In the midst of a seventh wave, all Ontario adults can now access a second COVID-19 booster dose, but young, healthy Ontarians could wait until fall to get the shot, said the provincial chief medical officer.

Adults 18 to 59 can get a second booster of COVID-19 vaccine starting July 14 at 8 a.m., Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced on Wednesday. Moore said those with an underlying illness or increased risk of hospitalization should seek the second booster dose. He said Ontarians who have not received their primary doses and first booster shot should get them as soon as possible.

[Graphic @ Jonathan Tovell]

Moore said he expects a bivalent booster vaccine to be available in the fall that may target Omicron variants. It will roll out to all Ontarians in stages if approved by Health Canada.

“For the general healthy individual … at this point, if they’ve had their two-dose initial primer and a first booster, we know your level of protection is going to be very good in the next several months,” said Moore. “I would advise it’s not absolutely necessary at this point and that you can wait for the fall booster dose.”

Moore said healthy Ontarians not at high risk should wait for fall to receive a second booster as waiting periods between vaccines might affect eligibility once fall comes. 

“Healthy, currently vaccinated individuals continue to have significant, persistent protection against severe disease even six months after the last dose,” said Moore.

Immune-suppressed adults who had three primary doses and one booster shot can also get a fifth vaccine dose, Moore said.

Moore also said rapid antigen test kits are available to the public in settings such as grocery stores, pharmacies, workplaces, schools, hospitals and congregate settings. The distribution was to end July 31, but it is now extended until at least the end of the year.

Moore’s announcement comes as Ontario has entered its seventh wave of COVID-19 and third wave in 2022. Wastewater viral levels in Ottawa have surpassed the peak in January’s wave and are about half of the peak level in April, according to wastewater monitoring data. The seven-day average positivity rate is about 17.6 per cent, approaching the peak rate of 19.7 per cent during the sixth wave.

There are 24 Ottawa residents in hospital because of an active COVID-19 infection and three people in ICU, according to Ottawa Public Health. 

Moore said he is not considering reinstating COVID-19 health measures at this point, including mandatory masking, since the capacity of the health system is not threatened at this time.

But, aside from the COVID-19 booster shots, Moore recommends other actions to keep the public safe. Ontarians should consider gathering outdoors instead of indoors, stay at home if they are sick including even if they have mild symptoms and practicing regular hand hygiene. 

“While masking requirements are no longer mandatory in most settings, Ontarians should continue to consider wearing a mask in indoor crowded spaces,” said Moore.  

This wave is expected to reach its peak in two weeks, according to Moore.

“I think Ontarians have been prudent and cautious,” he said. “When I go indoors or take public transit, many people my age continue to wear masks and that’s brilliant.”

Ottawa Public Health said on social media it is working to bring more information soon to its website for the vaccine rollout in Ottawa.