fourth covid vaccine in ontario

Fourth shots of COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all Ontario adults starting Thursday.

Amid a current surge of infections, Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health, announced the expansion of the booster shot program to everyone 18 and up.

“Staying up to date on vaccination is the best protection against severe outcomes from COVID-19,” Moore told reporters Wednesday at Queen’s Park.

While there is no planned return to mandatory masking in public places, he said “it is strongly recommended” that people voluntarily mask up on transit or in shopping malls or other crowded places.

“Expanding eligibility to second booster doses and providing continued access to testing will empower Ontarians to make the best decisions for their circumstances and help keep our communities safe.”

Moore said free rapid antigen tests would continue to be available at supermarkets and pharmacies — as well as at workplaces, schools, and hospitals — until at least Dec. 31.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones said that’s designed “to give people the tools they need to stay safe and to ensure Ontario stays open.”

“Vaccines continue to be our best defence against COVID-19 and protecting our hospital capacity for those who need it most,” said Jones.

Booster appointments will be available as of 8 a.m. Thursday through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling 1-833-943-3900.

The highly contagious and more immune-evasive BA.5 sublineage of Omicron now accounts for more than two-thirds of all COVID-19 cases.

Moore said this current seventh wave could continue for another two weeks.

Ontario’s booster move comes more than two months after Quebec extended fourth shots to everyone 18 years and up.

Quebec has fared far worse than Ontario — or any other province — since the pandemic hit Canada in March 2020.

Ontario has suffered 13,527 COVID-19 deaths, but Quebec, with just 57 per cent of its population, has had 15,674 deaths — a staggering 2,147 more.

The current BA.5 variant is more likely to reinfect people who have previously had Omicron.

Some scientists have concluded that antibodies from a previous Omicron infection last only three months, meaning people who contracted the virus during the January wave could be catching it again.

Second booster shots for the general population had been restricted to those over 60 — except for the immunocompromised, Indigenous people and their households, and those in congregant living settings — in part because Moore wanted more Ontarians to get their first boosters.

There are still millions of eligible people who have not opted for a third shot.

In recent weeks, doctors and epidemiologists have been calling for more vaccinations because infections have been rising and COVID-19 cases are expected to spike again in the fall when people are spending more time indoors.

Moore said the increase in hospitalizations can be reduced if people get vaccinated.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


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