By: Laura Steiner
Ontario has revealed plans for phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, and Vaccine Distribution Task Force Chair General Rick Hillier (Retired).
“This is a true team Ontario effort and we are mobilizing our greatest asset- the people of Ontario,” Ford said. Phase 2 will focus vaccinating populations by age and risk for COVID-19
The announcement follows Health Canada’s approval of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine earlier today. “Vaccines will be administered in hospital clinics, primary care settings, mass vaccination sites, mobile clinics and pharmacies across the province by dedicated, caring and compassionate frontline health care heroes,” Ford said. The province is expecting 2 million doses by the end of March. Pfizer has agreed to accelerate shipments with 1.5 million doses delivered before the end of the month. The delivery schedule for the Johnson & Johnson has not yet been announced.
Groups that will receive the vaccine include:
- Older adults between 60-79 years of age;
- Individuals with specific health conditions and some primary caregivers;
- People who live and work in congregate settings and some primary caregivers;
- People who live in hot spots with high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission; and,
- Certain workers who cannot work from home.
Phase one of the province’s rollout is currently underway with approximately 269,000 Ontarians fully vaccinated. “We continue to ramp up capacity and are committed to administering as many doses as possible to every Ontarian who wants a vaccine,” Elliott said. The province also plans a pilot project in pharmacies in Toronto, Windsor, and Kingston areas beginning the middle of this month.
The province is launching an online booking system opening to residents age 80 and over. The plan is to extend it to more groups, as the vaccination process progresses. They expect Public Health Units (PHU) to migrate over. Some public health units, including Halton Region have begun booking appointments.
“With the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and now the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and with increased supplies coming into the province, this gives us renewed focus to get even more Ontarians vaccinated sooner,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said.
The National Advisory Council on Immunization has recommended the extension of the interval between the first and second doses up to four months. The province will be following this recommendation effective March 10, 2021.
“The vaccine developments this week mean that we can expect things to move faster than anticipated which is fantastic, said Gen. (ret’d) Rick Hillier. Ontario will enter phase three as vaccine supplies allow. Vaccines will not be mandated, but strongly encouraged by the provincial government.