Ask the Pharmacist

Q) I’m 65 and planning on going south for the winter now that the border is open. Am I eligible to get a booster dose for COVID-19 before I go?

A) Unfortunately, probably not. Though most pharmacies have plenty of both Comirnaty by Pfizer and Spikevax by Moderna, we are not at liberty to give them to you at your convenience, as much as we might like to and can sympathize with your situation. You might then be wondering, who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose?

Of course, anyone who is still looking for their 1st or 2nd doses can receive one as soon as you and your pharmacy of choice can arrange a mutually convenient time. Beyond that, we need to adhere to the decisions being made by provincial governments following the advice (hopefully at least) of our Chief Medical Officer of Health and the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations.

We are no more able to give those who do not yet qualify for a booster dose an injection from the supply in our fridge than a bank teller is able to give you a spare 10K from the vault behind her. Those vaccines are not at left to our discretion to give as we see fit. We understand this can be frustrating, and certainly inconvenient, but those are the realities of the situation.

However, the good news is that effective November 6th, many Ontarians will be able to start receiving “true” booster doses. Recall that the third doses that are given to immunocompromised individuals are not boosters but are considered “additional” doses to bring their immunity up to a level most people achieve with 2 doses. As long as it has been at least 6 months since their last dose the following groups are eligible for a booster dose;

  • Anyone aged 70 or older
  • Healthcare workers and designated essential caregivers in congregate settings such as long-term care and retirement home staff as well as designated caregivers
  • individuals who received 2 doses of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine or 1 dose of the Janssen vaccine
  • if you are a First nation, Metis or Innuit adult or their non-Indigenous household members.

These four groups have been selected due to the fact that there is evidence that the immunity created by their initial series of shots is starting to wane at six months. These groups also seem to have a higher risk of suffering from a more severe infection should they contract COVID.

It should also be noted that the definition of a healthcare worker has been expanded beyond what many of us might have assumed it to be. This designation of course includes regulated health professionals (like doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists…) as well as any of their staff, contract workers, students/ trainees, registered volunteers or other people currently working in-person in a health care organization (such as a hospital, doctor’s clinic or dental office among others) even if they are not providing direct patient care but are frequently around patients (such as cleaning staff, research staff, possibly some in administration).

People who perform the same types of duties in congregate, residential or community settings (such as retirement homes, nursing homes, community living centres or shelters for those fleeing abuse or battling mental health or addiction issues) are also now eligible for booster doses as well, as long as six months have passed since their last dose. In total, this should allow about three million people to have access to a booster dose as of November 6th.

The province has also announced they plan to expand eligibility for booster doses to the rest of the provincial population by early 2022. It is important to note that currently, receiving a booster dose is strictly optional. You will still be considered fully vaccinated, and your activities will in no way be restricted if you have completed the initial 2-dose series but opt out of receiving the booster dose.

Many have questioned if the booster doses will be any different from the initial series of vaccine. For anyone over 70, the dosage remains the same for both Comirnaty and Spikevax. Interestingly, the booster dosage for Spikevax (Moderna) vaccine is being reduced to 50 mcg (from 100 mcg) for those who are under the age of 70 and are not residents of long-term care homes or other congregate settings and are also not immunocompromised.

The booster dosage for Cormirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine will remain unchanged from the initial dose (30 mcg) regardless of age, living arrangements or immunity status.  As to which type of vaccine you should receive, the guidelines suggest that either of the MRNA’s can be used as a booster dose regardless of which brand your initial injections were.

If you are interested in signing up for a booster dose, we encourage you to sign up online if you are able. You can book through public health by visiting the website If you are interested in signing up for a booster dose, we encourage you to sign up online if you are able. You can book through public health at website or you may book through the website of your pharmacy of choice if they have one.

If you do not have a computer, you may call your pharmacy of choice to give your pertinent details. The online process is a massive time-saver for pharmacy staff as many are already stretched thin with the concomitant influenza vaccine campaign, helping our snow birds with their winter supplies and the never ending but still welcome questions this pandemic has generated among many of us.

Undoubtedly, the next big step in the immunization process will be the rollout of first doses to the 5-12 year old crowd that is expected to be announced within the next few weeks. For more information about this or any other health related questions, contact your pharmacist.