COVID-19: Vaccine experts encourage Nova Scotians to get a booster as uptake stalls

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Nova Scotians age 70 and older are now eligible to get their second booster shot for COVID-19.

For the most part older Nova Scotians have been answering the call to get vaccinated, but health officials say younger demographics have been lagging when it comes to boosters, something that’s common across the country.

“We got off to a really good start, we had very good uptake of the first and second doses, things have slowed down a little bit for the third doses,” said Scott Halpern, director of Canadian Centre for Vaccinology.

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Across the country, only about 57 per cent of Canadians over the age of 18 have received a booster shot.

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In Nova Scotia that number is slightly higher, with nearly 65 per cent of adults having had a third dose, but it’s a noticeable drop from the 87 per cent of individuals who rolled up their sleeves for the primary series.

“I think there’s a bit of fatigue, and I think the message is a lot more subtle now than it used to be,” said Halpern.

Initially, the message was that vaccines protect you from getting infected and protect you from getting severe disease but that changed with Omicron.

“What we’re seeing is you still may get infected but the vaccine still prevents serious disease,” he said.

“What we’re missing is the subtlety … it’s still worthwhile to get the vaccine, it’s not an all-or-nothing grand-slam home run by getting the vaccine, but you’re still protected and it’s still having an advantage.”

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Halpern is among a group of experts with the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network (CoVaRR-Net) encouraging Canadians to understand the importance of third and fourth doses. He says while he understands the fatigue, the evidence that vaccines work is in the hospitalization rates.

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In Nova Scotia, the number of individuals in hospital has been remaining steady during the Omicron wave, but despite seeing record levels of infections, there are no record levels of hospitalizations.

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“What’s important is, overall, how is this vaccine doing and without the vaccines where would we be?” said Halpern. “We would be in a lot worse position without the vaccines and we would be in a lot better position if everyone got their booster.”

Nova Scotians can book their booster dose 168 days after the completion of their primary series however those who have had COVID are asked to wait three months after first testing positive. For those eligible for a second booster dose, an appointment can be booked 120 days after the first booster.

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