Ontario offering COVID-19 boosters to 70+, AstraZeneca recipients starting Nov. 6

The provincial government says COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are coming to more Ontarians. Adrian Ghobrial tells us who will be eligible, and when you can expect your third dose.

By John Marchesan and Kevin Misener

Ontario will make available booster shots to anyone over 70, and anyone who has received two doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine or the one-dose Janssen vaccine starting this weekend.

Eligible individuals can begin booking their third dose appointment starting at 8 a.m. on November 6 using the provincial COVID-19 vaccine portal, select pharmacies or directly through public health units using their own booking systems.

Booster shots are also being offered to any adults in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities, and front-line healthcare workers with a short interval between their first two doses.

Provincial health officials stress individuals can receive either Pfizer or Moderna as a booster shot regardless of which mRNA vaccine you got the first time.

The province says it plans to expand eligibility for booster shots to all Ontarians “over time” based on age and risk, with an interval of six to eight months from their second dose. That is not expected before January 2022.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, says all Ontarians should get at third dose when its available to them.

“Roughly one-quarter of Ontarians [12 +] have yet to be protected, so we still have a ways to go to reach population protection.”

The provincial update is in line with recommendations recently put out by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

NACI recommended that booster shots be given to groups of people “at increased risk of severe illness and highest risk of waning protection” and those within at least six months of a second dose. That means the third-dose window for people with two shots for AstraZeneca would open in late November.

Asked if this will become an annual flu shot-type of thing when it comes to receiving additional doses of the vaccine, Dr. Moore says they are monitoring the situation provincially, nationally and internationally and will adjust the immunization strategy if necessary.

“There is no escapting this virus,” he said.

“I think it’s very appropriate that everyone realize that this virus isn’t going away, that this virus is going to be persistent and most likely will become an annual, winter virus as in the other coronaviruses that exist in Ontario and Canada that affect humans.”

Dr. Moore says stressed the current fully vaxxed guidelines won’t be changing when it comes to vaccine passports.

“We are not mandating any change in the validation or certification process within Ontario,” he said. “So two doses will be acceptable to be able to get you in to any of the venues that currently have any restrictions on them for vaccine certification validation.”

Ontario has already been giving out third doses to seniors in congregate settings, those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and those on specific immunosuppressant medications.

The province says it plans to focus on expanded third doses until the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children aged 5- to 11, which it anticipates will come sometime this month. Once Health Canada approval is received, “priority will shift to the rapid response of first doses for children,” said health officials.

With files from The Canadian Press; and Michael Ranger of CityNews

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