Manitoba expands 3rd dose eligibility to everyone 18 and up
3rd doses primarily recommended for those at greatest risk of exposure or serious outcomes of infection
Manitoba is extending eligibility for third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to everyone in the province 18 and up, and officials stress vulnerable Manitobans and those who care for them are the primary targets.
A minimum of six months is required between second and third doses, except in some rare cases, provincial officials said in news release Wednesday.
"Right now a combination of waning immunity for some individuals and too many people who are still unvaccinated is a health risk that we want to avoid as much as possible," Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine task force, said during a news conference.
The announcement represents a shift away from eligibility-based criteria to restrict who can and can't receive a booster dose, Reimer said.
The latest move also comes as Manitoba's fourth wave mounts, with a disproportionate number of recent cases coming from the Southern Health region. That region has 15 per cent of Manitoba's population but accounts for about half of active cases provincewide.
The region's test positivity rate hit 15.6 per cent Wednesday, according to internal provincial data leaked to the CBC, compared to 3.4 per cent in Winnipeg and 6.2 per cent provincially.
Southern Health has the lowest vaccination rate of the five Manitoba regions, with just over 68 per cent of eligible residents vaccinated. Prairie Mountain is the next lowest at nearly 82 per cent.
Though vaccines offer robust protection, Reimer repeated they aren't perfect; it's possible to get infected or spread COVID-19 even after you've received two doses.
But on any given day lately, infection rates range from six to nine times higher in unvaccinated Manitobans, and hospitalization rates range from 10 to 20 times higher, she said.
"It's dramatically different," she said.
The top priority is still to immunize everyone who has yet to receive a first and second dose, Reimer said.
Third doses are primarily recommended for those at higher risk of suffering serious outcomes, including hospitalization and death, as well as those who work with vulnerable patients.
That includes health-care workers, people 70 and over, those living in personal care homes or congregate settings including assisted living, pregnant people and Indigenous people. The same goes for people with some chronic health conditions, including cardiac or pulmonary disorders, diabetes, obesity and a range of others listed on the province's eligibility webpage.
Reimer said data suggests those at greater risk of adverse outcomes are experiencing waning immunity more over time than other groups, which underscores the need for those people to get third doses.
So far, Manitoba has doled out 47,000 third doses, including to the above groups and those who received a third dose for travel purposes, Reimer said. Manitoba previously extended third doses to travellers who received different shots for their first two doses, as some countries will only allow entry to those who have received two doses of the same vaccine.
In addition to the third-dose eligibility announcement, the province says Manitoba will get 2,250 does of the single-dose Janssen vaccine, also known as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Those shots will then be available to adults only at pharmacies and medical clinics. Despite originally being designed as a "one and done" vaccine, Manitoba officials now recommend those who receive the Janssen jab also later receive a second dose of either of the two mRNA-based vaccines.
Officials mull more restrictions
During the news conference, Manitoba Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin also hinted that more public health restrictions could be on the way due to rising cases and hospitalizations.
"It's heartbreaking to still see Manitobans suffering from severe outcomes when, you know, almost always it could've been prevented by simply getting a vaccine," he said.
"I think this is a very frustrating time, a very disappointing time for Manitobans."
Manitoba reported 143 new cases Wednesday, two more deaths, and 143 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 28 in intensive care. Roussin said if the current trajectory holds, Manitoba's health-care system could again be overwhelmed in the near future.
"The numbers are concerning. They've been concerning for a while," said Roussin, who would not specify what kind of additional measures could be on the way.
"We are actively working on what the response is."
WATCH | COVID-19 update: Nov. 10, 2021:
- We initially reported that there were 111 patients in hospital with COVID-19 on Wednesday. In fact, there were 143.Nov 10, 2021 2:39 PM CT