Alberta is expanding eligibility for fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and Paxlovid treatment to those at most risk of getting sick.
While COVID-19 hospitalizations have stabilized, the Omicron subvariant BA.2 now makes up about 80 per cent of new cases in the province. The variant is highly transmissible, which increases the risk of it spreading and increasing hospital admissions.
“As more Albertans get back to normal, we will see cases and virus levels rise and fall,” said Heath Minister Jason Copping in a news release on Wednesday.
“However, these fluctuations do not necessarily require the measures we’ve put in place before,” said Copping, adding hospitalization numbers are now normal for this time of year.
“We’re well-positioned to manage some increase in admissions if we see that, and Albertans have access to vaccines and antiviral treatments for protection against severe outcomes.”
Beginning April 12, all Albertans age 70 and older, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Alberta age 65 and older, and all seniors in congregate care regardless of age can receive a fourth dose of vaccine. This is in line with a recent recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
Vaccines give effective protection from severe outcomes from both BA.2 and BA.1, and a fourth dose for those at highest risk will further enhance protection.
Eligible individuals can book their fourth dose provided at least five months have passed since their third. Appointments are available through the Alberta Vaccine Booking System or by calling 811 or a participating pharmacy.
Individuals who require a fourth dose to meet international travel rules may also book appointments, however, these doses are not currently clinically recommended.
As well, starting April 12, Alberta will receive 10,000 doses of Novavax’s Nuvaxovid.
Nuvaxovid is a two-dose protein subunit vaccine that does not use mRNA technology and is approved for those 18 and older. Due to limited supply, appointments for this vaccine can be booked by calling 811 only.
Starting April 12, children age six to 11 will also have an additional option with the Moderna mRNA vaccine. This is in line with recent recommendations from NACI. Appointments are available through the Alberta Vaccine Booking System or by calling 811 or a participating pharmacy.
While it is strongly recommended that Albertans take preventative steps such as vaccination to protect themselves against COVID-19, the province is also expanding access to the antiviral drug Paxlovid.
Effective April 6, eligibility has expanded to include:
•First Nations, Métis and Inuit people age 45 and older who are unvaccinated or have received only one dose of vaccine
•Individuals living in long-term care and designated supportive living settings, regardless of vaccination status
•Previously eligible individuals, including all individuals who are immunocompromised, regardless of vaccination status, remain eligible.
This treatment is available for patients who have a lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection if they can receive the treatment within five days of symptom onset.
Alberta continues to provide rapid tests at no cost. To find a location, visit alberta.ca/CovidRapidTests. An Alberta Health Care card is not required to pick up a rapid test kit.