Experts urging 3rd COVID-19 dose amid new wave, with Windsor-Essex low on uptake

·3 min read
A Windsor-Essex resident receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Data from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit shows only 46 per cent of residents have received a third COVID-19 shot. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)
A Windsor-Essex resident receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Data from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit shows only 46 per cent of residents have received a third COVID-19 shot. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)

Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table is urging people to get their third-dose booster shots if they have not already, but as virus activity climbs across the province, Windsor-Essex's third-dose coverage remains relatively low.

About 80 per cent of people in Windsor-Essex have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, but only 46 per cent have received the recommended third dose. Both figures are slightly lower than the provincial averages.

On Wednesday, Ontario's chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore said that the province is now in a seventh wave of COVID-19 largely driven by the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron. However, he anticipates that it will be a smaller wave from what Ontario saw with the main Omicron variant.

"I'm very pleased that it hasn't had a significant impact on our health system, and that we are absolutely able to cope with current numbers," Dr. Moore said. "It will get a little worse over the coming week or 10 days, and then decrease."

Currently, Ontario is limiting fourth doses to people over the age of 60, as well as adults of any age who are Indigenous, living in long-term care, or immunocompromised.

WATCH | Ontario's top doctor confirms 7th wave of COVID-19 has begun: 

But with third-dose uptake low in Windsor-Essex, it's unclear if residents might be quick to line up for a fourth.

Stephanie Tapak said that she would get her fourth dose when it becomes available to everyone in the province.

"I believe in vaccines," she said. "I believe the science and I think it's not going to hurt anybody. So why not make that effort to protect your loved ones?"

Not everybody feels this way, though.

"I probably wouldn't," said Bailey Mosure. "I think I'm good with two [doses]."

CBC
CBC

One biostatistician said that the province got the rollout and the messaging wrong when it comes to third doses.

"When we opened up that third dose [it] was about four weeks after Omicron came out," said Ryan Imgrund. "Because of that, we didn't get that information out to people properly. At the same time, we were also dealing with hospitalization issues. And it's a lot more difficult to mobilize vaccination units when you also have hospitalization issues due to the Omicron variant."

Imgrund, along with other experts, believes that the province should push the fourth dose as soon as possible.

"What I would not want to see is just wait until the fall, see numbers keep on ticking up, and then start vaccination when we're seeing hospitalization numbers already tick up," said Imgrund. "It's going to be really, really difficult to mobilize vaccination units at that time."

CBC reached out to the Ministry of Health to ask if they were considering opening eligibility for a fourth dose or if they had the capacity to store and administer the shots, but received no response.

CBC also reached out to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit regarding fourth doses. In an emailed statement, the health unit said they would continue to follow the guidance from the province when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine dose eligibility and schedules, and that they encourage people to stay up to date with all their vaccinations, not just their COVID-19 shots.

The province of Quebec has made a fourth COVID-19 dose available for their citizens, but Ontario has yet to make that decision.

Despite the lack of a fourth dose in Ontario, some believe the option should be available.

"If other people want to [get the fourth dose], I think the choice should be there," said Mosure.

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