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Ontario's top doctor to announce expansion of COVID-19 booster shots Wednesday

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is set to make an announcement Wednesday regarding the expansion of eligibility for fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Kieran Moore will provide the update, which will also cover the province’s rapid antigen test distribution, at 11 a.m.

The announcement comes amid a seventh wave of the virus in Ontario, which has seen a recent increase in case numbers, positivity rates and hospitalizations.

Currently, the booster is only available to people aged 60 and older, immunocompromised individuals and Indigenous populations.

Moore said Thursday that he anticipated a decision on the expansion would come sometime this week.

At that time, the province’s top doctor expressed concern over the relatively large number of people in Ontario who have yet to receive a third dose of vaccine.

"Of those five million that haven't had even their first booster…one million of them are over 50 years of age and we know age is a really significant risk factor for COVID, severe outcomes and hospitalization," Moore said.

"So we're asking first before we open up any further that one million…please consider getting vaccinated in the month of July."

While Ontario has seen a 20 per cent week-over-week increase in COVID-19 cases, a rise in the positivity rate from 8.4 per cent to 11.2 per cent, and indications that hospitalizations and deaths are rising, Moore said he expects that the province could see the current wave peak this week.

Speaking with CP24 Tuesday evening, infectious diseases physician Dr. Dale Kalina said he’s interested to learn more about what evidence the province will unveil regarding time frames for fourth doses and their efficacy on younger populations.

“We know that you don’t get a lot of benefit from fourth doses unless you are somebody who has an immune system that requires a lot of these repetitive vaccines,” Kalina said. “The people that really need booster doses, in general, are people whose immune systems aren’t working particularly well. So people that are over the age of 70 or if you are taking medications that supress your immune system.”

Kalina added that he expects to see more information come to light in the coming months about newer vaccines that specifically target omicron and produce further immunity.

In the meantime, he advised that if you can get a booster shot, you should get one.

“If you are a healthy person who is below the age of 60 or so you should be encouraging everyone you know to get third doses, people that are your own age, people that are younger than you, those are the ways that I think will increase the safety for as many people as possible,” he said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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