More provinces in Canada are joining the list of those offering a third COVID-19 dose to immunocompromised groups, and Nova Scotia could soon be joining that group.
Earlier in September, the National Advisory Community on Immunization (NACI) began recommending a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for immunocompromised people.
"Generally, Nova Scotia has always followed the NACI guidelines and I would assume that that would be the direction we're heading here," infectious disease specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett said. "When should that happen? It's one of those things where, I think, people should be very clear again as we're still learning about immune systems as general public.
"You don't suddenly become un-immune if you've had two doses of a vaccine, but you may need to bring the level higher again."
Just this week, New Brunswick became the latest province to start offering a third COVID-19 dose to those who are immunocompromised.
Ontario and Alberta have already been offering third shots to vulnerable populations, while Saskatchewan and Quebec are offering extra doses to people who want to travel to countries where mixed-vaccination statuses may not be recognized.
Globally, Israel is one country that has already been offering third vaccine doses to anyone who's 12 or older. The U.S. plans to offer extra doses to anyone who's eight months out from their second shot starting on Sept. 20.
Officials say a third dose should be administered at least four weeks after a second dose; but there's no word yet on a third vaccine dose for the broader population.
Dr. Barrett told NEWS 95.7's fill-in host Todd Veinotte that as Nova Scotia approaches a fourth COVID-19 wave and the fall season, it's a good idea to get those third doses administered once they're available.
"Sooner than later is better," she said. "But please don't assume if you don't have that third dose, you're magically not protected at all."
In terms of people who were vaccinated early, she said there's still "very good" protection from death and hospitalization, even as you go further back in the year when vaccinations first started.
Still, the efficacy for some of the vaccine types is still a bit lower. Moreover, people who are older — especially much older — could see a decrease in their immunity over time.
"However, it's also clear that that protection is still very durable for the worst outcomes," she said. "It's more the infection part where we start to see over time there may be an increase in your ability to get infected, not so much to get serious disease — but we're still learning."
Even with two vaccine doses, Barrett said people are still strongly protected against COVID-19.
But over time, it wouldn't be unlikely that third doses could be required.
Barrett said things won't be clear until there's another year of data that shows the optimal number of doses and amount of timing required for different population groups.
"It's very difficult with an unvaccinated group under 12 to take away all of the precautions that we have," she said. "What I'm saying is, are people who — for example — are older and had their dose long ago still protected? Very likely. Do we know that it's perfect? We don't. Do we know it's very effective? Yes."
As COVID-19 still rages on and potentially brings a fourth wave to Nova Scotia, Barrett said people should still try being cautious and try to complement their immunization.
That means people shouldn't be doing everything around others all the time. People should also continue wearing masks and getting tested when available.
"We always, while we're still in waves with this pandemic, should be complementing our vaccines and how good they are with those other measures," she said.