Coronavirus: Ontario expects to vaccinate up to 8.5 million people by end of June

Click to play video: 'Ontario expects to begin mass vaccinations by spring 2021'
Ontario expects to begin mass vaccinations by spring 2021
WATCH ABOVE: The retired general leading Ontario’s vaccine rollout says by spring, 150,000 Ontario residents will be getting a shot in the arm each day. As Seán O’Shea reports, Rick Hillier says there won’t be any more vaccination vacations – Dec 29, 2020

The Ontario government says it expects to vaccinate approximately 8.5 million people by the end of June against COVID-19.

Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, laid out the three-phase plan again providing numbers of Ontarians expected to be vaccinated based on vaccine supply.

Hillier said Phase 1 will be completed roughly by the end of March with about 1 to possibly 1.5 million Ontarians being vaccinated — which includes health care workers and First Nations.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Ontario health official addresses change on policy over Pfizer vaccine doses'
Coronavirus: Ontario health official addresses change on policy over Pfizer vaccine doses

Phase 2 will then begin in April and have another 7.5 million people vaccinated with 15 million doses by the end of June. Phase 3 will then begin late in the summer which includes anyone who wants to get a vaccine can get one.

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So far, more than 14,000 people have received their first shot and the province currently has a supply of 95,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Hillier said. Every person vaccinated is required to receive two doses, 21 days apart.

“Our mission is a marathon, not a sprint,” Hillier said in an update on Tuesday.

“We will be working straight through, we will not take any more days off until we win this war against COVID-19,” Hillier said.

Over the holidays, criticism surfaced online after the government scaled back on vaccinations due to staffing shortages with clinics closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and only a few clinics were open the following two days.

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So far, 19 hospitals across Ontario are equipped with administering the immunizations.

Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 9 and the Moderna vaccine was approved on Dec. 23.

Staff and health-care workers at hospitals, retirement and long-term care homes are being prioritized for the first rounds of inoculations followed by people living in those congregate settings. Due to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needing to be refrigerated at -70 C, people must go to select hospitals to get that shot.

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Hillier said the Moderna vaccine has not arrived in hands of the task force in Ontario but he said he expects the vaccine to arrive within 24 hours containing about 50,000 doses.

Moderna vaccine does not need to be kept at such cold temperatures and can be taken outside of the hospitals and used in hard hit communities such as long-term and retirement homes as well as into rural communities.

Ontario has a population of just over 14.5 million people.

Health Canada has not approved the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine for Canadians under the age of 16.

The government said vaccinations are not mandatory but is strongly encouraging those who can get a vaccine to get one.

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