Manitoba has expanded eligibility for third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to all residents and staff of First Nations personal care homes.
The decision will give about 200 residents and 400 staff at 10 First Nations care home facilities access to third doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine) before other personal care home residents in Manitoba, who are expected to become eligible some time in October.
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on the province’s vaccine task force, and Dr. Marcia Anderson, the head of Manitoba First Nations pandemic response team, made the announcement at a news conference Monday.
Last month, an outbreak was declared at the George M. Guimond Care Centre in Sagkeeng First Nation, which led to two deaths and spread to a total of 37 residents and staff, most of whom were fully vaccinated, Anderson said.
Throughout the pandemic, First Nations people have been over-represented in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, she said.
“When considering those factors — what we have seen in the pandemic so far, the losses faced by the people of Sagkeeng First Nation — it’s clear why an early expansion [of vaccines] to these facilities is needed to protect our people and our communities,” she said.
The expanded eligibility criteria comes after Manitoba announced last week that third doses will be offered to immunocompromised people and to individuals who may choose to receive a third dose of an mRNA vaccine for travel purposes.
“We want to do everything in our power to prevent a repeat of the death and illness that we saw in our personal care homes earlier in this pandemic,” Reimer said.
Although there is some emerging evidence from studies around the world, including a recent report from the United Kingdom, that personal care home residents and immunocompromised people may have less protection than others from two doses, Reimer said there is no evidence at this point of waning immunity in other groups.
“In fact, most of the data has been showing that for young, healthy people, there’s actually zero benefit to getting a third dose at this time,” she said.
Officials will continue to monitor the data and could consider offering third doses if evidence emerges that it would benefit the general population, Reimer said.
As of Monday, 84.3 per cent of eligible Manitobans had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 79.4 per cent had two, according to the province.
On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced clinical trials had shown their COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for kids age five to 11, and they plan to ask for authorization to use the vaccine in children in that age range in Canada as soon as possible.
Health Canada has already approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people as young as 12.
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