Some British Columbians have begun receiving text messages to book a booster shot, as the province’s fall COVID-19 vaccination campaign gets underway.
The campaign is launching with a focus on vulnerable groups, including health-care workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable, Indigenous people and seniors.
And for the first time, a bivalent version of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine will be available to adults.
“It’s a vaccine that was specifically designed to be more effective against Omicron variants. It’s half and half — half the old vaccine, half the Omicron-specific vaccine,” explained Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Cenre.
“If you have issues with the mRNA vaccine, (the traditionally formulated) Novavax and Johnson and Johnson are also available if you make known this is your choice. There is no reason not to get vaccinated.”
Youth aged 12 to 17 years old will be offered the original formulations of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, while children aged five to 11 years old will be offered the milder pediatric version of those vaccines.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends people receive the bivalent booster at least six months after their last dose or COVID-19 infection. However, people at higher risk may need an earlier dose.
Adults will be eligible to book their bivalent booster once they receive a direct text message, but children and youth can book at any time. The province said it has already sent out 600,000 text notifications, and has 400,000 doses of the new vaccines in hand.
Pfizer’s version of a bivalent vaccine is expected to receive Health Canada approval later this fall, and B.C.’s health ministry says shipments could begin as soon as next week if the vaccine is green lit.
Starting in October, COVID shots will be co-administered with influenza vaccines.
With COVID now endemic in Canada, according to B.C.’s health minister, Conway said it is likely that fall booster shots — scheduled before respiratory illness season — will likely become an annual event.
“The long-term will be quite probably yearly COVID shots. This is the first of them,” he said.
“Much the same as your flu shot changes every year, taking into account the strains of influenza we expect to see in the upcoming winter.”