Manitobans 18+ are eligible for the new Omicron-specific vaccine. What you need to know

As Manitobans put on their sweaters and thicker socks to prepare for fall and winter, public health officials also want them to get their next dose of the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of respiratory virus season.

Earlier this week, all adults in Manitoba became eligible for the new COVID-19 vaccine that targets the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Moderna developed the bivalent vaccine to provide protection against both the original strain of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

Appointments are available at provincially run clinics through the government’s online booking system or by calling 1-844-MAN-VACC, as well as at pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

Here are some of the questions Manitobans have about the new dose:

Why should I get a booster dose?

As the weather gets colder, more people will socialize indoors, where COVID-19 spreads more easily. 

As with other vaccines, immunity for COVID-19 wanes over time, so it’s important to recharge it with another shot.

Severe outcomes from COVID-19, such as hospitalization and ICU admission, are still taking place in Manitoba, the province’s latest epidemiology report says. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The virus is still spreading in Manitoba. 

The province’s latest epidemiological report, which was released Thursday and covers the week of Sept. 11 to 17, says the total number of people who have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic is now 2,143, up from 2,137 the previous week. 

During that period, 87 people were admitted to hospital with COVID-19, up from 65 the week before.

There were 11 admitted to intensive care units, up slightly from 10 the previous week.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the bivalent vaccine will be “very effective at preventing severe outcomes” of the coronavirus because the antibodies are targeted against newer mutations.

“We’re expecting better protection against the strain that’s transmitting now,” he said in an interview on CBC Manitoba’s Information Radio on Friday.

Manitobans need to be prepared for a “significant respiratory virus season” and do what they can to protect themselves by getting a fall COVID-19 booster, as well as a flu shot when it comes available, Roussin said.

I just had COVID. How long should I wait to get a booster shot?

If you’ve just tested positive for COVID-19, it’s still important to get vaccinated, Roussin said.

An infection does provide some immunity from the virus, but it could be a lot better.

“Even if you’ve had an infection, we still recommend getting those boosters as soon as you become eligible,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

People who have recently had COVID-19 can get their next vaccine dose as soon as right after recovering from the illness, but it’s best to wait three to six months.

“Because you’ve already boosted that immunity, waiting that bit of time and then getting the shot in would boost that immunity further,” he said.

Why do I have to wait between shots?

Waiting three to six months between doses of the vaccine is also recommended, Roussin said, echoing advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

The province hopes everyone who is eligible will get the bivalent vaccine as a fall booster shot ahead of the winter holiday season.

To that end, public health is allowing people to decide whether they want to wait six months to achieve maximum immunity or top up their immunity at three months if they are concerned about their exposure to the virus.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, is encouraging everyone 18 and older to get the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine this fall to protect themselves and those around them from the virus. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

“We wanted to make this accessible to anyone and not be so rigid, so we’re allowing for people to go down as far as three months should they want it that soon, and that’s certainly safe, certainly effective at that point,” Roussin said. 

However, six months between doses affords the longest and best protection.

What does bivalent mean and how does it work?

The new Moderna vaccine is called bivalent.

Valence refers to the ability of a substance, like an antibody, to act upon, react or bind with something, and the bi refers to two coronavirus strains — the original COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

WATCH | Dr. Roussin on the bivalent vaccine:

Bivalent COVID-19 vaccines similar to seasonal flu shot, Dr. Brent Roussin explains

2 days ago

Duration 1:16

Manitoba’s eligibility for the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that targets the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has expanded to include anyone over 18, the provincial government announced Wednesday afternoon.

A bivalent or multivalent vaccine is not new to many Canadians, although you may not know it.

The seasonal flu vaccine typically has three or four strains of Influenza in it to provide broader immunity coverage during flu season.

The same is true for the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which will boost immunity against the most widespread strains of coronavirus, Roussin said.

Can I get the bivalent booster if I had a different brand of vaccine in the past?

Yes.

Roussin said brands aren’t important at this point.

“This bivalent dose from Moderna is available now and regardless of what immunization course you took in the past, you’re eligible for this bivalent dose,” he said.

Those under 18, like this girl pictured getting her COVID-19 shot, are not eligible for the bivalent booster yet, but can get the original COVID-19 vaccine as a booster this fall. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

When will those under 18 become eligible for the Omicron-specific booster? 

That’s not clear.

At this point, the bivalent vaccine has only been approved in Canada for use in those 18 and older.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that all youth 12-17 be offered a fall booster dose of a monovalent vaccine, regardless of the number of booster doses they have previously received.

Boosters are also recommended for kids age five to 11.

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