I finally received my bivalent COVID booster shot this past weekend. It had been more than 10 months since my last COVID shot, which was my third dose (or first booster), and I’d been waiting with frustration as the province dragged its feet on eligibility for second boosters.
Second-booster eligibility remained wildly inconsistent from province to province before the bivalent shot arrived in September. Back in August, five provinces (Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan) had opened second-booster eligibility to everyone over 18, while in Manitoba, it was still restricted to people over the age of 50 (or 30 for Indigenous folks). In British Columbia, only those over 70, or 55 for Indigenous folks, were eligible.
This lack of coordination betrays just how bad provincial governments still are at managing the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. Despite rising local deaths and test-positivity rates (in the last provincial surveillance report, for the week of Sept. 18 to 24, 17 new deaths and a test-positivity rate of 22.2 per cent were announced), masks remain optional in most public spaces, travel safety protocols are being lifted, and public institutions seem committed to pretending this pandemic is over.
Fortunately, at the vaccine clinic this past weekend, the scene was very different. The huge space in the business park at the corner of Notre Dame and Keewatin was fully staffed with volunteers, and dozens of masked citizens rolled up our sleeves, got the shot and waited the standard 15 minutes before leaving.
Far from the nervous energy of the room when I received my first vaccine, the vibe here was cheerful. Staff and patients were chatty and friendly. Kids proudly flashed their vaccine stickers to passersby. There was even a dog present.
Manitobans are still happy to keep each other safe during COVID. If only those in charge would give us more opportunities to do so.
Published in Volume 77, Number 05 of The Uniter (October 6, 2022)