The Ontario government says it is expanding third dose eligibility to Ontarians aged 50 and older amid concerns of the Omicron variant.
These eligible individuals can begin booking their booster appointments starting Monday, Dec. 13 at 8 a.m.
Appointments can be made about six months — 168 days — after the second dose.
Provincial officials also said it will expand eligibility again in January for booster doses based on age and risk with a six-to-eight month interval from the second dose.
In addition, due to higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, individuals receiving dialysis (hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) are eligible to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, immediately, if it has been 56 days since their second dose.
Also, 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.
“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,” Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said.
As for why the province isn’t making booster eligibility for all Ontarians 18 and older as per a CDC recommendation, Moore said he doesn’t want to overwhelm capacity, especially with children aged five to 11 now receiving vaccines and with flu shots being administered at this time, as well.
He did say the province would reevaluate based on how many come forward to receive their booster.
Moore said earlier this week that an “accelerated third-dose strategy” would be part of the new measures the province could introduce as a way to fight the new variant which has already been detected across several regions in Ontario including Ottawa, Hamilton and most recently in Durham Region.
The Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine will also be available starting Thursday in Ontario for those 18 and older, people with an allergy to mRNA vaccines or at the request of someone who has not yet been vaccinated. Requests for the J&J shot must be made to your local public health unit.
However, Moore said that he does still believe the J&J vaccine to be “inferior” to the mRNA vaccines.
Third doses were already available in late summer for those 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 eldercare lodges and seniors in congregate settings.
In early November, third doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were then further expanded for seniors aged 70 and older, those who previously got two doses of AstraZeneca, and health-care workers, among others.
So far, 86 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated and 90 per cent have at least one dose. Starting last week, pediatric shots of Pfizer began going into arms of children aged five to 11 after it was approved by Health Canada.
Meanwhile, Alberta announced Wednesday it was expanding booster shots to all adults aged 18 and older.
—With files from Jessica Patton