Ontario is opening up eligibility for fourth COVID-19 vaccine doses to those aged 60 and older, as wastewater data indicates infections are almost as high as in early January, when Omicron was at its peak.
Ontarians 60 and up, as well as all Indigenous residents and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 or older, will be able to book their second booster shot through the province’s online portal starting Thursday at 8 am, the province said in a news release Wednesday.
“As we continue to live with COVID-19, we are using every tool available to manage this virus and reduce its impact on our hospitals and health system, including by expanding the use of booster doses,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott.
The recommended interval for a second booster dose is five months after receiving their last booster, a Health Ministry spokesperson said.
Elliott said Tuesday the plan to open eligibility comes after recommendations from the province’s medical advisers.
Fourth doses are already available to long-term care and retirement home residents and immunocompromised people in Ontario.
4th doses won’t dampen 6th wave, expert says
Infectious diseases physician and scientist, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, said the broadening of vaccine eligibility is a good move but might not be enough to prevent a rise in infections as health experts warn of a sixth COVID-19 wave undergoing.
“Based on what we know now … it does appear that this fourth dose could help really people who are frail, people who are on the older end of the spectrum, people who are at greatest risk of a severe outcome from COVID,” Bogoch told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s going to alter the trajectory of this wave one bit, but it certainly can help individuals who are at risk of more severe outcomes,” he said.
The announcement comes after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) advised provinces and territories to prepare to roll out fourth shots in the coming weeks.
The committee is recommending provinces prioritize people aged 80 and older and long-term care residents, and strongly recommends fourth doses for people between the ages of 70 and 79.
NACI says it’s still studying whether second booster shots are necessary for younger adults and adolescents.
Infections on the rise, wastewater data shows
Meanwhile, the latest wastewater data released by Ontario’s science table indicates infections continue to be on the rise in the province and are now almost as high as in early January, when Omicron was at its peak.
Dr. Peter Jüni, who heads the science table, said last week the latest projections made by the science table that predicted an increase in hospital occupancy will need to be re-evaluated based on the behavioral health experts are seeing.
Those initial predictions saw an increase in hospitalizations, though not one as high as the peak of the Omicron wave of the pandemic.
The number of people in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19 was up nearly 40 per cent Tuesday compared to a week earlier.