Ontario says it is moving up appointments for second doses of COVID-19 vaccines for a number of groups in the coming weeks, and by June 28 all adults will be eligible for their subsequent shots.
Anyone who got a first shot of an mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer of Moderna) between April 19 and May 9 should be able to look for a follow-up appointment as of June 21, officials said a briefing for media Thursday morning.
Then, on June 23, spots will open for residents who received a first dose of mRNA vaccine on or before May 30 in 10 health units identified as hot spots for the delta variant of concern, officials said.
“We have made tremendous progress, and we’re continuing to build on that success,” Minister of Health Christine Elliott said at a news conference Thursday.
Earlier this month, the province accelerated the availability of second appointments for people who got an mRNA first dose in seven health units where spread of the delta variant is a concern.
Today that list was expanded to include Durham Region, Hamilton and Simcoe Muskoka.
As of Wednesday next week, the full list of delta hot spots will include:
- Peel Region
- York Region
- Waterloo Region
- Halton Region
- Durham Region
- Simcoe Muskoka
Notably, accelerated availability of appointments in delta hot spots was not accompanied by an increased share of vaccine supply, contrary to Ontario’s earlier hot spot strategy during the height of the third wave of the pandemic.
There have been many reports this week of residents who became eligible for a second shot on Monday struggling to book an appointment, or having to travel to other public health units to find one.
Lastly, appointments for Ontarians aged 18 and older who got an mRNA vaccine for their first dose on or after May 10 and do not live in delta variant hot spot will open on June 28 — about two weeks ahead of schedule, officials said.
The earlier window does not include youth, but officials said they are working to develop a plan to offer a second shot before the currently scheduled target of August 9.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones stressed Thursday that people should take whatever mRNA vaccine is available to them the soonest, be it Pfizer or Moderna.
“They are interchangeable, and the efficacy is within data points,” she said.
More than 210,000 shots yesterday
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 370 additional cases of COVID-19 today, as the province’s public health units administered more than 200,000 doses of vaccines for a second straight day.
The 210,611 shots given out yesterday are a new single-day high for Ontario and comes on the heels of 202,984 the day before. At this point, the province is averaging more than 187,000 vaccinations per day.
Nearly 65 per cent of all Ontarians have had at least one dose, while more than 19 per cent of those 18 and older have had both shots.
Thursday’s case count is down from last Thursday, when Ontario logged 590 new infections.
Labs completed 30,454 tests and Public Health Ontario logged a province positivity rate of just 1.3 per cent.
The seven-day average of daily cases fell to 433, its lowest point since late September.
As of Wednesday, there were 362 patients with COVID-related illnesses being treated in intensive care units. Of those, 232 needed a ventilator to breathe.
Staff at Toronto General Hospital, among Ontario’s busiest, announced yesterday that the medical surgical ICU at the facility — which treats many of the sickest people that are admitted — was free of COVID-19 patients for the first time since March 26, 2020.
“It was a very emotional time for them, as you can imagine,” Elliott said.
The minister of health also said Thursday that the province plans to release guidance “very shortly” for what fully vaccinated people should do moving forward, when it comes to things like gatherings and masking.
“We are going to be releasing guidelines for each of the three steps for what people should continue to do,” Elliott said.
The Ministry of Health also recorded the deaths of seven more people with COVID-19, increasing the official death toll to 8,993. The seven-day average of daily deaths stands at roughly 8.9.
Outbreaks in Waterloo, Porcupine health units
The Waterloo Region and Porcupine public health units are struggling to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases, even as the pandemic ebbs in other parts of the province.
Officials in Waterloo warned this week that the region may not be able to move into the second phase of Ontario’s reopening plan, currently scheduled for July 2, due to a sharp rise in the number of infections linked to the delta variant of concern.
In a joint statement yesterday, the local medical officer of health and the head of Ontario’s vaccine task force urged residents to “assume that the delta variant is circulating widely in Waterloo region and that there are much higher case numbers of this variant than can be currently confirmed.”
The statement went on to say the region has lobbied for more vaccines from the province and accelerating second doses through new late evening clinics, mobile teams and public vaccination clinics.
Officials said this morning they are finalizing plans for mobile support for vaccinations in Waterloo. The public health unit has identified prioritized neighbourhoods and resources will be focused primarily on those areas.
Porcupine Health Unit, meanwhile, is seeing a continued rise in COVID-19 cases, particularly in Timmins and in remote First Nations communities in the James Bay and Hudson Bay regions.
The delta variant, which was first identified in India and is believed to more transmissible than previous strains, has been confirmed in the health unit.
Earlier this week, the area’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lianne Catton, said that children, adults under 30 and people who are not vaccinated are driving the surge.
Porcupine is the only health unit in Ontario that did not move into Phase 1 of the government’s reopening plan last week.