Health officials to update Manitobans on pediatric COVID vaccine boosters

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The province is expected to release more information about its rollout plan for pediatric vaccine doses.

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The province is expected to release more information about its rollout plan for pediatric vaccine doses.

On Friday, Health Canada announced it has approved Pfizer’s first booster dose for children age five to 11. Asked for details about Manitoba’s booster immunization plans, deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said an announcement is coming.

“We’ll be providing some more updates on that next week, we’re just working through that and the recommendations that we’ll have from a public-health perspective,” he said.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health office, didn’t say Friday whether the province is considering expanding fourth-dose eligibility.

When it comes to the future rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for adults, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, previously said the province would not be further expanding eligibility for fourth doses, and would reconsider that position after more effective bivalent — targeting two separate virus strains — vaccines become available. They’re expected later this fall.

Only Manitobans over the age of 50 and First Nations residents over age 30 are currently eligible for a fourth shot (second booster dose), in addition to high-risk immocompromised Manitobans who have permission from a doctor. For Manitobans under 50 who got boosted at the earliest opportunity, during the peak of the Omicron wave late last year, it’s been about eight months since their last shot.

Atwal didn’t say whether the province is considering expanding fourth-dose eligibility now, nor did he explain why the province hasn’t offered fourth doses to the general population so those who want them can get them while the wait for the bivalent vaccine continues.

“I think there’s a lot at play here right now,” Atwal said Friday. “I think there’s still some more information that has to come in that we have to learn about regarding the bivalent vaccine as well, so I’m not prepared today to make any announcements related to that. Again, I think you have to give us a little bit of time, get some more information from our partners, and make that best decision that we can for Manitoba regarding vaccines and boosters.”

In provinces that are offering fourth doses to all adults, it’s a personal decision whether to get boosted now or wait for a potentially more effective vaccine that targets more contagious strains of the Omicron variant.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said it’s clear elderly people in long-term care, as well as other high-risk groups, can’t afford to wait. Fourth doses were offered first to long-term care residents in Manitoba.

“For the younger age groups, depending on your risk factors, you could consider waiting for the bivalent dose, which is to come. We don’t know the exact incremental benefits,” Tam said in response to a question from the Brandon Sun during a virtual news conference in Ottawa Friday.

She said how much more beneficial the bivalent vaccine containing the original vaccine as well as a formula that targets Omicron will be is still under review.

“If you’re going to wait, think about your risk factors and your potential exposures whenever you’re heading indoors, and (make) those decisions accordingly,” she said.

katie.may@winnipegfreepress.com

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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