Second booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are available starting today to New Brunswickers aged 50 or older, if at least five months have passed since their last dose.
But shots might not be available at all 190 participating pharmacies right away, says the president of the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association.
"Each individual pharmacy would be different and unique in regards to their plan to offer the vaccine," said Andrew Drover.
"Some will do it by appointment only, while others will do it on a walk-in basis, and then others will do it specific days of the week, where they have clinics," based on their staffing levels and workflow.
A Shoppers Drug Mart in east Saint John, for example, isn't holding a second booster clinic until next Tuesday.
The province announced its decision to expand eligibility on April 8, based on recent "initial guidance" from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, "along with demographic, epidemiologic, chronic disease burden, and hospitalization data specific to New Brunswick."
Until now, fourth doses in New Brunswick have only been available to severely to moderately immunocompromised people aged 12 and older, five months after their third dose.
Drover, who owns Harrisville Pharmacy in Moncton, said demand for second boosters has been "quite high."
He administered about 30 shots Tuesday and is already fully booked through Saturday, with an equal number of appointments booked each day.
"I'm very, very happy and encouraged to see the enthusiasm of people to get another dose of the vaccine," he said, noting some pharmacies have three or four pharmacists on duty and higher capacity.
The bulk of people who can get a second booster will be eligible around the end of May, into June, said Drover.
"Assuming all those people are interested in a fourth dose, that would be when we would expect it to kind of crest."
He's already booking a lot of appointments into May and June, he said.
Most of the people who currently eligible are about 70 or older.
Public Health is "strongly recommending" a second booster dose for people aged 70 or older and for long-term care residents, "as age is one of the highest risk factors for severe outcomes and hospitalization."
First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 or over, as well as any New Brunswicker aged 50 to 69, can receive a second booster if it has been at least five months since their last dose.
Wait 3 months after infection
Anyone who has been recently infected with COVID-19 should wait three months before receiving a booster dose, the release advised. For example, if it has been four months since a last dose, but a person is just recovering from COVID-19, they will have to wait an additional three months to receive their booster dose.
Public Health, in consultation with NACI, will continue to evaluate second booster doses for adults under 50, youth aged 12 to 17, those living in congregate or vulnerable settings, and those who work in vulnerable sectors, including health-care workers, according to the April 8 news release.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended the "rapid deployment" of second COVID-19 booster shots for people aged 80 or older and those living in long-term care and other congregate settings.
People can find a list of participating pharmacies online. Some offer online scheduling, while others require appointments to be booked over the phone.
"Most New Brunswick pharmacies will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations, including second booster doses when they are available," Jake Reid, executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association, said in the April 8 news release.
"Vaccination is the most important step you can take to help protect yourself against COVID-19," he said. "As the Omicron and BA.2 variants continue to circulate across the province, it is never too late for people to get vaccinated to help protect themselves, their families and their communities against COVID-19."