TORONTO — With over 50 per cent of Ontario residents aged 80 and over having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Ontario government is expanding appointments through its online booking system to individuals aged 75 and over, effective Monday, March 22, 2021, ahead of schedule.
Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and General Rick Hillier (retired), Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.
“The progress we are making on our Vaccine Distribution Plan demonstrates what can be done when we unleash the full potential of Team Ontario,” said Premier Ford. “Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline health care heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined. All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the Federal government to ensure anyone who wants one, gets one as soon as possible so we can all stay safe.”
Ontario began vaccinating individuals aged 80 and over in February, and launched an online booking tool and a call centre to help answer questions and support appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics. Since the provincial booking system was launched on March 15, more than 239,000 appointments have been scheduled for the first and second doses.
Ontario is leading the country in the total number of vaccines administered and has fully immunized more individuals than all provinces and territories combined. To date, over 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the province, including over 129,000 doses administered to long-term care home residents. Over 294,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including over 61,000 long term-care home residents.
“Thanks to the efforts of our health care partners and the efficiency of our booking system, Ontario has been able to schedule more appointments and vaccinate more people quickly and conveniently,” said Minister Elliott. “We are doing everything we can to protect those who are most vulnerable and will ensure that we reach every Ontarian eligible for vaccination in Phase One as we expand the vaccination program further in the coming weeks.”
On March 16, 2021, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) expanded its recommendation for the use of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine to people 18 years old and older. In alignment with NACI’s latest recommendation and Ontario’s Ethical Framework, as of March 22, 2021, participating pharmacies and primary care settings will offer vaccination appointments to individuals aged 60 and over. Eligible Ontarians can contact a participating pharmacy directly to make an appointment. In addition, many primary care providers are directly contacting eligible patients to book an appointment.
The province also continues to expand the delivery channels available to administer COVID-19 vaccines, with another 350 pharmacies to be brought on board across the province in the next two weeks bringing the total to approximately 700 locations. It is expected that this number would again be doubled to approximately 1,500 by the end of April. Depending on vaccine supply, retail pharmacies could administer up to 40 per cent of all vaccinations by the end of April. Details on additional locations and the application process for pharmacy participation will be shared in the coming days. In addition, vaccinations in primary care settings will continue in collaboration with public health units.
“We have successfully expanded Ontario’s vaccine rollout plan to include pharmacies, mass vaccination centres and primary health care providers in key parts of the province,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “This is a huge accomplishment and we continue to extend this rollout to other parts of the province as more vaccines become available.”
“Ontario’s vaccine distribution plan is now well underway,” said General (Ret’d) Rick Hillier. “We are grateful to the army of diverse teams – the health care practitioners, IT specialists, data analysts, the dedicated individuals working in logistics and many others – for their outstanding service and commitment to put the needed processes in place to make this happen.”
The province continues to expect a high volume of traffic on its online booking system. Everyone is eager to receive the vaccine, but those not yet eligible for a vaccine are being asked to avoid accessing the booking system or calling the service desk to allow those that are eligible the opportunity to book an appointment.