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Coronavirus

Where Is the Next Round of COVID Boosters?

Alberta, like other provinces, is denying vaccines to people who already have five shots.

David Climenhaga 24 Feb 2023Alberta Politics

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca. Follow him on Twitter at @djclimenhaga.

Obviously, whatever the United Conservative Party government wishes, COVID-19 continues to kill people regularly in Alberta.

According to Alberta Health’s weekly dump of COVID-19 data on Wednesday, 575 are people in hospital with the disease in the province, 16 of them in intensive care. Chances are, not all of them will recover: 20 Albertans died of COVID in the past week, 26 the week before that, so about three a day on average.

Nevertheless, if you’ve had your two-shot vaccination against COVID, followed by two boosters and a bivalent booster, each about five or six months apart, Alberta Health Services will not allow you to have another booster.

It’s not just Alberta. This policy seems to apply throughout Canada — although you have to suspect, given Alberta’s past performance with COVID-19, that if change comes we’ll be the last in and the first out. Nothing has been said proactively about this policy by the Alberta government, Alberta Health Services or — as far as I’ve seen — by mainstream media.

If you want to confirm it for yourself, just tell your pharmacist you had a bivalent booster five or six months ago and ask when you should get your next booster.

You’ll be told, sorry, no more boosters allowed. Maybe someday. We don’t know when.

It will be clear to you that pharmacists, who have long been at the frontlines of the COVID vaccination program, have no idea when or if this might change.

I asked Alberta Health Services about this, and the provincewide health-care agency confirmed that “Albertans who have had a COVID-19 booster dose after Sept. 21, 2022, are not currently eligible for another dose.”

Moreover, an AHS spokesperson explained, “the National Advisory Committee on Immunization currently recommends only one booster dose since the start of fall 2022, preferably a bivalent Omicron‑containing mRNA COVID‑19 vaccine. All of Canada’s provinces and territories, including Alberta, have adopted NACI’s recommendations.”

However, after noting that “based on the variability of fall 2022 booster program start dates across jurisdictions, some individuals will have exceeded six months since receiving their fall booster dose later this winter,” NACI’s guidance on COVID-19 vaccine booster doses states: “Currently, NACI is not issuing guidance on an additional booster dose for these individuals.”

“NACI plans to continue to monitor the evidence and evolving epidemiology and provide updated guidance in the coming months,” the guidance statement continues.

None of this appears to specify that you cannot have any more boosters after receiving a bivalent shot.

NACI does say the recommended interval between the previous COVID-19 vaccine dose and a booster is six months, with a shorter interval of at least three months "may be considered in the context of heightened epidemiologic risk, evolving SARS-CoV-2 epidemiology, as well as operational considerations for efficient deployment."

Given its past performance on COVID-19 — even before the ruling United Conservative Party was taken over by an anti-vaccination political group Take Back Alberta and a right-wing radio talk show host who was enthusiastic about conspiracy theories and quack COVID cures — Alberta was usually the slowest province to adopt effective COVID measures and the first to drop them.

This does not seem like an ideal situation for citizens who would like to preserve their immunity to COVID-19, especially those in vulnerable age and health groups.

Meanwhile, in the United States, plans are afoot by the Food and Drug Administration to offer annual COVID boosters each fall along with influenza shots.

As for Canada, nobody seems to know.

Perhaps Albertans who wish to keep their immunity against the disease will have to adopt the original form of Canadian two-tier medicine and travel to Montana or some other state every fall for their vaccination.

If you’re thinking this might be what you have to do, though, you should probably leave Idaho off your list of medical tourism destinations — at least until the state legislature has dealt with the bill introduced by a couple of anti-vax Republican state legislators that would make anyone who administered an mRNA vaccine a criminal.  [Tyee]

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