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BC unveils details of COVID booster shot, third dose program

British Columbians will become eligible for their COVID booster shot six to eight months after they receive their second dose, the province says.

Provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and executive lead of the province’s immunization rollout team, Dr Penny Ballem, made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The booster shot and third dose program will prioritize people who are at higher risk of severe illness. People who are immunosuppressed are included in the first phase (September-December), along with Indigenous people, people who live in long-term care facilities or assisted living facilities, those in independent living, and seniors above the age of 70. Healthcare workers who received their first and second doses in short intervals earlier this year are also included in this phase.

Between January and May 2022, booster shots will be offered to other clinically extremely vulnerable people, healthcare workers in acute care and long-term care followed by those who work in the community, and then all remaining eligible people aged 12+.

People who received a first or second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will receive one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) as their booster shot.

Booster shots will be offered through community clinics and through pharmacies. Once eligible, British Columbians will be invited to book their boosters through the province’s Get Vaccinated system. Drop-ins will not be available for second, third, or booster vaccinations.

Meanwhile, parents of kids under 12 can also register them online in anticipation of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines being approved by Health Canada for use in children. Once vaccines are approved, kids will be able to get vaccinated at clinics.

However, the definition of “fully immunized” will still apply to British Columbians who have received two doses of the vaccine, and there will be no changes to the vaccine card program.

“The immunity that we get from these vaccines wanes a little bit over time,” Henry said.

“[Booster doses] will be optional for most of us in the new year. It will give us more durable protection. Right now, I don’t have enough information to say it will be necessary for all of us.”

Henry said there have been breakthrough cases in older people with waning immune protection from the vaccine, and in communities where there are higher levels of transmission.

It comes after several outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living facilities in BC—including in Burnaby, where 80 residents have been infected and 13 people have died at Willingdon Care Centre.

Mike Klassen of the BC Care Providers Association told the Beacon earlier this month that that outbreak may have been avoided if residents had access to booster shots sooner.