TORONTO — The Ontario government is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 first booster doses to children aged five to 11 to provide an extra layer of protection to those who need it ahead of the new school year.
The province has also done away with the requirement to stay home for five days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Now those whose symptoms have improved for 24 hours may return to most settings, with exceptions including high risk environments like long-term care and acute care facilities.
As of 8am on Sept. 1, parents and caregivers of children aged five to 11 will be able to book an appointment for a paediatric COVID-19 booster dose through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900, states an Aug. 1 press release from the provincial health ministry.
Eligible individuals can also book an appointment directly through public health units that use their own booking systems, Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, participating health care providers and participating pharmacies.
Eligible children can receive their first booster dose at least six months following their most recent dose.
The province is encouraging parents with questions to reach out to their health care provider, the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre or the SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service to make an informed choice for their family.
“Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters is still the best tool to keep people healthy and out of hospitals, and to ensure Ontario’s economy stays open,” stated Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Sylvia Jones.
“Expanding access to boosters for ages five to 11 will give parents more opportunities to protect themselves, their families and their communities this fall as kids go back to school and as people are spending more time indoors.”
In anticipation of the approval of a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which may offer more targeted protection against the Omicron variants, the province is working with public health units and sector partners to make sure doses are ready to be administered once supply is received from the federal government.
Details on timing and eligibility for the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine will be communicated once Health Canada provides additional information and guidance, the release states.
Also on Aug. 31, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore updated public health guidance to manage COVID-19 during the respiratory illness season this fall.
Under the new guidelines, anyone who comes in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, is advised continue to self-monitor for symptoms.
“There is no longer a need to isolate but you should wear a mask for 10 days when in public,” the health ministry release states.
During a press conference on the updated guidance, Moore stated the measures should apply to all respiratory viruses, not just COVID-19.
“The complexity will be increasing this year given that other respiratory viruses will be circulating in our schools and workplaces,” Moore said.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, or runny nose, is advised to stay home from school, work and social events until their fever is gone and symptoms are improving, get a rapid antigen test or, if eligible, a PCR test.
They should also wear a mask for 10 days after and avoid non-essential visits to high-risk individuals and settings.
“While we are updating our public health guidance, preventing COVID-19 and other infections is vital to keeping our families, schools and communities safe and healthy,” said Moore.
“I strongly encourage all Ontarians to take advantage of vaccine and booster doses that are recommended and available to them, which now includes the availability of a booster dose for children aged five to 11.”
Moore added, “Ontarians are also encouraged to protect one another by respecting public health guidance, including staying home and taking precautions if you are sick.”
With Omicron-specific vaccines on the horizon, expanded booster eligibility, continued access to testing and antivirals, and updated public health guidance, provincial officials state, “Ontarians have the tools they need to make the best decisions for themselves on how to stay safe, healthy and out of hospitals as the province continues its efforts to support the recovery and rebuilding of the health system.”
The release notes the province is preparing to provide flu shots to Ontarians this fall “so they can protect themselves and reduce the number of hospitalizations due to influenza.”