Alberta rolling out 3rd COVID-19 vaccine dose for long-term care, immunocompromised

The province plans to being offering third vaccine doses to residents living in congregate care facilities as well as immunocompromised Albertans who may be at a higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Province estimates 118,000 people qualify in first round

A third dose will also be made available to Albertans travelling to a location that does not accept visitors vaccinated with Covishield/AstraZeneca or mixed doses. (Alberta Health Services)

Alberta Health will start offering a third dose of vaccine to a limited number of Albertans on Wednesday. 

In a Monday news release, the province identified seniors in congregate care facilities and immunocompromised Albertans as the first group to qualify for the additional doses, which it said will boost immunity levels and improve protection for all those in the group.

Doses will also be available to Albertans who are travelling to a location that does not accept visitors vaccinated with Covishield/AstraZeneca or mixed doses.

Immunocompromised conditions that qualify for an additional dose at least eight weeks after a second dose include:

  • Transplant recipients, including solid organ transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants.
  • Individuals with chronic kidney disease who are receiving regular dialysis.
  • Individuals in active cancer treatment (chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapies), excluding those receiving only hormonal therapy, radiation therapy or surgery.
  • Individuals on certain medications for autoimmune diseases

According to the province, 118,000 people will now qualify for a third dose. 

The news was welcomed by medical professionals who were taking part in an online COVID-19 update that is meant to 'fill the void' that has been left by a lack of updates from provincial officials. 

Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious diseases clinician and researcher and the University of Alberta, is glad to see the targeted approach the province is taking with the roll out of the third dose. 

"We know that they don't mount proper immune responses after the vaccine," Dr. Schwartz said. "[But], We don't have a great correlation for how that translates into people being vulnerable for an infection. 

"So we know that when you give them a third dose it does increase the [efficacy and response from the vaccine] and the number of individuals that have antibodies. We think particularly for this vulnerable group of patients that that is a good thing."

But he worries about that starting to roll out third doses already could lead to vaccine inequity issues. 

"I think that it does become a slippery slope if this does become the standard of care or routine."

Dr. Neeja Bakshi specializes in internal medicine at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton and has been working on the hospitals COVID ward the last 18 months. She was also a part of the Protect our Province update on Monday and echoed Schwartz's concerns. 

"I think its important to address, are we doing everything that we can possibly to improve the inequity in this province for those who have not had access to their first or second dose," Bakshi said.