Tens of thousands of appointments available for COVID-19 vaccine booster shot have not been completed in BC
As the highly mutated variant of Omicron sweeps across the province, Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Friday that around 25,000 booster appointments are available for this week, 14,000 of which are in the Inland Health region.
There were 7,000 appointments open last week, he said during the December 24 pandemic press conference.
“We still have unreserved capacity and we are encouraging people to reserve when they receive their invitation,” Dix said.
“In the first three weeks of January, 203,000 people are not yet booked and more appointments are increasing every day.”
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As of December 24, more than 807,000 British Columbia residents had received a third or booster dose of the vaccine.
The province aims to complete its booster program by March 31, with an expected 62 percent increase in clinic capacity across all health authorities in January.
At this time, residents who are 63 years of age or older are eligible to reserve an opportunity, along with indigenous adults, residents of independent living or long-term care facilities, and healthcare workers. People classified as clinically extremely vulnerable and people who initially received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine can also book an appointment.
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At the latest official count, there were a total of 8,739 active COVID-19 cases in BC, 975 of which were the Omicron variant.
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Global BC Medical Associate Dr. Birinder Narang said it is important for the province to balance “what is prescribed and what is practical” as it continues its risk-based booster program, but thousands of booster appointments remain without be fulfilled.
“What we have to do is also make sure we don’t waste space,” he said in an interview Sunday.
“We know that reinforcements will be needed, and I think there is no advantage in keeping unused places at the moment when we know that there are people who want them.”
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While many unanswered questions remain about the new highly transmissible Omicron variant, he said the benefit of a booster shot is that it “seems more and more like it will keep you out of the hospital.”
“As Omicron spreads, we see around the world that people who have one or two vaccines are more likely to be infected than those who have boosters,” Narang explained.
While people who are fully vaccinated have been infected by Omicron, recent research from the University of British Columbia suggests that the variant is less capable of evading the human antibody response in fully vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people.
That research, which mapped Omicron’s spike protein at the molecular level, is awaiting peer review.
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While some jurisdictions, including Ontario and the United Kingdom, offer booster injections only three months after residents received their second dose, BC has opted for a six-month interval.
Booster programs have been implemented differently around the world, Narang said, and “we can’t draw too many conclusions” from what is happening elsewhere.
What’s important, he explained, is what data from the BC Center for Disease Control shows about infections in the province and declining immunity to vaccines.
Public health officials expect to administer about 325,000 doses of vaccines by the end of January.
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