Province expanding COVID-19 booster eligibility, tightening proof of vaccination requirements

Government urging Ontarians to limit social activity over the holiday season

TORONTO – The provincial government has announced measures to expand eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots and tighten proof of vaccination requirements in response to rising case numbers and the spread of the Omicron variant.

The government is also urging Ontarians to limit social activity over the holiday season.

“As we continue to learn more about the Omicron variant, we are taking additional measures to protect our progress as we head into the winter months,” said health minister Christine Elliott at a Dec. 10 press conference.

“Getting vaccinated and adhering to public health and workplace safety measures will continue to protect us and our loved ones against COVID and variants, but we won’t hesitate to continue to take swift action to ensure the continued health and safety of all Ontarians.”

Provincial officials announced the government is abandoning the target of lifting of proof of vaccination requirements by Jan. 17. The reopening plan announced in October stipulated “that doing so was contingent on the absence of concerning trends.”

Other measures announced at the press conference include requiring the use of the enhanced vaccine certificate with QR code and the Verify Ontario app in settings where proof of vaccination is required. The new requirement comes into effect Jan. 4.

The QR code can be used digitally or by printing a paper copy. Individuals can download their enhanced certificate with QR code by visiting

The government will also be strengthening the verification process for medical exemptions and clinical trial exemptions by requiring a certificate with a QR code. Organizations and businesses that are under the provincial proof-of-vaccination system will be advised to no longer accept physician notes as of Jan. 10.

In addition, as of Dec. 20, youth aged 12 to 17 years participating in organized sports at recreational facilities will be required to produce proof of vaccination.

While not formally changing gathering limits (currently 25 people indoors, 100 outdoors) the provinces is urging voluntary limitation of gatherings and social activity

“On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ontarians are strongly advised to limit their social gatherings and the number of gatherings they attend over the holiday season,” states the release.

“Additional precautions should be taken if all individuals are not fully vaccinated or where vaccination status is unknown. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home.”

The province is also expanding booster dose eligibility to all Ontarians 18 years of age and older as of Jan. 4, with appointments to be booked approximately six months after receiving a second dose.

Currently individuals over 70 and medically high-risk individuals are eligible for booster shots. The age range was already set to expand to 50 and over as of Dec. 13.

The government states the latest move will expand booster eligibility to approximately 5.5 million people.

As part of its enhanced winter testing strategy the province is launching a holiday testing blitz next week to offer voluntary rapid antigen screening to asymptomatic individuals free of charge.

Two million rapid tests will be provided at pop-up testing sites in high-traffic settings such as malls, retail settings, holiday markets and transit hubs, the release states.

“Ontario, like other jurisdictions around the world, is seeing concerning trends in public health and health care indicators, and additional measures are required to protect our progress for the long-term,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“All Ontarians are strongly urged to follow these and existing measures and get vaccinated with a first, second or booster dose if you have not done so already. These are the layers that are protecting everyone.

“By taking these actions, we can help to reduce the mobility of COVID-19 and its variants, protect public health and health system capacity and save lives.

“This is especially important as we enter the holiday season and spend more time with family and friends. We need to keep each other safe.”

‘Science is clear’

Some opposition politicians, including Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner of Guelph, questioned why the government prematurely set seemingly random dates to end proof of vaccination requirements in the first place.

“I’m relieved the Ford government has backed down from prematurely lifting the vaccine passport mandate they had originally set for [Jan. 17],” Shreiner stated in a press release.

“The science is clear. Vaccines work and vaccine passports are an important tool for public safety.

“Doug Ford should never have set an end date for vaccine passports before the system even had a chance to get started.”

Shreiner also called on the provincial government to:

  • ensure small businesses have the resources they need to carry out the added step of scanning QR codes;
  • “raise awareness and acknowledge that COVID is airborne”;
  • supply high-quality masks and respirators such as N95s to anyone in high-risk areas, including healthcare or education settings; and
  • make “significant investments” in ventilation upgrades to improve air quality in all congregate areas.