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B.C. residents cross border for 2nd booster in Washington state


With limited access to second boosters at home, a growing number of British Columbians have been considering a trip into Washington state for a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Vancouver resident Gary Shuster made the drive to Ferndale, Wash., last week, after being refused another booster in his home province.

Shuster, who is a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S., described the process of getting a fourth dose across the border as simple and painless.

“If I’d been a Canadian citizen only, it would have been free,” he told CTV News. “Because I’m a dual citizen, I did pay for it with my taxes.”

According to the Washington Department of Health website, citizenship is not required to get a free COVID-19 vaccine in the state, nor is any form of health insurance

“That means you do not need a social security number, or other documents with your immigration status, to get the vaccine. Some vaccine providers might ask for a social security number, but you do not have to give one,” the site reads.

So far, the U.S. government’s approach to second boosters has been much more inclusive than Canada’s. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control has deemed anyone 12 and older who is moderately or severely immunocompromised eligible for a fourth dose. Anyone age 50 and older can also get one, regardless of their overall health.

For now, British Columbia is only offering second boosters to anyone age 70 and older, Indigenous residents age 55 and older, people living in long-term care homes, and those considered extremely clinically vulnerable to severe infection.

Approximately 112,000 fourth doses have been given out so far, and the province expects to administer hundreds of thousands more over the coming weeks.

Even if he hadn't already crossed into Washington, Shuster would not have been among the recipients. Though he has an extremely rare disorder called carnitine palmitoyltransferase II deficiency, a genetic mutation affecting his muscles, it does not qualify him for a second booster in B.C.

“All the specialists think it’s a high-risk condition, but for whatever reason it’s not on B.C.’s list of high-risk conditions,” Shuster told CTV News.

The lack of vaccine access at home would be less frustrating if the province were still mandating masks and other precautionary measures, he added.

“The province originally took the position that we were going to take steps to protect people,” Shuster said.

“Now the government says to protect yourself, but they don’t make the tools available to protect yourself. That’s a Catch 22 – that’s government not functioning.”

Other provinces have expanded access to fourth doses faster, including in Quebec, where they are now available to all adults. That approach goes far beyond the current recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. 

Asked about residents driving south to get boosted again in Washington state, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix stressed that his government is “following the science,” and the direction of federal officials.

He also noted that more than one million people in the province have been invited to book their first booster dose, but have yet to do so.

Dix encouraged others who rushed to get their third dose – and are now growing anxious about the possibility of waning protection – to be patient.

“I understand people’s fear and apprehension,” he added. “I’m living in this world, too.” Top Stories

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