Some Ontarians who live in one of seven regions where the delta variant of concern is spreading will be able to book a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine earlier than scheduled, the province said Thursday.
As of Monday, those who got a first shot of an mRNA vaccine on or before May 9, and live in one of the following public health units, can start trying to get a second shot:
Eligible residents can book through the province’s central system, through their local public health unit (depending on where they live) or at a participating pharmacy, officials said during a media briefing today.
At a news conference, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said Ontario is making “tremendous progress” on the vaccination front.
“We can all be proud of the progress being made, together,” she said.
The so-called “delta strategy” comes amid growing calls from some public health experts for Ontario to allocate an increased percentage of available vaccine doses to areas where the variant is spreading.
Earlier in the vaccine rollout, the province sent more doses to 114 hot spots that were designated based on historical data. The revised strategy takes a different approach, officials said, with prevalence of the delta variant being the key factor.
The health units eligible for accelerated second doses could therefore change over time, depending on the spread of this variant, officials added.
Moreover, delta areas of concern will not necessarily receive any more vaccine doses than they currently are, though if those health units are using all of their available doses the province will work them individually to potentially arrange for greater supply, officials said.
The delta variant, first identified in India, is likely more transmissible than previous strains and could come with a higher risk of severe illness and death. First doses of currently available vaccines in Ontario are only between 33 and 55 per cent effective in preventing illness from the variant, preliminary research suggests.
Officials also said that starting the week of June 20, mobile workplace clinics in Toronto, Peel and York, as well as employer-led clinics in Peel specifically, will begin operating sooner than expected.
No change to time between doses for AstraZeneca
Notably absent from today’s briefing were any changes to the second-dose interval for those who got a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Right now, Ontarians in that group must wait at least 12 weeks between shots, whether they opt for a second dose of AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer and Moderna.
That policy will remain in place for the time being, officials said.