Ontario is racing to get COVID-19 vaccinations in arms as a growing third wave of infection brings record-high daily case counts and intensive care admissions.
The province is currently in Phase 2 of its immunization plan, and is focusing on vaccinating people with health conditions, people who live in congregate settings, essential workers, and people who live in COVID-19 hotspots.
The trouble is that booking an appointment can be tricky because eligibility opens up at different times for different people depending on age and where someone lives in the province.
Here’s a breakdown of where the province is at based on an update health officials provided at a briefing Tuesday.
The province is still rolling out doses by age, and currently anyone over age 60 can book an appointment through Ontario’s provincial booking system no matter where they live.
Highest-risk health conditions
People who are under 60 years old with the following health conditions and their caregivers are now eligible for a vaccine:
- Organ transplant recipients
- Hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients
- Neurological diseases (e.g., multiple sclerosis)
- Haematological malignancy diagnosed within the past year
- Kidney disease with eGFR under 30
Hospitals and doctors are contacting their patients with these conditions to inform them of their eligibility and provide details about how to book an appointment. Some people with these medical conditions will be eligible for a shortened dose interval.
Eligible patients will be able to book a vaccination appointment shortly either through their local public health unit or through the province’s booking system.
People with these health conditions may be likely to receive a vaccine at their local hospital.
Adults 50 or above living in hotspot neighbourhoods
The province has identified more than a dozen postal codes that are considered hotspots for COVID-19 transmission. A map of these postal codes released Tuesday shows how they’re concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area.
Adults as young as 50 living in the hotspot communities are eligible to book a vaccination appointment at mass immunization clinics through the province’s booking system right now.
Hotspot residents age 55 or older can also get an AstraZeneca vaccine from a local pharmacy if supply is available.
Pop-up clinics targeting everyone 18 or over
Health units are also working to set up mobile hotspot clinics to vaccinate all adults 18 and up in certain hotspot neighbourhoods and other high-risk settings such as workplaces with a history of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Eligibility will be based on age and postal code and will vary for each pop-up clinic.
Host organizations could be faith centres such as temples or mosques, community groups, or workplaces. Details about the clinics will be available on local public health unit websites, and hosts will also broadcast details to community members.
One pop-up clinic in north Etobicoke hosted by a Hindu temple will begin this week. It’s scheduled to last three weeks and hopes to vaccinate 15,000 individuals.
Teachers and other school staff who live or work in hotspot postal codes in Toronto and Peel are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine as of April 12.
Education workers in hotspots can book their appointment at a mass immunization clinic through the province’s booking system, or through their local public health unit if their region doesn’t use the province’s system.
Education workers who support students with special needs are also eligible for a vaccine starting April 12. These workers should receive a letter from their school board confirming their eligibility.
The province’s hospitals are providing immunization to people who are part of certain groups. For example, Toronto’s University Health Network is registering people in three select hotspot postal codes, first responders, health workers, Indigenous adults, and faith leaders right now.
Pharmacies around the province are administering AstraZeneca shots to people age 55 and up while Health Canada investigates rare reports of blood clots in younger age groups.
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So far 3.3 million doses have been administered in Ontario, and 335,000 residents have been fully vaccinated.
Ontario has the capacity to administer 150,000 doses per day, but due to limited supply, it is currently giving about 97,500 shots per day, according to government data.
Ontarians above the age of 80 are most likely to have been vaccinated, as doses were rolled out by age during Phase 1.
Ontario has seen surging COVID-19 infections in recent days, with nearly 3,700 new infections reported Tuesday. Ontario has now seen 394,679 cases since the pandemic began.