Advocates want COVID-19 vaccine boosters for B.C. seniors in the community

Seniors living in long-term care are now being offered a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but elderly British Columbians who live in the community aren't, and advocates say that needs to change.

“We are already hearing that some of the double shot Pfizer (recipients) are getting COVID again, and there have been deaths,” said Ramona Kaptyn, president of the Surrey/White Rock chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

“Some of my CARP members have been calling and they’re very worried, and want to know when the booster shot will be available.”

Geriatrician Dr. Naaz Parmar is also hearing concern from her elderly patients, some of whom would likely be in long-term care, but have chosen to stay at home longer because of COVID-19.

“They are seeing themselves at that same degree of frailty, they’re seeing themselves at a degree of exposure because they have care workers coming and going and other such things, but they are not in that first cohort,’ said Parmar.

With Alberta now offering boosters to anyone over age 75, Parmar and CARP want British Columbia to act now.

“It could be done just like before, starting with over-80s and then working down,” said Kaptyn. “We know how to do it. We’ve done it. I think it’s time to get on with it.”

Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, believes seniors will get their third shot this year.

“To me, it’s a matter of time,” Conway said. “And I think as other provinces do it, then it will probably push B.C. to do it more quickly. They will get it sooner rather than later, we just don’t know when yet.”

And when third shots are offered to seniors, he’s hoping they can be administered in family doctors’ offices, instead of large-scale vaccine clinics.

“If we are going to vaccinate more people more quickly, we need to put COVID vaccines in the hands of many more health-care providers,” Conway said.

He thinks it could be done in conjunction with their flu shots, and believes there is adequate supply for third doses for British Columbians 65 and older.

“We do have enough,” said Kaptyn. “I’m sure that we have enough. We’re giving some to other countries because we have too much now. So it is available, and it should be administered.”