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Alberta seniors slow on fourth COVID vaccine uptake

Syringes with Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before a drive-thru vaccine clinic in Kingston, Ontario on June 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg 2021/11/CP124714068-scaled-e1629194393181.jpg 2021/11/CP124714068-scaled-e1629194393181.jpg 2021/11/CP124714068-scaled-e1629194393181.jpg

Two years ago, continuing care facilities were the site of widespread COVID-19 outbreaks, with seniors at the highest risk for negative outcomes of the virus.

Today, the situation is much different.

Vaccines have lowered risks for many vulnerable populations, including seniors, but fourth dose vaccination rates aren’t as high as some health care providers would like to see.

Dr. Daniel Gregson, an infectious disease physician at the University of Calgary, says three vaccine doses are good, but four is even better for certain groups.

“The more people we can get fully vaccinated in their specific age groups the better it is for them,” Gregson said. “If you know someone who is in the age group that is eligible for vaccination that hasn’t gone because there are barriers, please help them out. Call and say ‘can I drive you to the pharmacy? Can I help you book this online or on the phone?’ That will make a big difference to some individuals.”

According to Alberta Health, more than 100,000 eligible Albertans have received a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but uptake for the third shot is still much higher. Only 6.9 per cent of Albertans aged 70-74 have received their fourth vaccine, while over 80 per cent in that age range have received their third.

Alberta Health says the five-month waiting period between shots could be playing a role in the lower numbers.

Jon Yee, VP of Strategy for the non-profit Center for Newcomers, says there are other factors at play. He says some seniors are facing barriers preventing them from accessing their second booster.

“There could be areas of concern for transportation, language, culture, or even just trust from organizations trying to push that fourth vaccination,” Yee said.


Yee adds more funding is needed from the Alberta government to create outreach clinics targeting communities with low vaccination rates in seniors, to build trust and educate vulnerable populations.

Meanwhile, when asked about fourth doses becoming available to other age groups in the province, Alberta Health says it’s still up in the air.

“Any decisions to provide additional doses to other groups of Albertans will be based on careful consideration of the evidence available including the recommendations of the Provincial and National Advisory Committees on Immunization,” Alberta Health told CityNews.