Alberta Health will begin providing a third dose of the vaccine to a limited number of Albertans on Wednesday.
In a press release issued Monday, the province identified seniors in congregate care facilities and immunocompromised Albertans as the first group to qualify for the additional doses, which it said will boost immunity levels and improve protection for everyone in the group.
Poses will also be available to Albertans traveling to a location that does not accept visitors who have been vaccinated with Covishield/AstraZeneca or mixed potions.
Immunocompromised patients eligible for an additional dose at least eight weeks after the second dose include:
- Transplant recipients, including solid organ transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants.
- Individuals with chronic kidney disease who are on regular dialysis.
- Individuals in active cancer treatment (chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapies), except for those receiving only hormone therapy, radiation therapy, or surgery.
- Individuals taking certain medications for autoimmune diseases
According to the county, 118,000 people will now qualify for a third dose.
The news was greeted by medical professionals who have been participating in an online COVID-19 update that aims to ‘fill the void’ left by a lack of updates from regional officials.
Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease physician and researcher at the University of Alberta, is pleased to see the province’s targeted approach with the third dose being introduced.
“We know they don’t trigger proper immune responses after a vaccine,” Dr. Schwartz said. “[But], we don’t have much correlation as to how that translates to people’s exposure to infection.
“So we know that when you give them a third dose it increases the risk of [efficacy and response from the vaccine] The number of individuals with antibodies. We think especially for this vulnerable group of patients that this is a good thing.”
But he worries that starting a third dose may actually lead to vaccine inequality issues.
“I think it becomes a slippery slope if this becomes the standard of care or routine.”
Dr. Neja Bakshi is an internal medicine specialist at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton and has worked on the COVID ward of hospitals for the past 18 months. She was also part of our county protection update Monday and echoed Schwartz’s concerns.
“I think it’s important to address that, do we do everything we can to improve the inequality in this county for those who haven’t been able to make it to their first or second dose,” Bakshi said.