes too strained.
In much of the country, emergency rooms are hovering above full capacity.
COVID-19 vaccinations stall, high flu circulation expected
The share of the population that has received the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine — one or two doses, depending on the product — has levelled out at around 80 per cent since February. About 49 per cent of Canadians have received the primary series and one additional booster.
Ontario opened appointments Monday for everyone aged 12 and over to receive Omicron-targeted vaccine doses. Earlier this month, Health Canada approved an updated Pfizer BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine that targets the most common variants of the virus currently in the country.
"There are new formulations that cover both Omicron and the original strain of COVID," Trudeau said. "We encourage everyone to get those vaccinations to keep pressure off of our hospitals, off our frontline heroes who are working so hard to keep people safe, but also to keep pressure off of our economy and our communities."
In a statement released earlier this month, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued a "strong" recommendation that everyone aged 12 and older be offered a fall COVID-19 booster dose, regardless of the number of booster doses previously received.
The committee also said its "preferred" product for booster doses is a bivalent Omicron-containing mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
With cold weather approaching, relatively low flu circulation over the last two years puts children at a greater risk than usual of catching the illness, infectious disease experts have told CBC.