The City of Ottawa will start administering coronavirus vaccines to residents aged 80 and up in neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission on March 5, according to the head of the local vaccine distribution task force.
Anthony Di Monte said in an update to city council Wednesday morning that the city will begin vaccinating the most at-risk Ottawa residents outside health-care and congregate care settings via pop-up clinics in neighbourhoods hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of March 5, pop-up vaccine sites will start landing in neighbourhoods including Ledbury, Heron Gate, Emerald Woods, Riverview, Sawmill Creek and Ridgemont.
Adults aged 80 and older will be able to receive vaccinations at these sites, in line with the province’s revised Phase 1 distribution plans to include Ontario’s eldest residents in the initial vaccine rollout.
Ret. Gen Rick Hillier, who leads the provincial vaccine distribution task force, also announced Wednesday morning that Ontario’s vaccination appointment booking system for the province’s 80-plus population will open on March 15.
But Di Monte said Ottawa will actually be ahead of the curve when it comes to vaccinating this high-risk population via its mobile vaccination strategy targeting high-risk neighbourhoods.
The city will use its own portal, set to open to the public on March 5, for the initial bookings and switch over the the provincial system when it opens 10 days later, Di Monte said.
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, explained the rationale for vaccinating in the specified neighbourhoods in a later presentation on Wednesday morning.
To start, age has widely been identified as the highest-risk factor as to whether an individual who contracts COVID-19 will be hospitalized or die as a result of the disease.
But when age is overlapped with factors such as living in a community experiencing high transmission of the virus, the risks rise exponentially, she said.
Neighbourhoods in Ottawa with higher rates of COVID-19 often have a high proportion of lower-income residents as well as Black, Indigenous and racialized residents, due largely to systemic barriers to accessing health resources in these communities.
In Ottawa, these neighourhoods face rates of COVID-19 hospitalization 2.6-times higher than the rest of the population. Their rates of death related to the virus are three-times higher than others.
If the goal of Ottawa’s vaccination campaign is to limit hospitalizations and death in the pandemic, it makes sense to target these communities first, Etches said.
“That helps our whole health-care system have the ability to function,” she said. “In a situation of limited supply, we have to use it in the most effective way.”
Mayor Jim Watson also said Wednesday morning that he is set to meet with Hillier later this week and plans to bring up the topic of getting vaccines into shelters, sites of numerous ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks in Ottawa.
Di Monte said the city will use mobile teams to vaccinate people experiencing homeless in Ottawa as well as the city’s rural residents.
When the province’s booking system is set up, the city will start to open up seven community clinic sites set up across the city for residents to visit for vaccine appointments, supplemented by two hospital clinics and pop-up sites.
The seven community clinics will be located at:
- Ottawa City Hall
- St-Laurent Complex
- Horticulture Building at Lansdowne
- Nepean Sportsplex
- Canterbury Recreation Complex
- Ruddy Family YMCA
- Eva James Memorial Community Centre
Taken together, these centres and the two hospital clinics will be able to administer roughly 380,000 vaccine doses per month when fully running, plus more doses via mobile and pop-up sites.
Di Monte said Ottawa is expecting to receive 9,360 doses of COVID-19 vaccine both this week and next.
On Tuesday, the city finished administering the first round of COVID-19 vaccines at the 82 local retirement homes.