The Northwestern Health Unit says residents between the ages of 5 and 11 won’t be able to receive their dose of the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine until the new year.

The Ontario government announced earlier this week that doses of the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which targets specific strains of the illness, would be available for all Ontarians over the age of 5 as of December 21.

But in NWO, Communications Specialist with the NWHU, Jon Begg, says those interested in receiving the vaccine are asked to contact the health unit to set up an appointment for early 2023.

“As the weather gets colder and more people spend time with their loved ones indoors this holiday season, vaccination remains the most effective way we can protect ourselves from the most serious effects of COVID-19 and influenza,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Vaccines provide strong protection against severe illness from COVID-19 and its variants and will help ease pressures on our hospitals and emergency departments,” Jones adds.

Ontarians aged five and older and not at high-risk of severe COVID-19 illness are recommended to get a booster dose this respiratory illness season if it has been six months since their last dose, but those at high risk are recommended to get theirs after three months.

Pfizer’s bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster was approved for use in Canada in October for anyone over the age of 12. It’s essentially a mix of the original vaccine and an updated vaccine which targets specific mutagens in the spike protein seen in multiple strains of the Omicron variant.

The Ontario government and the Northwestern Health Unit add they are urging residents to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations to help protect their loved ones this fall.

“COVID-19 vaccines continue to protect Ontarians from COVID-19 and its variants,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“Vaccines are safe, they improve your immune response and reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and post-infection symptoms. I recommend Ontarians stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations at the appropriate interval since their last dose and get an annual flu shot,” adds Moore.

Appointments can be made through Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccination Portal, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900, or through the Northwestern Health Unit.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, stay home from work, school or social events until your fever is gone and your symptoms are improving. Then, get a rapid antigen test or a PCR test if eligible, wear a mask for 10 days, and avoid non-essential visits to high-risk individuals and settings.