By Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - British Columbia will begin offering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to everyone over the age of 12 from January, officials said on Tuesday, becoming the first major Canadian province to significantly widen eligibility for boosters.
People over the age of 70 as well as indigenous people over 12 will be invited to book shots sooner than the new year, said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province's medical officer of health. Residents of long term and assisted living are already eligible.
The interval from the second dose will be roughly six to eight months, the government said, and invitations for the optional shot will be issued based on age and risk level.
Although vaccines are effective, the province is "starting to see a gradual decline in protection over time" from the first and second doses of vaccines, Henry said, leading them to take the "proactive" step of offering booster shots.
Other Canadian provinces have so far committed to booster shots only for residents of long term care, people with immunodeficiency issues, or those over a certain age, among other criteria.
Vaccines with mRNA technology will be used for booster shots in British Columbia, officials said, regardless of which vaccines a person initially had.
More than 82% of Canadians aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to government data.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; editing by Richard Pullin)