B.C. residents will begin receiving invitations this week to get their fourth COVID-19 vaccinations, if all goes to plan.
The province said it’s scheduling the long-awaited roll-out to coincide with the delivery of its first shipment of Moderna’s new Omicron-targeting vaccine, which is expected to arrive by Friday (Sept. 9).
The new bivalent vaccine is designed to recognize and fight off various forms of COVID-19, including the most pervasive subvariant: Omicron BA.1. Health Canada approved its use on Sept. 1.
In B.C., it will be offered to adults aged 18 and up, and immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable youth aged 12 to 17. The remainder of youth will have access to a fourth dose of already-available vaccines, while those aged five to 11 can receive a Pfizer Pediatric booster.
As usual, invitations will be distributed on a priority-basis, with health care workers, those aged 60 and older, immunocompromised people, Indigenous people and people living in congregate settings such as long-term care given access first. From there, the province will consider how long it has been since a person received their last dose or were infected with COVID. It recommends that people wait six months from their third vaccination and three to six months from their last infection to get boosted again.
In total, the province said Tuesday (Sept. 6) it will be issuing about four million invitations through its Get Vaccinated BC system.
It said it will slowly ramp up vaccination capacity throughout September as more Moderna bivalent doses are delivered, first through about 517 pharmacies, and then through health clinics as well by Sept. 19.
About 109,000 doses are expected to arrive this week, with an other 300,000 scheduled for the week of Sept. 12 and 400,000 per week anticipated from there out. If Health Canada approves Pfizer’s new bivalent vaccine, B.C. says it will be receiving about 250,000 doses of it per week by Sept. 19.
By the end of September, the province says it should be able to vaccinate 280,000 people a week.
Beginning in early October, British Columbians will have the option to receive their COVID-19 and influenza shots at the same time. About 250,000 people will be able to be vaccinated a week at that point.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday she expects COVID-19 to surge again in November and December.
“It is clear that COVID-19 will be with us for the long term.”
She also said this year will be a particularly bad one for the flu (influenza).
As of Tuesday, more than 91 per cent of British Columbians aged 12 and up have received two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and just over 60 per cent have a third dose. Among those aged five to 11, 46.5 per cent have their second dose. First doses have been administered to another 17,500 British Columbians under the age of five.
Invitations for fall boosters will come via email or text through the Get Vaccinated BC system. People can now update their contact information in the system as well.
New arrivals to the province are encouraged to upload their COVID vaccination records to immunizationrecord.gov.bc.ca in order to become eligible for boosters as well.