The Ontario government announced Thursday it is accelerating the COVID-19 third shot booster vaccine eligibility requirement for residents aged 50 and over. The new appointment scheduling will go into effect at 8 a.m. on Dec. 13, said a news release from the Ministry of Health.
There are several options to book the booster, including using the COVID-19 vaccination portal, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, select pharmacies (more than 20 pharmacies in Sudbury offer the shot) and also through primary care settings.
Appointments will be booked for approximately six months (168 days) after a second dose, said the ministry.
The province is also easing the vaccine qualifier requirements for individuals who have certain medical conditions that might put them at a higher risk of developing a severe illness.
"Effective immediately individuals receiving dialysis (hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis) are eligible to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if it has been 56 days since their second dose. Also effective immediately, 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," said the ministry news release.
Also, beginning in 2022, Ontario will further expand eligibility for booster doses based on age and risk, with an interval of six to eight months from the second dose.
“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,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health.
“If you have not yet received the vaccine, please do so today. This includes vaccinations for children aged five to 11. 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 is also reminding Ontario residents there is a significant concern for COVID-19 variants, such as the Omicron variant. The province said the best defence against the Omicron variant remains containing it at the border. The release said Ontario also has the infrastructure in place to rapidly identify, trace and isolate COVID-19 and its variants.
Ontario is taking additional preventive steps by expanding free PCR testing at all testing centres to asymptomatic individuals who have returned from, or travelled in, Nigeria, Malawi or Egypt between Nov. 1 and the first week of December, including family and other household contacts of travellers.
The province said it is also distributing 11 million rapid antigen screening tests to all public schools and participating First Nation schools for each student to take home five tests to use over the holidays and throughout the return to in-person learning 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.