P.E.I. sticking with 6-month intervals for COVID-19 vaccines while awaiting further guidance

P.E.I. sticking with 6-month intervals for COVID-19 vaccines while awaiting further guidance

Cathy Morgan says she showed up at a Charlottetown health clinic Dec. 30 to get her third COVID-19 booster — exactly six months after her last shot — but was told by a public health nurse she wasn't eligible for the booster.

Morgan was surprised, and she wasn't the only one.

"When I told her that was frustrating, that I'd wish I'd known before I'd shown up for the appointment, she goes, 'yeah we're finding others are disappointed, too,'" she said.

"I didn't quite understand it at first. I was sort of shocked and wasn't following the reasoning. There was just no information. It wasn't made public."

Other Islanders have been posting on social media about being turned away for their booster, and the confusion around when they are eligible.

It seems public health nurses and pharmacists were waiting on new guidance from NACI, the National Advisory Council on Immunization.

In the summer, NACI advised Canadians to get a booster shot ahead of the expected fall surge of COVID-19 cases, but to wait until six months after their last shot. NACI hasn't said definitively whether people should continue getting shots every six months.

"Pharmacists have been asking as well — what is the recommendation?" said Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association.

"Now that we're coming into January, a lot of people are reaching that six-month mark after their July booster, and are wondering, should I get immunized again?"

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In a statement to CBC, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office said the messaging around boosters has remained consistent — it's important to keep them up to date.

"With so many different updates and different vaccines over the last two years, it is understandable that there would be questions and an ongoing need for clarification and updates," the statement said.

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said she recently advised pharmacists and other health-care providers that there would be no change in the guidance, and that they should stick with the six-month intervals until further notice. She said she expects updated guidance from NACI later this month.

"We have just stayed the course in what we've been saying, really for the last number of months," Morrison said in an interview with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin.

"P.E.I. is continuing to offer a booster, regardless of how many previous doses you've had, as long as it's been six months since your last dose."

Morgan, however, will be waiting a bit longer. She said she ended up testing positive for COVID-19 in early January, a few days after being turned away at the clinic.

According to P.E.I.'s Department of Health and Wellness, "Islanders infected with COVID-19 should wait three months after onset of symptoms or a positive test before getting a COVID-19 vaccine (primary series or booster dose) provided they are eligible for vaccination based on the recommended time between doses."