Ontario health units plan boosters for eligible high-risk residents

·2 min read

Ontario health units are taking varied approaches in administering third COVID-19 vaccines for residents considered most vulnerable to the virus, with some patients to be contacted directly and others advised to consult their doctors.

The province announced on Tuesday it would allow people at "highest risk" to receive third vaccine shots in a bid to offer them stronger protection against the highly contagious Delta variant currently spreading in several parts of Ontario.

Those eligible include long-term care residents, transplant recipients, patients with hematological cancers undergoing treatment, and recipients of certain medications called anti-CD20 agents.

In Thunder Bay, Ont., the local health unit said Wednesday it was in the process of planning for third doses, including reaching out to long-term care homes.

It advised that third doses wouldn't be administered at pharmacies or the main vaccination clinic site in the northwestern Ontario city.

"Further details on third doses will be provided shortly," the health unit said in a Wednesday statement.

Waterloo Region's health unit said patients with hematological cancers receiving local care would be contacted within the next two weeks to plan the third shot around their treatment.

It said third doses would be administered at regional clinics, doctors' offices and participating pharmacies, adding officials would work directly with eligible congregate settings for on-site third-dose clinics.

"Individuals with a qualifying medical condition are advised to contact their health care provider prior to receiving their third dose for consultation on appropriate timing," the health unit said.

The health unit covering the Kingston, Ont., area said it was working with the Kingston Health Science Centre to contact patients eligible for their third dose, including transplant recipients, cancer patients and those taking specific medications.

It said others eligible should book appointments through public health's website or phone line.

The province's move comes after a recent study by researchers at the University Health Network suggested most organ transplant recipients formed a more robust immune response following a third dose.

Health officials in the United States announced plans this week to give booster shots to all Americans, starting possibly the week of Sept. 20, to protect against the Delta variant. Israel has also started dispensing third shots to some citizens.

Top scientists at the World Health Organization are opposed to the U.S. plan because poor countries still have not received enough vaccine supply to give residents their first shots.

Ontario reported 531 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday along with 17 virus-related deaths, including 15 that occurred months ago. The province says those deaths are now being reported after a data cleanup.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 456 of the new cases were among unvaccinated people or those with unknown vaccination status.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2021.

- With files from The Associated Press.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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