British Columbia will offer a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to about 100,000 “moderately to severely” immunocompromised residents.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, described this group as “clinically extremely vulnerable people,” whose first two doses of the vaccine may not have provided them with the same level of protection provided to others.
“We now know that adding a third dose can actually stimulate a response for many people that gives them as much protection or at least some protection closer to what people with a strong immune system have,” she said in a Tuesday press briefing.
The booster shot will be offered by invitation only to residents who have been under active treatment for solid blood tumours since March 2020, and are or have received systemic therapies, such as chemotherapy, hormonal or molecular therapy.
Invitations will also be sent to those who have solid tumours or hematological cancers, and those who, since October 2020, have received or are receiving radiation therapy for cancer.
Other eligible residents include those with certain combined immune deficiencies; diagnosed moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency that requires ongoing immunoglobin replacement therapy or has a confirmed genetic cause; and AIDS-defining illness.
British Columbians who are 65 or older and HIV-positive, or who were born with HIV should also receive invitations, said Henry, as should multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and dialysis patients.
A complete list of eligible residents is available on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s website, and Henry said the specialists who are treating most of these eligible residents have already been contacted about a third dose.
Those who believe they’re eligible in any of the categories listed on the website and do not receive an invitation by next week, added Henry, can contact their health-care provider to ask about receiving the third dose.
Last week, Henry extended third dose eligibility to long-term care residents in the province.
She declined to extend third doses to British Columbians who have mixed vaccine doses, and want to travel to countries that don’t recognize their particular combination.
On Tuesday, she reinforced that all vaccines offered in Canada, in “every combination” are highly effective.
“For those who have taken AstraZeneca, who have taken the vaccine that was offered to you at the first opportunity, you did the right thing,” she said. “Your efforts have helped reduce the spread of this virus in B.C.”
B.C. public health officials are working with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, she added, to ensure Canada has a “single, internationally-recognized vaccine passport” that includes all vaccine combinations that have been offered.
The United States will update its vaccine requirements in the weeks approaching a possible land border reopening, she added, and the province is working with the U.S. Centre for Disease Control to make sure the Canadian vaccine combinations are recognized.
“So please be patient,” she asked, adding that B.C. is also working with the United Kingdom and European Union to bring everyone on the same page.
“This is changing rapidly and we know that we will have updates in the coming weeks.”
Henry also reported that B.C. will be returning 300,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine to the federal government to vaccinate others around the world. The doses are not needed in the province, she explained and will support the global effort to end the pandemic.
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