With the Sault and Algoma district experiencing an onslaught of COVID-19 cases and more COVID-related deaths since October, many people who have received two doses of the COVID vaccine are eager to receive a booster shot.
That comes after the age of eligibility for the booster shot was recently lowered from 70 to 50.
However, if you are 50 and over and have received your second shot, there’s a waiting period involved before rolling up your sleeve for the booster, says Algoma Public Health.
“Age and time between doses have to be in sync,” stated Roylene Bowden, APH manager of immunizations in an email.
“Age is based on birth year. Anyone who is 50 years old (or born in 1971 or earlier as of 2021, or born in 1972 or earlier in 2022) will be able to assess eligibility for a booster dose. Eligibility also includes that the individual has received their primary series of vaccine (two doses of mRNA vaccine) and it has been 168 days since they received their second dose,” Bowden said.
That’s a wait of five and a half months.
For example, anyone 50 and over who got their second dose before or on June 28, 2021 will be eligible for a booster dose after December 13, 2021.
Rollout of the booster dose in Algoma began Nov. 3 for people 70 and over, older adults in congregate settings, healthcare workers and designated essential caregivers in congregate settings, Indigenous adults and their non-Indigenous household members.
People who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Janssen vaccine have been eligible to receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a minimum interval of six months (168 days) after their second dose.
The booster dose has also been available for people needing a third dose due to a specified health condition - such as those with a severely compromised immune system or receiving dialysis - which requires a three dose primary series of shots.
Those groups continue to be eligible to receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
As of Dec. 3, over 7,000 booster doses have been administered to eligible Algoma residents who were eligible, Bowden said on behalf of APH.
So how will the booster shot be rolled out for eligible Sault and Algoma residents?
So far, booster shots have been available through community clinics (such as pop-ups and appointment-based clinics, healthcare facilities and participating pharmacies). First, second, and third/booster doses continue to be available at many community clinics and pharmacies by appointment and walk-in.
APH says a similar approach will be used to administer booster shots to people aged 50 and over in Algoma in the coming months.
Starting Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, people aged 50 and over who are 168 days since their second dose will be eligible to schedule their booster dose.
“Vaccine will continue to be available through community clinics, and participating primary care offices and pharmacies. APH is planning for the expanded eligibility, and will release community clinics for the New Year in the coming weeks,” Bowden said on behalf of APH.
That information will be available through the APH website.
Pharmacies continue to administer COVID-19 vaccines on a daily basis in Algoma.
A list of pharmacies offering COVID-19 Vaccines can be found here.
There is widespread concern over the rising number of COVID cases and deaths in the Sault and Algoma region, along with concern over the Omicron variant.
“Receiving a booster dose of COVID-19 provides an important extra layer of protection, especially with the current surge in Algoma and circulating variants of concern,” Bowden said.
“Achieving high first and second dose coverage remains the focus and main priority of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination program. To date, a primary series of COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to maintain high effectiveness against serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 in most populations.”
“All Ontarians are encouraged to get their primary vaccine series and a booster dose if eligible to protect against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants,” APH said.
Bowden said at this time APH is prioritizing vaccination of children ages five to 11.
“This group does not have much protection against COVID-19 as they only recently became eligible for an approved paediatric COVID-19 vaccine.”
APH says more clinics for both children and adults will be made available in the coming weeks as people become eligible.
“Hundreds of doses” are being administered at participating pharmacies in Algoma daily, the health unit says.
“Vaccination remains one of the best tools to protect us, reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission, and fight the surge of new cases,” Bowden said.