Ontario shortens gap between COVID-19 vaccine doses with majority of residents fully vaccinated by end of summer

TORONTO — Now that 65 per cent of adults in Ontario have received their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, the province says residents will get their second doses sooner than expected with the goal of fully vaccinating the majority of Ontarians by the end of summer.

Ontario officials announced on Friday they will be ramping up vaccination efforts, allowing people aged 80 and up to start booking their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine next week.

To be considered fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, residents must receive two shots. Most residents are currently waiting about four months between each dose, with some exceptions for those in long-term care, high-risk health-care workers and people with specific health conditions.

The province will use a “first-in, first out’ method for second dose vaccinations in an effort to allow those who were administered a dose early in the rollout to get their second shot accordingly.

The province released a timeline for when each age group will become eligible for their second dose. The estimated timeline shows that older adults will be prioritized first alongside high-risk health-care workers, essential caregivers, long-term care home residents and staff, and Indigenous adults.

This will be followed by individuals who received their first dose between March 8 and April 18. The province said it may also include other groups around that time, such as individuals with highest health risk conditions and special education workers.

Officials say they expect to start allowing people between the ages of 12 and 25 to book their second doses at the beginning of August. This means older children could be fully vaccinated prior to returning to school in September.

Second dose eligibility timeline

Depending on supply and appointment availability, the government says that dose intervals could be as short as 28 days—although this only becomes a possibility for those getting their first dose later in the summer.

Residents are responsible for booking or rebooking their second dose appointment when they become eligible. New appointments will automatically replace those previously booked through the provincial system, officials confirmed.

Officials are encouraging residents to book their second appointment using the same channel as the first.

Residents can also keep their original appointment date if they want.

At the moment, everyone will receive the same type of COVID-19 vaccine as their first dose.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ASTRAZENECA?

Individuals who received a first dose of AstraZeneca will see second dose intervals accelerate to a 12-week interval. A 10-week interval can be used with informed consent.

Ontario put a pause on first dose AstraZeneca shots earlier this month due to an increase in reports of rare blood clots. Earlier this week, health officials confirmed that those who had already received their first dose will soon be able to get their second.

The risk of blood clots is significantly lower during the second dose of AstraZeneca, officials added at the time.

Second dose appointments are currently open for anyone who received their first dose between March 10 and March 19 with informed consent due to the 10-week interval.

More than 10,000 people have received their second dose of AstraZeneca so far, officials say.

Approximately 31,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are set to expire after May 31, however all AstraZeneca doses distributed to pharmacies will undertake quality assurance reviews prior to being administered.

Individuals who received a first dose of AstraZeneca could receive a second dose of a different vaccine if required, officials said while warning that the province is still waiting for more guidance on mixing vaccines.

This is a breaking news story. More to come.

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