“Team Ontario has shown what we can do when we have a steady and reliable supply of vaccines,” said Premier Ford. “Having made so much progress administering first doses, we are now in a position to begin delivering second doses for a two-dose summer. If we receive more vaccines from the federal government, we’ll be able to accelerate our rollout further to offer more protection to Ontarians even sooner.”
Due to a reliable and increased supply of vaccines throughout May, Ontario has been able to quickly expand eligibility and access at mass vaccinations sites, hospital clinics and pharmacies, with all Ontarians aged 12 and over eligible to book an appointment to receive the vaccine ahead of schedule. With over 8.6 million doses administered, and over 8 million people having received at least one dose, the province has reached its target to administer first doses to 65 per cent of Ontarians aged 18 and over by the end of May.
“Thanks to the efforts of our frontline health care heroes and community partners, our province has reached another exciting milestone of 65 per cent of Ontario adults having received their first dose,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Accelerating second doses will provide more protection to Ontarians sooner. Every dose administered means we are one step closer to the end of the pandemic, and I encourage all Ontarians to get vaccinated and continue following public health advice.”
With two-thirds of the adult population having received at least one dose, Ontarians have been provided with a strong level of protection against COVID-19. Now Ontario is beginning to accelerate second doses for all Ontarians. While the interval between first and second doses can be up to 16 weeks, Ontario will begin to offer second dose appointments at an earlier interval, based on availability of vaccines. The timing of second dose appointments may vary based on local considerations, vaccine supply and the date of first dose appointment.
To support this accelerated rollout, the province has developed an anticipated schedule for eligibility to accelerate second doses based on confirmed supply. This will begin with individuals turning 80 and over in 2021, who will be eligible to book their second dose appointment expected to begin on May 31, 2021 at 8:00 a.m., followed by individuals aged 70 and over scheduled to begin the week of June 14, 2021. The province will then continue to expand eligibility for second dose appointments based on date of first dose. Ontario will further accelerate the rollout of second doses in the event that the federal government confirms increased vaccine deliveries.
Ontarians who have had their first dose and are eligible for an accelerated second dose may be able to return to the same site or channel where they received their first dose for their second dose appointment, or may choose to book an appointment at a different site or channel. Second dose appointments can be rebooked through the provincial booking system and through pharmacies. For those in public health units who use their own booking system, or who received their doses from the primary care provider or through a pop-up clinic, more information will follow on how and when second dose booking and rebooking will be available. Second dose appointments can also be booked (without a first appointment) in the provincial booking system.
Ontario has already begun offering second doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at an accelerated pace with a 10-week interval for individuals who received their first dose between March 10 to March 19, 2021. Acceleration of AstraZeneca second doses will be provided at a 12-week interval, dependent on vaccine supply, with booking eligibility based on the date of the first dose. Eligible individuals are encouraged to contact the pharmacy or primary care provider where they received their first dose to book an appointment. They might be redirected to a local pharmacy that is participating in administering second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Primary care settings and pharmacies may also be reaching out to eligible Ontarians. The province will provide further guidance based on advice expected shortly from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) with respect to administering doses of two different vaccine types. This advice will be provided in advance of the 12-week interval when most people are needing to receive their second dose.
“As Ontario’s vaccine rollout continues, we are expanding our distribution plan in response to medical expertise, evidence and the availability of vaccines,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Accelerating the scheduling for second doses and providing individuals with the option of also receiving their second dose earlier, will allow a greater number of people to be fully vaccinated sooner.”
The government also continues to roll out first doses to Ontarians. Recently the province expanded eligibility to youth aged 12 and over to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through the provincial booking system and call centre, and public health units that use their own booking systems, as well as at select pharmacies administering the Pfizer vaccine. To ensure as many youth as possible are fully vaccinated before the start of the school year, the province expects to provide a first dose to all willing youth aged 12 to 17 before the end of June, and a second dose before the end of August 2021. To ensure access to COVID-19 vaccination for youth aged 12 to 17 in Ontario’s 31 fly-in northern communities and Moosonee, Ornge will lead Operation Remote Immunity 2.0 starting on May 31, 2021. The province is expecting to administer first and second doses to youth aged 12 and over in each of these communities by the end of July.
This significant progress has enabled the government to allow the provincial declaration of emergency and Stay-at-Home Order to expire on June 2. The province’s emergency brake will remain in effect, with public health measures and restrictions still in place, until the province is ready to enter Step One of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen. Step One may begin as early as two weeks after 60 per cent of Ontario’s adults receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and if key indicators, such as risk of COVID-19 variants, hospitalizations, ICU occupancy and new hospital admissions and case rates continue to decline. Based on current trends in key health indicators, the province expects to enter Step One of the Roadmap the week of June 14, 2021. The province will confirm timelines closer to the expected start of Step One.