As a seventh wave of COVID-19 begins sweeping across Canada, with the Omicron BA.5 subvariant driving transmission, some provinces are expanding eligibility for a fourth dose of the vaccine.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released its guidance for a fall booster campaign late last month. The committee recommended that those with increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should be offered a shot in the fall, adding that anyone between the ages of 12 and 64 may also be eligible at that time.
Although all provinces are offering a fourth dose to eligible groups, as of June 19 just over half of Canadians have yet to receive their third dose, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
“I would really double down on those efforts, in terms of getting fourth doses into the most vulnerable and third doses into a lot of people who are still eligible but have not yet received them,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch.
While most provinces are already offering a fourth shot (or, for the general population, a second booster) to their most vulnerable residents, some — such as Quebec and Prince Edward Island — have expanded eligibility substantially.
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“Those who would most benefit from a fourth dose are people on the older end of the spectrum and people with underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk for severe infection,” Bogoch said, speaking specifically to the eligibility guidelines in July 2022.
“That’s what the data suggests,” he said. “So even if it’s opened up, just remember that’s who would most benefit from a fourth dose.”
CBC News has gathered eligibility guidelines from every province and territory.
The North and West Coast
Last week, the Yukon government expanded eligibility for a fourth shot.
All individuals 18 and older can now book a fourth shot if six months have passed since their third shot. Appointments begin on July 13. For those who have recently had COVID-19, a fourth shot (or second booster) is not recommended until three months have passed.
In the Northwest Territories, all individuals aged 50 and older and all immunocompromised people aged 12 and older are eligible to receive a fourth dose. In accordance with NACI’s guidelines, the territory recommends that individuals wait at least six months after their third dose before booking another shot.
Residents of Nunavut aged 18 and older are eligible for a fourth dose if it has been four and a half months since their last dose. Some jurisdictions are prioritizing specific age groups.
In British Columbia everyone aged 12 and up is encouraged to get a booster shot this fall if six months have passed since their last dose.
The groups currently eligible for a fourth dose are individuals aged 70 and older; people in long-term care or awaiting placement in long-term care; Indigenous people aged 55 and older; and all immunocompromised people.
In Alberta, those 70 and up are eligible for a fourth dose; First Nations, Métis and Inuit people aged 65 and older; and all seniors living in congregate care settings, regardless of age.
According to the most recently available data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, 38 per cent of Alberta’s population has received a third dose.
In Saskatchewan, all individuals 50 years and over are eligible for a fourth dose if it’s been at least four months since they received their last shot.
Groups eligible for a fourth dose of the vaccine in Manitoba are individuals aged 50 and older; First Nations, Inuit and Métis people aged 30 and up; residents of personal care homes and elderly people living in congregate settings; and moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals aged 18 to 49.
In Ontario, people aged 60 and older can get their fourth dose, as can Inuit, Métis and First Nations people who are 18 and older. The province’s chief medical officer of health will provide an update regarding access Wednesday morning. Quebec and Ontario officially entered the seventh wave of the pandemic last week, with the Omicron BA.5 subvariant dominating in both provinces.
Meanwhile, Quebec has expanded eligibility to all residents aged 18 and older, though a provincial spokesperson confirmed to CBC News that the province is prioritizing people 60 years and up, all individuals with underlying medical conditions, and anyone at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19.
The chief public health officer of Prince Edward Island announced last week that the province has expanded eligibility for a fourth shot to every resident aged 12 and up, as positive COVID-19 case numbers rise among Islanders.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, those eligible for a fourth dose of the vaccine are people aged 70 and older; all individuals living in a congregate setting for seniors; and Indigenous people or individuals living in a remote or isolated Indigenous community aged 18 and up.
As of Tuesday, all residents of New Brunswick aged 18 and up are eligible for a fourth dose of the vaccine if it has been five months since their last shot. Chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, announced the decision as hospitalizations rise across the province.
Nova Scotia’s current guidelines allow fourth doses for people aged 50 and older if 168 days have passed since their last dose.
For all residents of long-term care and senior congregate settings; members of First Nations communities who are 55 and older; and immunocompromised people aged 50 and older, the recommended interval between doses is 120 days.
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