Ontario has announced that booster dose eligibility has been expanded to more groups in the province.
High-risk individuals and those aged 50+ will be able to book their booster dose appointments starting at 8 am on Monday, December 13, through the online provincial vaccination portal, through select pharmacies and primary care settings, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre (PVCC), or via Indigenous-led clinics.
“Appointments will be booked for approximately six months (168 days) after a second dose,” the province stated in their news release.
Individuals receiving dialysis (hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) can also schedule a booster dose appointment if it has been 56 days since their second dose.
Additionally, Ontario recommended re-vaccination with a new COVID-19 vaccine primary series post-transplantation for people 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.
Further age- and risk-based eligibility expansion is expected to begin in January next year with an interval of six to eight months from the second dose.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has insisted that eligible individuals book their third dose appointments as soon as possible to protect themselves. “If you have not yet received the vaccine, please do so today. This includes vaccinations for children aged five to 11,” he said. “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.”
The province also outlined other measures being taken to control COVID-19 and its variants. These include “expanding free PCR testing at all testing centres to asymptomatic individuals who have returned from, or travelled in, Nigeria, Malawi, and Egypt between November 1 and December 6, 2021, including family and other household contacts of travellers.”
Ontario is also distributing 11 million rapid antigen screening tests to all public schools and participating First Nation schools. Students will be able to take-home five test kits to use over the holiday season as well as when in-person learning returns in January.
“The province will also launch a holiday testing blitz this month, with additional pop-up testing locations at high-traffic locations in higher-risk regions,” the release further read.
“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,” Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said. “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.”
Ontario is also investing $5.1 billion to cope with unprecedented hospital capacity by adding 3,100 beds.
On the morning of December 2, the City of Toronto also introduced a new website for residents to check whether they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 in larger public settings.