Dr. Vera Etches provides update – information for the bivalent Omicron COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccination updates, including the OPH Weekly COVID-19 Snapshot, enable individuals to have the information to seek maximal protection against the virus as we head into fall. The months ahead are expected to include circulation of several respiratory illnesses that may once again challenge systems with absenteeism and serious illness.  

On September 12, 2022, the Province of Ontario announced that the new bivalent booster for COVID-19 is now available to Ontarians aged 18 and over. This follows recent approval from Health Canada and aligns with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendations on the use of bivalent Omicron-containing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. 

The bivalent COVID-19 booster is another layer we can use to increase protection against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variants in Ontario. Ottawa Public Health welcomes this announcement amid ongoing COVID-19 activity in our community and potential increases this fall. Over the next few weeks, we will prioritize the rollout of this booster to our communities at highest risk for severe illness, complications and hospitalization from COVID-19. Ottawa Public Health is working with its community partners to ensure the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine can reach those most at risk in our community.

As vaccine protection and immunity from previous infection decrease over time, I strongly encourage all residents of Ottawa to get all booster doses they are eligible for ahead of what may be an active flu and respiratory illness season in our community.

Bivalent COVID-19 booster for adults aged 18 and over

Bivalent COVID-19 booster appointments are available immediately to highest risk populations and to all Ontarians aged 18 and over starting September 26, regardless of how many booster doses you have received.

In order to optimize immune response and duration of protection, an interval of at least 6 months (168 days) is recommended between your last dose of COVID-19 vaccine and your fall booster dose. Individuals may choose to receive the bivalent booster as early as three months (84 days) after their last dose with informed consent.

For those who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), it is recommended you wait three months (84 days) since your symptom onset or positive test before getting the bivalent booster.

  • Those in the highest risk populations will be able to book appointments right away with availability from September 12 and onward. This population group includes: 
    • Individuals aged 70 and over
    • Residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, and individuals living in other congregate settings that provide assisted-living and health services
    • First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and over
    • Moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals aged 12 and over
    • Pregnant individuals aged 18 and over
    • Health care workers aged 18 and over.
  • Those aged 18 to 69 in the general population can start booking their appointments immediately for September 26 and onward. The availability of these appointments is dependent on supply of vaccine.
  • All previously booked booster appointments for September 12 to 25 will be honoured and, if available, the bivalent vaccine will be offered to eligible clients.

Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria can book their bivalent booster dose through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre (PVCC) at 1-833-943-3900. Those wishing to receive their bivalent booster at a shortened interval (less than 6 months) must book directly through the PVCC. Pregnant individuals and health care workers booking from September 12 to 25 must call the PVCC or book booster dose appointments through participating pharmaciesResidents are encouraged to make an appointment as there will be no drop-in capacity for bivalent boosters. Ottawa Public Health has posted appointment availability for the general public up until mid-October while we work to reach those at highest risk over the next two weeks.

Ottawa Public Health is working to make the bivalent booster vaccine available to older adults in long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate care settings. These residents may receive their bivalent booster dose directly through the congregate home where they reside. Ottawa Public Health is also prioritizing First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals and health care workers by working directly with community partners and hospitals to make the bivalent COVID-19 booster available and support with targeted clinics.

Reducing transmission
Being up to date on your COVID-19 vaccine continues to be our strongest protection against COVID-19. Additionally, Ottawa Public Health continues to recommend that individuals:

COVID-19 vaccinations protect people of all ages from symptomatic illness and reduce transmission to others, booster doses build on the protection of the first two doses to further lower risks of severe illness and death. The risk of longer-term COVID-19 symptoms also appear to be reduced when people are vaccinated.

I want to thank the residents of Ottawa as we continue to work together to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our community and as the pandemic evolves. Now is the time to ensure those at highest risk receive their bivalent COVID-19 booster – reach out to your loved ones or to a neighbour to help them get theirs. For more information on COVID-19, including the bivalent booster, please visit: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVID19Vaccine.

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