Adults in Ontario can begin booking a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster dose on Monday, the province says.
This vaccine targets both the original virus and the Omicron variant BA.1 that emerged late last year and drove the largest wave of infection and hospitalization in the pandemic. Health Canada approved Moderna's updated vaccine earlier this month.
Spots opened for everyone as of 8 a.m. ET, though appointments for especially vulnerable people will be prioritized until September 26 before widening to all residents 18 and older.
Those vulnerable populations include:
Ontarians aged 70 and older.
Residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, Elder Care Lodges and individuals living in other congregate settings that provide assisted-living and health services.
First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and older.
Moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals aged 12 and older.
Pregnant individuals aged 18 and older.
Health-care workers aged 18 and older.
The availability of bivalent vaccine doses will be based on shipment schedules and supply from the federal government, the Ministry of Health said in a news release.
"All previously-booked booster appointments for September 12 to 25 will be honoured and, if available, the bivalent vaccine will be offered," the release added.
At least 3-month wait from last dose, province says
The province said in a release people can receive the bivalent booster at the recommended interval of six months from their previous dose, regardless of how many boosters they have already received.
However, in a tweet, it added people can also receive the booster at a minimum interval of about three months, or 84 days, since their last dose.
The province is asking people to call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 to book at a three-month interval.
Appointments can be secured through the provincial COVID-19 vaccine portal or directly through public health unit that use their own booking system, as well via participating primary health-care providers and pharmacies.
The first shipment of bivalent vaccine arrived in Ontario last week.
The most recent wave of the illness to hit Ontario — which started on June 19 and appears to have already crested — is being fuelled by other Omicron variants, BA. 4 and BA. 5, the province's chief medical officer has said.
While the new shot doesn't directly target dominant Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which the U.S. approved an updated shot, Pfizer recently submitted an application for Health Canada approval for its BA. 4-5 vaccine and Moderna is expected to soon.
Vaccination important ahead of fall
Dr. Vinita Dubey, the associate medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health, notes that fatigue from the past two years of the pandemic, along with vaccine hesitancy, may be stopping some from getting a COVID-19 vaccine or getting boosted.
But heading into the fall and winter months, Dubey says vaccination for both adults and kids is extra important, as there are few public health measures in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
"The main pitch is anyone five years of age and older should consider a fall booster if they are eligible," said Dubey.
The vaccine can help prevent severe sickness from the virus, hospitalization, and possibly prevent the risks of developing long-COVID, says Dubey. She notes the city aims to keep making vaccines accessible at places like TTC stations, festivals and pharmacies.
"Our goal is to be able to bring the vaccine to people, to be able to make it as easy as possible for people to get their booster dose," said Dubey.