The Ontario government is preparing to move into Phase Two of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan next month, with a focus on vaccinating populations based on age and risk. This approach is designed to save lives, protect those at risk of serious illness and to stop the virus from spreading.
“Due to the incredible work of an army of people we have a solid vaccine distribution plan and we are ready to get needles into arms as soon as the doses arrive,” Premier Doug Ford said. “This is a true Team Ontario effort and we are mobilizing our greatest asset – the people of Ontario. Vaccines will be administered in hospital clinics, primary care settings, mass vaccination sites, mobile clinics and pharmacies across the province by dedicated, caring and compassionate frontline health care heroes.”
With vaccine supply stabilizing and over two million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine expected from the federal government before the end of March, the province is preparing to enter Phase Two of its vaccine rollout. Between April 2021 and July 2021, up to nine million Ontarians will be vaccinated.
During Phase Two, groups that will receive the vaccine include:
- Older adults between 60-79 years of age;
- Individuals with specific health conditions and some primary caregivers;
- People who live and work in congregate settings and some primary caregivers;
- People who live in hot spots with high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission; and,
- Certain workers who cannot work from home.
“Thanks to the hard work of our health care partners and frontline heroes, Ontario’s vaccine rollout is making a positive difference and helping to save the lives of some of our most vulnerable,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said. “We continue to ramp up capacity and are committed to administering as many doses, as quickly as possible to every Ontarian who wants a vaccine.”
Phase One of Ontario’s vaccination rollout is well underway, with 820,000 doses administered and over 269,000 Ontarians fully immunized. Over 95 per cent of long-term care residents are fully immunized and public health units are working with homes to vaccinate staff and essential caregivers as a priority. Some local public health units, based on local context and capacity, have been able to vaccinate some people aged over 80, before the anticipated timeframe of mid-March. By focusing early vaccination efforts on long-term care residents, combined with public health measures, Ontario has rapidly reduced infections and the daily death rates in long-term care homes.
Starting March 15th, the province will launch an online booking system and a provincial customer service desk to answer questions and support appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics. This will initially support individuals over the age of 80 as part of Phase One, eventually extending to more groups during Phase Two. While some public health units are currently using their own booking systems to vaccinate individuals aged 80 and over, it is anticipated that the majority of public health units will transition to the provincial booking system after it has launched.
The fight against COVID-19 continues to be our government’s top priority,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “With the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and now the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and with increased supplies coming into the province, this gives us renewed focus to get even more Ontarians vaccinated sooner. We’ve made tremendous progress and ask that Ontarians continue to stay the course to protect themselves and keep their families, friends and communities safe.”
NACI has provided the recommendation to extend the vaccination dose interval up to four months for all Health Canada approved COVID-19 vaccines while while maintaining a strong and sustained level of protection from the virus. This news along with the approval of new vaccines will help us to reforecast and maximize the number of people receiving a first dose in a shorter timeframe, pending supply from the federal government. Ontario has accepted and will follow NACI’s recommendations starting March 10th, with some limited exceptions.
As supply increases, Ontarians will be able to get vaccinated with the three Health Canada approved vaccines in several new settings. In addition to hospitals, mobile clinics and mass vaccination clinics, the province is working with the pharmacy sector and with primary care professionals to offer vaccinations in primary care settings and community locations in collaboration with public health units. A pilot for pharmacy vaccine administration is planned for mid-March in select regions, including Toronto, Windsor and the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington region, followed by specific primary care pilots in collaboration with public health units.
“Being able to announce the Phase Two rollout today is exciting news for everyone. The vaccine developments this week mean that we can expect things to move faster than anticipated which is fantastic,” said Gen (Ret’d) Rick Hillier. “To that end government officials are refining the distribution plans, testing the online booking system and implementing a pilot program with pharmacies and primary care providers in select regions to ensure that they are ready for the launch of Phase Two.”
Ontario will enter Phase Three when vaccines are available for every Ontarian who wishes to be immunized. While vaccines will not be mandated, during Phase Three, people will be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.
Only vaccines that Health Canada determines to be safe and effective will be approved for use in Canada and available in Ontario. This means all COVID-19 vaccines being offered: were tested on a large number of people through extensive clinical trials; have met all the requirements for approval, including safety; and will be monitored for any adverse reactions that may occur after vaccination and appropriate measures will be taken.