Northwestern Ontario residents over the age of 50 are now able to get their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – if it's been over 24 weeks, or 168 days, since their second dose.

“There is very little risk from getting the third dose, and there is evidence of increased protection from a booster dose,” explains Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, during her weekly conference with regional media members.

“For the 50+ population, we are recommending third doses,” she says. “There is better evidence that for older adults, waning immunity is occurring, so that third dose is important for older adults.”

Young Hoon notes the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said that all eligible residents can now be offered a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I don’t understand why anyone would be hesitant to have the third dose when they willingly had the first and second dose. The risk doesn’t change significantly with the third dose,” she adds, referencing possible hesitation towards receiving a third dose of the vaccine.

Ontario is now offering third doses of the vaccine to:

- Those aged 50 and over,

- Healthcare workers and designated caregivers,
- First Nations, Inuit and Metis adults and their non-Indigenous household members,
- Individuals who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine,
- First responders,
- People living in a retirement home, elder care lodge or those living in a congregate setting for seniors, including designated essential caregivers.

“Those recommendations are based on evidence that there is some waning immunity, and these are the populations where waning immunity is a significant problem and that the third dose is more likely to provide them benefit compared to other populations,” explained Young Hoon.

The province says they’ll further expand eligibility for booster doses based on age and risk, with an interval of six to eight months from the second dose, in the new year.

Ontario is also recommending re-vaccination with a new COVID-19 vaccine primary series post-transplantation for individuals who receive hematopoietic stem cell transplants (HSCT), hematopoietic cell transplants (HCT) (autologous or allogeneic), and recipients of CAR-T-cell therapy, due to the loss of immunity following therapy or transplant.

Anyone who is eligible for a first, second or booster dose of the vaccine can book an appointment at one of the scheduled clinics across the region.

To book an appointment, residents can:

- Use Northwestern Health Unit’s booking site: https://clinicreservation.com/book-now
- Call Northwestern Health Unit at 1-866-468-2240
- Contact your health care provider
- Contact your local pharmacy

NWHU recommends that everyone, including those who have been vaccinated, assume COVID-19 is in their community and practise preventive measures like physical distancing, wearing a mask in enclosed public spaces and when physical distancing is a challenge, good hand hygiene, and not touching their face.