Ministry of Health message on COVID-19 booster shots differs from info provided by B.C. Centre for Disease Control
I'm seeing many notifications in my Twitter feed regarding the B.C. government's decision to restrict second COVID-19 booster shots to those who are 70 years of age or older—or, if they're Indigenous, 55 years of age or older.
The notifications sharply increased after the Straight reported that these second booster shots have led to lower mortality rates in the U.S. from COVID-19 for those over 50 years old.
It's worth noting that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends second COVID-19 booster shots for anyone 50 years of age and older.
That's a far more liberal approach to vaccinations than what's on offer to British Columbians.
One of those Twitter notifications really caught my attention. It came from Dr. Victor Leung, a medical microbiologist and coauthor of this thoughtful 2021 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Dr. Leung's tweet included a list of B.C. Centre for Disease Control permitted "exceptions" for 60- to 69-year-olds so that they can qualify for a second COVID-19 booster shot.
Naturally, I opened up the link. And here's what it stated beside the letter "d" for 60- to 69-year-olds: Caregiver of a frail elderly or moderately to severely immunosuppressed person.
I was stunned to read this. That's because this was not among the criteria in a Ministry of Health message sent to me this week after I had asked who was eligible for a second COVID-19 booster shot in B.C.
You can read the Ministry of Health's statement to me in its entirety below:
- At this time, people can get a second booster dose if they meet current eligibility criteria and it's been 6 months since their first booster dose.
- Current eligibility criteria includes:
- people age 70 and older
- people who self-identify as Indigenous who are age 55 and older
- people living in a long-term care facility
- people age 70 and older who are living in assisted living residences
- people who self-identify as Indigenous who are age 55 and older and are living in assisted living residences
- Eligibility criteria can be found here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/booster
- More information about getting a vaccine can be found here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine/getting-a-vaccine
- Members of the public can phone the call centre at 1-833-838-2323 if they have questions.
- We recognize that a small number of people who are between the ages of 60 and 70 may require a dose that is more recent than their 3rd dose to satisfy legal requirements outside of B.C. Those reasons include:
- Travel to a jurisdiction which requires a second booster/dose 4 within a specific interval from dose 3
- Move or extended travel (greater than 6 months) to a country or jurisdiction (remote community in Canada) without vaccine access, where they are unlikely to have the opportunity to complete their series when eligible
- Participation in a program/organization/education institution, which requires a second booster/dose 4 within a specific interval from dose 3 (and which has a lower age eligibility than B.C.)
Now, read what's said in Appendix C in the document tweeted by Dr. Leung.
What's going on here?
You'll notice that what's written after the letters a, b, and c in the Ministry of Health statement corresponds to what's in the B.C. Centre for Disease Control document.
But the fourth BCCDC exemption for those from 60 to 69—"Caregiver of a frail elderly or moderately to severely immunocompromised person"—did not appear in the ministry's statement.
On June 16, I submitted my request about eligibility for second COVID booster shots to a communications officer.
I did not receive a response by June 22. So I then sent in a second request, noting that Dr. Bonnie Henry had by then told a reporter that there might be a cruise-ship exemption.
Finally, late in the day on June 23, the Ministry of Health replied with its statement on who is eligible for a second COVID-19 booster shot.
This message did not include any reference to being a 60- to 69-year-old caregiver to a frail elderly person or a moderately to severely immunocompromised person.
I am not going to name the two communications officers I dealt with in trying to find this information because I highly doubt that they are responsible for this discrepancy.
I've concluded that one of two things must be true:
a) The B.C. government does not want the media knowing that the BCCDC is saying that 60-to-69-year-olds can get a booster shot if they're a caregiver to a frail elderly person or someone who is moderately to severely immunocompromised;
b) or, someone in the Ministry of Health was unaware of what the BCCDC had already communicated and simply made up a list of exemptions that was stunningly similar in wording to the BCCDC statement.
Meanwhile, some folks between 60 and 69 who are caregivers of frail elderly or moderately to severely immunocompromised people are livid that they're being denied a second COVID-19 booster shot.
That's to say nothing of those who are under 60 who also feel they need a second booster to protect their loved ones.
You can read some of their comments below.