WHO calls for moratorium on third COVID jabs as Ontario administers thousands of extra doses

Global public health agency says shots should be diverted to under-vaccinated countries

Ontario will continue to offer third doses of COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable residents even though the World Health Organization is calling for a moratorium on the practice.

The added jabs offer extra protection against the virus to immunocompromised patients such as transplant recipients and people receiving treatment for blood cancers.

The WHO urged vaccine-rich countries to stop offering third doses this year so the shots could be diverted to under-vaccinated countries.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province had administered more than 14,000 third doses as of Tuesday night.

“Based on the recommendation of the chief medical officer of health and health experts, Ontario is offering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to those at highest risk, providing them with an extra layer of protection against the Delta variant,” said spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene.

She said a third dose helps level the playing field for those people.

“Evidence also shows that several months after receiving two COVID-19 vaccine doses, the immune response in residents who live in long-term care homes wanes significantly compared to the general population,” added Hilkene.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) on Friday recommended that people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised get a course of three shots of vaccine.

“This is not unusual for immunocompromised groups, where we often recommend different vaccine schedules to help them achieve better protection,” Dr. Shelley Deeks, committee chair, said in a statement.

“This is different from a booster dose, which would be used to boost an immune response that has waned over time.”

The panel is still studying the need for third doses in other groups, including long-term care residents.

Ontario reported 857 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.