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A jar full of empty COVID-19 vaccine vials is shown at the Junction Chemist pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on April 6, 2022.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario is rolling out Omicron-targeted COVID-19 vaccines, starting with residents considered the most vulnerable, including those aged 70 and older, long-term care residents and health-care workers.

The province said bivalent vaccine appointments could be booked as of Monday morning through its online booking system, with the first appointments also available the same day.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s top public health doctor, encouraged people to get the shot in a statement that described it as safe and effective protection against variants that are currently circulating in the province.

“As vaccine protection decreases over time, I encourage all Ontarians aged five and over to receive the booster dose they are eligible for,” Moore said in a written statement.

All residents aged 18 and older can book appointments as of Monday but people outside the highest priority groups won’t be eligible for appointments until Sept. 26.

Indigenous people and their household members aged 18 and older, immunocompromised people aged 12 and older, pregnant people and health-care workers who are 18 and older are eligible for the shots as of Monday.

All booster appointments will also be paused until Sept. 26 for people outside the priority populations to accommodate distribution.

However, the province said people aged 18 and older can start booking bivalent booster appointments as of Monday for planning purposes, though it noted that appointments will be available based on supply from the federal government.

Booster appointments booked between Sept. 12 to 25 that are being paused due to the change in the vaccine rollout plan will be honoured, the province said, and the bivalent vaccine will be offered to those people instead.

The latest step in Ontario’s vaccine rollout comes after the province received its first shipment of the shots last week.

People can receive the bivalent booster if at least six months have passed since their last dose, regardless of how many shots they have already received.

In July, Ontario started offering fourth COVID-19 vaccine shots to all adult residents.

Moore said at the time that people who got fourth shots in the summer would still be able to receive the bivalent shot months later.

Health Canada approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that targets both the original strain of the coronavirus and the Omicron variant earlier this month.

Other provinces have already begun their rollouts of the targeted shot.

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