British Columbians with the highest risk of severe illness can start getting COVID-19 boosters next month, provincial health officials announced Friday (March 10).
The boosters will be available to non-Indigenous individuals aged 80 years and old and Indigenous individuals aged 70 and older, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news conference with Health Minister Adrian Dix.
“We also be focusing on seniors in long-term care.”
Non-Indigenous individuals aged 60 years and older and Indigenous individuals aged 50 years and older who have not yet had COVID-19 can also consider getting boosted, Henry said.
“For everybody who is recommended in this spring booster program, the dose should be at six months or more after you have had either your previous infection or your last dose,” she said. “So that means for the most part, we are going to be starting in April.”
Henry said everyone else won’t receive much additional protection from a booster, but anybody interested can contact health care providers.
While global immunity is high and the virus is less severe, Henry nonetheless warned against complacency.
“We are not at the end of the pandemic yet,” she said. “We are still emerging from that.”
COVID-19 is circulating at a relatively high level and the virus is still changing, she said. “We will be in a very similar situation (in the fall),” she said.
“This virus is going to be with us for the foreseeable future.”
Henry also predicted more COVID-19 variants circulating in the future, leading to a likely notion that annual boosters will be the part of the future seasonal vaccination regimen.
Such an annual campaign would be available and broadly recommended to all, while still focused on more vulnerable populations, she said.
Or more optimistically, a pan-COVID vaccine might be available in the future.
“May be, we will only need to have a dose that will last us for longer than five or 10 years even,” she said. “That part is speculation.”
Friday’s booster announcement was just hours after the provincial government had lifted the vaccine mandate for all public service employees minus health care workers.
Henry said the vaccination mandate for health care workers remains in place because health care facilities have the highest risk for workers, patients and residents in care, adding that she doesn’t expect that to change.
“I don’t expect it to change either,” Dix added.
British Columbians can “likely” get a COVID-19 boosters in the fall as part of a campaign that might become an annual ritual like the a flu-vaccination campaign.
The world is nearing the three-year anniversary of the then-novel coronavirus touching down, sparking global lock downs and months of social restrictions in efforts to minimize spread.