COVID is still killing people in Alberta, but if you’ve been careful about keeping vaccinated and think it might be time for another booster, chances are you’re out of luck. 

COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: National Advisory Committee on Immunization).

Obviously, whatever the United Conservative Party Government wishes, COVID-19 continues to kill people regularly in Alberta. 

According to Alberta Health’s weekly dump of COVID-19 data yesterday, 575 are people in hospital with the disease in the province, 16 of them in intensive care. Chances are, not all of them will recover: Twenty Albertans died of COVID in the past week, 26 the week before that, so about three a day on average. 

Nevertheless, if you’ve had your two-shot vaccination against COVID, followed by two boosters and a bivalent booster, each about five or six months apart, Alberta Health Services will not allow you to have another booster.

It’s not just Alberta. This policy seems to apply throughout Canada – although you have to suspect, given Alberta’s past performance with COVID-19, that if change comes we’ll be the last in and the first out. 

Nothing has been said proactively about this policy by the Alberta Government, Alberta Health Services, or – as far as I’ve seen – by mainstream media.

If you want to confirm it for yourself, just tell you pharmacist you had a bivalent booster five or six months ago and ask when you should get your next booster. 

You’ll be told, sorry, no more boosters allowed. Maybe someday. We don’t know when. 

It will be clear to you that pharmacists, who have been the front line of the COVID vaccination program since the start of the pandemic in 2020, have no idea when or if this might change. 

I asked Alberta Health Services about this, and the province-wide health care agency confirmed that “Albertans who have had a COVID-19 booster dose after September 21, 2022, are not currently eligible for another dose.”

Moreover, an AHS spokesperson explained, “the National Advisory Committee on Immunization currently recommends only one booster dose since the start of fall 2022, preferably a bivalent Omicron‑containing mRNA COVID‑19 vaccine. All of Canada’s provinces and territories, including Alberta, have adopted NACI’s recommendations.”

However, after noting that “based on the variability of fall 2022 booster program start dates across jurisdictions, some individuals will have exceeded 6 months since receiving their fall booster dose later this winter,” NACI’s guidance on COVID-19 vaccine booster doses, initial considerations for 2023, states: “Currently, NACI is not issuing guidance on an additional booster dose for these individuals.”

“NACI plans to continue to monitor the evidence and evolving epidemiology and provide updated guidance in the coming months,” the guidance statement continues. 

None of this appears to specify that you cannot have any more boosters after receiving a bivalent shot. 

NACI does say in a note: “The recommended interval between the previous COVID-19 vaccine dose (previous booster or completion of the primary series) and a booster dose is 6 months, and between infection and a booster dose is 6 months (whichever is longer). A shorter interval of at least 3 months may be considered in the context of heightened epidemiologic risk, evolving SARS-COV-2 epidemiology, as well as operational considerations for efficient deployment.”

As noted above, given its past performance on COVID-19 – even before the ruling United Conservative Party was taken over by an anti-vaccination PAC and a right-wing radio talk show host who was enthusiastic about conspiracy theories and quack COVID cures – Alberta was usually the slowest province to adopt effective COVID measures and the first to drop them. 

This does not seem like an ideal situation for citizens who would like to preserve their immunity to COVID-19, especially those in vulnerable age and health groups. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, plans are afoot by the Food and Drug Administration to offer annual COVID boosters each fall along with the influenza shots. 

As for Canada, nobody seems to know. 

Perhaps Albertans who wish to keep their immunity against the disease will have to adopt the original form of Canadian two-tier medicine and travel to Montana or some other state every fall for their vaccination. 

If you’re thinking this might be what you have to do, though, you should probably leave Idaho off your list of medical tourism destinations – at least until the state legislature has dealt with the bill introduced by a couple of loony anti-vaxx Republican state legislators that would make anyone who administered an mRNA vaccine a criminal. 

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  1. It takes phoning around to different pharmacists but there are pharmacists who are going along with the 3 month interval for those of us that make the case that because of our age or other factors that we’re in higher risk categories, and you just have to insist with some of them, and just sign off on a form that you’re aware that AHS recommends 6mths, but want it sooner. My wife and I in our early 60s which is considered higher risk demographic, have been able to obtain a shot of both bivalents on short intervals of 3.5 months after the regular vaccines, and 3.5 months after the first bivalent for the 2nd one. FWIW, before I pursued the short intervals, I could find no research published in reputable journals or on the USA’s CDC’s research pages citing any negative side effects of the short intervals. On the other hand there are several studies, a couple with large sample sizes showing an accelerated rate of decline of the first line of immune system response to protect against the worst outcomes begins to happen between 3 to 4 months after a shot. And by 6 months, a large reduction has happened. The latest Covid variants continue to mutate to increase their evasiveness of some aspects of our immune system. However, the protection from getting the two new bivalents that were authorized in the fall is still significant additional protection. I’ve also ran across news coverage of a research team in the US that’s applying for funding to research the relative efficacy of giving Covid vaccine shots at 3 month intervals, 6mths, and yearly. The spokesperson quoted for the news coverage of this proposal made the case that he believed there we already have enough evidence to justify getting Covid vaccines at regular 3 month intervals to keep all aspects of the immune response at high levels. I’d share links to what I’ve found, if I’d been organized enough to keep them all. FWIW, The pharmacist that gave us our 2nd bivalent in January was the only one I’ve talked to however that also had been keeping up to date on research about getting the benefits of vaccines on short intervals. To get my first one at 3.5 months, I had to take a copy of the AHS policy and email that AHS had sent to the pharmacists to convince her to give us that first bivalent. I’ve read numerous reports of the same reluctance among many pharmacists. Just a guess… but either they’re all mostly too busy to keep up with reading the literature as it gets published, or maybe they don’t want to get on the wrong side of AHS and UCP. There’s no shortage of vaccine booster shots, and the uptake has been slow, so it seems really short-sighted policy to not urge shorter intervals and flat out bad public health policy to withhold any booster! But FREEDOM *from* vaccines apparently needs to be enforced. Or something…

  2. FWIW, here’s the CDC’s suggested vaccine schedules.
    Recommended minimum interval of only ‘at least 8 weeks (2 months) for getting both the original sequence of mono-valent vaccines of Moderna or Pfizer, and the same interval for then getting the bivalents, of ‘at least 8 weeks (2 months)’.

    The CDC’s table of suggested immunization shots doesn’t specifically rule out getting both bivalents, that I could find, but it doesn’t recommend getting both. Just recommends one. However, given that the Moderna and Pfizer bivalents used different Omicron variants in their design, and that it’s impossible to know which subvariant we could be exposed to, and/or what the lineage will be of the next to emerge, seems obvious that getting both is the best odds of getting maximal protection at the moment.

    Will be interesting to learn someday what’s up with Canada and AB sticking to primarily urging people to wait 6 months? or at least 3 months? when the CDC is going with 2 months?

  3. I just wonder if we’ll see the UCP’s syndication of their Best Summer Ever, from almost two years ago? If we do, it won’t be good. What will Preston Manning conclude in his report on how the UCP handled the Covid-19 matter? That’s the $253,000 question.

  4. It’s one thing to have right-wing nut-jobs go off on conspiracies of every sort; they are easily and comfortably discounted. But when epidemiologists and professors and researchers at top line institutions start to ruminate about H5N1 (Bird Flu) spilling over into human to human transmission or the latest outbreak of Marburg virus spilling out into the general population it might be worthwhile to consider their worries.
    From what I can gather, it seems the greatest worry is that countries or other medical jurisdictions are not prepared and not preparing to respond to another novel viral outbreak. Populations are not being educated, materials are not being stockpiled, procedures are not being developed or trained for; it’s as if anything to do with pandemic preparedness is now the ‘third rail’ in any political consideration.

    We’re going to have to get over this. We’re going to have to learn how to deal with the nut-jobs, even if they are the Premier, and to deal with the fallout and schisms that arise. This is a real threat to public health, still killing people every day in Canada and about 10x worse in the US.
    Covid has not gone away, the table is set for more and worse. And we have the increased risks associated with weather extremes in this climate crisis. All in, we need more sober, serious and competent preparedness for whatever comes next.
    And much less of the fanatical, hyperbolic belligerence, misinformation, ideological posturing and frankly, denial.

  5. I suppose what’s behind this general reluctance to give out more boosters is a growing consensus the risks are starting to outweigh the benefits. What is it know, something like a one in 800 chance of getting a bad reaction (the 1976 swine flu vaccine was withdrawn after it was shown there was a serious reaction event in one per 100,000).

    And what about this “sudden death syndrome”? Lots of stories out there about athletes and doctors etc collapsing and dying for no apparent reason. Is this all conspiracy theory? What is not conspiracy theory is worldwide statistical data of excess deaths which nobody wants to talk about let alone investigate.

    1. “general reluctance to give out more boosters is a growing consensus the risks are starting to outweigh the benefits”

      Growing consensus where, Ron? On your favourite Twitter news feed?
      Your comment would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerously ignorant.

      1. Hi Firth. I’m thinking ron may be getting his “growing consensus” from things like the two articles referred to in DJC’s blog post. Canada’s NACI and none other than US FDA scientists who are suggesting that going to an annual Covid vaccination program like for influenza may be the best way to go. Annual = once per year, not every 3 months or two weeks. Where do you get your better information?

      2. The “vaccines” aka gene therapy shots don’t stop transmission. They have hurt plenty of people. Ruined lives, including young people. The info is there and it is not all conspiratorial nonsense. Some of it is garbage for sure, but there are kernels of truth in the statistics showing declining fertility, excess deaths , and increased disabilities in heavily vaxxed countries if you care to look. Funny how you never hear about the catastrophe in the 5% vaxxed countries eh? It didn’t happen.
        It’s all corporate criminal malfeasance and worse, as always.
        But sure – go ahead keeping thinking you know it all and ignoring the victims of this corrupt rollout of “medicine”

        1. The vaccines are not gene therapy – that is just a conspiracy theory. The mRNA from the vaccines does not enter the cell nucleus or interact with the DNA at all. And no-one ever said a vaccine by itself stops transmission, just like no-one thinks an umbrella stops the rain. Vaccines stop people from getting infected and people who aren’t infected don’t transmit a virus they don’t have.

  6. Yes, COVID may not be done with us, but most people are done with it. Maybe it is COVID fatigue, or just wanting to get back to doing all the nice things we used to do, go on vacation, go out for dinner, a movie or a concert.

    So, politically that means certain things, but it goes both ways too. For instance, people also don’t want to hear some people whine about how they were the most discriminated against ever. Most people just want to get on with their lives best as possible. The convoy protesters are still seen by most as at best a nuisance and at worst extremists and not freedom fighters to bring donuts too.

    At this point there is not much to be gained by refighting the COVID culture wars on any side so any politician in Canada who doesn’t get that will probably get a sharp rebuke from the voters. At least in Canada, although perhaps in the US they cling to their culture wars more. Whether it is grounded in fact or science or not, psychologically most people here want to move on.

    1. Thank you, Dave, for your common sense comment, which I can easily agree with. While I am not an anti-vax person, I am absolutely frightened to death of any needle coming at me, no matter where it was aimed. (This all started in Grade 1 with a battle axe public health “Miss Bellis”.) However, as a retired couple in our 80’s (he with some health issues) I knew I had to get my act together and do my part. With my partner’s support (get me some privacy and with the helpful folks working at these mass vax sites) I did manage to appear adult like and did get all my shots. I will also admit that I still wear my mask when I venture out (thank heavens we have a large Chinese population and they set the “standard” when it comes to pollution or spread of a disease) . Consequently, as a precaution, I still wear a mask when I’m out and about and restrict my exposure to a bi-weekly venture to procure food and my libation. I view this as my minimal contribution to make sure, to the greatest extent possible, I’m
      not causing harm to my fellow residents. That is not a hardship for us, but I gather this is an extreme one for some folks (in their minds).

      1. It’s a shame that masks don’t really help though. They just make more garbage. Don’t take it from me. The CochraneReview did a study of 78 studies which discovered this.
        Can’t think of anything much more scientific than that. Masks are statistically insignificant in terms of what they do. But hey you can go on believing that they work and the government would never lie to you to balance their books I guess.
        Good luck!

    2. Problem is, those days before Covid are over regardless of what people want. I think a large portion of the anger and fear in the general public these days is unresolved grief of what was lost.

      1. Not to mention anger at the fact that this crisis was entirely preventable – unfortunately, politicians the world over bungled this, from the Chinese government to the US. Also contributing to the background anger is the obvious fact that throughout the crisis, the privileges of the wealthy mattered more than the lives of the non-wealthy.

        A lot of the quiet parts have been said out loud in the past few years.

  7. It’s a shame that people aren’t allowed to chose further booster shots based on their personal risk factors and the health status of those with whom they share a roof. The tide has turned. While anti-vaxxers south of the border wear yellow stars on their chests to show their “most persecuted people in history, ever”, the Republican horn-honkers north of the border have taken away freedom of vaccine choice from the rest of us. If only the families of those who pass away from Covid would start listing the COD as “Covid” in their obituaries instead of “after a brief illness”. Covid is the new AIDS.

  8. Well DJC, I don’t know what you’re trying to say here. I’m a follow the science guy and what I see is science saying that if you’re up-to-date with your vaccinations and not in a risk category, then you don’t need a booster vaccination at this time. As you quoted our scientists – “NACI plans to continue to monitor the evidence and evolving epidemiology and provide updated guidance in the coming months.” So the scientists are monitoring the situation and will let us know their recommendations. These are recommendations because as you know health provision is a provincial responsibility.

    As Sam has pointed out you can get a booster, especially if you’re in a risk group. But the way I read things they are saying 6 months is the recommended minimum time before getting another shot. Why would I go against the science and want one sooner? Maybe get one every two weeks? As you point out, in the US the FDA with their consulting experts is leaning towards an annual Covid vaccination schedule, probably in the fall like flu vaccines. It seems to me there are advantages to this although we’ll wait to see what the consensus is. Undoubtedly though it will also be like flu vaccinations where it’s not necessarily covered by the health system – you won’t have to go to Montana but you may have to pay for it.
    I know you guys have a vaccine-denier in charge, but if you’re saying that pharmacists are being prevented from giving vaccinations that sounds to me like a conspiracy theory, do you have evidence for that? Now we have people talking about “Marburg virus spilling out into the general population” when there have been no Marburg cases in North or South America. This is a disease which has been around for over 50 years and the risk of acquiring it is low even where it is present. Preparation and planning is good but spare me the hysteria pls.

  9. I work in the hospitality industry, everyone I work with got covid, many folks more than once, followed by a whole manner of common colds and flu, around fall of 22. There is something to be said for all that time spent apart from each other being a real detriment to the immune response our bodies are supposed to be providing to us. I am not talking about Covid, the benefits of the vaccines are pretty obvious, I don’t know anyone who benefited from the vaccines having a serious bout of the disease. However, we all spent all that time so worried about catching covid we made ourselves more vulnerable to common ailments. As a relatively young, healthy person, who is vaccinated, and who doesn’t have choice anyway I am not super concerned with being in public and I think most folks in a similar situation would benefit from a slight return to normalcy. Are we going back to the world before covid ? No that’s nonsense time does not move in that way, the past is the past, the future is unknowable, and we cannot put our lives on hold indefinitely. I know several of you have very passionate views on this topic but I assure you, this too shall pass. But it’s going to be more like waiting for a clogged sink to drain than it is turning off a light switch.

    1. You’re right little bird. We lost our chance to contain Covid a long time ago and we cannot stop it now so we are going to have to figure out how to deal with it being endemic. Vaccines, social distancing and masking when appropriate, strengthening our health system, all of it. It seems so true and obvious how the Covid measures also reduced all the other viral diseases like colds and flu but now as we start getting out again they come back like it used to be. That’s a good lesson on how effective the measures were.

  10. Athabaskan, I apologize for carrying on a bit about this but can you show us where the “Proof positive” is? I don’t see proof positive or even evidence of what you claim. For starters DJC said “This policy seems to apply throughout Canada” i.e. every province including Alberta. Although as Sam pointed out it’s more of a guideline than a policy.

    1. Mickey: It’s both a policy and a guideline. That is to say it’s a policy right now in every Canadian province. But the policy is based on a guideline of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which to my layperson’s eye does not seem to be intended as the cornerstone of a strict policy. DJC

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