Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. expands access to 2nd COVID-19 boosters to residents 50 and over

Starting next Wednesday, anyone over 50 years old in Newfoundland and Labrador can get a second COVID-19 vaccine booster dose, as the province prepares to push back against the highly transmissible BA.5 variant. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says hospitalizations expected to increase

N.L. offers 2nd COVID-19 booster to those over 50

3 months ago
Duration 0:49
Newfoundland and Labrador is opening up eligibility for a second COVID-19 booster shot to anyone over 50, but the chief medical officer of health says there are many things to consider before getting another dose.

Starting next Wednesday, anyone over 50 years old in Newfoundland and Labrador can get a second COVID-19 vaccine booster dose, as the province prepares to push back against the highly transmissible BA.5 variant. 

In a briefing on Wednesday, her first since May, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the new mutation — a subvariant of Omicron — doesn't appear to cause more severe disease, but it can evade immunity a little better. 

"We can expect to see an increase in hospitalizations as well over the next two to three weeks," she said. "The increase in cases is expected given what we are seeing in other jurisdictions with the BA.5 subvariant."

She said the next wave isn't expected to be any worse than ones the province has already seen, with hospitalizations possibly peaking at the end of July or into August. About 30 people are expected to be in hospital at the height of the wave.

Appointments will be available starting next week for those who who had their last booster at least 20 weeks ago.

But even with the BA.5 variant spreading quickly, isolation requirements in N.L. aren't changing, said Fitzgerald.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate for seven days from the date of their first symptom.

Fitzgerald said Public Health will look at reducing the amount of time required for self-isolation once there's a decrease in COVID-19 activity and a sustained decrease in hospitalizations. 

Fall increase expected

While Public Health expects an increase in cases in the coming weeks, Fitzgerald said they're also gearing up for a spike in the fall as people move back inside. 

Anyone looking to get their next booster dose should consider doing so then, she said, when it may be the best time to add protection against the fast-spreading virus. 

At that time, Fitzgerald said, there may even be new vaccines targeted toward the Omicron variant. 

Watch the full July 13 briefing:

"The timing of your second booster is a choice only you must make. It's not always easy and I encourage you to consult reliable sources of information when making the decision and discuss it with your health-care provider," she said.

Recommendations for fourth vaccine doses came from Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization earlier this month as officials hope to limit spread of the virus in the fall.

Fitzgerald's announcement comes a day after New Brunswick changed its vaccination guidelines to allow anyone over 18 to get a second booster dose, as long as five months have passed since their third dose.

The change was made due to the emergence of BA.5, which has overtaken Omicron as the dominant strain of the virus in some provinces, including New Brunswick and Ontario.

As the new variant is more transmissible, said Fitzgerald, public health wants to keep the increase in new cases and hospitalizations as low as possible.

She emphasized the use of masks as a way to slow the spread but added there's no talk of making masks mandatory again.

"I know it has been a long two years, and we are all very tired of COVID and still we have to remain vigilant and do what we can to live with COVID-19," said Fitzgerald. 

"Vaccination is crucial in this regard. It is important to get every vaccine dose that you are eligible for, even if you have already had a COVID-19 infection. You should be recovered and have no symptoms at the time of your vaccine appointment."

Weekly update

Meanwhile, the province reported four new deaths in the week since the last pandemic update. 

Two people were 80 or older and two were in their 60s. Three were in the Eastern Health region and one was in the Western Health region. 

The province also reported 388 new cases in the last week: 77 on Thursday, 70 on Friday, 77 on Saturday, 24 on Sunday, 13 on Monday, 59 on Tuesday and 68 on Wednesday.

Those numbers, however, aren't a true reflection of the spread of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador since the Health Department restricted tested administered by the province's health authorities and no longer updates the data on how many tests are being completed. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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