The COVID-19 vaccine booster isn’t a priority for some British Columbians. Why?

It’s been nearly four months since B.C. began administering COVID-19 booster doses, but some British Columbians are in no rush to get one.

Invites for booster doses are sent out about six months after a person received their second dose. 

As of Feb. 14, the province says 58 per cent of British Columbians who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have received a booster. That’s 69 per cent of those who have been invited to get one, resulting in 2.5 million booster shots administered in the province in total. 

But according to an online poll conducted by research company Ipsos on behalf of the B.C. Pharmacy Association, 56 per cent of survey respondents — who have received two doses of the vaccine but not a booster — say they do not plan to get a booster dose right away. 

About half of those survey respondents say they will get the shot eventually, but that it isn’t currently a priority.

“It’s concerning that some people are choosing to wait or not get it at all,” said B.C. Pharmacy Association president Jamie Wigston.  

“After six months, their existing immunization doesn’t provide as much protection as before, as their immunity from the second dose wanes.”

Some say messaging from leaders around the importance of the booster dose hasn’t been strong or clear enough.

North Vancouver-based Ada Slivinski says she doesn’t feel she absolutely needs to have another dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and she’s comfortable with the level of protection provided by the first two doses.

“There’s no benefits that I’m seeing for my own life at this point,” she said.

She’s not vehemently against a booster dose, she says, adding she’d consider it if requirements change.

“If boosters were required for travel, then that would be something that I would consider.”

Booster doses are not required to continue using the B.C. Vaccine Card, which will be in place until June 30, or for domestic or international travel.

The Ipsos poll found Slivinksi is not alone: 41 per cent of respondents say they feel two doses are enough. 

Some British Columbians say messaging from leaders around the importance of the booster dose hasn’t been strong or clear enough. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

About 33 per cent of respondents say they are concerned about the potential long-term effects of the vaccine, and 27 per cent say they just want to get on with normal life.

B.C.’s Ministry of Health says it is aware that some people feel two shots are enough, having had COVID-19 provides additional protection, or that the current wave of the pandemic is presenting milder symptoms and therefore is less of a concern. 

However, the ministry says booster doses will reduce the chance of getting infected, even with the Omicron variant. 

“Like the first two doses, getting a booster shot makes a difference in terms of community transmission and helps blunt transmission and serious consequences in our communities,” the ministry said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

“The booster also helps us individually by increasing protection after two doses by about 50 to 60 per cent from infection from Omicron.”

Selling the benefits of COVID-19 booster shots

1 month ago

Duration 1:56

Some Canadians aren’t rushing to get their third doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, sparking concern about the impact of pandemic fatigue as doctors work on selling the benefits of booster shots. 1:56

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says studies suggest a booster dose is safe, increases immunity, and provides good short-term protection against infection. 

The pharmacy association says about 1,000 pharmacies in the province are administering COVID-19 vaccines, and urges those who haven’t done so to get a booster dose. 

“Make your COVID booster appointment,” Wigston said. “Speak with your pharmacist.”

The Ipsos survey was conducted online from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, 2022. For online polls, a margin of error cannot be calculated. For comparison purposes, the margin of error for a probability sample of the same size would be +/- 4.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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