SPORT MEDICINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE UPDATE:
The new variant that was first discovered less than one month ago is now the most dominant strain in Canada. It is responsible for Canada’s fifth wave and appears to spread more rapidly than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the previously dominant Delta strain. People with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others even if they are vaccinated or asymptomatic.
More data is needed to know if Omicron infections, reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated will cause more serious illness than other variants. There have been conflicting studies on the number of serious disease and hospitalizations with the new variant.
Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness and hospitalizations for all variants and emerging data shows that 3 doses including the booster provide improved protection as immunity diminishes after 3-6 months post original vaccine doses.
Athletes and staff are strongly recommended to get vaccine boosters as soon as they are available in their jurisdiction.
Vaccine Availability in Canada
As of January 01, 2022, everybody over 18 will be able to get the booster 6 months after the second dose but you must register on the Get Vaccinated website to get an appointment: https://www.getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca/s/
. Until Jan the program is targeting high risk groups and health care workers.
Alberta: Individuals aged 18 and over can get a third dose 5 months after their second dose. Individuals can book online (pharmacies or AHS clinics) or by calling 811, visiting a walk-in clinic, or contacting a doctor's office.
Individuals aged 18 and over can make an appointment for their booster dose 84 days after their second dose through the Ontario booking portal: How to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment (ontario.ca
Quebec: As of Monday December 20, people 65 and over can make an appointment for a booster shot. People with certain health conditions aged 60 and up are also eligible. Starting Monday December 27th, all people 60 and up will be able to make an appointment. The aim is to begin offering the rest of the population booster shots in the New Year. Third doses are also available to early childhood educators who work in daycare centres, caregivers and first responders.
Essential Travel Recommendation
Only essential travel is recommended domestically or internationally at this time. If travel is necessary (i.e., Beijing qualification or final phase preparation), athletes and staff are advised to take all the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of COVID infection and follow their provincial health authority travel-related testing requirements and any additional CSI / CSC testing requirements to return to the training facility. Please refer to Sport Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) Close Contact & Travel Policy Guidelines
Team members that need to travel should follow a Bubble and Testing Protocol in consultation with your Team Physician and event organisers.
Olympic and Paralympic 16 day PCR Test Recommendation
Interpreting the latest Beijing Playbook and in discussion and collaboration with other National Olympic/Paralympic Committees, SMAC is recommending an additional PCR test to be taken 16 days prior to departure for the Beijing Games. The purpose is to identify any persistent viral ‘shedders’ or asymptomatic positive cases prior to the 14 day pre-departure window for entry to Beijing. Positive cases detected within 14 days of travel to the Games will not be permitted entry to Beijing and must provide evidence of 14 day isolation.
SMAC is working closely with the CSIs to establish private PCR testing and exact protocols for all testing prior to attending the Games. This 16 Day pretest recommendation is in addition to the required testing outlined in the Beijing Games Playbook
Rapid Antigen Testing
Given expected system pressures due to Omicron around PCR testing, governments may expand the clinical use of rapid antigen testing in the coming weeks. Rapid antigen testing can be used in screening programs in regions of high COVID-19 prevalence and in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained to regularly identify asymptomatic cases. Rapid antigen testing has a lower sensitivity than PCR testing in diagnosing COVID-19 infection but can identify cases of infection with higher viral loads.
Antigen test sensitivity is also much lower for active or recovering COVID-19 cases. Medical opinion suggests that antigen tests become negative in 10-12 days after symptom onset or positive PCR test result. It is recommended that individuals with concerning exposure, continued or new symptoms should undertake PCR testing since the Ct (Cycle Thresholds) values will provide evidence as whether the person is still COVID positive from distant exposure/disease or is newly acquired. Tracking Ct values through retained copies of all test results is important for athletes and technical staff given that a person can potentially test positive up to 90 days after having acquired COVID-19.
It is essential that anyone performing the tests do so carefully following the correct techniques as failure to do so will result in reduced efficacy and more false negative results. Medical supervision is mandatory to ensure the tests are done correctly until the technique is learned. Please refer to: COVID-19 Guidance: Considerations for Antigen Point-of-Care Testing
Given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, cloth masks have shown to provide inadequate adequate protection against transmission. In addition, they are not permitted for use in Beijing - only medical grade or N95- KN95 masks will be allowed.
If possible, well-fitting medical masks (KN95 or N95) or respirators are recommended for all environments.
It is recommended to change masks regularly especially when they get wet and potentially to double-mask in confined spaces. For more information on medical masks please go to: