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Simcoe Muskoka health unit offering 2nd COVID-19 booster to adults 18 to 59

The Simcoe Muskoka health unit is now offering fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to a select group.

The health unit noted a summer spike in infections driven by the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, with a 46 per cent uptick in weekly cases locally.

"Eligibility for a second COVID-19 booster dose has expanded to include anyone 18 to 59 years," the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) stated in a release.

Those eligible must have received their first booster dose five months (140 days) or a minimum of three months (84 days) ago.

Health officials say a second booster adds "an extra layer of protection" against COVID-19.

The SMDHU is largely tracking infection rates by wastewater data, with recent samples revealing higher levels in Midland and Orillia compared to late May and early June.

The health unit reports more than half of residents in Simcoe Muskoka have yet to get their booster shot.

"With the rising rate of transmission of the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, and the risk of reinfection, it is extremely important for individuals to firstly ensure that they have the first booster," said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU medical officer of health.

Dr. Gardner added that staying up to date on available vaccines "offers the most important layer of protection and reduces the risk of severe illness and hospitalization if you become infected with COVID-19."

Hospital officials dealing with staffing shortages urged residents to roll up their sleeves to ease the burden on local facilities.

COVID-19 VACCINE CLINICS

The health unit offers COVID-19 shots across the region at appointment-based and walk-in clinics.

GO-VAXX bus clinics also offer third and fourth doses, along with first and second for anyone interested.

Select pharmacies and some health care providers carry vaccine doses.

RECOMMENDED PRECAUTIONS

SMDHU advises sticking with outdoor activities when possible and wearing a mask in indoor public settings to prevent the spread of infection.

It also recommends limiting close contacts, physical distancing from those outside your household and hand washing.

Health officials urge those feeling unwell to remain home and take a rapid antigen test or PCR test, if eligible.

Free rapid home testing kits are available at most grocery stores and pharmacies.

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