Manitoba

Manitoba adults over 60, all First Nation adults eligible for third dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Manitoba is expanding the third-dose eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine just in time for the holiday season. All Manitobans over the age of 60 and all adults on First Nations can immediately receive a third dose of the vaccine if they've received their second dose on or before July 10, the province announced Friday afternoon.

Announcement reduces waiting period to 5 months from 6

All Manitobans over 60 and all adults on First Nations can immediately receive a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine if they've received their second dose on or before July 10, the province announced Friday. (CBC Manitoba)

Manitoba is expanding third-dose eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine just in time for the holiday season.

All Manitobans over the age of 60 and all adults on First Nations can immediately receive a third dose of the vaccine if they've received their second dose on or before July 10, the province announced Friday afternoon.

This announcement reduces the waiting period between second and third doses for those eligible persons to five months from six.

All other adults still have to wait six months between second and third doses.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, says this is designed as a temporary measure to avoid risks associated with the holiday season, a time when many Manitobans gather in large groups.

"Going below five months really does undermine the effectiveness of the booster, and we just didn't feel comfortable going below that five-month mark because it would have a bigger impact on the strength and the length of time this booster will be effective," Reimer said.

She says a full two weeks may not be needed after receiving the booster shot to see a faster rise in antibodies, but it is recommended. 

Dr. Joss Reimer is the medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Reimer also noted that approximately 107,000 of Manitobans have already received their third dose of the vaccine. However, the number accounts for less than half of those eligible for the booster shot, although it includes boosters and those who received the third dose due for reasons related to travel or immunocompromised people. 

The province explored lowering the eligible age to receive third doses before settling on 60.

"That's really where we start to see a pretty steep increase in risk of hospitalization, and so for those individuals the benefit of going early rather than waiting until after  the family gatherings is probably there," Reimer said.

Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead of Manitoba's First Nation Pandemic response team, called it welcome news ahead of holiday gatherings as it will help protect First Nations people at greater risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.

Currently, First Nations uptake on third doses is lower than it could be. As of Thursday, a little more than 11,200 of 29,600 eligible First Nations people had received a third dose.

The slow uptake is "concerning," Anderson said.

Dr. Marchia Anderson, public health lead of Manitoba's First Nation pandemic response team, says news of reducing the time for third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is welcome news in First Nations communities. (Ian Froese/CBC)

She believes this could be the result of only approximately 20 of 63 Manitoba First Nations communities having active cases of coronavirus.

"If you live in a community with lower case counts, please don't be lulled into thinking that you can put off your booster dose or that it won't make a difference, or that it's not necessary," Anderson said.

She strongly encourages anyone who is eligible to receive their third dose of the vaccine to do so before the holiday season arrives.

"What we have seen, though, is that when a COVID-19 cluster starts, it can spread rapidly in our communities," she said.

Reimer says there is still an expectation of a small uptick in cases stemming from the holidays, and "just that alone is concerning."

As such, she cautions Manitobans from avoiding large gatherings, even as the holiday season approaches.

Second dose for children can be booked

The province also announced Friday that second-dose bookings for children age five to 11 can be booked in advance.

Manitoba recommends kids in this age category receive their second dose of vaccine eight weeks after their first dose. This period of time between doses has been shown to provide a stronger immune response over time.

However, in First Nations communities, the province says there needs to be a minimum of 21 days between first and second doses for these kids.

Pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine are available in every First Nation community.

"We would ideally like to see about 8,000 more doses given before the winter school break begins," Anderson said.

If this mark is reached, she says, that would mean approximately 90 per cent of children age five to 11 living on reserve would have received their first dose of the vaccine.

"With the with the omicron variant in Manitoba and beginning to spread, it's even more urgent that people get their vaccine before gathering for the holidays," Anderson said.

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