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Province aims to administer 8.5 million COVID-19 vaccinations by the end of July 2021

(Metro Creative image)

TORONTO — The Ontario government hopes to administer 8.5 million vaccinations by the end of phase two of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Details of phase two were provided by government officials on Jan. 13.

Officials say that the province has “mapped out the next steps for transitioning” into phase two and has adopted an approach to identify the next grounds to receive vaccination as early as March 2021.

The government has also expanded the list of health care providers who can administer the COVID-19 vaccine to try and vaccinate as many people as possible. Additional vaccination sites will include municipally run sites, hospitals, mobile vaccination sites, pharmacies, clinics, primary care settings and community locations such as health centres and aboriginal health access centres.

“This will help meet the unprecedented demand in the number of people who will be getting vaccinated. It will also increase access to the vaccine for all Ontarians, whether they reside in a remote fly-in community or a large urban centre,” states a government press release.

The province is encouraging health care professionals who are able to administer the vaccine to register and apply to do so through Ontario’s Matching Portal. Those eligible to administer the vaccine include nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered practical nurses, along with pharmacists, pharmacy students, interns and pharmacy technicians.

Groups eligible to receive the vaccine in phase two will include:

  • older adults, beginning with those 80 years of age and older and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout;
  • individuals living and working in high-risk congregate settings;
  • frontline essential workers (e.g., first responders, teachers, food processing industry); and
  • individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers.

The province expects this phase to be completed by July 2021.

Phase one, which is currently underway is focused on vaccinating residents, staff and essential caregivers of long-term care homes. The goal of this phase to is have all first doses of the vaccine administered by Feb. 15. Vaccination of long-term care home staff and residents in the four “hot spot” areas – Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex – is expected to be completed by Jan. 21.

The Ontario government says phase three, which is when the general public can begin to receive the vaccine, could begin as early as August 2021, pending on availability of vaccines.

“We are prepared for the next phase in our vaccine distribution plan, but with limited supplies, our focus will be on vaccinating our seniors and frontline essential workers,” said Christine Elliott, minister of health.

“When Ontario receives sufficient doses of vaccines, we will ensure that every person who wants to be vaccinated will receive it. Until then, everyone must continue to follow the public health guidelines and stay home, stay safe and save lives.”

As of Jan. 13, over 144,000 doses of the vaccines have been administered at 196 locations across the province.