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Newfoundland and Labrador is launching a COVID-19 vaccination campaign urging everyone aged five and older to get another shot.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health, told reporters Wednesday that everyone aged five and above who received a dose of vaccine more than 20 weeks ago should get another one, regardless of how many boosters they have had. Previously, second booster doses were available only to residents aged 50 and older and to members of certain high-risk populations.

Fitzgerald said the goal in expanding eligibility and promoting a “fall and winter dose” was to protect people as they move indoors to socialize during the chillier months.

“As we know all too well, this creates the perfect environment for respiratory viruses to spread,” Fitzgerald told reporters, noting that this winter will be the first without public health restrictions since the pandemic began. “We expect to see both influenza and COVID-19 circulating simultaneously, in addition to other respiratory viruses.”

The province is expecting to receive this month about 63,000 doses of the recently approved Moderna bivalent vaccine targeting the Omicron variant of the virus. Fitzgerald said those will be available through clinics and participating doctors and pharmacies beginning Sept. 21.

Because of limited availability, she said the bivalent vaccine will be offered first to high-risk individuals such as seniors in congregate living facilities and those with underlying medical conditions. Fitzgerald said it is not yet clear when the Omicron vaccine will be widely available.

Overall, about 56 per cent of eligible Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have received a third dose – or first booster – of a COVID-19 vaccine, she said. That number is much higher for seniors, with more than 89 per cent of those over 80 having received a third shot.

“We would like to have everybody get a booster,” Fitzgerald said. “We know that having that third dose in particular is quite protective against severe disease. And for a little while, it is protective against transmission.”

COVID-19 killed two more people in the province in the last week, according to figures posted to the Health Department’s online dashboard. Four people were in hospital Wednesday due to the disease, but none of those patients were in intensive care.