2nd COVID-19 boosters to be offered to New Brunswickers 50+
Shots will be available at participating pharmacies starting April 19, says Department of Health
New Brunswickers aged 50 or older will soon be able to get another booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
"Vaccines are our best defence against COVID-19 and its variants by helping to protect against severe outcomes related to the virus," Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, said in a statement Friday.
"Expanding booster eligibility will provide an extra layer of protection against the Omicron and BA.2 variants."
The decision is based on recent "initial guidance" from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, "along with demographic, epidemiologic, chronic disease burden, and hospitalization data specific to New Brunswick," according to a news release from the Department of Health.
Second booster doses will be available at participating pharmacies, starting April 19.
Public Health, in consultation with NACI, will continue to evaluate second booster doses for adults under 50, youth aged 12 to 17, those living in congregate or vulnerable settings, and those who work in vulnerable sectors, including health-care workers, the release said.
Until now, fourth doses in New Brunswick have only been available to severely to moderately immunocompromised people aged 12 and older, five months after their third dose.
Public Health is "strongly recommending" a second booster dose for people aged 70 or older and long-term care residents, "as age is one of the highest risk factors for severe outcomes and hospitalization."
First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 or over, as well as any New Brunswicker aged 50 to 69, can receive a second booster if it has been at least five months since their last dose.
Anyone who has been recently infected with COVID-19 should wait three months before receiving a booster dose, the release advised. For example, if it has been four months since a last dose, but a person is just recovering from COVID-19, they will have to wait an additional three months to receive their booster dose.
'Rapid deployment' urged
Earlier this week, NACI issued a "strong" recommendation that provinces prepare for the "rapid deployment" of second COVID-19 booster shots for people aged 80 or older and those living in long-term care and other congregate settings.
In a statement released on Tuesday, NACI stressed the need to ward off "protection against severe disease potentially decreasing over time following the first booster dose" and mitigate the risk of highly transmissible variants that can evade immunity.
NACI also recommends provinces consider offering a second booster to people aged 70 to 79 in the community.
A second booster dose "may also be considered" for adults under 70 in or from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, in collaboration with health-care and Public Health partners, it said.
Second booster dose immunization programs for other high-risk groups and the general public "may be needed in the future if data suggest concerning trends in COVID-19 pandemic," it added.
NACI suggested provinces should provide second booster shots six months after people received their previous dose, but a shorter interval "may be warranted in some individuals in the context of the rapidly evolving pandemic," it said.
Hospitalizations at record high
New Brunswick reported nine more COVID-related deaths and 78 people in hospital because of the virus in its weekly update Tuesday, a new website called COVIDWATCH, which replaces the COVID-19 dashboard.
People who are initially admitted to hospital for another reason and later test positive for COVID are no longer included.
But Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell told CBC News the combined total is actually 178 — an increase of 36 from the previous week and a record high. The previous record was 165 on Feb. 2.
Nine people require intensive care.
There are 8,670 new cases of COVID, including 3,888 PCR-confirmed tests and 4,782 self-reported rapid tests. The province's active case count now stands at 6,134, an increase of 1,181.