Persons over 50 and Indigenous people 30 and older are among those who qualify for a second booster shot under expanded criteria.

The once-ubiquitous face of Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, made one of his more infrequent appearances on May 20 to provide an update on COVID-19, booster doses and treatment for the virus.

Describing the situation with the virus in Manitoba as “stable,” Roussin said it appears hospital and intensive care admissions have peaked and are declining, although not rapidly. He also said about 80 percent of people hospitalized with COVID are there because of COVID, while the virus is directly responsible for admitting about 40 percent of the patients in intensive care who have the virus these days. The others are people who have been hospitalized or ICU mainly for other reasons but also have COVID.

The province announced May 20 that it is extending eligibility for second booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to people over 50, Indigenous peoples over 30 and those ages 18 to 49 with moderate to severe immunodeficiency, and residents of all ages in nursing homes and similar communities.

The minimum interval between the first two doses of COVID vaccine (in most cases) and the first booster dose has been reduced from six to four months, as has the minimum interval between booster doses.

Eligibility for COVID treatment has now been expanded to include people with symptoms that started in the last five to seven days, who have tested positive for COVID and are at higher risk of serious illness. Higher-risk categories include those who are not fully vaccinated, those who have not received a booster shot, those who have not previously been infected with the virus, older adults, those with one or more chronic medical conditions, those with moderate or severe Immune deficiency due to a medical condition or treatment, as well as those who are overweight or pregnant.

Some people who are fully vaccinated may also be eligible for treatment if they are at higher risk for other reasons.

The antiviral pill Paxlovid, which can be prescribed to treat COVID infections, is now available in 175 pharmacies across the province where people can fill their prescriptions.

Roussin also said Manitoba still sees influenza A infections at a time of year when flu transmission has typically stopped during a typical flu season.

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