The Ontario government says it is now aiming to have all eligible residents who wish to get a vaccine to have their first dose completed by June 20, the first day of summer.
Ontario health officials made the announcement on Friday on the heels of Health Canada saying it has approved the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’ve had a seismic shift in our vaccination opportunities and the program to roll it out,” retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine task force.
He said the recent approval of two more vaccines, expected increases in supply and the extension of the interval between first and second doses will allow the province to “crush those timelines really tightly.”
“… our aim would be to allow the province of Ontario to have a first needle in the arm of every eligible person who wants it by the first day of summer,” Hillier said. “Please be patient a little while longer.”
In a further update to Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout, Ontario health officials said there will be a focus on seniors aged 60 and older, those in other congregate settings, hot spot regions and those who cannot work from home in an updated vaccine rollout plan on Friday.
According to the documents, the vaccine rollout firstly targets death prevention, followed by prevention of illness, hospitalization and ICU admission, and transmission reduction.
The province is currently wrapping up Phase 1, in which those living in long-term care homes, retirement homes, as well as staff and front-line workers were targeted. Over 820,000 doses have been administered and over 269,000 Ontarians have been fully immunized with two shots.
Officials noted that the plan does not factor in the newly approved Johnson & Johnson shot and additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, which was also announced on Friday.
Health officials said timelines are amendable and may change based on vaccine supply. There are currently four vaccines approved in Canada: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The first three require two shots several weeks apart while Johnson & Johnson only requires one.
Phase 2 of Ontario’s three-phase rollout plan will see shots administered based on risk factors including age, neighbourhood, existing health conditions and inability to work from home.
This strategy focuses on the 2.5 million Ontarians between the ages of 60 and 79 years old.
Residents over the age of 80 will be vaccinated first in March, followed by those over 75 years old, over 70 years old, over 65 years old and over 60 years old with the target end date to be done by the beginning of June.
Health Conditions and Congregate Settings
This strategy focuses on the 2.9 million Ontarians living with health conditions and the 0.2 million Ontarians living in congregate settings. This group will begin to be vaccinated in April.
Ontarians living with the following health conditions will be vaccinated in Phase 2:
- organ transplant recipients
- hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients
- people with neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised
- haematological malignancy diagnosed <1 year
- kidney diseases eGFR<30
- Obesity (BMI>40)
- Other treatments causing immunosuppression
- intellectual or developmental disabilities
At-risk (2.2 million)
- immune deficiencies and autoimmune disorders
- stroke/cerebrovascular disease
- liver disease
- all other cancers
- respiratory diseases
- spleen problems
- heart disease
- hypertension with end organ damage
- diagnosis of mental disorder
- substance use disorders
- immunocompromising health conditions
- other disabilities requiring direct support care in the community.
At-risk staff, essential caregivers and residents in congregate settings will be vaccinated in this category.
- supportive housing
- developmental services/intervenor and supported independent living
- emergency homeless shelters
- other homeless populations not in shelters
- mental health and addictions congregate settings
- homes for special care
- violence against woman shelters and anti-human trafficking residents
- children’s residential facilities
- youth justice facilities
- indigenous healing and wellness
- provincial and demonstration schools
- on-farm temporary foreign workers
- bail beds and indigenous bail beds
- adult correctional facilities
Hot Spot Regions
This strategy focuses on the 900,000 Ontarians living in targeted hot spot regions, who have high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission. These hot spot regions will still focus on older age groups first. The vaccination process will begin in April and is expected to be completed by the end of May.
The following 13 public health units will receive up to 920,000 additional vaccine doses to target “historic and ongoing hot spots,” according to the documents.
- Simcoe Muskoka
- Wellington Dufferin Guelph
- Windsor Guelph
- Windsor Essex
- South West
Cannot work from home
This strategy focuses on the almost 2.5 million Ontarians who cannot work from home amid the pandemic. These residents are broken into two groups and those who fall under this category will be vaccinated at the end of Phase 2 expected to be around June.
The first group contains 730, 000 people:
- elementary/secondary school staff
- workers responding to critical events (police, fire, compliance, funeral, special constables)
- childcare and licensed foster care workers
- food manufacturing workers
- agriculture and farm workers
The second group contains 1.4 million people:
- high-risk and critical retail workers (grocery and pharmacies)
- remaining manufacturing labourers
- social workers
- courts and justice system workers
- lower-risk retail workers
- transportation, warehousing and distribution
- energy, telecom, water and wastewater management
- financial services
- waste management
- mining, oil and gas workers
Over 400,000 essential caregivers will be vaccinated at the same time (at the end of Phase 2), with the focus being on those who take care of residents living with the highest-risk conditions including organ transplants recipients and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients.
Ontario will be launching its online vaccination booking system and call centre on March 15. Certain public health units have launched their own system including in Peel Region and Guelph.
The Ontario government said it is also working with all 34 public health units in the province to create mass immunization clinics. According to the document, “it is expected that approximately 80 per cent of total provincial vaccine allocations will be administered through mass immunization clinics during Phase 2 and 3.”
Vaccinations will also be made available through certain pharmacies and family health centres.
“It is expected that the majority of the first shipment of AstraZeneca in March and in Phase 2 will be supported by the addition of retail pharmacies and primary care,” the documents read.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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