VANCOUVER — British Columbia is gearing up for a major COVID-19 boostershot campaign this fall with the expectation that new vaccines tailored to combat the Omicron variant will be available. COVID-19 boosters will be available to people in BC
VANCOUVER — British Columbia is gearing up for a major COVID-19 boostershot campaign this fall with the expectation that new vaccines tailored to combat the Omicron variant will be available.
COVID-19 boosters will be available from September for people in BC ages 12 and older, said Dr. Penny Ballem, who leads the county’s COVID-19 immunization plan.
The invitations will go out Monday for the most vulnerable aged 65 and older, she said Friday.
The benefit of getting the second booster shot this fall is that new Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will likely be available that are better adapted to combat Omicron variants, she said.
The new vaccines still require approval from Health Canada, but the review process is ongoing, Ballem said.
“It’s all about the fall,” she said at a news conference. “We want you to wait until you get your next booster in the fall. Fall is the best time to get your next shot, when the risk is greatest.”
Nearly 94 percent of BC residents have had their first vaccine, 91.2 percent have had a second, but only 59.5 have received their first booster, she said.
Ballem said 1.3 million people in BC have yet to receive a third injection and should receive it immediately to ensure better protection against COVID-19.
People who feel they need their second booster now rather than the fall can contact health authorities and arrangements will be made to give them their chance, she said.
Ballem said officials also hope to get approval to start vaccinating children aged six months to four years by the end of July, but that also has yet to be approved by regulatory authorities.
Acting Provincial Health Officer Dr. Martin Lavoie said the fall booster campaign aims to provide the most protection to people from COVID-19.
“In the fall, especially in the winter, we know that respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, are expected to circulate in much greater numbers,” he said. “This is when a lot of people get sick, and this is when the risk of getting infected increases.”
He urged people who have not received their first booster dose to do so and encouraged everyone to continue practicing safe habits, including wearing masks, washing hands, keeping a safe distance and staying home when sick.
BC follows the most recent recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which says that people age 65 and older and others at risk for disease should receive a fall booster, while those between the ages of 12 and 64 are encouraged to get the shot.
Lavoie said the latest wave of the Omicron variant BA.5 is increasing hospital admissions.
He said vaccine makers have learned a lot about adapting to variants and that the developments are promising.
“What’s important to know now is that manufacturers have developed vaccines that are better adapted to Omicron, which is great news,” Lavoie said.
“As the virus gets further away from the vaccine we have now, we need to have a vaccine that is closely related to what’s circulating to be more effective,” he said.
Until now, BC has offered second booster shots for people 70 and older and Indigenous people 55 and older.
The most recent update from the BC Center for Disease Control reports 765 COVID-19 cases for the week of June 26 to July 2, up from 620 the week before.
It also states that there were 172 hospitalizations with COVID-19 in the week of June 26 to July 2, while there were 209 admissions the week before.
The center says there were 24 COVID-19-related deaths in the past week, compared to 33 deaths from June 19 to 25.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said 2.8 million people in BC have had their first booster but urged others to get their shot.
“Buy your first booster today. Do it today,” Dix said.
BC has a high vaccination coverage, but the numbers can always be improved, he said.
“As a community, we’ve adapted and adapted and adapted and we will have to continue to adapt,” Dix said.
— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 8, 2022.
The Canadian Press