The City of Toronto has formed a COVID-19 Immunization Task Force as part of its pandemic response and recovery efforts.
In a release, the city said the task force will ensure that it is ready to play its role in helping Toronto’s three million people get vaccinated.
While it is not yet clear when a safe and effective vaccine will be available, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said she is “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine will be available in the first quarter of 2021.
“The work of the COVID-19 Immunization Task Force is mission-critical. I know how many changes and sacrifices the great people of Toronto have made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mayor John Tory. “While we don’t know when a vaccine will be ready, I want you to know that we are not waiting idly by.”
The task force will be led by Chief Matthew Pegg, the City’s COVID-19 Incident Commander, and will include staff from Toronto Public Health, Toronto Fire, Toronto Paramedics Service, and the Emergency Operations Centre.
Together, the task force will create a comprehensive plan that will ensure that the city is ready once a safe and effective vaccine is available for Toronto residents, the release said.
“This team is already hard a work and preparing for what will be a massive planning and logistics operations – possibly the most complex one in Toronto’s history,” said Pegg.
The federal and provincial governments will also play essential roles in ensuring the success of the task force.
While the Government of Canada is responsible for procuring and approving vaccines for use in the country, Ontario oversees the overall immunization strategy, which the release says could take a phased approach.
The province will also determine high-prioritization populations, as well as the distribution of the vaccine to public health units, doctors, and pharmacies.
Once guidance from the province is received, the city’s role will be to lead implementation at the local level, according to the release.
This could range from designating and distributing allotted vaccine doses, working with medical practitioners, and administering vaccines through clinics.
According to the release, the city and Toronto Public Health have gained experience in running such a task force from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, TPH’s yearly flu vaccination clinics, and a full-scale emergency mass immunization exercise conducted in 2016.
“This work provides us with comfort and a sense of hope that one day – hopefully sooner than later – we can say that together, we beat COVID-19 in Toronto,” said Tory.