Ontario wants 65% of adults vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of May

Ontario is aiming to have 65 per cent of adults vaccinated with their first shot against COVID-19 by the end of May by boosting the number of pharmacies with vaccine and sending mobile clinics to small employers in GTA hot zones.

The new goal means almost 7.9 million Ontarians aged 18 and older would have jabs before June, a month that will see the province flooded with 940,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines each week, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday.

Another 1,000 pharmacies are being added to the vaccination program by week’s end, bringing the total to about 2,500, although it is not clear when they will get supplies.

Doses of the Moderna vaccine are going into 60 hot-spot pharmacies in York and Durham regions, Hamilton, Ottawa and Windsor-Essex.

“Further expansion of vaccines in pharmacies will continue throughout the month,” Elliott told a briefing on the updated plan.

It includes five mobile clinics hitting the road on Friday to vaccinate workers at small- and medium-sized businesses in Toronto, Peel and York where staff cannot work from home and which have “a history of outbreaks,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, whose ministry oversees the vaccination effort.

The number of mobile teams will increase to 15 in the coming weeks, providing “an easy and seamless process for workers to be vaccinated as quickly as possible in priority hot spots,” Jones added.

The companies will be selected by local health units. The mobile teams are in addition to employer clinics at more than 10 companies including Amazon, the Ontario Food Terminal — which has seen outbreaks — Purolator and Air Canada, with more companies in negotiations to host clinics.

While the province has decided to put 50 per cent of new vaccine shipments into Toronto and Peel hot spots this week and next — which the science table advising Premier Doug Ford said should be sufficient to tamp down infection rates — Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is pushing to have that extra supply extended for Peel Region.

“The rest of the province can’t get back to normal unless we address the crisis here in Peel,” she told a news conference Wednesday.

“Two weeks is not adequate,” she added. “We are home to the essential workers.”

To that end, Peel medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh said every resident 18 and older can begin booking vaccination appointments Thursday morning — and not just those who live in designated hot-spot postal codes. He added that 14 per cent of people in Peel being tested for COVID-19 have the virus.

Also Thursday, anyone in the province who is 50 or older can begin booking shots, along with people who have the highest risk medical conditions such as suppressed immune systems, and anyone who can’t work from home, including those who work in schools, food manufacturing and distribution, police and firefighters.

Elliott said it’s hoped that, with Pfizer vaccines cleared by the federal government for anyone 12 and over, that both teachers and students of the appropriate age can be fully vaccinated before schools resume classes in September.

For others, a second dose strategy is still in the works, including those who got first doses of AstraZeneca, which is now in short supply with no details on further shipments. They may end up getting a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, officials said.

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To date, more than 5.5 million Ontarians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The age range for booking shots will continue to drop throughout May, reaching those 18 and older the week of May 24, although it is likely they will not get appointments until June.

TORONTO STAR