Mark Clairmont |

SIMCOE MUSKOKA  — The new norm kicking in sees residents and staff at LTCs and those 70+ among those receiving another round of COVID protection this fall.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) says it is now offering the bivalent COVID-19 booster to priority groups who are at greatest risk of hospitalization, severe illness or death from COVID-19 infection, including people aged 70 years and older and long-term care residents. The bivalent mRNA vaccine targets the original COVID-19 virus and the Omicron B1 variant and will help offer protection during the anticipated fall surge.

As of Tuesday, eligible individuals can receive the bivalent booster at the recommended interval of at least six months (or three months with informed consent) from their previous dose, regardless of how many boosters they have already received, by appointment only at local GO-VAXX bus visits and at SMDHU clinics.

A GO-VAXX bus was in Gravenhurst Wednesday at the Muskoka Shores LTC and retirement home on Bethune Drive, where residents and staff were getting vaccinated.

A GO-VAXX vaccine clinic bus brought the latest COVID booster protection to residents and staff at Muskoka Shores Wednesday in Gravenhurst.

Appointments are available through the provincial COVID-19 Vaccination Portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Walk-ins are currently unavailable.

The following priority groups are encouraged to book appointments:

  • People aged 70 years and older
  • Residents of long-term care homes, retirement homes, Elder Care Lodges and those living in other congregate settings
  • First Nation, Inuit and Métis adults and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 years and older
  • Pregnant individuals aged 18 and over
  • Health care workers aged 18 and over
  • Moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals aged 12 years and older

The health unit says for those 12 to 17 years of age who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, a booster dose of the bivalent Moderna COVID-19 vaccine may be offered off-label based on clinic discretion.

Pause in appointments

To prioritize distribution to these priority groups, new booster appointments for people 18 years and older will be paused until Sept. 26, when bivalent booster eligibility expands to those 18 and over. All previously-booked booster appointments for Sept. 12 to 25 will be honoured and, if available, the bivalent vaccine will be offered.

In the meantime, to allow for planning and preparation, individuals 18 years of age and older who do not belong to a priority population can start booking appointments for Sept. 26 and beyond as of today. The availability of appointments is based on shipment schedules and vaccine supply from the federal government.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccination, dose eligibility and booking an appointment, please visit

Student immunizations to resume

Beginning September 2022, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) in partnership with local school boards, will resume offering school-based clinics for routine immunizations for Hepatitis B, Meningococcal Conjugate (Men-C-ACYW) and Human Papillomavirus (HPV-9).

This publicly funded, routine immunization program, normally offered to students in Grade 7, will also be offered to students in Grade 8 who may be behind on their routine immunizations due to pandemic-related disruptions. Information will be sent home with eligible students through the school in advance of school-based clinics.

The health unit advises getting immunized according to the publicly funded immunization schedule for Ontario. Having up-to-date immunizations help ensure that children and youth have the best protection against certain preventable diseases and help reduce the risk of outbreaks in school.

The health unit also reminds parents and caregivers that Meningococcal disease is one of the designated diseases under the Immunization of School Pupils Act (ISPA), that requires children and adolescents attending primary or secondary school be appropriately immunized against, unless they have a valid exemption. Despite not in ISPA, the Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines are still strongly recommended.

Parents and caregivers are advised to update their child’s immunization record and to catch up on any outstanding routine immunizations.

For more information about vaccines that are given in Grade 7 and the diseases they prevent, please visit . You can also speak with a public health professional by calling Health Connection, 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


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