A spring booster shot for the COVID vaccines will be made available for those most at-risk in B.C., health officials said in an update on Friday.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said a spring booster will be made available for seniors 80+, Indigenous people 70+, seniors living in long-term care, and people 18+ who are immunocompromised.
Additionally, it is recommended that anyone 60+ or Indigenous people 50+ who have not had COVID-19 get a spring booster.
“For people aged 50 and under, as many as 80 to 90 per cent have some combination of protection from both vaccinations and infection,” Henry said. “So that’s good and what we’re learning as we’re going through this whole thing, globally, is that that level of protection, your immune system, remembers that for a longer period of time.”
A Public Health Agency of Canada study released in July 2022 found that while infection with an Omicron strain does come with some additional protection from other Omicron variants, vaccination provides greater levels of protection.
“Protective immunity from reinfection is greater when there is a history of COVID-19 vaccination rather than a history of a previous infection prior to the initial Omicron infection,” the study says, noting protection from reinfection after vaccination is at about 96 per cent, while protection of being reinfected with an Omicron variant is at 72 per cent.
A study by the Veterans Research and Education Foundation of St. Louis released in November 2022 found that multiple infections of COVID increase the affected person’s risk of developing chronic health issues like diabetes, kidney disease, organ failure and even mental health problems.
“Estimates suggest that more than half a billion people around the globe have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 at least once,” the study says. “In this work, we showed that reinfection further increases risks of all-cause mortality and adverse health outcomes in both the acute and postacute phases of reinfection, suggesting that for people who have already been infected once, continued vigilance to reduce the risk of reinfection may be important to lessen the overall risk to one’s health.”
Henry says it is recommended to get an additional COVID booster for these groups six months after their last shot.
“Unvaccinated people remain significantly higher risk of getting sick with COVID and being hospitalized with COVID,” Henry said.
“And so I encourage anybody who has not yet received the vaccine to talk to a health care provider, to talk to your pharmacist, it is not too late to get the protection that’s going to help you for the years to come, because this virus is going to go with this for the foreseeable future.”
People who don’t fall into these categories are encouraged to talk to a health care provider to decide whether getting another booster is right for them.
Earlier, the province announced it was lifting the requirement for B.C. government employees to prove they have had the COVID vaccine starting April 3.
This change only applies to BC Public Service employees and contractors, the requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated remains in effect.
In a news release, the government says this decision was made to reflect the high level of vaccination rates in public-service employees and says more than 98 per cent of employees met the requirement.
READ MORE FROM NOVEMBER 2021: Hundreds of B.C. public servants placed on unpaid leave after failing to get vaccinated for COVID-19
“Rescinding the vaccination policy means a small number of employees on administrative leave due to non-compliance will be provided the opportunity to return to the workplace,” the release says.
“The Public Service Agency has provided direction to ministries and will work with supervisors to support a smooth transition. This change also means that contractors and other non-employees do not need to be vaccinated to enter BC Public Service workplaces.”
Stephanie Smith, BC General Employees’ Union president, says the union needs clarity for how this change will affect union members.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, BCGEU members have demanded clarity on how employers’ decisions affect us and our working lives,” Smith said in a statement to CHEK News.
“Our union has a number of questions about how this change will impact our members, and we want to ensure that all members have received equitable treatment under this now rescinded regulation and policy. As such, we have requested a meeting with the BC Public Service Agency to address those concerns.”
Adrian Dix, minister of health, noted March 11 marks the third anniversary of the declaration of the COVID pandemic by the World Health Organization.
Watch the full news conference below: