BC Health Minister Adrian Dix is considering making COVID-19 shots widely available in the fall as experts predict a third Omicron wave is on the way.
The provincial health care system is gearing up for an autumn wave and is looking at a recommendations of the federal advisory body that booster doses are being made widely available, Dix said during a news conference Monday.
Meanwhile, the BC COVID-19 Modeling Group, made up of interdisciplinary experts working independently of the government, warns that a wave of COVID-19 driven by the more infectious and immune-evasive BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is emerging.
Dix said everyone should plan to get another vaccine dose in the fall.
“We must protect those we love and protect ourselves in a pandemic that is still with us and still afflicting us.”
Dix did not provide further information on whether the doses would target BA.5 specifically, or how they would be rolled out.
It comes as the county prepares to get rid of over 200,000 vaccine doses amid a slow shot of third and fourth shots.
Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said two weeks ago that those hoping for a fourth dose will have to wait until they qualify. They are currently only available to people aged 70 and over, natives over 55 and people in long-term care – six months after their last booster.
Dix also said the province would not rule out returning masks to indoor areas in the fall and encouraged people to get vaccinated.
About 1.4 million people eligible for a third dose have not taken it, Dix said, adding that vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19.
dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Center, said people should take precautions, especially to avoid getting long COVID†
“I don’t want to hear on the street, as I often hear, ‘Thank God it’s over.’ It’s not over yet. It may never be completely over,” he said. “Most experts suggest there will be a significant increase in transmission in the fall.”
10% of medical staff sick
COVID-19 is having a significant effect on health workers in the province, Dix said. numerous First aid and acute care units have been closed in BC for the past few weeks due to staff shortages.
“Last week there were 16,400 people who missed at least one day in our public health system due to illness,” he said. “That’s on a basis of about 160,000 employees…so about 10.2 percent.”
Normally it would be about six percent, he said, adding that COVID-19 is contributing to the rising numbers.
When asked what the county is doing to avert the closures, Dix pointed to new recruiting initiatives.
“We will continue to do that work in communities to ensure that people are safe, our workers are safe and, most importantly, patients are safe,” said Dix, speaking at a press conference announcing a new hospital in Surrey, about 34 km southeast of Vancouver, where construction is expected to begin next summer.