Ontario is moving forward with accelerating second COVID-19 vaccine doses with possible intervals as short as four weeks.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at Queen’s Park on Friday morning.
The accelerated second dose plan aims to have the majority of Ontario residents who choose to get the vaccine be fully vaccinated by the end of summer.
The province says it’s able to make the move because 65 per cent of all adults have at least one shot and Ontario now has a steady vaccine supply.
“This is great news and I know many of you have been waiting for it,” said Ford. “While not everyone will be able to get their second dose shot four weeks after their first, we want to make sure you are fully immunized as soon as possible.”
“That’s right friends, Ontario is ready to deliver a two-dose summer.”
Shorter second dose intervals will begin with older residents who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Those 80 and older will be able to book starting next week followed by the 70-79 age group who will become eligible to book on June 14.
From there, the rest of the population will be able to accelerate their second doses beginning on June 28, based on the date they received their first shot. The first group who will be eligible to book will be people who received their first dose between March 8 and April 18.
Estimated accelerated second dose outline for Pfizer and Moderna
- May 31 – age group 80+
- June 14 – age group 70-79
- June 28 – Those who received first dose between March 8 and April 18
- July 19 – Those who received first dose between April 19 and May 9
- August 2 – Those who received first dose between May 10 and May 30
- August 9 – Those who received first dose from May 31 onward
Up until now, Ontario had only opened up second shots to residents with the highest-risk health conditions and to people who received AstraZeneca in March.
The second injection AstraZeneca is currently being offered to people who received the first shot between March 10 and March 19. The shots are being offered through select pharmacies at a 10-week interval in order to make use of 45,000 doses that are nearing expiration.
Accelerated AstraZeneca doses will continue on a 12-week interval from the end of May onward.
The outlined second dose plan is based on the current confirmed vaccine supply but could be adjusted with additional future shipments. The current plan does not take into consideration expected June shipments from Moderna.
“We can further accelerate second doses in Ontario,” said Ford. “Everything is in place and we are ready to go, all we need are the vaccines.”
“We are in a race against the new, more dangerous variants. While one dose does provide some protection, it doesn’t provide nearly as much as two shots.”
Individuals who have received Pfizer or Moderna for their first shot will receive the same shot for the second dose, barring unforeseen circumstances. The province has already said that individuals who have received AstraZeneca for the first dose could potentially receive Pfizer or Moderna for the second dose.
Ontario is awaiting further advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on mixing and matching doses.
Moving up the second dose is optional and people will keep their original appointments if they don’t re-book for an earlier shot. Individuals will still be encouraged to return to the same location as their first dose if they opt for an accelerated second shot.
As the vaccine rollout has picked up steam in Ontario there have been growing calls for the province to start accelerating second doses.
Other provinces have already made moves to move up second doses than the shorter 16 weeks recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
Public Health Units react
Toronto Public Health statement:
“TPH is supportive of the provincial government’s decision to shorten the interval for seniors to receive their second doses, and await for further details about their announcement. As per the provincial government’s media release, individuals turning 80 and over in 2021, who will be eligible to book their second dose appointment, is expected to begin on May 31, 2021, at 8:00 a.m. on the provincial booking system, followed by individuals aged 70 and over-scheduled to begin the week of June 14, 2021.”
“Second dose appointment booking for individuals who have received their first dose through a mobile or pop-up clinic – without a second dose appointment being booked – is an active topic of consideration and conversation between TPH and our health care partners. A coordinated plan to ensure clients receive their second dose on schedule is currently in development.”
York Region Public Health statement:
“We welcome the Premier’s announcement today to accelerate the rollout of second doses; this is a step in the right direction to vaccinate our most vulnerable residents as soon as possible.”
“York Region has immunized over 70% of the adult population age 18+ and nearly 60% of all York Region residents with at least one dose.”
“Achieving this milestone is a testament to the dedication and commitment of many residents and partners who continue to work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”
“Stay tuned for information for eligible residents to book their second doses early next week.”
“We encourage individuals to get their second dose of the vaccine as soon as it is available to them; however, previously booked second-dose appointments will be honoured and will not be cancelled unless a new and earlier appointment is confirmed.”
Most people in B.C. will be able to get the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine around eight weeks after their first dose. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are enough confirmed deliveries of Pfizer and Moderna that the province is able to move up the interval.
Quebec is shortening the delay between first and second doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to eight weeks.
The 12-week interval is the recommended interval for the AstraZeneca shot for the best immune response. Experts say it is safe to move up the interval for the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna.
As outlined in the province’s three-step reopening plan, stage two would begin once 20 per cent of Ontarians are fully vaccinated and stage three would commence with 25 per cent having both doses.
The province estimates stage three could start towards the end of July.
With files from the Canadian Press