Booster shots recommended for Manitobans who got AstraZeneca doses, frontline health-care workers

The province has confirmed COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are being recommended for frontline health-care workers and Manitobans who have two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

On Wednesday, Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said third doses are being recommended for all health-care workers and volunteers who have direct contact with patients, residents, and clients.

She said this includes all First Nations health-care workers, including traditional healers and knowledge keepers.

"For many health-care workers, it has been quite a few months since their last dose of the vaccine," Reimer said.

"When we are facing a fourth wave and we do know that every health-care worker is critical to be able to provide services to Manitobans, we want to offer this booster to use every tool in the toolbox to support the health-care system."

Reimer said receiving a booster shot is voluntary.

"Health-care personnel who do not receive this third dose are still considered to be fully immunized and this is not a part of the requirements for testing or immunization," she said.

Reimer said the province is also recommending a booster shot for people who have only received a viral vector vaccine, including those who got two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"AstraZeneca provides a high level of protection initially, especially if the two doses are further spread out,” Reimer said. “But over time, studies are showing us that the level of protection from AstraZeneca appears to decrease faster than with the mRNA vaccines.”

Reimer said just under 7,000 people got viral vector vaccines – almost all of them were AstraZeneca vaccines. She said about 450 people have submitted proof of vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

She said these people can be vaccinated without a prescription at any place offering COVID-19 vaccines. She said the booster shot should be an mRNA vaccine and should be given at least six months after the last dose.

Reimer said the exception to the six-month wait is people who meet other criteria for third doses, such as being immunocompromised.

The plans for the expanded rollout of a third COVID-19 vaccine dose were outlined in a provincial government memo obtained by CTV News on Tuesday.  

Reimer said more information about third doses would be available in the coming weeks by service delivery organizations.