Toronto officials hope Ontario’s provincial government allocates more COVID-19 vaccines to the communities hardest hit by the virus.
Mayor John Tory said at a news conference Monday that he hopes the province allocates 50% of its new vaccine doses to hotspot neighbourhoods.
“I think it would be a good thing in terms of the benefits [we could see] and in terms of addressing the problem where it’s most acute,” he said. “And it’s consistent with the science advice we’ve all been receiving.”
Tory signed a recommendation from the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area Mayors and Chairs committee urging the province to make more vaccine doses available to hotspot areas and to reveal details about its paid sick leave program.
Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters at Queen’s Park Monday that the government is considering giving increasing hotspot vaccine allocations to 50% of available doses as recommended by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table on Friday.
“Certainly following the evidence and advice coming from science is the right thing to do,” Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa said Monday.
Ontario’s COVID-19 modelling suggests each vaccine given in a high transmission neighbourhood does more to prevent future infections and deaths compared to a vaccine administered based on age alone.
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Tory said Toronto is continuing to try and get COVID-19 vaccines to the neighbourhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. He pointed to success in the Black Creek neighbourhood within the M3N postal code where vaccination coverage increased from 8% on April 1 to 35% on April 25.
He acknowledged complaints that the patchwork vaccine booking system is difficult to navigate, and explained that the City government doesn’t have authority to change it but is in discussion with the province about lowering the age limit to use the provincial booking system.
He also addressed concerns that people in hotspot neighbourhoods were made to line up for a COVID-19 vaccine instead of being able to make an appointment. Although inconvenient, Tory said this way was the fastest to get vaccines in the arms of local residents.
Right now people age 60 and up, people age 50 and up living in hotspot postal codes, pregnant individuals, education staff living or working in hotspots, and education staff who work with students with special needs are eligible to book an appointment at a city-run clinic.
Pregnant individuals and education staff must call to book, as the online system hasn’t been configured to accept them yet.
Toronto residents who are 40 and up can also get an AstraZeneca shot from a participating pharmacy with available supply. Hospitals and other health organizations are also offering vaccines to certain groups such as people with high priority health conditions and Indigenous adults.