Manitoba expands 3rd dose eligibility to everyone 18 and up

Manitoba is extending eligibility for third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to everyone in the province 18 and up.

A minimum of six months is required between second and third doses, except in some rare cases, provincial officials said in news release Wednesday.

CBC News is live streaming a news conference below and on Facebook that started at 12:30 p.m. CT.

“Right now a combination of waning immunity for some individuals, and too many people who are still unvaccinated, is a health risk that we want to avoid as much as possible,” Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine task force, said during the news conference.

The announcement also represents a shift away from eligibility-based criteria to restrict who can, and can’t, receive a booster dose, said Reimer.

The latest move to expand vaccine eligibility comes as Manitoba’s fourth wave mounts, with a disproportionate number of recent cases coming from the Southern Health region. That region has 15 per cent of Manitoba’s population but accounts for about half of active cases provincewide.

Southern Health also has the lowest vaccination rates of five Manitoba regions with just over 68 per cent of eligible residents vaccinated. Prairie Mountain is the next closest at nearly 82 per cent.

Right now, third doses are primarily recommended for those at higher risk of suffering serious outcomes including hospitalization and death, as well as those who work with vulnerable patients.

That includes health-care workers, people 70 and over, those living in personal care homes or congregate settings including assisted living, pregnant people and Indigenous people. The same goes for people with some chronic health conditions, including cardiac or pulmonary disorders, diabetes, obesity and a range of others listed on the province’s eligibilty webpage.

Reimer said data suggests those at greater risk of adverse outcomes are experiencing waning immunity more over time than other groups, which underscores the need for those people to get third doses.

So far, Manitoba has doled out 47,000 third doses, including the above groups and those who received a third dose for travel purpose, Reimer said. Manitoba previously extended third doses to travellers who received different shots for their first two doses, as some countries will only allow entry to those who have received two doses of the same vaccine.

In addition to the third-dose eligibility announcement, the province says Manitoba is set to receive 2,250 does of the single-dose Janssen vaccine.

Those shots will then be available to adults only at pharmacies and medical clinics. Despite originally being designed as a “one and done” vaccine, Manitoba officials now recommend those who receive the Janssen jab also later receive a second dose of either of the two mRNA-based vaccines.

During the news conference, Manitoba Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin also hinted that more public health restrictions could be on the way due to rising cases and hospitalizations.

“It’s heartbreaking to still see Manitobans suffering from severe outcomes when, you know, almost always it could’ve been prevented by simply getting a vaccine. “I think this is a very frustrating time, a very disappointing time for Manitobans.”

Manitoba reported 143 new cases Wednesday, two more deaths, and 111 COVID-19 patients in hospital including 28 in intensive care. Roussin said if the current trajectory holds, Manitoba’s health-care system could again be overwhelmed in the near future.

“The numbers are concerning, they’ve been concerning for a while,” said Roussin, who would not specify what kind of additional measures could be on the way.

“We are actively working on what the response is.”

Health officials give update on COVID-19 in Manitoba

1 hour ago

Dr. Brent Roussin and Dr. Joss Reimer hold an online news conference at 12:30 p.m. CT. 0:00

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