High-risk groups will be able to receive the booster shot if six months have passed since their last vaccine dose. Those groups include:
- Individuals aged 70 and above
- Health care workers and essential caregivers who work in congregated settings such as long-term care homes and retirement homes
- Individuals who received a complete series of a viral vector vaccine (two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine); and
- First Nation, Inuit, and Métis adults, including their non-Indigenous family members
Ontario is the first province in Canada to administer the third vaccine dose to select vulnerable populations.
The expansion will bring the number of eligible individuals in the province to 2.75 million, the provincial government said in a Nov. 3 statement and was based on recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Speaking at a press conference on Nov. 3, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Kieran Moore said COVID-19 will likely become an “annual winter virus” in the coming years, and that the government’s “preference” is for the population to get vaccinated rather than achieve immunity naturally.
“There is no escaping this virus, you either are going to get it naturally through exposure—and given that it can have such serious and significant outcomes associated with it—that is absolutely not our preference,” Moore said.
“Our preference is that you use the safe and effective vaccines to protect yourself, your community, your loved ones, and that will have the least impact on you as an individual but also on our health system.”
When asked if receiving three vaccine doses will be required to be considered “fully vaccinated” in the future, Moore said he “can see that [happening] down the road.”
“We will always be data-driven and following the data in a long-term effect,” Moore said.
The government said plans to expand eligibility for the booster shot to all Ontarians will start in January, which will be based on age and risk, with an interval of six to eight months from the second dose.
Ontario is also working with public health services to prepare to vaccinate children between the age of 5 to 11, pending approval from Health Canada. Last month, Pfizer-BioNTech asked Health Canada to approve its vaccine for children, which drew criticism from opposition MPs.