Ontario receives 1st doses of bivalent COVID vaccines, reports 74 more deaths linked to virus

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Health Canada has said it expects there will be enough doses of bivalent vaccines for all Canadians aged 18 and older to get a shot this fall or winter. (Hassene Dridi/Reuters - image credit)
Health Canada has said it expects there will be enough doses of bivalent vaccines for all Canadians aged 18 and older to get a shot this fall or winter. (Hassene Dridi/Reuters - image credit)

A first limited shipment of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines has arrived in Ontario, Minister of Health Sylvia Jones said Thursday, as the province reported 74 more people died with the illness over the last week.

In a brief post on Twitter, Jones said the new doses will be offered to especially vulnerable people, like long-term care residents, and to frontline health-care workers.

"More information about when others can book appointments will be available in the coming days," Jones added.

She said last week the province has been working with public health units to make sure doses are ready to be administered once they receive them from the federal government.

Health Canada approved Moderna's updated vaccine earlier this month. It 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.

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 for last week week, Pfizer recently submitted an application for Health Canada approval for its BA.4-5 vaccine Friday and Moderna is expected to soon.

COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals and ICUs

Meanwhile, Public Health Ontario reported another 7,419 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province over the last week.

Some 1,248 people with the illness are currently in hospitals, three more than at the same time last week. Of those patients, 135 were being treated in intensive care, the same number as last Thursday. Forty-seven needed a ventilator to breathe.

The test positivity rate was 12.3 per cent, up from 11.3 per cent last week on roughly the same number of tests.

The additional deaths of people with COVID-19 over the last week push the province's official toll to 14,129.