As Ontario enters the sixth wave of the pandemic, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is encouraging all eligible individuals to receive their fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
The province announced the availability of fourth COVID-19 vaccine doses for individuals aged 60 and over as well as First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and over as of April 7.
While the fourth dose is normally recommended 5 months after the third dose, eligible individuals can choose to receive it any time 3 months after they have received their third dose. The EOHU is therefore recommending that individuals aged 70 and over, as well as those over 60 with underlying medical conditions, receive their fourth dose any time after 3 months. This is because the protection provided by the vaccine decreases faster in older individuals than in younger ones.
“For most healthy individuals under the age of 60, the vaccine effectiveness can persist longer than in older individuals,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health. “The older one is, the less long the protection offered by the vaccine lasts. Therefore, individuals older than 70, and persons over 60 with underlying medical conditions, should consider getting their fourth dose as early as 3 months after their third dose.”
How to book an appointment for your fourth dose:
Individuals who wish to book an appointment for a fourth COVID-19 vaccine 3 months after their third dose cannot do it through the provincial vaccine booking system. They must therefore call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1 833 943-3900 to book an appointment or receive their vaccine at a walk-in clinic.
On the other hand, individuals who wish to receive their fourth dose 5 months or more after their third dose can book an appointment through the provincial vaccine booking system at www.Ontario.ca/bookvaccine and through the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1 833 943-3900. Individuals who need assistance or special accommodations can call the EOHU at 1 800 267-7120. Booster doses are also available through partnering pharmacies, or through your health care provider.
“I highly encourage anyone over 12 years of age who has received their first two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine series to book an appointment as soon as they’re eligible for their third dose,” says Dr. Roumeliotis. “There is strong evidence that individuals who have received a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are better protected against the Omicron variant and subvariant for a longer period of time than individuals who have only received two doses.”
In addition to reducing your odds of getting infected, the third dose also protects you from severe illness if you do get infected. “The third dose will also help maintain our healthcare system and avoid having to once again implement restrictions in the future,” adds Dr. Roumeliotis.
For more information about the vaccine and the list of the EOHU’s upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinics, please visit www.EOHU.ca/vaccine.
Masking still recommended:
While masking is no longer mandated in most public settings, the EOHU is still strongly recommending that members of the public wear a mask, especially when they find themselves in situations where the risk of transmission is higher, such as crowded indoor and poorly ventilated places, or when in close contact with unvaccinated or ill people.
“Aside from getting your booster dose, the next measure you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones is to continue wearing a mask,” says Dr. Roumeliotis. “I understand people are tired of wearing them, but masks can help us lower the level of infections in the community as we increase the number of interactions we have.”