Second Round of COVID-19 Boosters Coming – But Many People Still Need Their First!

The BC Ministry of Health has announced that a second round of COVID-19 boosters will be available for people 12 or older in the fall, and in the interim are encouraging everyone to complete all previous doses as soon as possible.

Second COVID-19 boosters have been available since the spring for Indigenous people 55 and older, non-Indigenous people aged 70 or older, as well as those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.​

However, FNHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shannon McDonald is concerned because many First Nations people in BC have yet to get their first booster.

“The booster shot ensures that your immunity to COVID-19 stays high after getting your primary series and is effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization across all variants,” said Dr. McDonald.

She encourages Indigenous people to ensure they’ve had their first booster shot, and for those that haven’t completed their primary series to do so as soon as possible.

Dr. McDonald also noted that high vaccination rates in BC—including strong uptake among Indigenous people—have allowed a return to cultural and traditional events, such as powwows, gatherings and sports events like the All Native Basketball Tournament.

“I want to acknowledge everyone who has been vaccinated already,” said Dr. McDonald. “By doing so, you’re helping make sure that you and your friends, family and community can continue to meet in person at these events which we know are so important to our mental health and wellness.”​

While COVID-19 rates are anticipated to be highest during the fall and winter respiratory season, COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising in BC and across the country. The unpredictability of the virus means it’s important to get all the vaccines you are eligible for right now.

Just under 40 per cent of the adult First Nations population (18+) in the province have had their first booster shot, which is significantly lower than non-Indigenous people. This puts First Nations people and communities at greater risk for transmission of (getting) COVID-19, illness, and needing medical care.

People who are unvaccinated are five times more likely to be hospitalized and seven times more likely to die than people who are vaccinated. Even if you have had COVID-19 in the past, the vaccine gives you what is called “hybrid immunity” and is strongly recommended to guard you against another infection.

If you are a First Nations person who has had your first booster and you are 55 years or older, you are already eligible to get a second booster as soon as it has been six months since your last booster, to ensure you will be well-protected when the respiratory virus season starts in the fall.

The province also announced that some of the vaccine supply for the second booster is anticipated to be “bivalent vaccine,” which will more strongly target the Omicron variant. It is currently going through the rigorous Health Canada approval process and it is hoped it will be available to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the fall and winter months.

While some people may wonder if it is better to wait for the bivalent vaccine in the fall, Dr. McDonald advises against this. The vaccines currently available in BC already provide strong protection against serious illness due to all known variants of COVID-19. When the bivalent vaccines become available, there will only be limited quantity and they will be prioritized in a way that best protects public health and hospital capacity.

“The fact is, waiting for the ‘best shot’ is not your best shot at fighting COVID-19,” said Dr. McDonald. “The most effective vaccine is the one that’s available right now. So, if you’re eligible for a booster shot, or if you haven’t had your first or second dose, please call your health centre, talk to your community health nurse, or go to your local pharmacy and get that protection.”

Follow the Golden Rules for Everybody

Our layers of protection continue to help keep each other safe and supported.
  • Get all recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Follow health guidelines
  • Stay home if sick
  • Clean your hands
  • Respect personal space
  • It’s always safer outdoors
  • Consider other people’s situation
  • Check before you travel
Download this information in PDF format here​.
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