TORONTO – Starting Monday, December 20, anyone 18-years old and older can get a third-dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as a booster. The provincial government has lowered the waiting period between second and third doses from 168 to 84 days. Currently only people 50-years old and older can get a third dose.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said explaining that the December 15 announcement saying that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is likely the dominant strain in Ontario.
In addition to expanding third-dose vaccinations, Ford said the government is launching a rapid-testing blitz making rapid antigen tests available free of charge at pop-up sites across Ontario and at select LCBO stores. Testing kits have already gone out to students in all publicly-funded schools in Ontario in the lead up to the Christmas holiday break.
Ford stressed the need for Ontarians to get vaccinated and if already vaccinated, get a booster.
“I am issuing a call to arms. We’re asking every single area of the province, every single person, get vaccinated,” he said. “We need to dig deep again, and we can do it.”
The government is expanding mass-vaccination clinics through hospitals and public health units Ford explained. He said that the goal is to ramp up to have between 200,000 and 300,000 doses per day by next week. The Premier also said he wanted companies to open to offer vaccination clinics for employees.
“A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine offers additional protection against the Omicron variant, and I urge everyone to get their booster dose as soon as you can,” said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health. “If you haven’t received your first or second dose of the vaccine, now is the time.”
During questions from reporters, Ford said that while “all options are on the table” the government is not going to lock down the province.
“Locking ourselves down isn’t the solution to this. What the solution is, is making sure that everyone goes out to get a booster shot in every corner of this province,” Ford said.
New restrictions will also go into place on December 18. Indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 will see occupancy limits cut to 50 per cent. This includes museums, arenas, theatres, landmarks and other venues. No other capacity limits were issued Wednesday.
First discovered three weeks ago, the Omicron variant has already become the dominate strain of the COVID-19 virus in many countries. Omicron has increased transmissibility, even among those already considered fully vaccinated. COVID-19 cases in the province have averaged over 1,000 new cases per day for the past week. One-quarter of Ontario’s 600 ICU beds are currently occupied. Ontario’s health care system has an additional 500 “surge capacity” ICU beds that can be deployed if needed.