Province Providing an Extra Layer of Protection Against COVID-19 and Variants
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is accelerating COVID-19 vaccine booster dose eligibility to Ontarians aged 50 and over and additional high-risk individuals, providing an extra layer of protection against COVID-19 and its variants.
Starting on Monday, December 13, 2021 at 8:00 a.m., individuals aged 50 and over will be eligible to schedule their booster dose appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, select pharmacies and primary care settings. Appointments will be booked for approximately six months (168 days) after a second dose.
In addition, due to a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, 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.
Beginning in January, 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.
While the best defence against the Omicron variant remains containing it at the border, Ontario has the infrastructure in place to rapidly identify, trace and isolate COVID-19 and its variants. In addition to accelerating booster doses the province is taking several other measures in the fight against COVID-19 and its variants, including:
- Further expanding free PCR testing at all testing centres to asymptomatic individuals who have returned from, or travelled in, Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt between November 1st and December 6th, 2021, including family and other household contacts of travellers. The province 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.
- Releasing enhanced guidance on case, contact and outbreak management for individuals that may have been exposed to the Omicron variant to mitigate further transmission. This includes more frequent follow up calls to ensure adherence to isolation, not permitting a shortened duration of isolation for asymptomatic fully vaccinated individuals with a positive test, requiring isolation for all high-risk contacts regardless of vaccination status or previously positive status, and offering supports for isolation as needed.
- Building unprecedented hospital capacity by investing $5.1 billion to add 3,100 beds to the system across the province. This significant increase in capacity has helped ensure that hospital and intensive care capacity continues to remain stable.
As part of the province’s efforts to vaccinate as many eligible individuals as possible, a limited supply of the single dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will also be available starting today. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available to individuals aged 18 and over who have an allergy or contraindication to mRNA vaccines or at the request of an individuals who has not yet been vaccinated by contacting their public health unit.
In addition to vaccines, clinical trials for molnupiravir, an investigational oral therapy for the treatment of COVID-19 began on October 19, 2020 and is currently in progress at the University Health Network in Toronto and Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton. If approved, molnupiravir will be a five-day oral treatment for high-risk unvaccinated patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 and could be the first such treatment that can be taken outside of a health care facility. Ontario is preparing a strategy for the deployment of approved treatments, ensuring access where it is most needed in the province.