Ontario expands COVID-19 booster shots to 2.75 million inhabitants

Ontario is offering COVID-19 booster shots to an additional 2.75 million citizens at higher risk for infection, including those over the age of 70, all who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one of Janssen and frontline healthcare professionals.

Orders begin Saturday morning through the province’s appointment system, public health units, selected pharmacies and through hospitals for their eligible staff, officials told a background briefing Wednesday ahead of an afternoon news conference by Chief Physician Dr. Kieran Moore.

The boosters will be with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and cannot be administered until six to eight months after the end of a primary vaccination course.

Also eligible are designated essential caregivers for their loved ones in nursing homes or other community settings, and First Nation, Inuit and M├ętis adults and any non-native members of their households.

The expansion follows recommendations to the provinces from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization last week to deal with declining immunity from initial shots.

“Offering the extra layer of protection that a booster dose provides will contribute to the fight against COVID-19,” said health ministry information material.

In the case of AstraZeneca and the related Covishield vaccine, the first recipients to receive their two shots last winter and spring will be eligible later this month.

Booster shots are encouraged but not mandatory and no shortage of vaccines is expected, officials said.

The boosters should help prevent breakthrough infections in the fully vaccinated, where the primary shots still provide high protection against serious COVID-19 disease.

There are no dates for boosters for the rest of the population. These shots are not expected until New Year pending further advice to the provinces from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Boosters have been given to 65 percent of the 250,000 eligible Ontario residents, such as transplant recipients, patients with active cancer cancer, and residents of nursing and nursing homes and nursing homes.

Officials said it is reasonable to expect a fourth dose to be given next fall, perhaps in vaccines that also contain flu shots.

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