Ontario could expand third dose eligibility this week because of omicron variant
Ontario is considering expanding third dose eligibility of the COVID-19 vaccine this week in response to the emergence on the omicrom variant, officially confirmed in Ontario as of Sunday with four cases now in Ottawa and speculation that there may be more in other regions, such as Hamilton.
Currently, only Ontarians aged 70 and over, those who live in certain congregate living situations, anyone who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Indigenous populations and individuals who are immunocompromised are able to access a third dose.
But that may soon be changing.
"We are urging more Ontarians to please come forward and be vaccinated and we're also looking at other age groups for the booster, the third dose booster," Health Minister Christine Elliott said during a presser at Queen's Park on Monday.
"We'll have more to say about this later on in the week because we want to have that extra layer of protection available for people as well."
Elliott also touched about reopening plans moving forward, noting that while January 17 was the proposed date to lift restrictions even further across the province, there is concern that the variant could necessitate a "reassessment" of the plan, though she said it's too soon to tell just yet.
Rising COVID-19 case counts overall are also worrying some, with a seven-day moving average of 784 new infections per day in Ontario.
"We knew that this would happen, that cases would increase as people are moving indoors more and more, and with the weather now, we can expect that will continue," Elliott continued, noting that "The regional medical officers of health have always had that opportunity to bring in more requirements."
“There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet always plagues & wars take people equally by surprise.”— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 29, 2021
Omicron’s emergence remind us of how perilous & precarious our situation is. We should be wide awake to the threat of this virus. #WHASpecial https://t.co/QHvdd6SoGJ pic.twitter.com/lSougJ0gts
Though the World Health Organization states that it is not yet clear whether omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe and potentially fatal symptoms, Moderna noted in a release last week that it "includes mutations seen in the delta variant that are believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the beta and delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape," and encouraged booster shots as vaccine immunity wanes over time.
The other major vaccine companies are also working on new boosters specifically tailored to the variant.
According to Elliott, a total of 375 Ontarians have travelled to African countries from which the variant was first identified in last 14 days, and are being followed closely.
The province has also asked the federal government to ramp up point-of-arrival testing at entrypoints, while anyone who has travelled to a country in southern Africa in the last month is asked to get tested for the virus immediately.
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