Manitobans who are immunocompromised or need a matching immunization record for travel can now get a third COVID-19 vaccine shot with the help of a physician.
Third dosesClick to Expand
For clinical reasons, Manitoba will make a third shot available to people who:
• are receiving active chemotherapy (or immunotherapy) for cancer;
• have received an organ transplant and are currently receiving chemotherapy or other immunosuppressive therapy;
• were born with moderate or severe dysfunction of their immune system;
• are living with untreated or advanced HIV-AIDS; or
• are taking certain medications that severely affect the immune system.
The list is not exhaustive and more details are available on the province's website.
Travel, recognized immunization status
Manitoba will offer third doses of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) to people who mixed vaccine types and now need a matching vaccination record for travel purposes. Travellers must consult with their doctor on getting the third shot.
People living in Manitoba who were vaccinated with a product not approved by Health Canada can get a third shot of an mRNA vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated by the Manitoba government.
Source: Province of Manitoba
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba's vaccine task force, said Wednesday the province will make a third shot available to people who have certain medical conditions that may impact their ability to mount a strong immune response following immunization.
"For those who are immunocompromised, two doses of the vaccine may not provide adequate defence against COVID-19, particularly given concerns with the highly contagious delta variant," Reimer said.
Reimer said the list of conditions compiled by the province was not exhaustive and a more fulsome list would be made available to physicians.
Shortly after hearing the news Wednesday, Kenneth Miller rang up his family doctor to talk about getting a third dose for his wife Cheryl, who has multiple sclerosis.
"If we do get the booster shot, once again we will have a sigh of relief that they’ve actually targeted people with compromised immune systems to get protected against the virus," Miller said.
However, he was disappointed to learn appointments for third doses weren’t yet available at his doctor's clinic, as guidance had not yet been provided to physicians.
"The doctors should be completely aware of what’s happening and be given a heads up," Miller said. "Don’t just fire it out there. That confuses the public."
Reimer asked Manitobans to be patient Wednesday as the task force updates doctors on the changes to the vaccine program.
"As with any changes in policy around rollout of the vaccine, while we are aiming for a seamless process, we also recognize that it will take a bit of time to get there," she said.
Reimer said tens of thousands of Manitobans may be eligible for a third dose under the new criteria and said people who fit the bill must consult their physician.
Consult doctor about third shot
Keir Johnson, a spokesman for Doctors Manitoba, said physicians are ready to help. Johnson advised patients to contact their doctor or find one at ManitobaVaccine.ca.
Manitobans who mixed vaccines can now also ask their physician for a third shot if a matching record is required for travel purposes.
Travellers must talk to a health-care provider and go through an informed consent process to weigh the risk and benefit of a third shot, Reimer said.
"The risks are very low — we’re talking one in 100,000 type of numbers for some of the riskier outcomes — but they’re not zero," Reimer said.
"So we want people to have that conversation to make sure that they feel comfortable with the low, but not zero risk, of something like an allergic reaction, comparing that to the benefit that they get related to travel."
Third doses for travel will not be offered at provincial vaccine supersites or pop-up clinics, as they are not recommended by public health, Reimer said. Pharmacists can provide third doses with a prescription.
People living in Manitoba who were vaccinated with a product not approved by Health Canada can also get a third dose of an mRNA vaccine.
Vaccine exemption: not just a doctor's note
Meanwhile, Reimer said the province is finalizing the process for people with certain medical concerns to be exempt from COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
"This is intentionally going to be a very small group of people," Reimer said. "We did recognize that we needed a process for this small group of people who have a significant and legitimate medical reason for being exempt from getting the vaccine.
"I do want to be very clear that the process is not a note from your doctor."
Vaccine exemptionsClick to Expand
Manitobans in the following situations may be exempt from COVID-19 vaccination requirements:
• had a severe reaction after the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (myocarditis, Guillain-Barré syndrome);
• receiving treatment that affects their ability to mount an immune response, meaning vaccination must be timed carefully with their treatment schedule (receiving immunocompromising treatment after a transplant, certain types of cancer treatments); or
• had a severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or its components that cannot be managed by the Health Sciences Centre Allergy Clinic.
The exemption must be confirmed by a specialist physician and forwarded to the province’s vaccine task force.
Source: Province of Manitoba
She said people who had a severe reaction after the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, are receiving immunocompromising treatment, or had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose may be exempt.
The exemption must be confirmed by a specialist physician and forwarded to the province’s vaccine task force, Reimer said.
The process for issuing a medical exemption is still being finalized and physicians are not yet able to refer patients seeking exemption to a specialist, Johnson said.
"If a patient is sure they meet this criteria, they should wait to call their doctor until the referral process is established," Johnson said.
People who are determined to be exempt from COVID-19 vaccine requirements will be able to receive a pass comparable to the province’s COVID-19 immunization certificate, Reimer said.
Meanwhile, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Wednesday First Nations elders and residents in nursing homes on and off reserve will be eligible for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.