Ontario’s vaccine task force is considering lowering the age eligibility for a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine earlier than expected to bring Delta variant infections under control.
Health Minister Christine Elliott reportedly told journalists at Queen’s Park Thursday that expanding second dose eligibility province-wide is possible to combat rising cases of the variant.
Daily Hive has reached out to Elliott’s office for further comment but has not yet heard back.
Dr. Dirk Huyer, Provincial Outbreak Response coordinator, confirmed at a news conference Thursday afternoon that Ontario could compress the timeline for second doses if enough shipments of vaccine arrive.
“With more supply, we can move the second doses forward,” he said.
The task force is not planning to change the order in which people become eligible for a second dose, which is organized by age for the 80-plus and 70-plus age bands and date of vaccination for most others.
Right now, the only people in Ontario eligible for a second dose are people 80 and up, health workers, long-term care residents, people with certain medical conditions and their caregivers, and Indigenous adults.
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The B.1.617 variant that was first discovered in India has been on the rise in Ontario recently. Named the Delta variant, it’s is believed to be more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain that was dominant for most of 2020.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for Peel region, said during a Thursday news conference that the Delta variant is quickly ousting the Alpha variant (B.1.117) to be the most dominant strain in the region. So far, Peel Region has detected 97 cases of the Delta variant.
“We are now seeing a similar replacement pattern with more and more B.1.617 in the Peel community,” he said.
Ontario’s COVID-19 cases overall are trending down, with the weekly average for new daily cases sitting at 940 — the first time it’s been below 1,000 since November 2020. But Loh said what’s happening now reminds him of the Alpha variant’s rise to dominance that caused “misery” during the third wave.
Modelling predictions indicate the Delta variant could become the dominant strain in Peel within four weeks and become the most common strain province-wide in eight weeks, Loh said.
“We cannot afford a fourth wave driven by the Delta variant,” he said. “Fortunately, the one thing that is different now, and in our favour, is that we do have broad one-dose vaccination coverage.”
Research from the UK indicates that two doses are effective protection against the Delta variant, Loh said. But one dose is less effective at preventing infection by the Delta variant compared to the wild-type virus.
“Please access your second shot as soon as you’re able,” Loh said.