(Health Minister Adrian Dix/Photo by Colin Smith Takes Pics)

BC health officials released an updated plan on booster shots today as the province enters a third wave of infections from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In a rare COVID-19 press conference Friday afternoon, Health Minister Adrian Dix was joined by Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead for B.C.’s immunization efforts and Acting Provincial Health Officer Dr. Martin Lavoie.

Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry is away on vacation and was not in attendance.

With respiratory illness season approaching, BC announced it will will roll out fourth COVID-19 boosters to those age 12 and older in the fall, with some exceptions for those close to the current age and medical eligibility criteria who want one now.

According the province, 1.3 million British Columbians have yet to get their third booster.

A fourth booster has been available to people living in long-term care facilities, people over 70, Indigenous people over 55, and those of all ages who are immunosuppressed since April.

As with previous vaccine rollouts, invitations to book a shot will go out by age group, starting with older British Columbians not yet eligible for a fourth dose.

The province will begin to send out invitations on Monday.

Health Canada and National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) have started evaluating new versions of the COVID-19 vaccines that have been adapted to the Omicron variant.

Acting provincial health officer Dr. Martin Lavoie says the latest wave of the Omicron variant BA.5 is increasing hospitalizations and the fall booster of mRNA vaccines will be more adaptive to fighting that variant.

NACI is still deciding whether to approve a first booster for children between the ages of five and 11.

A smaller first primary dose of vaccine designed for children under five is also still pending Health Canada approval, and subsequent NACI review, the province said.

As of July 6th, 59.5% of BC’s population 12 and over have received a third dose.

Health officials would not rule out the possibility that restrictions could make a comeback this fall when addressing questions from reporters about health measures.

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