Summer in Saskatchewan has been a relatively calm season for viruses. However, fall is around the corner and with it comes the increased spread of the flu and COVID-19.
With kids returning to school and many activities moving indoors as temperatures drop – health experts in the province are saying many viruses will inevitably start spreading.
According to the latest Community Respiratory Illness Surveillance Program (CRISP) report – the majority of respiratory virus hospitalizations were not related to COVID, Influenza or Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) from July 16 to Aug. 12.
RSV actually reached a point of inactivity with no cases reported in that period, according to the province.
However, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab expects COVID-19 cases to rise as the seasons change.
“We’ve had very low levels of viral infection throughout the summer,” he told CTV News. “We did have a bit of COVID throughout the summer but we certainly expect to see it pick up a bit in the fall.”
The expected rise is why Shahab is recommending everyone double doses on vaccines this season.
“This fall, the influenza vaccine and the COVID vaccines are available for anyone six months and older,” he explained.
“But really if you are 50 years and older, especially 65 and older, if you live with someone who is at high risk, if you yourself have any underlying risk factors – it’s a good idea this fall to get your COVID vaccine and your influenza vaccine.”
Experts say having a COVID-19 booster in the last six months reduces the risk of death over three times compared to unvaccinated individuals – and over two times compared to those without a booster dose.
Beginning this fall the province is expecting to offer new COVID-19 monovalent vaccines that offer protection against more recent strains of Omicron.
When asked if the rise in cases will resemble past waves of the virus – Shahab was doubtful, explaining that the province is in a very different place than it was three years ago.
“We have a population that’s not naive in terms of immunity,” he explained.
“It’s highly vaccinated – many of us have been exposed to COVID in the past three years as well. It’s a very different scenario I think. COVID will be one of the many viruses that will go around in the fall.”
Residents will be able to get their COVID-19 and influenza vaccines at pharmacies and public health clinics this fall.