Six-week vaccine pilot project to kick off Monday at Metro Toronto Convention Centre

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WATCH ABOVE: A six-week vaccine clinic pilot project is set to start giving COVID-19 shots to frontline workers on Monday. While this clinic is not open to the public, the structure will help figure out the playbook for future vaccine sites. Katherine Ward explains how the rollout will go, and who is eligible – Jan 17, 2021

A pilot program at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre is set to start administering COVID-19 vaccines in Toronto on Monday.

It will be the city’s first vaccination clinic in a community setting. The hope is that it will set the stage for what the future rollout of COVID-19 vaccines will look like when they become available to the public.

While hospital staff have been rolling up their sleeves for weeks, frontline shelter workers told Global News they had no idea when it would be their turn to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Diana Chan McNally, with the Toronto Drop-In Network, said when the decision was announced last Monday it was a shock. “It was completely unexpected,” McNally said.

Read more: Online coronavirus vaccine tool estimates when Canadians will get their shots

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Tommy Taylor, who works in the Toronto shelter system, said “when it came time for things like vaccination, we just didn’t know where we were going to be on the schedule… just given how far we seemed to be of a thought on everything else.”

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Starting tomorrow, the six-week pilot project in Toronto will be administering shots for staff working in shelters, harm reduction sites, and other community agencies.

Taylor said the news is a relief for him and his colleagues.

“Being a part of this vaccine really starts to put to rest some of those fears that we have had,” Taylor said. “Certainly waiting to hear if we were part of the plan that was a scary period of time.”

Read more: When is it my turn? A coast-to-coast look at COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Officials said the site will be able to administer upwards of 250 COVID-19 vaccines per day. The program structure allows them to scale their work up or down depending on the number of doses available.

On Sunday, Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory toured the operation. “It’s going to be a pilot project that we can expand right across the province,” Ford said. “I know General Hillier is looking at 50 different sites across the province.”

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The plan is to use the pilot project as way to prove the model works, and iron out any issues that might arise.

Read more: Feds publish coronavirus vaccine distribution list, painting rollout picture for coming months

“There will be a playbook issued out of this if you can call it that will tell everyone how to make sure based on the lessons learned right here that you can do this effectively,” Tory said.

Those who qualify, sign up online. McNally explained that agencies were tasked with coming up with a list of staff who would be eligible. Those individuals received a link to register.  But McNally said, given the supply and time frame, it is possible not everyone will get in during the pilot project. “There is the potential that some folks might not be able to receive the vaccine in this round,” McNally said.

However, officials said it’s a start, and every shot administered is one step closer to making sure everyone is protected.

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