The Ontario government has announced it will be expanding eligibility for fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals aged 60 and over, as well as First Nation, Inuit and Metis individuals and their household members over 18, effective today.

Ontario says booster doses are being offered to these individuals at a recommended interval of five months after receiving their last booster, or about December 2021.

“As we continue to live with COVID-19, we are using every tool available to manage this virus and reduce its impact on our hospitals and health system, including by expanding the use of booster doses,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

Eligible individuals are now able to book their fourth dose appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal, by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900, through the Northwestern Health Unit, participating pharmacies and participating primary care settings.

Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Theresa Tam, says that preliminary data shows that a fourth dose, or a second booster dose, of the vaccine can offer additional protection against infection, severe illness, hospitalization and death.

She notes residents considered high-risk will see the most benefit from a fourth dose. These people include adults over 80 living in the community, residents of long-term care homes and congregate seniors’ settings and those who are immunocompromised.

Tam adds that Canada’s daily average case counts have increased by about 28 per cent, likely indicating a resurgence of COVID-19 is underway - fueled by the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Across Ontario as of April 6, there were 1,074 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, up from 778 one week ago, with 46 per cent being initially hospitalized specifically for COVID-19. Intensive Care Unit admissions also went up slightly from 165 to 168.

In the Northwestern Health Unit’s catchment area, staff report a total of 172 active cases with 120 in Sioux Lookout on-reserve cases, 17 cases in Dryden and 17 cases in the Kenora area.

For the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority, staff are reporting a total of 318 active cases across their catchment area, which includes 30 First Nation communities in the far north. Previous outbreaks in their area have since slowed.