Ontario health officials have expanded eligibility for those who can get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.
Officials said eligibility is being expanded to people aged 70 and older, health-care workers and essential caregivers in congregate settings, people who received a full round of vaccination of a viral vector vaccine such as two doses of AstraZeneca, and First Nations people and their non-Indigenous household members.
These groups must have had their last shot at least six to eight months prior. Eligible groups can start booking a booster dose on Saturday, Nov. 6. at 8 a.m.
Bookings can be made on the provincial portal online, by phone, through local public health units that use their own booking systems, or at select pharmacies and hospital workers are encouraged to reach out to their employer.
“Offering the extra layer of protection provided by a booster dose will contribute to the fight against COVID-19,” provincial health officials said in documents released Wednesday,
Ontario said its decision aligns with recommendations provided by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Officials said offering booster shots to these specific groups would be in line with six months after the second dose due to some waning immunity seen in other jurisdictions over time.
NACI has not yet recommended booster shots to the general population but provincial officials said Ontario is looking at a broad timeline of after January 2022 (around six months after a second dose) if those shots do become recommended based on vaccine effectiveness and data.
Officials also noted that the two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine is enough protection against severe outcomes due to virus but the third booster dose is strongly recommended ahead of the cold and flu season, not a requirement, and it does not impact the vaccine certificate program that has been implemented.
“We’re tracking this, and based on our tracking of the immune protection at a population level, we will make decisions together with NACI of when the third dose would be offered,” Moore added.
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In addition, for those seeking a booster dose of Moderna, it is recommended that those aged 70 and older receive the full 100-microgram dosage and only 50 micrograms for anyone under the age of 70 in order to provide a robust immune response, provincial officials said. The Pfizer dosage (30-micrograms) for a booster shot is unchanged no matter what age.
Moore said any approved mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) can be used as a booster shot, regardless of what brand was used in the first two shots.
In August, the province had already offered booster shots to high-risk populations such as transplant recipients, patients with hematological cancers on active treatment, recipients of an anti-CD20 agent, residents of long-term care homes and retirements homes, those in First Nations elder care lodges and seniors in congregate settings.
Of these groups, 250,000 people were eligible for a third booster shot and to date more than 161,000 doses have been administered, which is 65 per cent of those currently eligible.
Expanded eligibility to the new targeted groups will add another 2.75 million people from the population who can get booster shots. Officials said it doesn’t anticipate any supply issues.
Administering vaccinations to children aged five to 11 is still awaiting approval by Health Canada.
As of Wednesday, more than 88.3 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have at least one dose, with 84.7 per cent (11 million Ontarians) fully vaccinated against COVID-19.