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New groups eligible for third doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

NORTH DURHAM/KAWARTHA: The Ontario government is expanding the eligibility criteria for anyone looking to get a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

On Wednesday, November 3rd, the Ontario government announced these booster doses will be available for people 70 years of age and over, people who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, First Nation, Inuit and Métis adults, as well as those who work in healthcare or who are “designated essential caregivers in congregate settings.” Any of these people will be able to receive the third dose if six months have passed since their last dose.

Previously, third doses were made available to residents of long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes, transplant recipients, and immuno-compromised people.

“The province is planning to expand eligibility for a booster dose to all Ontarians aged 12 and over in the coming months,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said at a press conference. “Studies suggest, a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine produces a very good immune response [which] is generally higher than the immune response after the primary series.”

In a press release, the province explained these doses “are being offered to these groups based on evidence of gradual waning immunity, six months after receiving their second dose, and a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”

However, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, Dr. Natalie Bocking, stressed, during a virtual press conference, the “two doses of mRNA vaccine still have very good protection against severe disease and bad outcomes from COVID-19.”

“There’s not the same urgency around getting third doses as you might’ve felt for first doses or second doses. Being fully vaccinated is still considered two doses of an mRNA vaccine,” she added. “This third dose is an optional one.”

Speaking to the Standard, Dr. Bocking explained what eligible individuals should consider when deciding whether to get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think there’s a number of things to consider. Everyone has different levels of tolerance for risk. We know there will be some people who, if there’s anything they can do to decrease the risk of [getting] COVID-19, they will do that, and that will mean wanting to get a third dose right away. Then there’s other people who are more comfortable with a little bit of risk. In saying that, [since] we’re not seeing a lot of COVID-19 [in the community], and [third doses are] recommended but not required, [they’ll] maybe wait a little bit,” she stated. “I encourage people, if they have questions, to talk to their healthcare provider. We know the side effect profile of a third dose is similar to the first and second doses. It certainly doesn’t seem to be more. We do know it seems to offer an additional level of protection.”

Dr. Bocking also noted, people should also consider their own health status and whether they can avoid large gatherings in their workplaces when making the decision.

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