The Rural Pharmacist: Who is Eligible for a Covid-19 Booster Vaccine?

You can also read our pharmacist blogs in the Oliver Paipoonge and Neebing monthly newsletters!

by Devon Myers, Pharmacist/Owner of Evergreen Pharmacies

Over the past few months there have been several changes to the immunization strategy in Ontario regarding the fight against Covid-19. First there was the introduction of booster shots. Next came the announcement that children 5-11 years of age could get vaccinated. Following is a summary of some the recent changes and what that means for our patients as we move out of 2021 and into 2022. 

Let’s start with the introduction of booster vaccines. At this time, a two-dose vaccine series has been shown to work! Data has emerged that demonstrates that a full vaccine series maintains high vaccine effectiveness with no evidence of waning against serious illness, hospitalization and death. But if that’s the case, why are we bothering with a booster? Despite its effectiveness for preventing serious complications from Covid-19 infection, vaccine effectiveness against asymptomatic infection and mild Covid-19 disease may decrease over time. In addition, currently authorized vaccines may be less effective against the Delta variant, a more easily transmissible strain. For these reasons, booster vaccines have become available for certain populations to provide durable protection. 

Believe it or not, booster vaccines have been available for several months. At rollout, however, it was only accessible for specific groups of people. The first patient population to have access to the booster vaccine was high-risk individuals. What does that mean? High risk individuals are those most likely to have severe complications if they were to contract the Covid-19 virus. An example of a high-risk individual could be someone undergoing chemotherapy or, a recipient of an organ transplant. Protect the most vulnerable, that makes sense. At the time, these patients needed a note from their doctor that specified the need for a booster dose. Policies have changed a bit since then.

The next group eligible for a booster vaccine were those over the age of 70 who had had their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at least 6 months prior. Please note the placement of the underline. A booster vaccine is believed to be more effective if given 6 months after the second dose; our immune systems seem to respond more efficiently. Also included in this second group were certain health care workers or first responders, as well as First Nations, Inuit and Metis adults.

Does this sound familiar? If you can remember, these were the initial groups of people to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at the beginning of 2021. Subsequently, the general population began receiving their vaccines shortly after. If the Ontario government takes a similar approach to vaccine accessibility for booster doses, one could imagine that boosters for the general population will be available within the coming weeks to months. With that being said, we are still administering many first and second doses at our pharmacies. You have not missed the boat if you are still looking to be vaccinated.

first dose of a mRNA vaccine was just being made. From literature provided to date, the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer has been approved by Health Canada for use in this age group. This is the same vaccine that has been provided in individuals 12 years of age and older. Children 5-11 years of age will receive a smaller dose of the vaccine. Specific lots of these vaccines will likely have arrived in Ontario by the time this article is published. This marks a milestone in our effort to combat Covid-19. Stay tuned for more updates regarding vaccine use in this age group in our future articles.  

Lastly, December marks the 4-year anniversary for our pharmacy in Rosslyn. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all our patients and customers who continue to support us. The past two years have been exceptionally demanding as we’ve navigated the new healthcare landscape. But our patients have remained understanding and supportive throughout the pandemic. It is a privilege to work in this community and we look forward to serving you for years to come. Thank you. See you in the new year!