Province focused on two Hamilton ‘hotspots’ as it moves into Phase Two of vaccine distribution

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Premier Doug Ford announced Tuesday (Apr. 6) that the province is moving on to Phase Two of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, with a focus on reaching those with specific health conditions and individuals residing in virus “hotspots.”

The Province also says it’s working to vaccinate people who live in congregate settings (such as shelters, correctional facilities and other residential facilities) and people who cannot work from home (such as warehouse and factory workers and teachers).

In Hamilton, the L9C (west Mountain) and L8W (east Mountain) postal codes have been designated as hotspots. Individuals aged 55-plus with “highest-risk” health conditions in those areas will be prioritized for the vaccine.

The province said it's expecting to reach the majority of the group through hospital clinics by the end of April 2021. Patients in the highest-risk clinical groups will be contacted by their health care providers to set up an appointment for a vaccination.

The highest-risk population will then be followed by “high-risk” and “at-risk.”

Highest-risk:

  • Organ transplant recipients;
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients;
  • People with neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised (e.g., motor neuron disease, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis);
  • Hematological malignancy diagnosed less than one year ago;
  • Sickle cell disease;
  • Kidney disease eGFR< 30; and
  • Essential caregivers for individuals in the groups listed above.

High-risk:

  • Obesity (BMI > 40)
  • Other treatments causing immunosuppression (e.g., chemotherapy, immunity-weakening medications)
  • Intellectual or developmental disabilities (e.g., Down Syndrome)

At-risk:

  • Immune deficiencies / autoimmune disorders
  • Stroke / cerebrovascular disease
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • All other cancers
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Spleen problems
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension with end organ damage
  • Diagnosis of mental disorder
  • Substance use disorders
  • Thalassemia
  • Pregnancy
  • Immunocompromising health conditions
  • Other disabilities requiring direct support care in the community

Hamilton's healthcare partners announced Tuesday that 'effective immediately,' residents 60 and up are eligible to book their appointment through the province's online booking portal: covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine

The news comes after more than 20 local pharmacies started offering the Astra Zeneca vaccine to those 55 years of age and older over the weekend.

Hamilton's pharmacy rollout, however, has been sharply criticized as none of the pharmacies included in the rollout are located in the lower part of the city where the pandemic has hit the hardest.

Six politicians representing Hamilton's lower city issued a poignant statement to Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday (Apr. 5).

"We join with the residents of Lower Hamilton to express our outrage at the provincial government's decision to exclude the lower city of Hamilton in their COVID-19 vaccine rollout via local pharmacies," reads the statement.

"Despite the number of essential workers and vulnerable people living in these neighbourhoods, the province designated no pharmacies in inner-city communities for the community pharmacy locations rollout. This exclusion is incomprehensible and irresponsible given the risks in lower and inner-city Hamilton."

The six representatives--Matthew Green MP, Hamilton Centre; Jason Farr, Ward 2 Councillor; Andrea Howarth MPP, Hamilton Centre; Nrinder Nann, Ward 3 Councillor; Maureen Wilson, Ward 1 Councillor; Sam Merulla, Ward 4 Councillor--called the decision "reckless."

At Tuesday’s press conference, Ford insinuated that more restrictions could be coming in addition to the current "emergency brake" measures that went into effect over the long weekend. Ford cited crowds at Toronto shopping malls--which his government has allowed to remain open--as a reason for concern.

According to the province, over 20 per cent of community-based deaths in Ontario have occurred in just 10 per cent of areas referred to as hot spots, where COVID-19 rates are highest.

The following public health units will receive a portion of the 920,000 additional doses:

  • Durham Region Health Department
  • Halton Region Public Health
  • City of Hamilton Public Health Services
  • Niagara Region Public Health
  • Ottawa Public Health
  • Peel Public Health
  • Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit
  • Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services
  • Wellington-Dufferin Guelph Public Health
  • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
  • York Region Public Health
  • Toronto Public Health
  • Southwestern Public Health

As of April 5, over 2,621,000 vaccine doses have been administered across the province, with over 85 per cent of Ontario residents aged 80 and over having received at least one dose. More than two-thirds of residents aged 75 to 79 have now received their first shot. Over 322,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including 92 per cent of long-term care residents.

“As we begin Phase Two of our immunization rollout, we will first focus our efforts to protect those with the highest-risk health conditions and certain essential caregivers,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in a statement.

“Over the past year, Ontarians have made great sacrifices, and we can only stop the spread of COVID-19 through our continued collective actions. Please stay home unless absolutely necessary and follow public health measures.”

Individuals aged 70 and over continue to be eligible for vaccination during Phase Two.

Vaccine appointments at one of Hamilton's large-scale clinics, as well as local pharmacies, can be made through the city's website: hamilton.ca/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine-booking

Those eligible based on their age can schedule a vaccination appointment by visiting Ontario.ca/bookvaccine, or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line number at 1-833-943-3900.

In April, the province is expecting to receive 1,584,180 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 751,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 122,900 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The province says that over nine million Ontarians will be offered their first vaccination between April and the end of June 2021.

For those who do not have access to the internet or a computer, or do not have a valid Ontario photo health card, please call the Public Health Services COVID-19 Hotline at 905-974-9848, option 7 to book an appointment.

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