A woman receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at an immunization clinic in Surrey, B.C., on May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A woman receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at an immunization clinic in Surrey, B.C., on May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Alberta not offering booster COVID-19 shot yet

Ontario and Saskatchewan are offering third COVID shot to some

Alberta is not yet following Ontario and Saskatchewan’s lead in offering vaccine booster shots, says Alberta Health.

Ontario health officials said this week a third dose will be offered to immunocompromised people and the elderly in coming weeks.

Among those eligible for a third dose are organ transplant recipients, those diagnosed with hematological cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, undergoing targeted therapy; recipients of drugs such as rituximab, which is used to treat multiple sclerosis, long-term care, retirement home and First Nation elder care lodge residents.

Alberta Health says while it is not offering booster shots at this time “we are watching the research and data surrounding booster shots closely and awaiting recommendations from the NACI (National Advisory Committee on Immunization).

“Evidence suggests that the existing COVID-19 vaccine schedule offers excellent protection, including against variants of concern. However, regardless of the specific type of vaccine, evidence is emerging that people with weaker immune systems may benefit from a third vaccine shot.

“We expect to have a decision on this in September based on the best available data.”

Saskatchewan recently announced it has approved a third vaccine dose for residents who want to travel internationally. Some countries and cruise lines say they will not consider travellers with mixed doses of COVID vaccines to be fully vaccinated.

Alberta is not offering third doses to travellers at this time.

“Individuals with two valid doses of any vaccine used in Alberta are considered to have received a complete series. We are prioritizing vaccines for those who are not yet fully vaccinated,” says Alberta Health.

“Alberta’s health officials are in contact with the federal government, and federal officials indicate they are continuing to work on this issue. You’ll need to contact them for additional info on that work.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that those who have received two doses have good protection against severe disease or death, including protection from COVID variants.

“However, compared to the general population, some special populations, like individuals who are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment, including those who are taking immunosuppressive medication to prevent organ rejection, may have a reduced immune response to COVID-19 vaccines.”

Provinces and territories can offer an additional dose if they wish, says the agency.

“This would be considered off-label use since Health Canada has not authorized a three-dose regimen for any of the vaccines authorized in Canada.”

NACI is studying vaccine protection for immunosuppressed people separately from the general population because “immunocompromised individuals may require an additional dose following a complete vaccine series in order to produce a comparable immune response.

“NACI is currently reviewing evidence and will update its recommendations in the coming weeks.”

Meanwhile, Red Deer’s vaccination rate continues to trail the provincial average.

As of Wednesday, 66.7 per cent of eligible Red Deer residents 12 and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 59.1 per cent are fully vaccinated.

By comparison, 80.2 per cent of Lethbridge residents 12 and older have received one dose and 78.7 per cent are fully vaccinated. Alberta-wide 77.1 per cent had received at least one dose and 68.3 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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