Manitoba’s definition of fully vaccinated hasn’t yet changed to account for booster shots, and there are no immediate plans to do so.
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, said this week the third dose won’t yet be part of vaccination requirements.
However, she said research shows having a third dose prevents Omicron variant infection 55 per cent better than just two doses. She urged all Manitobans — particularly those age 50-plus — to get a third shot.
Meanwhile, the task force is still having discussions about whether to apply public health restrictions to people who haven’t had a booster.
"I think there’s still a lot of knowledge that needs to be developed before we feel that it’s a reasonable restriction or expectation to put on Manitobans," Reimer said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.
"So that’s not to say that this couldn’t be something that we move to in the future, but we want to make sure that we have really solid science before we include additional restrictions on Manitobans."
The doctor said there’s still a "significant gap" in third-dose uptake, particularly among Manitobans in their 50s and 60s.
That age group is at higher risk of needing intensive care if they contract COVID-19, but only half of people in their 50s and two-thirds in their 60s have had a booster. Second-dose uptake is much higher in those groups; more than 90 per cent of people over 50 have had a second dose.
Older Manitobans have the highest third-dose uptake, provincial vaccination data and Statistics Canada population estimates show.
Nearly 80 per cent of Manitobans in their 70s and 80s got the third dose. Uptake is roughly 23 per cent for Manitobans in their 20s; 30 per cent for those in their 30s; and 39 per cent for those in their 40s.
Currently, double-vaccinated people are considered to be fully vaccinated, whether or not they’ve received booster doses.
Only fully vaccinated Manitobans can dine in at restaurants, participate in recreation programs, go to indoor spaces such as gyms and movie theatres, or travel across provincial and international borders.
The provincial task force is still waiting for national recommendations on whether booster doses will be offered to youth ages 12 to 17.
At the federal level, Canada isn’t rushing to change its definition of fully vaccinated.
Earlier this month, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the issue would be revisited once booster shots had "rolled out significantly" across the country.
Third doses started rolling out in Manitoba in October, first to front-line health-care workers and personal care home residents. By Nov. 10, the province had expanded eligibility to all Manitobans 18 and older, as long as at least six months had passed since the second dose. That changed after the Omicron varient was detected in the province; in December, the task force reduced the wait time to five months for those over 60, and later to everyone over 50.
Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.