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Mayor calls on province to expand third-dose rollout

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano agrees with infectious disease researcher that booster dose should be extended to 18 years of age and up - and that hardest hit regions like Algoma should receive special attention from Ontario government
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Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano is calling on the Ontario government to open up its COVID-19 booster rollout to people 18 years of age and older.

The mayor took to social media Wednesday, sharing a message from high-profile infectious disease researcher Dr. Isaac Bogoch about the need for expanding the rollout for third doses in light of the arrival of the Omicron variant of concern in Canada. Ontario detected Canada's first two known cases of Omicron late last month in people in the Ottawa area who had recently returned from Nigeria.

The age of eligibility for the booster shot in Ontario was lowered from 70 years of age to 50 last week. People aged 50 and over who are 168 days or more past the date of receiving their second dose will be eligible to schedule their booster dose beginning Dec. 13 at 8 a.m. 

Provenzano, speaking with SooToday Thursday, said that he agrees with and supports Bogoch’s assertion that the rollout needs to be expanded. 

He also wants to see the hardest-hit public health units in the north - namely Algoma Public Health (APH) and Public Health Sudbury and Districts - receive sufficient quantities of third doses. 

“A number of times during this pandemic, the Algoma Public Health region was in a position because we had a very low prevalence - it was treated differently. We had very little COVID numbers here, so our vaccine program started later and it rolled out a bit slower,” said Provenzano. “There were times when there were high COVID numbers in other parts of the province, so the province shut down the entire province and decided not to take a regional approach, and that affected us.

“So the point I was making was, now that we have significant challenges and that we have one of the highest [rates of COVID-19] in the province, we should get that specific attention that other parts of the province received when they were having struggles.”

Provenzano also used social media to call on the Ford government and Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano to make northern Ontario and the Algoma Public Health region a priority.

“This is the first time I’ve heard this concern from our mayor, who has all my contact information, including my personal cell, which he has used on multiple occasions in the past,” said Romano, in an email to SooToday Thursday. “I would encourage use of appropriate advocacy mediums, not Twitter. We work better when we work together.”

More than 7,000 booster doses have been administered to eligible Algoma residents as of last week. 

APH did not respond to SooToday's request for comment.

- with files from Darren Taylor and The Canadian Press