TORONTO — Ontario residents aged 50 and older can soon book COVID-19 booster shots and more people will become eligible in January, the province announced Thursday, amid rising virus cases and the new Omicron variant.
Dr. Kieran Moore, the province's chief medical officer of health, encouraged those eligible to book booster appointments as soon as possible. Vaccination is the best defence against the "significant" surge in cases and the Omicron variant, he said.
People 50 and up can make booster appointments starting Dec. 13 at 8 a.m., the province said. Next month, more people will become eligible based on age and COVID-19 risk, with boosters offered between six and eight months from a person’s second dose.
Earlier in the day, a Toronto-area health unit confirmed a case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the fifth known case in the province.
The Durham Region Health Department said the person who tested positive is a close contact of a traveller who recently returned from a southern African country that Canada has deemed high-risk for the variant.
The local health department said it's also monitoring other COVID-19 cases under investigation because of recent travel history, but its news release didn't say how many are being investigated.
Four Omicron cases have also been found in Ottawa, and other cases have been confirmed in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.
The World Health Organization has named Omicron a variant of concern and many countries have implemented travel measures to contain it, though not much is yet known about its characteristics.
Thursday's announcement on booster doses also came with new vaccination guidance for people receiving dialysis, who will become eligible for third COVID-19 vaccine doses if it’s been 56 days since their second shot.
The province now recommends that people receiving cell treatments following therapy or a transplant get vaccinated again with both shots because of lost immunity.
Also starting Thursday, limited doses of the single-shot Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are now on offer to adults with allergies to mRNA shots, or to unvaccinated people who contact their local public health unit.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2021.
The Canadian Press