Thunder Bay

Northwestern Health Unit speeds up eligibility for 2nd COVID-19 shot

The Northwestern Health Unit on Wednesday will start booking second appointments for anyone who had a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at least 28 days earlier.

Anyone who had Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot 28 days earlier can book another dose

The Northwestern Health Unit will start second-dose appointment bookings for people who had a shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at least 28 days earlier. (Patti Fairfield)

The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) is significantly accelerating the eligibility for people looking to get their second vaccination against COVID-19.

Starting Wednesday, the Ontario health unit will book appointments for anyone who had a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot at least 28 days earlier.

NWHU medical officer of health Dr. Kit Young Hoon said many vaccination clinics have not been full, and most are offering regular walk-in availability.

"We really do want to push out the vaccine that's available to us at this time," she said during the health unit's weekly media briefing on Tuesday. 

"This week, we have a lot of doses available now for this week and next week, so therefore we want to do most of the vaccinations now."

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, NWHU's medical officer of health, says the unit wants to do vaccinations as quickly as possible. (Northwestern Health Unit)

Young Hoon said the vaccination effort is also a race against the Delta variant first detected in India. 

While no cases of the variant have been found in the NWHU's area, the most westerly of Ontario's 35 public health units, she pointed to the Porcupine Health Unit as being a hot spot, as well as cases in Manitoba, and said people move between regions.

As of Monday, about 70 per cent of the NWHU's population over age 18 has received at least a first dose.

While those who were given a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shot for their first dose have accelerated eligibility for their second, anyone who got AstraZeneca will have to wait between eight and 12 weeks if they choose to get an mRNA shot.

Young Hoon said evidence indicates a longer interval between doses makes the AstraZeneca vaccine more effective.

The health unit said a limited number of AstraZeneca doses are expected to arrive later this week to pharmacies and primary-care clinics, though they were likely to be distributed only to locations where it was initially provided.

Provincial borders restrictions to end

On Wednesday, the restrictions against non-essential travellers at Ontario's provincial borders will expire.

Young Hoon said the health unit continues to caution against non-essential travel to higher risk areas, including Manitoba.

"We do encourage people to be mindful that they could spread the virus or potentially other variants within our catchment area if they aren't careful, and if they don't make that extra effort to follow public health measures and protect others," she said.

Young Hoon said the health unit has experienced incidents of people behaving violently and disrespectfully toward staff and volunteers at its vaccination clinics.

 Security will be provided at places where there have been issues, she added.