Ontario speeds up vaccine timeline, says hotspot neighbourhoods in Mississauga will be prioritized
Ontario is aiming to offer first COVID-19 vaccine doses to all eligible residents by June 20, the province said Friday.
Officials, who made the announcement after Health Canada approved a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, said the rollout could move faster based on supply.
"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, said of the last week's developments.
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."
Shortly before Hillier’s announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Pfizer is fast-tracking deliveries to Canada. Trudeau said the country will get 1.5 million extra COVID vaccine doses in March, 1 million additional doses in April and another extra million in May.
"(What) 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. We will get to you, and we will get to you much more quickly than we ever, ever imagined before."
As part of the second phase of vaccinations, the province plans to start administering shots to seniors 75 and older starting in April.
Based on a timeline prepared before the Johnson & Johnson approval was announced, the province said it was aiming to get first shots to everyone 60 and older by the end of May or early June, if not earlier.
The vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 in Ontario, and across the country, have been among people aged 60 and older.
Other risk factors including neighbourhood, existing health conditions and inability to work from home will be prioritized in the second phase of the rollout.
Doses will also be offered starting in April to people with specific health conditions like organ transplant recipients, and caregivers in congregate settings.
Thirteen public health units, including Toronto, Windsor, York and Peel (Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon), will receive additional doses for hot spot neighbourhoods during Phase 2.
Essential workers who can't work from home will be offered doses at the end of the second phase, though the timeline is subject to change.
The province laid out more details on which essential workers will be eligible to receive their shots first. Vaccinations among that group will start with school staff, first responders, childcare workers, food manufacturing workers and agriculture workers.
Then shots will go to workers in retail, manufacturing, social workers, the justice system, financial services, waste management, mining, oil and gas, warehousing and distribution.
Hillier said the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine may be useful in getting shots to people who are difficult to reach, such as migrant farmworkers and homeless individuals.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
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