Ontario is ramping up second doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with those 80 and over able to book next week, as the majority of residents are expected to be fully immunized by the end of summer.
People are responsible for changing their own appointments, and there is no guarantee they will be given a spot sooner, health officials said on Friday.
At a press conference Friday, Premier Doug Ford said Ontario was now ahead of schedule for its vaccine rollout, with 65% of adults receiving a first dose.
“We are now able to expedite second doses in Ontario. This is great news, and I know many of you have been waiting for it, ”said Mr. Ford.
“Based on what we know of upcoming shipments, anyone who wants a vaccine could be fully vaccinated by the end of August. It’s true folks, Ontario is ready to offer a two-dose summer.
Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or NACI, released new guidance on Friday that, with the increase in vaccine supply in Canada, second doses should be offered as soon as possible, with the priority at the same time as the first doses are also administered. Canada had extended the interval between the two doses based on previous NACI advice, which indicated that second doses could be given up to four months after the first to allow more people to receive their first injections while supply was limited.
The new dose interval in Ontario applies to people who have received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and could be as short as 28 days, although this likely only applies to those who receive an injection later in the summer.
The fast-track schedule starts with people 80 and over and then moves to people 70 and older starting the week of June 14, when the province is expected to take the first step in its plan to reopen. The second stage of Ontario’s plan to reopen, which is expected to begin in early July, depends on 70 percent of residents receiving the first doses and 20 percent are fully immunized.
By August 9, anyone in the province who received a vaccine after May 31 will be able to book a second injection.
Residents are encouraged to return to the site where they received their first dose, unless this is impractical, and may reserve at another location if necessary.
Ontario has also administered first doses to over 15% of youth aged 12 to 17. The majority of young people are expected to receive their first injection in June and a second dose in August, to prepare for the school year in September, officials said.
During Friday’s briefing, Mr Ford did not say if or when schools would reopen before the end of the school year in June. They have been closed across the province since April. On Thursday, the prime minister issued an open letter to more than 50 experts in medicine, public health and education, calling for a “broad consensus” on whether to reopen schools for the last month of the school year. He said on Friday he would use their input to decide whether students and staff would return to their classrooms this year. Their comments are expected by the end of Friday.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said he supported the reopening of schools and said Thursday all public health units in the Greater Toronto Area are ready for students and staff return to their classrooms.
Mr Ford said he knew where Dr Williams was on the matter, but wanted other experts “to have their say”.
“I’ve never been afraid to make a decision – in fact, I’ve made some of the toughest decisions and probably not popular ones,” Ford said at the briefing. “I don’t want to rush this. If it takes a few more days, so be it. It’s a massive decision. “
He said he was “really concerned” about the variants, especially the B1617 variant which is at the heart of the Indian crisis. He added that the province’s science advisory board found that reopening schools could lead to a 6-11% increase in COVID-19 cases, although the table indicates it could be manageable.
Mr Ford also said he hoped the children could return to camp this summer.
“No one wants the kids to go back to school more than I do,” said Ford. “But we have to make sure that any decision is based on sound, scientific and medical advice that protects students and school staff.”
The Ontario government will also offer second doses to those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine at 12 weeks, unless they are part of the first cohort that received an injection between March 10 and March 19 and are eligible. to a second dose at 10 weeks for a supply that expires May 31.
Ontario expects to receive 4.7 million doses in June, primarily Pfizer, with future shipments from Moderna and AstraZeneca still pending.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was happy with the decision to speed up second doses, but said renewal of dates shouldn’t be “the same chaotic treasure hunt” of round one, especially for seniors. She called for a single, coordinated system that would notify people when it’s their turn to book again.
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