Simcoe Muskoka residents who got AstraZeneca shot can switch to mRNA vaccine for 2nd dose

Simcoe Muskoka residents who had their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot have three choices for their second dose starting Friday and more options for getting their vaccine.

Under the province's new guidance released Thursday, residents who had AstraZeneca for their first dose have the option to get a dose of Pfizer or Moderna for the second after a 12-week interval.

Local physicians and select pharmacies can now administer both vaccines.

Ontario's top doctor said it's crucial people who got their first AstraZeneca vaccine get a second dose of one of the shots.

Residents wishing to book an appointment for their second shot can do so through the provincial online portal.

The Simcoe Muskoka health unit is focused on vaccinating children 12 to 17. To date, roughly 20 per cent of those under 18 have had their first shot.

"We have missed some opportunities to vaccinate quickly and more readily," said Dr. Barry Nathanson, chief of staff at Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston.

Nathanson said the best way out of the pandemic is to ensure all residents are protected by the vaccine.

"This is our generational battle," Nathanson said. "No one slept - no one took a weekend off from the battles prevailing against us [during] the global threat of World War II."

The Alliston doctor is calling on the government and policymakers to open more 24/7 vaccination clinics.

Meanwhile, the province is looking into the potential of letting more people book appointments for their second shot ahead of schedule.

Currently, Simcoe Muskoka residents 80 and older are eligible to get their second dose.

Ontario hadn't planned to open bookings for second shots to all individuals until the week of August 9.

"We're looking at all options because we need to stay ahead of this (Delta) variant so that we can then move into stage one and get life back more to normal for people as quickly as we can," said Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott Thursday.

The health minister added that if the province did accelerate the eligibility, it would be done across the board and not regionally.

The Simcoe Muskoka health unit reports 54.8 per cent of residents have received their first vaccine, while only 6.7 per cent are fully vaccinated.

With files from CTV's Mike Arsalides