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People in Peel Region gather at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus for a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, May 6, 2021.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

Ontario’s Peel Region will continue to prioritize getting booster shots into the arms of people 50 and older and those who are at high risk of hospitalization, the region’s chief medical officer says.

Which is why Lawrence Loh is urging younger people to hold off on booking their boosters to allow high-risk individuals to get their shots first.

“I want to urge our community, to the extent possible, to get our 50-plus population vaccinated. We know this population is most at risk if they don’t get a booster ahead of the Omicron wave that’s coming in,” Dr. Loh said Wednesday.

“If you’re on a crowded subway, you give your seat up to those who might need it more. So at this point in time, given the capacity constraints, I’d like to urge you if you’re younger with two doses – please consider holding off booking and instead helping your older friends and family access a booster appointment as soon as possible,” he said.

Peel was one of the hardest-hit regions in Ontario during the first wave of infections. At its peak, the William Osler Health System in Brampton had more than 200 COVID-19 patients – more than any other hospital in the province – and the Brampton area had the highest per-capita rate of infection until this June.

On Monday, when booster eligibility was expanded to include everyone over 18, almost a million people in Peel Region became eligible to get their third shot. During a briefing in June, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said the average age of the essential worker in Brampton was 36.

On Wednesday Dr. Loh added that, in line with provincial direction, the region would be moving to a “high-surge model” of response – freeing up as many resources as possible to increase vaccination offerings.

“While the region has increased its vaccination capacity by 65 per cent since last week and is adding thousands of new slots every day, the demand for booster shots in Peel is overwhelming,” he said. “At peak capacity in spring, it still took us nearly six months to vaccinate that many people.

“I do want to urge patience. Capacity is increasing in the coming weeks,” he said. “We’re looking at pop-up clinics for [residents who are] 50-plus. We’re looking at additional capacity. That’s all being brought online through the holiday season and into the early new year as we try to get ahead of Omicron.”

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