The province is now shortening the wait time between first and second doses to 28 days as cases surge in some parts of B.C.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that the move is meant to get people in communities with outbreaks and higher transmission rates vaccinated sooner, with a focus on the hard-hit Central Okanagan. Henry said that starting tonight, approximately 170,000 people will get a notice that they are now eligible for their second dose. That process may take a few days, she added.
“We are experiencing some community outbreaks, particularly in the central Okanagan and increasing rates cases of the virus, particularly in pockets where we have unvaccinated people, or where we’re seeing people with only one dose of vaccines,” Henry said.
The vast majority of cases, she noted, continue to spread between young people at social gatherings when those individuals are not vaccinated.
However, she said that individuals who live and work in communities and settings with little COVID-19 transmission will still get a stronger level of protection if they wait the seven to eight weeks that B.C. previously required between doses.
“Right now we need to balance the risk of the epidemiology that we’re seeing and the need to get people as highly protected as possible, knowing that we have a lot of transmission from the highly transmissible strains here in the province, both Gamma and Delta,” Henry added. Delta currently makes up 95 per cent of new cases in the province.
Henry said that despite reports of breakthrough cases due to the Delta variant, the “vast majority of cases” are still in either partially or completely unvaccinated people.
She said that the risk with the Delta variant, which is more infectious than previous ones, is that once it gets into higher risk settings like long-term care facilities it can still spread.
As far as booster doses go, Henry said that it’s not yet clear when they’ll be needed and who will need one.
“Right now, there’s no indication that particularly young healthy people who get get their vaccine at 28 days need a booster shot,” she said. “But it looks like there might be a case for providing a third dose to some people whose immune systems didn’t respond to those one and two,” including people with organ transplants or undergoing some forms of cancer treatment.