Ontario reports 3,784 new COVID cases as booster eligibility expands to 18+
Booster shot appointments already fully booked in some health units
Ontario logged 3,784 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, while those aged 18 and older became eligible to book a vaccine booster through the provincial portal — as long as it has been at least three months since their second shot.
Many social media users who logged in to reserve a spot this morning reported facing a virtual lineup of more than an hour. Others said the earliest appointments they could find were more than a month away, while others reported no available appointments in their region.
Roughly 15 minutes after the expanded eligibility officially took effect, health officials in Ottawa said all available spots had been reserved.
"All COVID-19 vaccine booster dose appointments are now booked. We apologize for the inconvenience & are working hard to add more capacity and availability. Stay tuned for updates!" Ottawa Public Health tweeted, adding appointments may still be available through local pharmacies.
Niagara Region Public Health said Sunday night that all booster appointments for Monday and Tuesday had already been snapped up. The health unit said it would provide an update once more spots were added.
The province announced Wednesday that it was expanding eligibility in an effort to bolster defences against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
In York Region, however, public health officials said they are postponing the move.
Dr. Richard Gould, one of the region's associate medical officers of health, said expanding eligibility would have added 700,000 eligible residents.
The health unit wants to prioritize older age groups, he said, adding that only 44 per cent of individuals over 70 in Ontario have received their booster shot to date.
"We understand the frustration of the 18-plus [but] we have to make sure that those who are 50 and 70-plus are able to book appointments," Gould said.
The region is opening specialty clinics for those 70-plus starting next week, he said.
186,000 appointments booked within hours
The Ministry of Health said that approximately 186,000 booster shot appointments had been booked through the provincial booking system as of the portal by 3 p.m.
That figure does not include spots confirmed in public health units that use an internal booking system or at pharmacies, primary care offices and hospitals.
The province intends to ramp up capacity to begin administering between 200,000 and 300,000 booster doses every day, ministry spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said.
"As we continue to increase our daily capacity, individual public health units are actively working to add appointments to the booking system on an ongoing basis. Public health units will continue to keep the public informed as more appointments go live on the provincial booking system," she said in an email.
"We also encourage Ontarians to check regularly for availability through other channels such as pharmacies, primary care settings and walk-in clinics."
Adult doses of Pfizer vaccine in low supply: public health units
Some public health units in Ontario have reached out to residents with vaccine appointments to tell them to expect to receive the Moderna vaccine, as doses of Pfizer's adult vaccine are in short supply.
Region of Waterloo Public Health, for example, issued a news release on Saturday explaining that an "unexpected provincial Pfizer vaccine shortage" meant only Moderna will be used for first, second and third doses for any adults 30 and older in the coming weeks.
Remaining Pfizer doses in the region will be reserved for residents aged 12 to 29, the news release said, as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization does not recommend the Moderna vaccine for men under 30 and teens.
Chatham-Kent Public Health announced similar measures.
Toronto's University Health Network, a group of hospitals in the city, reported "limited availability" of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday.
A spokesperson for the network told CBC News the Pfizer vaccine, "is being reserved for 18 – 29 year olds as directed. We are vaccinating anyone 18 and over and Moderna will be offered."
In a statement, the Ministry of Health said there is "ample supply" of the Moderna vaccine as Ontario ramps up its booster campaign. The province has requested an additional 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in January and is working with the federal government to confirm a delivery schedule, according to the statement.
9.7% positivity rate
Today's case count is a 146 per cent jump from last Monday, when the province logged 1,536 infections.
It includes 1,056 cases in Toronto — a second straight day with more than 1,000 in the city — as well as:
- 381 in Peel Region
- 310 in York Region
- 273 in Ottawa
- 240 in Halton Region
- 181 in Hamilton
- 142 in Durham Region
- 130 in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington
- 129 in Waterloo Region
- 123 in Middlesex-London
The seven-day average of daily cases has climbed to 2,863. That's up 115 per cent from the same time last week. The measure is on pace to double every six days or so.
Public Health Ontario this morning reported a 9.7 per cent positivity rate from 44,123 tests. That is the highest single-day rate since May 3.
Meanwhile, as of Sunday evening, there were 164 people being treated for COVID-related illnesses in intensive care units, up slightly from 161 at the same time last week. Of those patients, 109 needed help to breathe from a ventilator.
No further deaths linked to the virus were reported Monday. The province's official death toll stands at 10,113.
With files from The Canadian Press