Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health plans a series of COVID-19 reminders in the fall
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2022 at 8:32 a.m. EDT
Last updated Saturday, June 11, 2022 at 3:03 p.m. EDT
Ontario’s COVID-19 indicators are currently heading in the right direction, but the province’s top doctor is gearing up for the fall, when trends are likely to worsen, with plans including a new round of booster doses .
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore said preparations include scenarios for various health system stakeholders, such as an “aggressive” flu season combined with a resurgence of COVID-19.
Ontario will purchase more than six million doses of flu vaccine, he said in an interview, and plans to offer more doses for COVID-19.
“So another booster dose for the most at-risk members of our community for COVID and then potentially opening it up to the general public for another booster dose,” he said.
The third doses are currently available for people age 12 and older, and the fourth doses are available for people age 60 and older or First Nations, Inuit, and Métis adults and adult members of their household. Immunocompromised people – such as transplant recipients – aged 60 and over and residents in long-term care can receive a fifth dose.
Moore predicts that in the fall, a new generation of vaccines will be available, targeting both the original COVID strain and another newer one circulating, such as Omicron.
“We are looking at distribution models through pharmacy, primary care and your public health partners,” he said.
“It would be something that could start as early as October. We will start with the highest risk, so by age or by profession, so healthcare workers or those over 60, to propose it to them, and then according to the availability and demand are still increasing.”
Dr Fahad Razak, scientific director of the provincial COVID-19 advisory group, said more evidence is needed on the benefits of the fourth dose for a wider population.
“The evidence for this third dose is very clear,” he said in an interview this week.
“The fourth dose is beneficial for high risk groups…but for the general public, an otherwise healthy 20 or 30 year old who has no risk factors, there is no clear evidence yet. to say, ‘Go take that fourth dose.’ It’s not clear. You’ll see that some jurisdictions allow it, some don’t, and that reflects the lack of clarity in the evidence at this time.
Razak said while the indicators are positive right now, Ontario is still in wave six.
A combination of high vaccination rates and recent infections has given Ontario a strong ‘wall of immunity’, but the fall will lead to lower immunity along with other respiratory viruses that have been kept at bay for two years due to COVID-19 public health measures, he said.
There is also the potential for a new variant.
“What we’ve seen in previous waves…is basically a new wave, a new variant develops and passes through the population roughly every six months,” Razak said.
“Nobody knows if this will continue, but if this trend continues, we hope to have a good summer, but we are heading into a fall season with some risk.”
If another wave of COVID-19 threatens the health care system and its ability to deal with the surgical backlog, Moore said it’s possible mask mandates will return “if it’s really, absolutely necessary.”
“I think any other public health measure beyond that will certainly never be necessary, given the benefits of the vaccine that we have seen and the effectiveness of masking at the population level,” he said. declared.
Provincial mask mandates for public transit and health care facilities will expire this weekend – although hospitals say they will continue to require masks. The warrants remain in place at long-term care homes and retirement homes, and Moore recommends keeping them until at least the summer of 2023.
Meanwhile, Ontario announced on Friday it would switch from daily to weekly reporting of COVID-19 data and stop publishing details about the virus in long-term care homes. and retirement homes as well as in schools. Additionally, Verify Ontario, which was used to scan vaccine certificates, will be removed from the app store.
The province is also preparing for the eventual approval of vaccines for children under five. An application by Moderna for a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six months to five years has been under review by Health Canada since late April.
It took almost three months for Health Canada to authorize the Moderna vaccine for adolescents and almost four months for children aged 6 to 11. Moore said younger children may not be able to get vaccinated until at least the end of the summer.
“We have already planned how to distribute it through our primary care partners, as well as our pharmaceutical partners,” he said.
“So we’re ready. Now it’s about making sure that the vaccine is safe, that it’s effective and that it will fully protect children. And I don’t mind taking this extra time to make sure that the data is correct.”