British Columbia’s top doctor says COVID-19 booster shots will be prioritized for frontline healthcare workers, rural Indigenous Peoples and those over 70 because they’re at the highest risk of experiencing breakthrough infections, however, shots will be eventually offered to any resident who wants one.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says those groups and people who are most immunocompromised were vaccinated first and are getting to the point of waning immunity just ahead of flu season.
She says the third dose will be given to those residents until December as part of a program already underway and appointment bookings will be offered based on the time since their second dose, typically six to eight months.
Henry says the most clinically vulnerable people and healthcare workers will be eligible for booster shots starting in January.
The provincial health officer says she’s optimistic that a third dose may provide years of protection against the virus based on the long intervals between shots to optimize the benefits of vaccination.
“We know as well that from the studies that have been done by both Pfizer and Moderna around their booster doses, that you get a good strong and quick antibody response when you get that booster dose, so we know that will give additional protection over the next few months,” said Dr. Henry, adding that the hope is that a third shot will add protection for years to come.
In order to rollout the booster shot program, the government plans to build on the systems and infrastructure already in place, including BC’s Get Vaccinated online hub. The Province outlines that anyone who is currently registered in the Get Vaccinated system will be invited to book their booster shot online once it is their turn. The provincial call centre at 1-833-838-2323 will continue to be available for those who can’t access online booking as well.
Additionally, the Province plans to train and utilize more pharmacies in order to administer booster shots moving forward with the hope that at least 85 per cent of those across B.C. will be participating in the campaign.
According to the Province, only mRNA vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — are available for booster shots at the moment and anyone who received AstraZeneca will be offered one of those two options for their third dose. The government emphasizes that there is no need to align residents’ current vaccines with their booster shots either.
“We really want this campaign to be more relaxed than the last one, as Dr. Henry has said, this booster campaign is about providing people with that extra kick that hopefully will sustain them through many, many months,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, Executive Lead for B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Efforts.
“That’s really the thing that’s going to allow us to bring this pandemic to a more steady state…and allow us to get back to our lives as quickly as possible.”
Overall, the program is expected to run until the end of May in order to get booster shots to the British Columbians who want to receive them.
“I think the message that I have is that most of us have good, strong protection and we don’t need a booster dose right now. But, come next spring, it is something that we should consider for longer-term protection,” adds Dr. Henry.
“We’ll have more information as we follow what’s happen, as we look at our vaccine effectiveness over the next few months.”
A plan to start vaccinating children between five and 11 is also expected to begin pending Health Canada approval, though parents can already register their kids to get immunized.