U.S. data show second COVID-19 boosters save lives for those over 50 even as B.C. government restricts access

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      The B.C. government continues to withhold second COVID-19 booster shots from people between 50 and 69 years old, despite research suggesting that this can save a considerable number of lives.

      Eric Topol, founder of the Scripps Translational Institute and a professor of molecular medicine, provided the evidence in a tweet.

      Citing U.S. Centers for Disease Control data, Topol noted that two boosters resulted in a 99 percent reduction in the number of deaths for those 50 years of age and over when compared with the unvaccinated.

      This was in connection with the Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2.

      Those who had one booster in this age bracket demonstrated an 86 percent reduction, whereas those who were fully vaccinated but had no boosters showed an 81 percent reduction. 

      The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends two COVID-19 booster shots for all adults 50 years of age and older.

      That's in addition to the initial vaccinations of either one dose (Johnson & Johnson) or two doses (Pfizer and Moderna) that have been approved in the U.S.

      These second boosters are also recommended in the U.S. for anyone 12 years of age and older if they are moderately or severely immunocompromised.

      In Ontario and Prince Edward Island, residents are eligible for a second booster if they are 60 years of age or older. In Quebec, they can get one if they are 18 or older.

      Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick make them available for those who are 50 years and older.

      But in B.C., people cannot get a second booster unless they are 70 years of age or older or are living in a long-term care facility. Indigenous people qualify if they are 55 years of age or older.

      In addition, six months must have elapsed since their last dose. (More details are available here.)

      Recently, B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, suggested that people over the age of 60 might be able to get a second booster if they were going on a cruise.

      The Ministry of Health, on the other hand, did not mention exemptions for cruise-ship ticket holders in an email to the Straight in response to a question about who is eligible for fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

      According to the ministry, "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."

      They include:

      * travel to a jurisdiction that requires a second booster dose within a specific interval of the third dose;

      * a move or extended travel, beyond six months, to a country or remote community in Canada without vaccination access where the person is unlikely to have an opportunity to complete their series of doses 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.).

      B.C. residents with questions can phone a call centre at 1-833-838-2323.

      Chief public health officer Dr. Tam has cited evidence showing that booster shots offer protection against waning immunity.

      On June 17, Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, mentioned that "evidence shows that boosters help increase antibody levels that wane over time after the second dose".

      "Although vaccine effectiveness against infection decreases over time, evidence shows that two doses of mRNA vaccines generally maintain good effectiveness against severe outcomes across variants, and a booster further increases vaccine effectiveness to over 90% against severe outcomes," Tam said at the time.

      This comment was made before Topol tweeted about how two booster doses for those 50 and over appear to provide better protection against death from two Omicron subvariants of COVID-19.

      Topol has published more than 1,200 peer-reviewed articles. He is one of the 10 most-cited researchers in medicine, according to his website.

      Meanwhile, B.C. premier John Horgan recently dodged a question about second booster shots at a news conference concerning the Royal BC Museum.

      (An earlier version of this article stated that second boosters were available to Quebec residents 60 years of age or older. That has been corrected to 18 years of age or older.)