Booster shots are now available to some northern residents.

The Northern Inter Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) is now offering third doses of COVID-19 vaccine to people in their communities who are over the age of 50. Third doses are also available for health care workers.

NITHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka said since third doses have been made available starting in late October a small number of people have taken up the offer.

“Since the roll out for the booster dose started, two per cent of the eligible population have received their third dose,” he said.

Ndubuka said overall on the vaccine front, 71 per cent of people in NITHA communities have got their first dose, while 50 per cent of residents have got both.

In order to be eligible for a third dose, Ndubuka explained people must have got a second dose at least six months before hand. He added the health authority is strongly encouraging those who are eligible for the third dose to get it as it will provide them with additional protection.

“The evidence for waning immunity has been identified already,” he said.

People over the age of 50 living in NITHA communities have been eligible to get a third dose of vaccine since Oct 22. Before that people over the age of 80 and those who are immune compromised became eligible for a third dose on Sept 30.

Ndubuka said NITHA is taking steps to make sure people living in their communities who are eligible know about the availability of a booster shot.

“Gradually we are reaching out to those who are in those populations to get their booster doses,” he said.

Currently the number of new cases of COVID-19 is trending downwards in the communities overseen by NITHA. However, Ndubuka stressed people still need to reduce their risk factors by following public health measures and getting vaccinated.

For the next month specifically, NITHA’s medical health officer said people in the north should avoid non-essential travel out of their communities and work to reduce the number of people they come into contact with.

“We are calling for northern residents to reduce the number of people that they come in contact with by at least 60 per cent for the next one month,” said Ndubuka.

Athabasca Health Authority also offering boosters

Third doses of COVID vaccine are also being offered to eligible people living in the Athabasca region.

Athabasca Health Authority CEO Allan Adam said booster shots are being offered to those living in the region who are eligible.

“A little over a month now, we’ve been able to offer it to people who want their third shot, to come to either the health facility or the clinics,” he said.

Adam, who has gotten a third dose of the vaccine himself, said the number of people taking up the offer of booster shots is inching up.

For the past number of weeks there have not been any active COVID-19 cases in the Athabasca region. Adam credits this to people being cautious and local leadership for implementing good measures along with increased vaccination numbers.

On the overall vaccine front, Adam said around 50 per cent of people in the health authority’s area are fully vaccinated. He said to encourage people to get inoculated they recently put on pop up vaccine clinics in both Black Lake and Fond-du-Lac, which are the two largest communities served by the Athabasca Health Authority.

“People went for their first vaccinations, now we’re just waiting for the time period to lapse and give them time to go for their second vaccinations,” he said.