B.C. encouraging those 12 and older to get 2nd COVID-19 booster this fall
Hospitalizations jumped 35% from previous week
B.C. health officials are encouraging British Columbians 12 years and older to get their second booster shots in the fall, the season when respiratory viruses are at their peak.
Until now, people 70 and older, those who are seriously immunocompromised and Indigenous people 55 years and older have been the only ones eligible for second boosters.
Dr. Penny Ballem, the executive lead of B.C.'s COVID-19 immunization plan, says for everyone else, it's best to wait to get their fourth shot so that their immunity is strongest during the fall when respiratory viruses are peaking.
"It's all about the fall. We want you to wait to get your next booster in the fall," she said Friday.
Those in special circumstances who feel they need a second booster sooner should contact the B.C. immunization call centre, she said.
The minimum recommended interval between first and second booster shots continues to be six months. However, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization notes that the interval could be shortened to three months "in the context of heightened epidemiologic risk".
As of now, 91.2 per cent of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated with two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, over 1.3 million people in that category — more than 40 per cent — have yet to receive a third dose.
Health officials also said that more tailored bivalent vaccines will be available by the fall.
B.C.'s acting provincial health officer Dr. Martin Lavoie said bivalent vaccines will provide immunity to the original coronavirus strain as well as the more contagious Omicron strain currently driving transmission across Canada.
Bivalent vaccines are still awaiting approval from Health Canada and are expected to first become available as mRNA shots from Pfizer and Moderna, he said.
"We have direct experience with COVID vaccines around the world. The manufacturers have developed a vaccine that better protects against Omicron [and it] seems to be very promising."
Ballem also hopes Health Canada will grant approval for vaccines for children aged six months to four years by the end of July.
British Columbia in 3rd Omicron wave
Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said cases in British Columbia are trending upwards, though not as significantly as hospitalizations.
He said the province continues to focus on immunization as its best defence against COVID-19, reiterating that vaccines continue to provide strong protection by making hospitalization five times less likely and death seven times less likely.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has warned that respiratory illness season will pose a challenge this fall.
"That is where we expect to be challenged again with COVID-19 and the need for people to get an extra dose in the fall, regardless of how many doses they've received so far," said Dix.
The province has thus far not signalled that any new public health restrictions are on the way to stem the new wave of Omicron, which is being driven by the BA.5 subvariant.