Ontario to expand COVID-19 booster eligibility to children aged 5 to 11 Thursday

Ontario is expanding COVID-19 booster shot eligibility to children aged five and up starting on Thursday, ahead of students returning back to school next week.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced on Wednesday that booster appointments will be available for children between five and 11 years old as of 8 a.m. on Sept. 1.

Parents and caregivers can book the appointments through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900.

Eligible children can receive their first booster, or third dose, at a recommended interval of at least six months following their most recent dose.

“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,” Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Sylvia Jones said in a news release issued Wednesday. “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.”

The announcement comes ahead of students returning back to school next week, amid a seventh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health officials have warned that there will likely be an unsurprising influx of infections across the province this fall, due to more people congregating indoors.

The Ministry of Education says students will not be required to wear masks in the upcoming school year, and masks will be voluntary and available to students upon request.

Mask mandates ended in most settings across the province on March 21, 2022, a year and a half after they were implemented.

This fall semester will be the first full term since the onset of the pandemic where Ontario students will not be required to wear masks.

However, Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says students, and all Ontarians, can minimize their risk of contracting the illness by continuing to wear face coverings.

“You can lower your risk of getting COVID and other respiratory infections by putting on a mask in an indoor setting. And that’s not just for school, that’s any other indoor setting. That’s just where we know the vast majority of COVID and other respiratory illnesses are transmitted and you can lower your risk,” he told CP24 on Tuesday.

Bogoch added that improved ventilation in indoor settings and vaccinations will help to reduce one’s risk of getting sick.

The Ministry of Education says rapid tests will also remain available to school boards.

This school year also marks the first time where Ontario’s youngest residents have access to vaccines.

As of late July, children under five years old in Ontario were able to receive their first dose, after Health Canada approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for infants and preschoolers- the first approved vaccine for this age group in the country.

As for older residents, the Ontario government expanded fourth dose eligibility to all adults in July as well.

A new bivalent vaccine is also expected to be released to Canadians in late fall and will target the Omicron variant specifically.