York Region Public Health is limiting COVID-19 vaccine booster doses at its clinics to 50 and older despite the province expanding eligibility to all adults today, Dec. 20.
The local public health unit’s vaccination booking site includes a notice that individuals aged 18 to 49 would have to seek alternate options for booster doses, including pharmacies or using the provincial booking site for an appointment in places beyond York Region. Instead, the region is focusing on third doses for the older population.
York’s director of corporate communications Patrick Casey said the region is working to scale up mass vaccination but is currently prioritizing the immunocompromised and older groups.
“These groups are more likely to have severe illness or require hospitalization,” Casey said. “Booster doses will continue to expand to age 18+ in York Region once York Region Public Health is able to meet the age 50+ population demand as they are most vulnerable.”
Bookings for the 50 to 69 age group opened Dec. 13, with some residents reporting difficulties getting an appointment. The province announced last week that eligibility is expanding to a three-month interval after a second dose for all adults.
Public health has indicated it is planning to add new mass vaccination centres after closing several last summer, but it has yet to announce locations. Casey said the region will share locations once finalized.
“York Region is continuously increasing capacity at our clinics and is allowing walk-ins only for first and second doses and for five to 11-year-olds."
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor expressed some concern Dec. 16 about the 18 to 49 age group getting in ahead of seniors still waiting to get their booster dose and had suggested senior-focused clinics.
Demand for vaccination remains high. The York Region booking site had a 20-minute wait time to get in earlier this morning. The region has administered 111,190 booster doses as of Dec. 16, compared to 854,225 first doses since the pandemic began.
Casey said the region is not accepting walk-ins for boosters, and residents must still book an appointment for them through york.ca/COVID19vaccine or Access York at 1-877-464-9675.
Although York’s clinics will not offer boosters for younger age groups, you can still try to book one elsewhere through the provincial vaccination portal by inputting locations outside the region. The province's site also has a list of local pharmacies offering boosters.
“We will add vaccination for age 18+ at our clinics,” Casey said. “Efforts to increase vaccine capacity take time, and we ask our residents to please be patient and understanding as demand for booster doses continues to increase.”