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Watchdog urges B.C. seniors to book COVID-19 booster shots

Most people in the community 80 and older are due for their boosters now.
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Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Judith Sayers posted a selfie on Tuesday as she received her booster shot. COURTESY JUDITH SAYERS

B.C.’s seniors watchdog is urging people 70 and older to get their third shot of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are invited to protect against waning immunity.

Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie says those 70 or older can receive their additional dose as soon as four months and ideally no more than six months after their second dose.

Most people in the community age 80 and older are due for their boosters now, Mackenzie said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We just want to make sure nobody falls through the cracks.

“Seniors absolutely need this booster for this enhanced protection. The evidence is clear that particularly in older adults, protection on average will wane over time.”

A study published Sept. 15 in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at people age 60 or older in Israel who had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least five months prior, and concluded rates of confirmed COVID-19 and severe illness were substantially lower among those who received a third dose.

Any senior who has not received an invitation to book a booster four to six months after their second shot should go to getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca or call 1-833-838-2323 toll-free to ensure they are registered, she said.

The province cautions that having the B.C. Vaccine Card or a vaccine passport does not ensure you are registered with the Get Vaccinated System.

Henne Stibbe, 81, of Saanich said Tuesday she called the province’s Get Vaccinated number twice on Nov. 8 to book her booster and was told she’s “not eligible,” she said.

“I said ‘that’s not what Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry said’ but they told me: ‘We don’t have that information.’”

Stibbe’s second dose was June 26 at the Victoria Convention Centre and she has not yet been invited for her third.

Stibbe said she’s registered for the COVID-19 vaccine and has her digital proof of vaccination card.

“I said I don’t have to get the shot now, it can be January or February, I’m just trying to do my thing.”

Stibbe called the Get Vaccinated line again Tuesday and said she was denied a booking by the call taker and the supervisor she requested. She tried to follow up with calls to the deputy health minister’s office and Island Health in unsuccessful attempts to get answers.

Henry said recently that boosters are being given based on risk but will soon be available to everyone six months after their second dose, likely in the new year.

The province says almost 327,000 British Columbians have received a third COVID-19 vaccine dose so far, including almost all residents and staff of long-term care, assisted living and independent living facilities, seniors in the community age 70 and older, Indigenous people over 18, people who live in rural and remote Indigenous communities, and people deemed clinically extremely vulnerable.

The Get Vaccinated phone centre is open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m, for questions or to verify your registration, at 1-833-838-2323.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com