Residents who have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can expect to wait about four months to receive their second dose, in order to help protect as many people as possible.
On March 16, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizations said after two months of data, the real-world effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine has been showing sustained levels of protection, and extending periods between doses could leave more doses available for those still without a vaccine.
NACI notes their data shows the various COVID-19 vaccines have protected against the virus and hospitalizations for several weeks after the first dose, including in seniors. Their four-month interval recommendation was supported by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams.
Health Canada says the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines were about 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 in clinical trials. Reports in Canada have said even one dose has prevented the illness in more than 80 percent of long-term care residents and health-care workers.
“NACI has pushed out guidance that the second dose can be provided up to four months after the first dose, and that the first dose can give adequate protection over that four-month period. First doses would be prioritized for everyone,” explains Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, during a regional media conference earlier this week.
Young Hoon adds Dr. Williams has advised all public health units that they are to follow these new recommendations, and the only exceptions will be for those living in long-term care homes, elder care homes and assisted living facilities.
As of March 17, the NWHU has reported administering 4,753 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the area. They’re currently being given out to frontline healthcare workers, essential workers who can’t work from home, seniors over the age of 80, those in high-risk settings and those at a greater risk of illness.
Young Hoon notes the health unit is working with community and regional partners like the Sioux Lookout First Nation Health Authority and WHNAC to administer doses of the vaccine to the urban Indigenous population, and targeted vaccination clinics are ongoing.
Mass vaccination sites for the public will take place in Kenora, Dryden, Red Lake, Ear Falls, Ignace, Sioux Lookout, Rainy River, Emo, Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, Fort Frances, Pickle Lake and Atikokan in northwestern Ontario, beginning on March 22.
The NWHU says by the first week of April, there will be a rotating schedule of vaccination clinics and each of the above 12 communities will have a clinic once every two weeks. The City of Kenora will have a weekly vaccination site.
Ontario launched its online COVID-19 appointment booking system earlier this week, with a few technical issues. The NWHU is reminding all residents that appointments must be booked through the provincial system, and not through the local health unit.
Premier Doug Ford is asking everyone who doesn’t yet qualify for the vaccine to stay off of the website to help it remain stable, and anyone experiencing difficulties is asked to call the Provincial Vaccine Information Line at 1-888-999-6488 for assistance.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that every Canadian who wants to get vaccinated will be able to by the end of September 2021. Only those 18 or above are able to receive a vaccine at this time.
NWHU staff note that even once immunized, you must continue to practice all COVID-19 prevention measures. The number of shots given will be closely monitored throughout the immunization process to assess when it’s safe for prevention measures to be loosened.
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is asked to get tested and self-isolate immediately, and to stay in isolation until your test results are known.