Ontario is set to receive 90,000 COVID-19 vaccines in hotspots this December, with the first doses being administered early next week.
On Friday, Premier Doug Ford and General Rick Hillier (retired), Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force announced the rollout plans for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Phase One will begin on Tuesday, December 15, with a pilot project in Toronto with the University Health Network, and Ottawa with The Ottawa Hospital, which will include the vaccination of over 2,500 health care workers.
“We are ready to receive these vaccines as soon as they become available thanks to the excellent work of our health care officials and General Hillier and the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force,” said Ford.
“We have one of the most robust and comprehensive plans in the country, and I am confident that all the necessary security measures and the advanced logistics systems are in place. The progress we are making is a welcome sign, but we must continue to be vigilant and follow the public health guidelines until vaccines are widely available.”
Hillier said that the pilot will inform the province’s preparedness plan to receive larger vaccine quantities as it moves forward, providing the opportunity to test the logistics of delivery, reconstitution of the vaccine, clinic management, and post-vaccine surveillance.
The pilot also affords the opportunity to learn from the experiences of those being immunized so lessons learned can be shared with sites that will receive the vaccine in the coming weeks and months, he said.
According to the province, the two locations were selected for the pilot because this will test the travel logistics in two different regions of the province. In addition, these sites already have the equipment necessary to store the Pfizer vaccine at -70 degrees and the trained staff to handle the vaccine.
“Since this vaccine cannot be transferred beyond the initial delivery location at this time, vaccinations will be administered to health care workers in high-risk areas such as long-term care and critical care units in the Toronto and Ottawa regions,” the province said.
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Phase One will continue with the following key milestones:
- Based on per capita allocations, an expected 90,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses received from the federal government will be delivered to up to 14 hospital sites in Grey-Lockdown and Red-Control zones in December, to vaccinate health care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate settings caring for seniors.
- Deliveries of an expected 35,000 to 85,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, once approved, will enable vaccinations to be expanded to long-term care homes in the Grey-Lockdown areas.
- In early 2021, expansion of additional hospital sites providing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Grey-Lockdown and Red-Control zones, with continued vaccination provided to health care workers and, with the appropriate safety protocols, to long-term care home and retirement home residents.
- It is anticipated that by end of January, over 20 hospitals across the province will be administering the Pfizer vaccine.
- An expansion of the number of locations to administer the Moderna vaccine would include long-term care homes, retirement homes, public health units, other congregate care settings for seniors, and remote Indigenous communities.
When an increased stockpile of vaccines becomes available to Ontario, the province will shift to Phase Two of its vaccination plan, which is expected to begin later in the winter of 2021.
During Phase Two, vaccinations will be administered to healthcare workers, as well as to residents in long-term care homes and retirement homes, to home care patients with chronic conditions and to additional First Nation communities and urban Indigenous populations, including Métis and Inuit individuals.
Ontario will enter Phase Three when vaccines are available for every Ontarian who wishes to be immunized.
The province notes that while vaccines will not be mandated, during Phase Three, people will be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.