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Manitoba reduces recommended wait time between COVID-19 shots

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Respiratory viruses are on the rise in Manitoba and the province is reducing recommended intervals between COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, said residents are now eligible to receive an updated vaccine three months after their previous shot.

“As we’re seeing increasing numbers, we want to ensure all Manitobans have that opportunity to get the updated COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Roussin said on Thursday. “Anything we can do to increase uptake in those who are high risk.”

Previous guidelines from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) suggested a six-month interval between doses.

“We’ve heard there are some Manitobans who are at that 4-5 month interval and really seeing that as a barrier, so we want to soften that approach.”

Dr. Roussin said just under 199,000 Manitobans -- or about 15 per cent of the population -- have received the latest COVID-19 vaccine.

“Certainly numbers have dropped over time. I don’t think that’s really unexpected, but for the COVID-19 shot, we’re really focused on those at an increased risk,” Roussin explained.

He said at-risk groups include seniors, as well as people living with underlying medical conditions.

The guideline change comes as the province is seeing increased transmission in respiratory viruses including COVID, influenza, and RSV.

The latest provincial respiratory surveillance report, released on Nov. 23, showed 312 new COVID-19 cases were detected from Nov. 12-18. The province said there were 78 hospital admissions – including 12 patients receiving intensive care. The report also states one person died from COVID-19 during that period.

“We’re going to see that continued increase over the next number of weeks, but that is expected and we do see that every respiratory virus season.”

He said Manitobans should practice caution heading into the holidays to limit transmission -- like staying home when ill.

“There’s a lot more gatherings and things. So if you’re feeling unwell, it’s best to stay home until [you’re] feeling better – especially if you’re going to be in contact with people who are at an increased risk of severe outcomes,” Roussin explained.

The doctor is also encouraging Manitobans to get their annual influenza shot.

The next provincial respiratory surveillance report is expected to be released on Friday.

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