Seniors advocates want 3rd jab for B.C.'s long-term care residents

While anyone aged 50 and older will be able to get a third COVID-19 vaccine dose in the U.K. in the coming weeks, only 15,000 immunocompromised British Columbians are being offered another shot for now.

Advocates argue seniors living in long-term care in B.C. urgently need another dose.

“The waning effect of the vaccine is more pronounced in long-term care and the residents are more vulnerable, and we are absolutely seeing the evidence of that now,” said B.C. Seniors Adocate Isobel Mackenzie.

At Menno Place in Abbotsford, where there’s been a deadly outbreak among vaccinated long-term care residents and staff, CEO Karen Biggs wants third doses for everyone immediately.

“Our employees got their second dose in January, our residents got their second dose mid-February, so it’s been a very long time. And they’re thinking within 6 months you need a booster? Well this is over 6 months for both staff and residents,” said Biggs.

She’s worried as flu season approaches, it will be difficult to discern if residents have the flu or COVID-19, and they can’t afford to fight both at the same time. Biggs believes third doses would help prevent that.

“I think people have had a long time to get their first set of shots and it they haven’t got it by now, I think they are still going to drag their feet,” she said. “So why not use the vaccines that we’ve got for a good purpose?”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said residents of long-term care would be next in line for third doses, but has not provided a timeline.

“I would like to see us announcing now a schedule for long-term care, so that we know when those booster shots are coming,” said Mackenzie.

For Menno Place, third shots can’t some soon enough. The outbreak in long-term care has now spread to the facility’s assisted living wing.

“I hope next week,” said Biggs. “I don’t know what (Henry’s) timeline is, but certainly as soon as possible is when we need it.”