News about expanded eligibility for fourth dose could come as early as next week, Ontario’s top doctor suggests

Ontario will make a decision early next week on whether to expand eligibility for the fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines, amid a seventh wave of the virus, the province’s top physician said Thursday.

Ontario has been under pressure to expand eligibility for the fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine beyond people over 60, immunocompromised people and indigenous populations, as Quebec has done. That province has opened eligibility to all adults.

Medical Director of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said in an interview that he anticipates news to come next week on “if and how” to expand the rollout, but said what worries him most is the number of people who don’t. have made. he had a third dose yet.

“Of those five million who haven’t even had their first booster, many of whom have been six months since their last dose, one million of them are over 50 and we know that age is a really big risk factor for COVID, serious outcomes and hospitalization,” Moore said.

“So before we open more, we first ask that the one million, well, the five million, but one million over 50 who have not shown up, consider getting vaccinated in the month of July.”

For people age 59 and younger, a second booster may not provide significant protection against serious outcomes because they weren’t at risk of serious outcomes to begin with, Moore said.

“We always do risk-based strategy and risk-based communication about launching immunization and if those (currently eligible) groups stop showing up, and we see that the volumes of patients showing up to be vaccinated are going down, we will increase the eligibility criteria,” he said.

Ontario and Quebec are experiencing the seventh wave of COVID-19, but health officials in both provinces predict that it will soon peak.

Quebec public health director Dr. Luc Boileau said Thursday that while Omicron’s highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are well established in Quebec and behind the rise in cases and hospitalizations, there are signs of which will peak this month.

“We expect the evolution to curve down during the month of July, but there is uncertainty about it,” he added. “The curve is slower than it was a week ago, so it’s a small sign that we could make it to the other side. in the near future.”

In Ontario, the number of cases, positivity and hospitalizations increased. Moore said he expects Ontario to see the peak of the wave next week.

Moore said if people decide to get their third dose now, it won’t stop them from getting a new vaccine in the fall, should one become available.

Several vaccine makers are racing to develop formulations that can head to Omicron, and Moore said they are expected to be available in the fall. Ontario plans to bring back a mass vaccination strategy for people at risk if so-called bivalent vaccines become available and inoculate up to 100,000 people a day.

If a bivalent vaccine isn’t available by that time, there is still an “ample” supply of the original Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for the fall, Moore said.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé encouraged Quebecers to get their COVID-19 booster shot. He said he had been considering waiting for his own fourth dose until September in case a more effective vaccine became available.

Instead, the 65-year-old Dubé decided to push himself on Thursday. “It’s been over three months (since my last dose). I’m in the category of people that if I catch him, I might have a harder time than someone who is 25 or 30 years old,” Dubé said. If necessary, he will receive another dose in the fall after another three or four months have passed.

“I think as far as the booster dose, with the public health recommendations, I felt more comfortable getting it now. and I think others should do the same,” she said.

Officials said that despite the current rise in COVID-19 indicators, they do not plan to re-impose new public health orders, such as mask mandates on public transportation. Instead, officials urged those who are infected with COVID-19 to follow isolation guidelines and those who have not received a booster vaccination to make an appointment.

“I think the whole world is sick of COVID, but I think we said all along that we need to live with this COVID,” Dubé said Thursday, adding that the situation is considered under control.

Boileau said one of the factors driving transmission is infected people not abiding by the province’s 10-day isolation rules from the time symptoms appear. Infected people should spend the first five days at home and then wear a mask outside for the next five days, she said.

“Basically, this is what explains the current wave: It’s the fact that those who have (COVID-19) are giving it to others,” Boileau said. “Visibly, there are a lot of people who don’t respect (the rules) and that would be good if they did.”

On Thursday, Quebec reported 1,534 people hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of 37 from the previous day. Authorities said 43 people were in intensive care, an increase of three. They reported another 16 deaths related to the disease.

A weekly update published Thursday by Public Health Ontario showed a 20% increase in cases week over week, a rise in the positivity rate from 8.4% to 11.2%, and signs that hospitalizations and deaths were falling. increasing.

Meanwhile, when asked if there was any concern about a spike in COVID-19 numbers after the Calgary Stampede, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney noted that travel has not fully returned to normal, as airlines are still struggling to operate flights.

“But… it’s getting back to normal,” he said.

Kenney said there weren’t many additional cases of COVID-19 dating back to Stampede last summer, though he acknowledged the virus continues to circulate in the province.

“We are, like the rest of the world, getting on with life. I don’t want people in the summer of 2022, when we only have about 20 people in the ICU with COVID, I don’t think people should be sheltering at home, living in fear. If there are people who are immunocompromised, they’re always going to have to take some precautions.

“Like any other major event in the world, we’re getting back to normal here and there’s no reason to believe it can’t be done safely and forever.”

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