B.C. residents who are 'severely immunocompromised' offered 3rd dose of COVID-19 vaccine

About 15,000 B.C. residents, all of whom are severely immunocompromised, will be invited to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The announcement came Monday during a press conference with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, and follows new recommendations from Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Henry said it’s important to differentiate this third dose as such, rather than as a “booster.”

“For the vast majority of people, a third dose is what we would call a booster shot, it means it would increase our response, and prolong our response, but for people who are immunocompromised, it's a different story,” she said.

“As a result of their medical conditions, people who are immunocompromised, don't respond as well to any vaccine, and have a reduced ability to fight infection.”

A third dose will therefore give them an equivalent amount of protection as those who only need two doses.

This group was also identified by NACI as people who might need a third dose in order to complete their primary set of vaccines. Henry said a decision on whether to offer them a third dose would be made in the coming weeks.

The group of people who are considered severely immunocompromised include: people who’ve had solid organ transplants, people who are being actively treated for hematologic cancers and lymphoma, people who’ve taken certain immunosuppressant medications since January 2020, people with severe primary immunodeficiencies, and people have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

Studies show that many in this highly-vulnerable group create few or zero antibodies after two doses of the vaccine, and that a third dose can stimulate a “moderate response” in as many as half, Henry said.

She warned that those who are severely immunocompromised will still need to be careful after receiving a vaccine.

“Even though you have three doses of vaccine, it is still important for people who have severe immunocompromising conditions to continue to take precautions to avoid exposure,” Henry said.

And, it’s a reminder, she said, that those in the general population continue to be careful and get vaccinated.

“There are some people who cannot get as much protection from these vaccines, and it's that much more important that all of us around them are protected, to keep them safe as well.”