What a “two-dose summer” means for Ontario youth aged 12-17

di Priscilla Pajdo del July 5, 2021

TORONTO - Lower case counts, improvements in key health indicators and higher vaccination rates are the basis for the easing of further restrictions. That is what is driving the momentum in the province’s “Roadmap to Reopen”. To further that agenda, starting today at 8am, youth aged 12-17 can now book an accelerated second dose vaccine appointment.

As more Ontarians have access to vaccinations, the reality of a two-dose summer becomes increasingly possible. All second dose appointments for individuals aged 12-17 booked through the provincial system will receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It is the only vaccine option authorized in Canada for children over the age of 12.

Last month, the Ontario government opened availability for second shots to individuals aged 18 and over across the province. To help protect against Covid-19 infection in hot spot regions such as Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Peel, Toronto York and Waterloo, the youth cohort were given priority to book second dose appointments at a shorter interval. It is in these areas where the risk of transmission is greater, specifically regarding the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Now that the rest of the province has expanded the option for younger people to get their second shot sooner, it could mean a better chance at protection this summer and a safer return to school in September.

“With the continued support of our public health partners, we are on track to significantly increase the number of Ontarians who will be fully immunized this summer, helping to protect themselves and their community”, said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in a statement released Friday.

According to Public Health Ontario, only 7.7% of eligible youth, between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated - have completed the 2-dose schedule (see graph 1, here below).

Although young people are less likely to experience severe outcomes from Covid-19 compared to other age groups, medical experts caution that cases of critical illness have been reported. As with adults, any person with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, chronic respiratory illness (i.e., asthma) and obesity have the potential to develop severe and lasting symptoms.

Since the third wave swept across the province, students have not been able to return to in-person learning. The hope is that come September, children will be back in class full time.

Despite reaching vaccination targets several days ago, when 70-80% of adults had received at least one dose and 25% were fully vaccinated, the province will not enter Step 3 until July 21.

Until then, indoor sports and recreational facilities including gymnastics and indoor swimming remain off limits. This includes all activities that improve physical health and/or benefit the psychological and emotional aspects of mental health for all individuals, especially youth.

On July 4, numbers released by the Ministry of Health show the province has administered more than 15.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines. Based on a population of 14.5 million, 68.7% of the entire Ontario population has received at least one shot: of this percentage, just over 38% are considered fully vaccinated. 31% have not been vaccinated even once. (See graph 2, at the top)

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