This week, a new group of essential workers, those with at-risk health conditions and Ontario residents aged 40 and older will all be able to book their COVID-19 vaccines through the provincial online booking system.

Group 2 workers who cannot work from home and those considered at-risk will be eligible as of May 11. Residents aged 40 or above will be eligible as of May 13. 

Those considered at-risk include those with conditions such as:

- autoimmune disorders and immune deficiencies,
- stroke and cerebrovascular disease,
- dementia,
- diabetes,
- liver disease,
- all other cancers,
- respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia or pleurisy,
- spleen problems such as asplenia,
- heart disease,
- hypertension with end-organ damage,
- diagnosed mental disorder,
- substance abuse disorders,
- sickle cell disease,
- thalassemia,
- immunocompromising health conditions,
- other disabilities requiring support care in the community,

Those considered Group 2 essential workers include:

- essential and critical retail workers (grocery, foodbank, pharmacy, ServiceOntario, ServiceCanada, Passport Canada, wholesalers and general goods, restaurant, LCBO workers

- workers in manufacturing industries directly involved in supporting the COVID-19 response, construction and other essential businesses and services where facilities are at heightened risk for COVID-19 outbreaks and spread

- social workers and social services staff who provide in-person client services (including youth justice workers, Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program caseworkers)

- transportation, warehousing and distribution workers (including public transit, truck drivers supporting essential services, marine and rail cargo and maintenance, highway maintenance

- communications infrastructure workers (including cellular, satellite, landline, internet, public safety, radio)

- oil and petroleum workers (including petroleum refineries, crude oil and petroleum storage, transmission and distribution, retail sale of fuel)

- natural gas and propane workers (including compression, storage, transmission and distribution of natural gas and propane)

- uranium processing workers (those working in the refining and conversion of uranium and fabrication of fuel for nuclear power plants)

- mineworkers (including those needed to ensure the continued operation of active mines)

- courts and justice system workers (including probation and parole workers)

- electricity (including system operators, generation, transmission, distribution and storage workers)

- water and wastewater management workers

- financial services workers (bank branch staff)

- veterinarians and veterinary teams

- waste management workers

“With a stable and predictable supply of vaccines, Ontario’s vaccine rollout continues to pick up speed, and we are on track to administer a first dose to 65% of Ontario adults by the end of May,” said Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora-Rainy River.

“Time and time again, Northwesterners have shown their resiliency and patience as we all navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. I urge everyone to register to receive their vaccine as soon as their eligible.”

During her weekly conference with regional media members on Friday, Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, shared the region now has access to both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.

Young Hoon says residents do not have a choice in which vaccine they get, as they’re both similar in effectiveness and design, and supplies are defendant on vaccine allocations made by the province.

“At the beginning of the vaccine roll-out, we were primarily getting Moderna in our catchment area. The Moderna supply to the province has become more unstable. To ensure we had enough vaccine, Ontario has started supplying us with the Pfizer vaccine,” explained Young Hoon.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA technology, using RNA encoded with the piece of the COVID-19 virus known as the spike protein. The mRNA then trains the body to fight off a COVID-19 infection.

Health Canada says both vaccines were about 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 in clinical trials.

“All vaccines are safe,” adds Young Hoon. “They’re the same type of vaccine and both have similar levels of effectiveness and side effects. The side effects associated with these vaccines are relatively not important – such as chills, fevers and body aches but they’re short-lived.”

Young Hoon notes just like flu vaccine clinics, you will be asked to remain at the vaccination site for 15 to 30 minutes afterwards to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

A timeline available from the NWHU anticipates those 30 and older will be able to book their appointments as of the week of May 17, and those 18 and older will become eligible as of the week of May 24.

Further information on booking your COVID-19 vaccine can be found HERE.

Everyone is asked to continue following all public health measures and to stay home, self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known. You’re reminded you are still vulnerable after receiving one or both doses of your COVID-19 vaccine.