Provinces Divided Over Offering 3rd Shots for Travel

Holding a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine

Need that third shot to travel this year? Whether you’ll be able to get it may depend on your province.

On advice of government officials, many Canadians got the first COVID vaccines available to them, and that frequently resulted in a ‘mixed vaccine’ scenario: with a person getting one dose of Astra Zeneca and a second shot of an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna.

But, as Open Jaw has been reporting, ‘mixed vaccines’ are not recognized by all destinations - nor by any cruise lines operating in the U.S.

The solution recommended by cruise lines and others is to get a third shot to have a double dose of mRNA vaccines. Then a person would be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of entry into a country, or boarding a ship.

In Canada, that’s easier said than done, as vaccines are not ‘on demand.’

Quebec quickly leaped into action, offering third shots for travel. That put the other provinces on the spot to follow suit.

Not many are taking the bait.

Open Jaw has only found one province considering offering third shots to travellers.

When asked by reporters this week, Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said that province is considering offering third doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to those interested in travelling internationally, even though he recognized that a double dose of AZ is still not considered fully vaccinated in some places.

Merriman added that Saskatchewan is still waiting for guidance from federal health officials on whether a third dose of vaccine will be recommended to travel internationally.  He did not say whether residents of the province would be offered a third shot consisting of an mRNA vaccine.

In Alberta, the situation is not clear.

CBC reported on a statement issued by Alberta Health last week that the province would not offer third doses for “people who the province considers fully vaccinated but who are looking to travel.”

Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan is quoted as saying: "We are prioritizing vaccines for those who are not yet fully vaccinated. With a global shortage, it would not be appropriate to offer additional vaccines to fully immunized individuals looking to vacation while so many others still await even a first dose," he said.

However, other media report that Alberta’s health minister, Tyler Shandro, says Alberta is still considering its options.

“We are looking at this closely. The Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization has been asked to discuss this issue and to make a recommendation for individuals with mixed doses travelling to a country that requires two doses of a specific vaccine.”

B.C. and Manitoba have both come out this week saying definitively that they will not offer third doses for mixed vaccine recipients who have travel plans.

Open Jaw can’t find any statements by officials in Canada’s Atlantic provinces about third shots.

Some provincial health authorities who have commented say they believe that  policies rejecting mixed vaccines will at some point be lifted, and expect Canadians to wait it out.

“I do anticipate that while they’re starting with very strict and cautious eligibility that most countries and most businesses will be expanding to accept mixed schedules because a mixed schedule is being offered in many countries,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine task force.

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, told reporters, “Obviously, across the country, we’re looking at this,” and described the situation as “in flux.”

“We’re working with Canada, and Canada is working internationally,” Henry said, adding, “What I would like to see is that WHO approve vaccines in any combination.”

Ontario’s top health officials echo Henry’s sentiments. Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones wrote a letter to federal ministers, saying that it’s critical for “the integrity and confidence” in vaccination programs that people who "have done the right thing" by getting vaccinated - as recommended by health officials - be considered fully vaccinated when they travel.

"We ask the Government of Canada to work with the WHO to update its guidance to international partners that mixing vaccines should be internationally accepted as a complete vaccine regimen," they wrote.

"As the federal government opens international travel, we believe these Ontarians should also be considered ‘fully immunized’ by other countries both at international borders and in their activities within those jurisdictions," they said.

On its part, Ottawa maintains that Canada’s vaccination program is a “touchstone” for other countries.

When questioned by reporters this week about Canadians with mixed vaccines not being recognized as fully vaccinated for the purposes of travel, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said only, "We will continue to work with our international partners to recognize that Health Canada processes are outstanding and anyone who is considered fully vaccinated in Canada is safe to travel around the world."

Lynn Elmhirst


With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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