Free rapid antigen tests extended to December 31, 2022, including for general public
TORONTO — The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is expanding eligibility for second booster doses to Ontarians aged 18 and over in order to provide an extra layer of protection to those who may need it.
Starting on Thursday, July 14 at 8:00 a.m., eligible individuals can book an appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Eligible individuals can also book an appointment directly through public health units that use their own booking systems, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics and participating pharmacies. Appointments are based on availability, which may vary by region.
“As we continue to manage COVID-19 for the long term, we’re expanding second booster doses and extending the availability of free rapid antigen tests to give people the tools they need to stay safe and to ensure Ontario stays open,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Vaccines continue to be our best defence against COVID-19 and protecting our hospital capacity for those who need it most.”
Second booster doses are being offered at an interval of five months after an individual receives their first booster dose. While most individuals aged 18 to 59 years old will continue to have strong protection more than six months after their first booster dose, expanding second booster dose eligibility will ensure that Ontarians can make an informed decision based on their personal circumstances. A new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is anticipated to be approved by Health Canada this fall, which may offer more targeted protection against the Omicron variants. Ontarians are encouraged to speak with their health care provider about whether getting a second booster dose now is right for them.
High-risk individuals who should get their second booster dose as soon as possible and many of whom have been eligible to do so for months include:
- Individuals aged 60 and over;
- First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and over;
- Residents of a long-term care home, retirement home, or Elder Care Lodge and older adults living in other congregate settings that provide assisted-living and health services; and
- Individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
The Ontario government will also continue to provide free rapid antigen tests to the general public through existing channels like grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as to workplaces, schools, hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes and other congregate settings until December 31, 2022.
“Expanding eligibility to second booster doses and providing continued access to testing will empower Ontarians to make the best decisions for their circumstances and help keep our communities safe,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Staying up to date on vaccination is the best protection against severe outcomes from COVID-19.”
As part of the province’s plan to stay open, Ontario is expanding Ontario’s health care workforce, shoring-up domestic production of critical supplies and investing more than $40 billion for over 50 major hospital projects that will bring over 3,000 new hospital beds. Since the start of the pandemic, the province has added over 8,600 health care professionals to the health care system with programs in place to recruit thousands more.