“The progress we are making on our Vaccine Distribution Plan demonstrates what can be done when we unleash the full potential of Team Ontario,” Premier Doug Ford said. “Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline health care heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined. All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the federal government to ensure anyone who wants one, gets one as soon as possible so we can all stay safe.”
Ontario began vaccinating individuals aged 80 and over in February, and launched an online booking tool and a call centre to help answer questions and support appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics. Since the provincial booking system was launched on March 15, more than 239,000 appointments have been scheduled for the first and second doses.
Ontario is leading the country in the total number of vaccines administered and has fully immunized more individuals than all provinces and territories combined. To date, over 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the province, including over 129,000 doses administered to long-term care home residents. Over 294,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including over 61,000 long term-care home residents.
“Thanks to the efforts of our health care partners and the efficiency of our booking system, Ontario has been able to schedule more appointments and vaccinate more people quickly and conveniently,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said. “We are doing everything we can to protect those who are most vulnerable and will ensure that we reach every Ontarian eligible for vaccination in Phase One as we expand the vaccination program further in the coming weeks.”
On March 16, 2021, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) expanded its recommendation for the use of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine to people 18 years old and older. In alignment with NACI’s latest recommendation and Ontario’s Ethical Framework, as of March 22, 2021, participating pharmacies and primary care settings will offer vaccination appointments to individuals aged 60 and over. Eligible Ontarians can contact a participating pharmacy directly to make an appointment. In addition, many primary care providers are directly contacting eligible patients to book an appointment.
The province also continues to expand the delivery channels available to administer COVID-19 vaccines, with another 350 pharmacies to be brought on board across the province in the next two weeks bringing the total to approximately 700 locations. It is expected that this number would again be doubled to approximately 1,500 by the end of April. Depending on vaccine supply, retail pharmacies could administer up to 40 per cent of all vaccinations by the end of April. Details on additional locations and the application process for pharmacy participation will be shared in the coming days. In addition, vaccinations in primary care settings will continue in collaboration with public health units.
“We have successfully expanded Ontario’s vaccine rollout plan to include pharmacies, mass vaccination centres and primary health care providers in key parts of the province,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said. “This is a huge accomplishment and we continue to extend this rollout to other parts of the province as more vaccines become available.”
The province continues to expect a high volume of traffic on its online booking system. Everyone is eager to receive the vaccine, but those not yet eligible for a vaccine are being asked to avoid accessing the booking system or calling the service desk to allow those that are eligible the opportunity to book an appointment.
Vaccinations with the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine at pharmacies require an appointment to be made in advance. Eligible adults aged 60 and over (if 60 or older as of the day of vaccination or, if will be 60 or older in 2021) who are interested in booking an appointment, can visit ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccine to find a participating pharmacy and can contact the pharmacy to make an appointment.
If an individual is turning 75 or older in 2021 and does not live in a congregate care setting, they can schedule a vaccine appointment by visiting Ontario.ca/bookvaccine, or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Information Line number at 1-888-999-6488. The Provincial Vaccine Information Line is open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is capable of providing assistance in 300 languages.