Manitoba opens 4th COVID-19 vaccine dose to anyone 50+, shortens interval between shots

All Manitobans 50 and older are now eligible for a second COVID-19 booster shot, as well as anyone who is First Nations, Inuit or Métis and at least 30.

People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and residents of personal care homes are also eligible.

A second booster would be the fourth dose for most people. Eligibility may be further expanded in fall.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, announced the new eligibility on Friday.

He also lowered the interval between booster doses to four months. Previously the wait was six months.

To date, more than 590,000 first booster doses have been given, including to nearly 80 per cent of Manitobans 60 and older. Nearly 10,000 people have received their second booster dose, a provincial news release said.

The province is also expanding the criteria for access to the oral antiviral Paxlovid, which is for adults and to be taken in the early days of infection by those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 who are at high risk of severe illness from the virus.

“We’ve had fairly tight criteria based on age and risk factors and vaccine status,” Roussin said.

Eligibility now covers adults who have symptoms that started within the last five to seven days (previously it was limited to five), have tested positive with a rapid antigen or PCR test, and are at higher risk for severe illness because they:

  • Are not fully vaccinated.
  • Have not received a booster dose.
  • Have not been previously infected with COVID-19.
  • Are an older adult, as risk increases with age.
  • Have one or more chronic medical conditions.
  • Are moderately to severely immunocompromised, due to a medical condition or treatment.
  • Are obese.
  • Are pregnant.

These criteria are broader than the requirements previously in place and people who may be eligible should speak with a health-care provider to determine which treatment may be right for them, a government news release said.

The medication is also more widely available by prescription at more than 175 pharmacies across the province, Roussin said.

Rapid antigen tests continue to be available at libraries and retail locations across the province.

Monkeypox watch

So far, Manitoba has not seen any cases of monkeypox, a rare viral illness that typically begins with symptoms such as fever, headache, backache and fatigue, Roussin said.

“We’re obviously following that situation quite closely and will be communicating with health-care providers shortly to ensure they’re aware of the developments there.”

Instructions on what signs to look for in patients will be given to clinics and family doctors, he said.

Symptoms are similar to COVID-19 or the flu, but the most noticeable symptom is a rash or lesions on the skin.

Outbreaks have been limited primarily to central and western Africa, but in recent weeks, suspected cases have been identified in the U.S., U.K., Portugal and Spain. This past week, two cases were confirmed in Quebec.

Other respiratory viruses are also circulating in the province, including 18 confirmed cases of Influenza A as of last week, Roussin said.

“This is typically later on in what we would normally have as a flu season,” he said, encouraging everyone to get a flu shot.

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