OTTAWA – Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the new sublineage of Omicron, B-A-2, is being monitored but isn’t currently of much concern.

She says Canada has been finding it as far back as November, and while it sometimes makes it harder to pick up Omicron on a test, it does not appear to be causing more severe illness than the original Omicron.

Tam says hospitalizations and deaths from Omicron are still high the number of daily deaths averaged 168 in the last week.

She says that’s the highest it has been since the early days of the pandemic in April and May 2020.

An average of 10,800 people were in hospital with COVID-19 over the last seven days, up from 10,041 the previous week.

These numbers blow away the pre-Omicron hospitalization record of about five-thousand in mid-January 2021.

Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is now recommending teenagers with underlying conditions or at high risk of COVID-19 exposure get a booster shot.

The advice comes as more provincial health officers are transitioning to a position of learning to live with COVID-19 and loosening public health restrictions.

Dr. Tam says kids and adolescents are still at low risk of serious illness in general from COVID-19, but because of the high rate of infection due to Omicron more kids are being admitted to hospital.

Health Canada data suggest in the last week, 251 children under 12 and 84 adolescents between 12-and-19 were admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

That data is not broken down by vaccination status but Tam says teenagers with two doses are at very low risk of severe outcomes, which is why for now Canada isn’t following the U-S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommending all adolescents get a third shot.

Just over half of Canadian children five-to-11 now have at least their first dose, while 82 per cent of teens 12-to-17 are fully vaccinated

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