Manitobans 70 and older, Indigenous people 18 and up now eligible for 3rd doses of COVID-19 vaccine
3rd dose should be given at least 6 months after last dose received, province says
Manitobans 70 and up and all First Nations, Métis and Inuit people 18 and older are now eligible for a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The third dose should be given at least six months after the last dose received, provincial health officials said Wednesday.
The booster is available to all Indigenous adults living on or off reserve, and to all Manitobans 70 and up, regardless of where they live, said Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of the province's vaccine implementation task force.
The third shots are being offered to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases that occur in people who are fully immunized but may be at risk as immunity reduces over time.
"We expect to see increases in breakthrough cases compared to what we may have had months ago, just because of that waning immunity, which is why we're recommending the boosters for [those groups]," Reimer said in an online news conference on Tuesday.
"We'll continue to monitor closely and if we see any other trends that are unexpected, we can always change our recommendations."
Third doses are available at many medical clinics, pharmacies, urban Indigenous sites and other vaccine clinics throughout the province.
Public health officials recommend that people get an mRNA vaccine for their third dose — Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna — and whenever possible, that dose should be the same as the previous one.
Either mRNA vaccine is safe to receive.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization on Friday advised that adults over 80 "should" be offered a booster shot because they are among the populations "at highest risk of waning protection following their primary series and at highest risk of severe COVID-19 illness."
However, adults 70 and up "may" be offered a booster shot, because they "may be at increased risk of lower protection over time since vaccination [or] increased risk of severe illness."
Indigenous communities at risk
First Nations people living on reserve were previously eligible for the booster shot, but the province expanded that on Wednesday to include Métis and Inuit people, both on and off reserve.
That's in response to health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living in Manitoba, said Dr. Marcia Anderson, the public health lead of the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team.
"Across Canada, we know that the rate of active COVID-19 cases started rising in First Nations communities again in August, and was 4.2 times higher than the rate in the general population as of Oct. 12," she said during the online news conference.
"Pre-existing gaps in health experienced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples also result in higher rates of severe outcomes."
The proportion of Indigenous people with at least one underlying health condition that's associated with severe outcomes from COVID-19 is higher than it is for other Canadians, Anderson said.
As of Wednesday, 87 per cent of eligible Manitobans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83.9 per cent have had both.
More than 2,000 doses are scheduled to be given on Wednesday.
The province has given medical exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine to only 18 people as of Friday, Reimer said.