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Province to offer fourth COVID-19 vax doses to at-risk British Columbians

Government also confirms it will be lifting vaccine card requirements
pharmacy vaccine rk
People head to a Vancouver pharmacy for their vaccine shot

The province will be embarking on a spring COVID-19 vaccine campaign, offering fourth doses to British Columbians deemed most at risk.

Those 70 and up, residents of long-term care homes and Indigenous people over the age of 55 are eligible for this latest round of booster doses, provincial officials said Tuesday.

“It may be that we will recommend a booster dose for more people,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie said, adding she does not foresee offering boosters to the general population in the near future.

“It could be that we’ll need maybe an annual booster.”

The unveiling of B.C.’s plans come hours after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended provinces prepare for the “rapid deployment” of a second series of COVID-19 booster shots. A second booster dose would be the fourth overall dose for the vast majority of Canadians who received two jabs as part of their primary COVID-19 vaccination series.

NACI said provinces should aim to have those second booster doses in the arms of recipients six months after their previous shot.

B.C. provided most booster doses to the general population in January and February, while those considered to be more at risk received their jabs in the weeks prior.

Going by NACI’s recommendations, the latest booster dose campaign would begin in late May or early June.

Meanwhile, the province also confirmed in an unattributed press briefing Tuesday it will be lifting its vaccine card program Friday, April 8. Henry previously floated that end date last month, but left the door open to reinstating the B.C. vaccine card program should circumstances change.

B.C. business will still be allowed to require that patrons provide proof of vaccination should they wish. 

For example, organizers at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival told BIV last week that, at least for now, vaccine cards would be required for entry into the July 15-17 outdoor event.

“Some smaller shops that can get more crowded, they also want to keep requirements for mask-wearing or for people to have to be vaccinated,” Henry said.

Despite the loosening of restrictions, provincial officials also confirmed Tuesday they were moving ahead with the February order requiring regulated health professionals get vaccinated against COVID-19.

This order applies to health professionals such as dentists, massage therapists and more.

Officials said they were still working with professional colleges to compile vaccination data.

It still has not been determined yet whether patients will be able to access a central database disclosing a practitioner’s vaccination status or if it will be left to the health professional to inform patients.

In the meantime, the province will be releasing broader data showing the rates at which those groups of professionals are vaccinated.

B.C. also revealed Tuesday it’s lifting post-secondary residence vaccine requirement, owing to high rates of immunization among young people.

And after extensive delays, Henry confirmed the Novavax vaccine has arrived in Canada and will be made available to British Columbians in the coming days.

Novavax is a protein-based vaccine approved for use for those ages 18 and up, and can serve as an alternative to mRNA vaccines such as the products made by Pfizer plc and Moderna Inc. 

Henry said previously it was safe to mix and match the Novavax with any of the mRNA and viral vector vaccines should a recipient choose to do so.

torton@biv.com

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