Can I book my COVID-19 bivalent booster that targets Omicron? Where each province, territory stands
The anticipated COVID-19 bivalent booster shot that specifically targets the Omicron variant is now available across Canada.
But provinces and territories have different eligibility criteria and recommendations on how long people who’ve received previous vaccine doses should wait until they receive the bivalent vaccine.
The bivalent vaccine is able to specifically target Omicron, which is currently the predominant variant circulating globally, as the formula contains a mixture of spike protein elements from both the original COVID-19 virus and the Omicron variant.
Health Canada has approved bivalent vaccines manufactured by both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Moderna's combination vaccine targets the original strain of the COVID-19 virus and the first Omicron variant, while Pfizer's vaccine targets the BA.4 and BA.5 strains.
While the bivalent booster has been designed to target the BA.1 strain of Omicron, it should provide strong protection against the more prevalent strains, BA.4 and BA.5, Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, told CTV Toronto earlier this month.
Most jurisdictions are following the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which is that the bivalent booster be provided to those 18 and older and following a six-month period after the last dose.
Here’s a breakdown of each province and territory’s current policies around bivalent vaccine eligibility and how to book an appointment.
British Columbia announced on Sept. 20 that the bivalent vaccine is being offered to adults aged 18 and older, as well as children aged 12 to 17 who have been deemed at high risk for developing severe outcomes due to COVID-19.
The province is also prioritizing groups identified as priority, which include people aged 60 and older, all Indigenous adults, and other high-risk individuals.
To receive the vaccine, residents need to register with the province’s Get Vaccinated portal and book an appointment. B.C. will send out appointment booking invitations based on risk, age, and if it has been six months since the previous COVID-19 vaccine dose.
In Alberta, the bivalent booster was made available for those aged 18 and older as of Sept. 21.
The province is advising residents to wait at least five months from their previous dose when booking a bivalent vaccine appointment. For those at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, a three-month waiting period is possible, the Alberta government states on its website.
Those in Alberta can book online at an Alberta Health Services clinic, pharmacies, or at walk-in clinics.
Saskatchewan opened eligibility for the bivalent vaccine on Sept. 19 for adults aged 70 and older, as well as those aged 50 and older who belong to First Nation and Métis communities, and those in the Northern Service Administration District.
The province recommends a four-month waiting period between the last booster dose received and the bivalent vaccine.
Patients can book vaccination appointments online or by calling 1-833-Sask-VAX (1-833-727-5829).
On Sept. 21, Manitoba expanded its eligibility for the bivalent booster to adults aged 18 and older.
The province recommends residents wait six months from their last dose to receive the shot in order to provide the best immune response.The minimal interval between the doses is three months.
As of Sept. 22, residents can book their appointments for the bivalent vaccine using the province’s online booking toolor by calling 1-844-626-8222 (1-844-MAN-VACC), or by contacting medical clinics and pharmacies directly, a press release from the province says.
The province also recommends that those who are due for a booster shot choose the bivalent vaccine as it provides additional protection against Omicron.
Ontario opened up booking for the bivalent vaccine for all adults aged 18 and older on Sept. 26. The vaccine was already available to some vulnerable groups earlier in September.
Appointments can be booked through the province’s online vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre (PVCC) at 1-833-943-3900.
Public Health Units that use their own booking systems can also be used to make an appointment and residents can also contact pharmacies, Indigenous-led vaccination clinics and any participating health-care providers, the province states on its website.
Quebec opened up bookings for the bivalent vaccine on Sept. 8 and recommended the booster for those aged 30 and older.
The province is advising those under age 30 to be boosted with the standard Pfizer booster instead of the bivalent vaccine, as Quebec’s vaccine committee has reported that the bivalent show poses a higher risk of myocarditis in younger people. Myocarditis is a condition where the heart becomes inflamed. In Canada, there have been a small number of cases where younger people developed the condition after a COVID-19 vaccination, though adverse events following vaccination are not necessarily related to the vaccine, Health Canada explains in its guidance about myocarditis.
Quebec’s guidelines state that the bivalent vaccine should be administered at least five months after the previous dose and at least three months following a previous COVID-19 infection.
Appointments can be booked online or by calling 514-644-4545 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
In New Brunswick, the bivalent vaccine is available for those aged 50 and older, all residents of long-term care aged 12 and older, all First Nations, Metis and Inuit individuals aged 12 and older, as well as children aged 12 to 17 who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
It’s recommended to receive the vaccine at least five months after the previous one, with a minimum of three months in between doses.
Residents can book an appointment online through the government’s website. The majority of appointments in New Brunswick are made at pharmacies.
Nova Scotia opened bookings for the bivalent booster on Sept. 21 for all individuals aged 18 and older.
The recommended waiting period between doses is 168 days, the province states on its website. It also is recommended to wait 168 days since an individual’s last COVID-19 infection.
Those who are immunocompromised or people 70 and older can be eligible for a shortened interval of 120 days between doses or since the last infection.
Appointments can be booked online at https://novascotia.ca/vaccination or by calling 1-833-797-7772.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Prince Edward Island is offering the bivalent vaccine to all residents aged 18 and older.
The province is recommending residents wait six months after their last dose before receiving the bivalent booster. However, a three-month waiting period can be acceptable if a person needs to receive the vaccine earlier -- if they are starting a particular medical treatment or travelling to an area with a high number of COVID-19 cases, for example -- the government states on its website.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
As of Sept. 21, the bivalent vaccine is available in Newfoundland and Labrador for those aged 65 and older, residents of long-term care or congregate living, those 12 years and older with underlying conditions, those in First Nations, Metis, or Inuit communities, adults in racialized or marginalized communities, and residents of other congregate care settings who are 12 years old or older.
The bivalent vaccine will be available in Yukon starting Oct. 5, according to the territory’s website.
All residents aged 18 and older are eligible for the booster and it’s recommended they wait at least six months from a previous booster, and at least three months from a previous COVID-19 infection, a news release states.
Appointments can be made online or by calling 1-877-374-0425. For those living in rural communities, the bivalent booster will be made available in community clinics in October.
In the most recent update from the territory on Sept. 21, the bivalent booster will be offered to those at highest risk first.
Initial prioritization will be for those 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities and those aged five to 64 who are considered high risk or immunocompromised.
“Supplies of the bivalent Omicron-containing vaccine will be provided as the first choice based on risk, eligibility, and prioritization until supplies run out,” a news release from the territory reads.
Residents can learn how to book appointments on the territory’s website which directs patients depending on whether they live in Yellowknife or another community.
On Sept. 12 the territory announced that it has limited supply of the bivalent vaccine, so it will be offered to Elders living in the community who are aged 70 and older, along with residents and staff in long-term care.
Vaccine appointments can be booked by calling Iqaluit Public Health at 867-975-4810.
With files from The Canadian Press.