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Government says Ontario is ready to roll out phase two of COVID-19 vaccination plan

Phase two will focus on older adults, those at risk of serious illness, hot spot areas

TORONTO — The Ontario government says they are ready to move into phase two of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan next month.

The second phase of the plan will focus on vaccinating populations based on age and risk.

“Vaccines will be administered in hospital clinics, primary care settings, mass vaccination sites, mobile clinics and pharmacies across the province by dedicated, caring and compassionate frontline health care heroes,” said Premier Doug Ford in a press release.

The province anticipates up to nine million Ontarians will be vaccinated between April and July now that the vaccine supply has stabilized. More than two million doses are expected from the federal government before the end of March.

During phase two, the following groups will receive the vaccine:

  • older adults between 60-79 years of age;
  • individuals with specific health conditions and some primary caregivers;
  • people who live and work in congregate settings and some primary caregivers;
  • people who live in hot spots with high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission; and,
  • certain workers who cannot work from home.

As of March 4, the province says 820,000 doses have been administered and more than 269,000 Ontarians are fully immunized. More than 95 per cent of long-term care residents are fully immunized and public health units continue to work with homes to vaccinate staff and special caregivers.

“By focusing early vaccination efforts on long-term care residents, combined with public health measures, Ontario has notably rapidly reduced infections and the daily death rates in long-term care homes,” states a March 5 press release from the province.

Ontario’s online booking system and a provincial customer service desk to answer questions and support appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics will launch on March 15. This will initially support individuals over the age of 80 as part of phase one, eventually extending to more groups during phase two.

The province anticipates that the majority of public health units such as Huron Perth Public Health, who have set up their own booking systems to vaccinate those over 80, will transition to the provincial system after it has launched.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended extending the vaccination dose interval up to four months for all Health Canada approved COVID-19 vaccines. NACI says this will maintain a strong and sustained level of protection from the virus. The Ontario government has accepted this recommendation and will begin to follow it beginning March 10, with some limited exceptions.

“This news, along with the approval of new vaccines, will help us to reforecast and maximize the number of people receiving a first dose in a shorter timeframe, pending supply from the federal government,” states a press release.

Ontario will enter Phase Three when vaccines are available for every Ontarian who wishes to be immunized. While vaccines will not be mandated during phase three, the government is “strongly encouraging” everyone to get vaccinated.