More than four months after offering second booster doses to people over 60, the Ontario government has expanded eligibility to all adults aged 18 and over as of Thursday (July 14).
The second booster doses will be available to those who received their first booster dose — their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — at least five months ago.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore made the announcement during a 30-minute media conference at Queen’s Park on Wednesday — his first since before the provincial election.
Dr. Moore’s announcement comes with Ontario in the midst in a seventh wave of COVID-19 driven by the BA.5 Omicron sub-variant, a more transmissible variant that is now predominant in Ontario.
In the face of criticism from some health care professionals about the province’s delay in expanding second booster dose eligibility, Dr. Moore said healthy people aged 18 to 59 who have already received three doses continue to have “significant persistent protection against severe disease” and do not need to get a second booster dose.
“However, there may be individuals with personal or medical circumstances in those age groups who may benefit from the additional protection of a second booster,” Dr. Moore said, adding that people can check with their health care provider if they have any questions.
Dr. Moore said healthy people who have had their first booster dose could wait until the fall, when Health Canada is expected to approve a new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that may offer more targeted protection against multiple Omicron variants.
In response to a reporter’s question about why the province did expand eligibility for second booster doses earlier as in Quebec, Dr. Moore referred to the five million eligible Ontarians who have yet to receive their first booster dose, and the over 1.6 million who have yet to receive their second booster dose.
“My biggest issue is just getting the five million who are still eligible for the first (dose) before we expand to the second, and then having a risk-based approach for the second booster dose,” Dr. Moore said. “As you’ve heard, many Ontarians have yet to heed the call.”
Starting at 8 a.m. on Thursday, eligible people can book an appointment for their second booster dose through the COVID-19 vaccination portal at covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/ or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Eligible individuals can also book an appointment directly through public health units that use their own booking systems, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, and through participating pharmacies.
The Ontario government will also continue to provide free rapid antigen tests to the general public through existing channels like grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as to workplaces, schools, hospitals, and long-term care and retirement homes and other congregate settings until the end of the year.