Province Ramping up Capacity in Preparation of Vaccinating Phase Two Populations
The Ontario government has administered over 500,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to Phase One priority populations, which now includes adults 80 years of age and older. At the same time, the province is working with public health units to build and expand its capacity to immunize Phase Two populations by increasing delivery networks and preparing a booking solution and customer service supports for mass vaccination clinic registrations. Ontario has administered more vaccines than any other province.
Details of the vaccine rollout were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and General Rick Hillier (retired), Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.
“I want to assure the people of this great province that we are ready to get vaccines into as many arms as possible, we simply need the supply,” said Premier Ford. “Our Vaccine Task Force, led by General Hillier, is executing our vaccine distribution plan with military precision and we have now administered over a half a million doses. This is great progress, but we would all like to be moving faster. I urge our federal government partners to do whatever it takes to get us more vaccines so we can better protect people and eventually defeat this deadly virus.”
The unexpected reductions in supply and delayed shipments in early February forced Ontario to quickly adjust its vaccination plan to accelerate its focus on vaccinating the province’s highest risk resident populations. Last week, Ontario reached its target to offer a first dose of the vaccine to residents of all long-term care homes across the province and has now administered over 167,000 doses to long-term care and retirement home residents.
When all reasonable steps have been taken to complete first-dose vaccination offers to all staff, essential caregivers and remaining residents of long-term care, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, and adults in Indigenous communities, first-dose vaccinations will be made available, pending supply, to the remainder of Phase One populations, including those ages 80+. Public health units are currently planning for how they will reach this group, with timing slated for early March.
“This week we reached an incredible milestone in our fight against the virus with the administration of over half a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Minister Elliott. “We know Ontarians are eager to receive this layer of protection, and we are ready to ramp up our efforts as we receive more doses from the federal government. This upcoming increase in vaccine supply will allow us to expand our vaccination efforts for Phase One priority groups further as we prepare for Phase Two.”
The province continues to expand capacity and ramp up efforts for Phase Two of its vaccination rollout, expected to begin in April 2021. Public health units have developed plans to operate mass immunization clinics as soon as enough supply becomes available, as well as continuing to offer mobile clinics to vaccinate our most vulnerable.
Ontario is developing an online booking system to support the next phase of vaccination roll-out. A customer service desk will be made available to those who are unable to book an appointment through the online tool. Details will be provided over the coming weeks.
“Our government continues to take decisive action to keep Ontarians safe and by expanding our Phase One priority populations, we are ensuring more vaccines are being distributed to those who need it most,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “As we prepare for a broader rollout in Phase Two, we ask Ontarians to stay the course and follow public health guidance to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus to help save lives.”
“We are ramping up our Phase One program now that supplies are arriving again,” said General (Ret’d) Rick Hillier. “Our focus continues on our populations of highest risk, but we are also refining the systems and processes required for mass vaccinations in Phase Two. Our Ontario health care workers have done an exceptional job of completing the first 500,000 vaccinations and I want them to know that they are the real heroes of this important work.”
Operation Remote Immunity, led by Ornge, is vaccinating adults in the 31 fly-in First Nations communities and Moosonee in Northern Ontario. As of February 17, 2021, over 8,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Sioux Lookout and communities within the Operation’s scope. Ornge teams will continue to administer first and second doses of the vaccine with an aim of completion by the end of April 2021. Planning for vaccine distribution to additional First Nations communities and to urban Indigenous populations is underway through ongoing and regular engagement of the First Nations and Urban Indigenous Vaccine Distribution Sub-Tables, respectively.
As the vaccination rollout continues, it remains critically important that all Ontarians stay at home as much as possible and continue following regional public health measures, restrictions, and advice to protect our most vulnerable populations and help stop the spread of COVID-19.