People 65 and older who are six months out from their second COVID-19 vaccinaton will receive invitations starting at the end of this week to get their booster shots, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“So, please wait for your invitation, it is coming,” Henry said during a briefing on Tuesday.
About 500,000 people in priority groups in B.C. — including residents of care homes, seniors living in the community, clinically extremely vulnerable people, and Indigenous peoples — have already received third doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said half of those age 70 and older have already received a booster dose.
By the end of this week, about 90 per cent of British Columbians age 70 and older will have been invited to book their boosters, Henry said.
Don Roughley, 83, a former Victoria city manager, was among Vancouver Island seniors over age 70 who said they were told by the Get Vaccinated call centre they’d have to wait six to eight months for a booster. Roughley is now booked for a booster on Monday. “I’m so relieved — I wanted to get it as soon as possible,” he said.
Last week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations strongly recommended that people age 50 and older and those deemed vulnerable — including health-care workers, Indigenous people and those in congregate care settings — begin receiving a third dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
The committee also called for Canadians ages 18 to 49 to get boosters six months after their second shot. Henry said the NACI recommendations “are very much aligned with the approach that is already underway here in British Columbia.” The province has taken a “risk-based approach” and the biggest risk factor for serious illness from COVID is age, she said.
Those under age 70 mostly received their shots in June, July and early August, which means the six-month mark for boosters will largely come in January, February and March, said Henry.
The goal is to vaccinate the entire adult population with a booster dose at six to eight months, she said, adding there’s increasing evidence that waiting up to eight months gives longer-lasting protection from the booster — the same way that waiting four months between the first two doses increased immunity.
Of 2,423 COVID cases from Nov. 29 to Dec. 5 in B.C., 54 per cent were unvaccinated, 41 per cent were fully vaccinated, and four per cent were partially vaccinated.
The odds of serious illness and hospitalization are higher in people who are unvaccinated. “It’s very unusual for a vaccinated person under age 70 to require hospitalization [with COVID-19],” said Henry.
The province has begun to administer boosters to health-care workers, a process that will continue over the next two months, said Henry. Additional people diagnosed as clinically extremely vulnerable will be invited for boosters in coming weeks.
After people age 65 and older all have their boosters, the province plans to focus on age cohorts in descending order.
“Most people under age 65 will start to receive invitations early in January and it will be mostly at six months,” said Henry. “And we’ll go down from there.”
The province is partnering with pharmacies across the province to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines, ensuring they are linked with the government’s Get Vaccinated registration system.
About 200 pharmacies are already involved in administering COVID-19 vaccines, while another 300 are expected to be added between Dec. 8 and 15. The goal is to have 1,000 involved by January.
Those who receive invitations to book a booster dose should see a prompt to book at a local pharmacy as an option. “So you don’t need to call a different pharmacies and check availability — you can book directly to the get-registered system,” said Henry.
Henry advised people to ensure they are registered under the province’s Get Vaccinated system. Those who want the one-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine can phone the call centre (1-833-838-2323) to arrange for that vaccine. About 2,000 people have already opted for the Janssen.
As well, doses of Astra Zeneca are coming into the province this week. Those awaiting a second dose who aren’t contacted by the end of the week can call the Get Vaccinated call centre to be put on a list for that vaccine. Those who already have two doses of Astra Zeneca and want a booster mRNA vaccine are being contacted now, said Henry.
Of the 350,000 children eligible for the low-dose pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, 134, 894 were registered by Tuesday and 33,186 had received their first dose.
Public health officials are watching data on youth age 12-17 to determine whether they will need a booster shot.
B.C. reported 326 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing active cases to 2,814, including 242 in hospital, of whom 82 are in intensive care. On the Island, 71 new cases were reported, for a total of 591 active cases. Thirty-seven are in hospital, of whom six are in critical care.
> Onlne: getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca