Ontario opens bivalent Omicron-targeted vaccine for all adults

TORONTO — All adults in Ontario became eligible to receive an Omicron-targeted COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday.

The province had made the bivalent vaccine available to its most vulnerable populations earlier this month, but said the new shot would be available to all residents 18 or over as of Sept. 26.

New appointments can be booked through the province's online portal, regional public health unit booking systems, Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, participating health-care providers and pharmacies.

The Ministry of Health has said the recommended wait between shots is six months from the last booster dose, but the minimum interval is 84 days.

Some expressed frustration Monday about having to wait to get the new Omicron-targeted COVID-19 vaccine after receiving fourth doses in the summer.

Anna Adam said she and her husband were irritated they couldn't get the bivalent shot right away.

"We (have to) wait 84 days and we had our last booster in July so we're not eligible till October," she said. "I'm gonna get it once my 84 days is up. I just have to look up what date I actually got it."

The Lambton County resident said she was hoping to be able to get the bivalent vaccine so her family can engage in more social activities in the fall.

"I have a two-and-a-half-year old and he just got his second dose and we were kind of hoping to be able to open up and see family," she said.

When Ontario started offering fourth COVID-19 vaccine shots to all adults in July, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said residents without underlying health conditions could choose to wait for the Omicron-targeted vaccine.

He said those who decided to get fourth shots in the summer would still be able to receive the bivalent shot months later – but that they may have to wait five months for their next shots, or three if they were immune suppressed.

The timeline of the arrival of the Omicron-targeted shots was unclear at that point, with Moore saying most Ontarians likely wouldn't be eligible until closer to November or December.

Health Canada approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that targets both the original strain of the novel coronavirus and the Omicron variant earlier this month, paving the way for Ontario to open appointment booking for the new shots two weeks ago.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones said getting a booster dose is especially important with the start of the fall and winter respiratory illness season.

"COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters are the best tool to keep people healthy and out of hospitals, and to ensure Ontario’s economy stays open as the weather cools and people spend more time indoors," Jones said in a statement on the weekend.

Moore said in the same statement that the bivalent shot provides better protection against the currently circulating COVID-19 variants in the province.

Also on Monday, the province opened appointments for children between six months and five years old to receive the new pediatric vaccine from Pfizer, offering an alternative to the Moderna shot in use since July.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press