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Appointments triple after B.C. expands 2nd booster access

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The number of people seeking second COVID-19 booster vaccinations in British Columbia tripled week-over-week after the province grudgingly expanded access to the shots

Starting on Monday, adults who were at least least six months past their last dose were eligible for their fourth. The Ministry of Health tells CTV News on that day 1,356 people got their second booster, compared to 468 the previous Monday.

In the past week a total of 32,477 second booster doses were administered in B.C., which lags behind most of Canada in fourth dose uptake due to limited access. 

The province had come under increasing pressure to expand access beyond those aged 70 and older or with defined, serious health issues after Quebec allowed all adults to get their second booster and an increasing number of British Columbians drove to Washington state to get boosted there.

When she announced the policy change Friday, the head of B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program repeatedly emphasized they would prefer for people to get their fourth dose of the vaccine starting in September, when the respiratory illness season starts ramping up, but acknowledged some people may want the extra protection now that B.C. is grappling with a new wave of infections and hospitalizations driven by an Omicron sub-variant.

TROUBLING PREDICTIONS FROM MODELLING GROUP

The academics and independent scientists analyzing pandemic trends for the B.C. COVID-19 modelling group warn that – while variations in infections and vaccinations in population, plus limited data, make it tough to predict in detail – the current wave will be ugly.

“(Omicron sub-variant) BA.5 is rising and it's rising pretty quickly, so we expect to see this next BA.5 wave really take off through July, peaking sometime in August," said group member and UBC biomathematics professor Sarah Otto.

“It tends to be a little less severe and tends to be an upper airway infection, but there've been so many people getting infected with these Omicron strains that it can put a huge burden on hospitalizations and deaths."

She’s urging anyone with health issues or spending time with those most at risk to consider getting their second booster now, pointing out that antibodies from previous vaccinations and infections have mostly faded within six months.

ONTARIO FOLLOWS B.C.

Ontario made a similar announcement to B.C.’s expansion offer on Wednesday, opening availability to second boosters, but with the same advice to wait until fall, particularly for those who are young, healthy and have already had their first booster.

Despite the confusion and conflicting information put forward by B.C. public health agencies via text messages and social media messaging, Dr. Penny Ballem was clear that for those who want a booster before the fall, “you can call the call centre now and we’ll arrange for you to have a booster now.”

Information on how to book a COVID-19 booster shot is available online through the Immunize BC website or via the helpline at 1-833-838-2323.

Health professionals and experts of all stripes emphasize the third dose, or first booster, is particularly important and have urged officials to update the definition of "fully vaccinated" as a result. 

Are you an adult six months past your last vaccination and refused a booster? We want to hear from you.

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