In a continued effort to speed up second dose vaccinations for individuals living in Delta variant hotspots, the provincial government announced Thursday that more adults will be able to book new appointments as of next week.
The government is accelerating second shot appointments for anyone aged 18-and-up that received a first dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) on or before May 30 living in any of the following 10 Delta variant hotspot regions:
- Peel Region
Those that qualify will be eligible to book an appointment for a second dose starting Wednesday, June 23.
The province is also expanding second dose eligibility on Monday to all Ontarians, Delta hotspot or not, who received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine on or before May 9.
Residents in Halton Region who received their first COVID-19 shot on or before May 30 can reschedule their second dose appointment as of Friday, June 18.
The change has already been made on the region’s online booking system.
Everyone else in Ontario outside of Delta hot spots who got a first shot before May 31 – except for youth aged between 12 and 17 years old – is eligible to book their second dose starting June 28.
The province sped up second dose appointments for Delta variant hotspots on Monday, allowing adults that received the first shot of an mRNA vaccine on or before May 9 to book for a second dose.
The government has decided to expand allocation in more high-risk communities, including Waterloo – a region that continues to report high daily infections due to the presence of the variant – Simcoe-Muskoka and Hamilton.
As a result, the province says it will begin to assist Waterloo Public Health in administering second shots to “high-priority” populations as it looks to control the spread of the Delta variant.
As of June 12, individuals who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are able to get their second dose in eight weeks rather than 12 weeks.
Those who got AstraZeneca as a first dose have the option of getting a second dose of the same vaccine or an mRNA vaccine, either Pfizer or Moderna.
The government also confirmed Thursday that additional shipments of the Moderna vaccine will arrive in the province this week.
A total of 1,123,780 doses of the mRNA vaccine will arrive either today or on Friday followed by an expected shipment of 2,179,380, split into separate deliveries, that will be in Ontario by next week.
“With over three million doses of Moderna arriving in June, Ontario is continuing to accelerate our vaccine rollout by expanding eligibility for second doses ahead of schedule,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.
The province is still slated to get just over 938,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine through June 28 but did announce a reduced shipment of 348,000 doses from 885,000 for the week of July 5, saying the difference will be made up that month.
Ontario will then receive upwards of 3.1 million doses of Pfizer’s shot split into weekly deliveries starting July 12.
As for those who are holding out to get the same brand of vaccine they had before, Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones says multiple health authorities state that Pfizer and Moderna are completely interchangeable.
“I understand that people initially felt that if they had Pfizer as their first shot, they believe they needed Pfizer for their second. It’s simply not proven to be the case through science.”
The government says over 48 per cent of youth aged 12 to 17 have received at least one dose, adding that the expectation is more teenagers in this age group will continue to get vaccinated through June 27.
Anyone aged 12 to 17 will be eligible to book a second appointment between August 9 and August 22. Second doses will be accelerated for youth but a date has yet to be confirmed, the government says.
Ontarians have been flooding the province’s online booking portal this week in hopes of securing a second dose and many expressed frustration at their inability to book due to the soaring demand.
Toronto opened up 30,000 more appointments Wednesday morning for the Moderna vaccine, but many reported on social media that the appointments were quickly snatched up when the booking opened.
There have been growing calls from many to speed up reopening in the province with vaccination rates climbing and new cases staying low.
Recent COVID-19 modelling forecasted a good summer in Ontario if the highly transmissible Delta variant is contained by getting more people fully vaccinated.
“To help avoid a fourth wave, we need to continue to ensure first and second doses in high-risk communities,” Dr. Steini Brown said a week ago.
“We need to make sure our vaccine efforts are tailored to community needs and we need to ensure the core public health functions and strong contact tracing.”
Some experts are cautioning that the province needs to exercise caution with the Delta variant on the rise, with some saying the province needs to do more to ensure doses are being allocated to Delta hot spots.
Peel’s top doctor has pressed the Ford government to earmark more second doses to high-risk communities.
Dr. Lawrence Loh said while he encourages people to do whatever they can to get fully vaccinated, he acknowledges the provincial booking system doesn’t always work in favour of Peel Region citizens.
“Approximately 34 per cent of our bookings, at this point, are non-Peel residents,” Dr. Loh said yesterday.
“We’re certainly hopeful that we’ll be able to get additional allocation so that we can continue to open up appointments.”
Waterloo Region reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the province for the first time on Wednesday and local health officials believe the Delta variant is likely behind the recent surge in infections.
Local officials said the majority of cases are associated with close contacts and social gatherings, and area politicians called on the provincial government to help.
“We need help to put this fire out IMMEDIATELY,” NDP legislator Catherine Fife, who represents Waterloo, wrote Wednesday.
The variant has also been linked to a spike in cases in the northeastern Porcupine Health Unit, the only region that didn’t lift health restrictions on businesses and gatherings last week as it battles the surge.
The science shows that only 33 to 50 per cent protection is afforded against the Delta variant with one dose.
Graphics courtesy of @jkwan_md
Over two million Ontarians have now received both doses of the vaccine and the City of Toronto announced that 20 per cent of residents are now fully vaccinated.
Before Step 2 of the province’s reopening plan can begin on July 2, 70 per cent of Ontario adults need to have received at least one dose, and 20 per cent need to have received both doses. The province has already surpassed the first vaccination threshold and is on pace to reach 80 per cent by early July.
Based on current daily vaccinations, Ontario is on pace to meet the 20 per cent fully vaccinated threshold by the week of June 21.
As of 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, 11,943,025 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and 74 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have received at least one dose, while 18.3 per cent of residents over 12 are now fully vaccinated.
The province set a record for daily vaccines administered on Thursday for the second day in a row, surpassing 200,000 for the second time.