The province provided supplementary details into Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout anticipated to ramp up and be in place through April into June.
As part of the latest phase, the Ford government says it has begun vaccinating residents 60-years-old-and-up, caregivers, and those deemed high risk, adding that the province’s approach to treating the most vulnerable is starting to pay off.
Contrary to past updates, the province is now moving up its vaccine timeline for essential workers by roughly two weeks, as those who cannot work from home are now eligible to be vaccinated by mid-May instead of early June.
The province also announced that people aged 60-and-older can begin booking vaccine appointments through Ontario’s online portal as of Wednesday.
Phase 2 will start to see shots administered based on risk factors including age, neighbourhood, existing health conditions, and inability to work from home along with those aged 60 to 79.
On March 5, Ontario officials released a list of those who qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine during this phase.
The first phase, which ran from December of last year through the end of March, focused primarily on health care workers, congregate living for seniors, and adults over 80.
After Phase 2 is completed, everyone between the ages of 16 and 59 will be eligible for their first dose from July onwards.
According to the province’s latest update, 85 percent of residents 80-and-older and 68 percent of Ontarians aged 75-79 have all received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The government says 92 percent of long-term care residents are now fully immunized against the virus while 107 percent of those living in retirement homes have received one shot.
The province says that its vaccine delivery capacity in March was “significantly greater” than federal supply which continues in April even as shipments increase.
“Ontario has the capacity to administer up to 150,000 doses per day in Ontario,” the government says.
“If federal supply is sufficient and deliveries are stable, we can ramp up without fear of having to cancel appointments.”
The province says it expects to receive approximately 3.2 million doses of vaccines in April, but has the capacity to administer four million doses.
The target, the government says, is to administer 100,000 doses per day based on the current supply of vaccines, adding that capacity would allow health officials to treat four million Ontarians throughout April.
As of April 5th, 18.5% of Ontarians have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected to remain steady through April into the end of May, reaching a high point of just over 400,000 doses through mid-May.
Despite a delay, Moderna vaccine shipments are also tentatively slated to increase with over 440,000 doses expected through the week of April 19.
Ontario says the 194,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that expired on April 2 were administered to patients beforehand. With shots being dolled out at 700 pharmacies, the province says that number could increase to up to 1,500 by the end of the month.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, approved by Health Canada in March, should arrive in Canada sometime in April, which is when details on distribution are expected to be announced for select provinces.
The province has split up workers into different categories including the following:
Those who live and work in high-risk congregate settings (April-May)
All at-risk staff, essential caregivers, and residents from the following congregate settings will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine:
- Supportive housing
- Developmental services/intervenor and supported independent living (SIL)
- Emergency homeless shelters
- Other homeless populations not in shelters
- Mental health and addictions congregate settings
- Homes for special care Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters and Anti-Human Trafficking (AHT) residents
- Children’s residential facilities
- Youth justice facilities
- Indigenous healing and wellness
- Provincial and demonstration schools
- Farmworkers who live in congregate settings, including Temporary foreign workers, Bail beds and Indigenous bail beds
- Adult correctional facilities
Essential workers/those who can’t work from home (May-June)
Workers who can’t work from home will be vaccinated in two groups encompassing a variety of sectors. The second group will be eligible once the first group has been vaccinated:
The first group of essential workers (730,000 people):
- Elementary/secondary school staff and bus drivers that transport students
- Workers responding to critical events (e.g., police, fire, compliance, funeral, special constables)
- Child care workers
- Licensed foster care workers
- Food manufacturing workers
- Agriculture and farm workers
Remaining workers to be eligible (1.4 million people)
- High-risk and critical retail workers (grocery and pharmacies)
- Remaining manufacturing workers
- Social workers (including youth justice)
- Courts and justice system workers (including probation and parole)
- Lower-risk retail workers (wholesalers, general goods)
- Transportation, warehousing, and distribution
- Energy, telecom (data and voice), water and wastewater management
- Financial services
- Waste management
- Mining, oil, and gas workers
Essential workers who cannot work from home, such as restaurant workers and teachers, will be vaccinated in the latter half of Phase 2 which may not start until June.
The Ford government has been criticized for not making teachers a priority as various school boards across Ontario continue to report daily outbreaks of the virus.
Following a recommendation from Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health, all schools shifted to remote learning as of Tuesday in an effort to limit virus transmission.
“As medical experts have said, there is no excuse—no valid reason—to not begin vaccinating all essential workers today,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond.
“This includes all education workers. Failure to do so, with so many available vaccines sitting in freezers, is negligent and dangerous.”
RELATED: Lecce insists schools are safe, Toronto Public Health won’t recommend move to remote learning
On Tuesday, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) expressed concern that some schools remain open and that students and staff are being put at risk.
The ETFO says they are continuing to monitor the situation and will meet Tuesday to “discuss next steps” if the Ford government fails to prioritize education workers.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones was asked if there is a plan in place to start vaccinating teachers now, instead of waiting until June.
Jones told 680 NEWS said the short answer is yes but that the province will have that ability when it gets more doses from the federal government.
Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, said Tuesday the province can’t afford to wait and “must open up vaccination to all adult age groups in hot zone regions now.”
“New ICU patients with variant #COVID are younger. If a 20-year-old, 30-year-old, and 40-year-old all need the same ventilator, we cannot be palliating two of them.”
Essential retail workers and warehouse workers are the absolute last priority in Phase 2 of @ongov vaccine rollout plan.
— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) April 6, 2021
Ontario says people aged 50 and older who live in COVID-19 hot spot neighbourhoods will be able to get their vaccines in the coming weeks.
The government says prioritizing those communities located in 13 public health units will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Officials say many of the people who live in those hot spot neighbourhoods are essential workers.
The 13 public health units are Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, Ottawa, Peel, Simcoe-Muskoka, Southwestern, Toronto, Waterloo, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, Windsor-Essex, and York Region.
Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca is calling on Premier Doug Ford to vaccinate all education workers through the April 12 school break.
Del Duca suggested the government start handing out vaccines in schools so that teachers could go to their own educational institutions during the week off to receive their shot.
These include elementary and secondary school staff – as well as bus drivers – food manufacturing workers, childcare workers, and high-risk and critical retail workers such as grocery and pharmacy.