British Columbia

Omicron vaccine available to most in B.C. by end of October, health officials say

British Columbia's top doctor and health minister say most residents should expect to be able to receive a COVID-19 booster targeting the original Omicron variant this month or in October.

Updated Moderna vaccine targets BA.1 subvariant, not currently circulating BA.5

A girl receives a vaccine in a convention hall. Behind her, dozens more people are seen getting vaccinated.
A COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Jan. 13. Updated vaccines targeting the original Omicron variant of COVID-19 will be widely available in October, according to authorities. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

British Columbia's top doctor and health minister say most residents should expect to be able to receive a COVID-19 booster targeting the original Omicron variant this month or in October.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement the province is set to begin distributing doses of Moderna's newly approved vaccine as soon as supply arrives, with more information coming next Tuesday.

Health Canada approved the so-called "bivalent'' vaccine that also targets the original strain of the virus earlier on Thursday.

Henry and Dix describe the shot as more effective at protecting people from serious illness caused by Omicron. However, the Omicron subvariant most prevalent in B.C. is now the BA.5 variant, not the BA.1 variant targeted by the vaccine.

Health Canada does say clinical trials suggest the new vaccine still elicits a "stronger immune response" against the more recent mutations of Omicron — BA.4 and BA.5 — which are now dominant.

Moderna is providing Canada with 12 million doses of the vaccine.

Officials are expected to provide further information about timing and eligibility for the shots on Sept. 6.

Henry and Dix say the vaccine will arrive over several weeks, and shots will be available at health authority clinics and pharmacies.

Currently, in B.C., 2.8 million third doses have been given out, as well as over 550,000 fourth doses.

Omicron subvariants currently represent more than 90 per cent of the virus circulating in Canada, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

With files from Nick Boisvert

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