Quebec opens fourth COVID-19 vaccine appointments to all adults

All adults in Quebec can now book an appointment for a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if they want it, even if it's not officially recommended for most people, the province's health ministry announced Wednesday.

The news wasn't revealed during Wednesday's press conference with interim public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau; rather, it came out in an afternoon tweet from the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

Previously, anyone under 60 could get the fourth dose, but only at a walk-in clinic. Now, people aged 18 to 59 can book an appointment on ClicSanté.

"No CIQ recommendation for this age group (apart from exceptions), but it's possible to administer it to those who wish. No contraindication," the ministry wrote in the tweet.

Officially, the province's expert committee on vaccination, the CIQ, recommends the fourth dose, also known as the "second booster," for a select group of people, including those living in long-term care homes, immunocompromised people, people aged 80 and over living in the community, people living in environments with a high proportion of seniors and vulnerable people.

2e dose de rappel pour les 18-59 ans: maintenant possible de prendre rendez-vous sur Clic Santé. Pas de recommandation du CIQ pour ce groupe d’âge (sauf exceptions), mais possible de l’administrer aux personnes qui le souhaitent. Pas de contre-indication.

— Santé Québec (@sante_qc) May 4, 2022

At a press conference in mid-April, Dr. Boileau casually mentioned that anyone under 60 could get a fourth shot at a walk-in clinic. A health ministry spokesperson later clarified to CTV News at the time that even though the second boosters were opened to people under 80, they won't offer much protection unless people fall into one of the high-priority groups of people.

"The CIQ considers that there is currently little advantage in offering a [fourth dose] with a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to people not covered by this recommendation," wrote spokesperson Marjorie Larouche in an email. 

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"These people can get it after informed consent if they wish to take advantage of it, at least three months after their first booster dose," meaning three months after their third dose.

Public health experts agree with the CIQ recommendation to avoid rushing to get a second booster if it's not crucial to get one.

Dr. Matthew Oughton of McGill University said in an interview in April that there is a "big benefit" from getting the third dose after the second dose, "but the improvement from the second dose to the third dose is much greater than the improvement from the third to the fourth."

Studies on the fourth dose, while still scarce, tend to show that the overall benefit to triple-vaccinated, healthy people is generally low.

With files from CTV News Montreal's Selena Ross

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