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HomeWorld NewsHealthReady for a boost? What you need to know about B.C.'s fall...

Ready for a boost? What you need to know about B.C.’s fall COVID-19 vaccination program

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Provincial health authorities in B.C. are launching a booster shot campaign in the coming weeks, encouraging people five years and older to get another dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The province says if you haven’t had your second or third shot, you should get it as soon as possible. It also released new information for those waiting for a fourth dose.

Another big part of the fall rollout is a so-called combination vaccine that was approved by Health Canada Sept. 1.

Here’s what else you need to know about the new vaccine, when you should get your next shot and how you can sign up. This story will be updated as we learn more.

What’s the new vaccine?

The new vaccine is a combination — or bivalent — vaccine with a mixture of spike protein elements from both the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Omicron variant, BA.1.

“It means it’s updated and it can stimulate our immune system to give better protection against the variants that we’re seeing circulating right now,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told CBC’s On the Coast.

The bivalent vaccine will be available to all adults over the age of 18 as well as young people ages 12 to 17 who are at high risk of a severe outcome if they catch the virus.

While other vaccines with proteins from newer Omicron variants are in the works, the one produced by Moderna is the first to get Health Canada approval.

A Moderna vaccine bottle on a blue cloth.
Moderna has said it will supply Canada with 12 million doses of its COVID-19 shot adapted to target the Omicron variant. In B.C. those vaccines are expected to start being administered in the last three weeks of September. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press)

How do I sign up for a booster?

In order to get a first dose or a booster shot, you need to make sure you’re registered with the province’s Get Vaccinated system. You’ll need your full name, date of birth, postal code and personal health number (PHN) as well as an email address you check regularly. 

If you’re not able to register online — or don’t have a PHN — you can call 1-833-838-2323 or visit one of the Service B.C. locations listed here.

Where can I get my shot?

Appointments for booster shots will be available in community pharmacies and health authority clinics across the province. You’ll be able to pick a time that fits your schedule and the appointment should take 15 to 30 minutes.

Who can sign up first?

Much like when B.C. first started rolling out COVID-19 vaccines in the summer of 2021, the Ministry of Health says invitations to sign up for booster shots will be based on risk and age — as long as it’s been six months since the last dose.

People over the age of 60, Indigenous people of all ages, anyone who’s clinically extremely vulnerable and people such as health-care professionals who work with high-risk, vulnerable people remain priority groups.

Henry says priority will go to people over the age of 70 and anyone who’s immunocompromised. But parents and guardians with children who are heading back to school are also encouraged to sign up their kids for a booster, to make sure everyone in the classroom is protected and up-to-date with their vaccinations.

The ministry says invitations to register will start going out in the coming weeks and continue through October.

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks during a news conference about the province’s COVID-19 fall booster program in Vancouver on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

When should I get my next shot?

B.C. continues to recommend a six-month interval between doses and says it’s best to get a booster shot around periods of increased risk — such as the upcoming flu season.

For anyone who recently caught COVID, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says you can wait up to three months after you were sick to get a booster dose, though getting a shot after your symptoms have passed is OK too.

If you haven’t had a third dose, the Ministry of Health says you should get one as soon as possible, as your protection from severe illness related to COVID-19 decreases over time.

Which vaccine should I get for my booster?

B.C. hopes to offer the new bivalent vaccine to everyone in the province over the age of 18 who wants it — as a third or fourth dose — as well as vulnerable young people between the ages of 12 and 17.

Henry says the Moderna combination shot is strongly recommended for anyone who hasn’t had a third dose. The latest data shows 84 per cent of British Columbians have had two doses, but only 54 per cent have had three.

“For most of those people it’s been well over six months since their second dose,” said Henry. “So this is the booster dose to get, when it’s available in the next few weeks.”

If the bivalent vaccine isn’t available, the province will be administering the previously approved Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines. Anyone 18 and older who prefers a non-mRNA vaccine can receive the Novavax or Johnson & Johnson shots.

The province recommends that people book their fall booster appointments as soon as they receive an invitation to do so.

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