With six cases of the Omicron variant confirmed in Ontario, the province is moving to speed up COVID-19 booster shots.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said at a media conference on Thursday afternoon that the age of eligibility for a third COVID jab is being lowered to people aged 50 and older.
Currently, those eligible for a third dose in the province are people aged 70 and older, people who received two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of Janssen, health-care workers or essential caregivers in congregate settings, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis adults and their non-Indigenous household members.
Starting on Monday, December 13, 2021 at 8:00 a.m., individuals aged 50 and over will be eligible to schedule their booster dose appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, select pharmacies, and primary care settings. Appointments will be booked for approximately six months (168 days) after a second dose.
In addition, due to a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, effective immediately individuals receiving dialysis (hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) are eligible to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if it has been 56 days since their second dose. Also effective immediately, the province is recommending re-vaccination with a new COVID-19 vaccine primary series post-transplantation for individuals who receive hematopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT), hematopoietic cell transplants (HCT) (autologous or allogeneic), and recipients of CAR-T-cell therapy, due to the loss of immunity following therapy or transplant.
Beginning in January, Ontario will further expand eligibility for booster doses based on age and risk, with an interval of six to eight months from the second dose.
“If you are eligible for a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please book your appointment as soon as you can to provide yourself with an extra layer of protection,” said Moore. “If you have not yet received the vaccine, please do so today. This includes vaccinations for children aged five to 11. Achieving the highest vaccination rates possible remains our best tool to protect us, reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and fight the significant surge of new cases and the new Omicron variant.”
Earlier this week, Moore said the province was reviewing its strategy for third vaccine doses in light of the potentially dangerous new omicron variant of COVID-19.
“Regardless of what we learn about the Omicron variant, Ontario is prepared to quickly respond to any scenario to protect the health and safety of Ontarians,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Vaccines continue to be our best protection against COVID-19, and I encourage everyone to book their first, second or booster dose as soon as you are eligible.”
There were two confirmed Omicron cases in the Greater Toronto area on Thursday. In Durham Region, public health officials said the individual who tested positive is a close contact of someone who returned to Canada from southern Africa.
In Halton Region, health authorities said late Thursday there was one confirmed case and two probable cases. One of the suspected cases returned from a trip to Nigeria and is a close contact of the other two. The three individuals are isolating at home.
The booster shot rollout comes as Ontario reported 959 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
The seven-day rolling average was 851, a jump from 692 a week ago.