Retired General Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force provided more specific timelines for when members of the general population can expect to receive their first dose at a news conference at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.
The first group, residents over the age of 80, can start making appointments on March 15 which is when the province’s online vaccine booking system and call centre will go live. People should book appointments for both doses, he said. However, administration of the vaccine to people above 80 will not begin until the third week of March as there are about 550,000 people in this age group to be vaccinated, he explained.
Over the next few weeks, the focus will be on completing first doses for patient-facing health-care workers most at risk of contracting COVID-19, long-term care home workers and essential caregivers, and residents and workers at retirement homes across Ontario. All long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents in the province have been offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far.
Here’s when adults over the age of 60 years can expect to start being vaccinated:
- March 15 – 80 years and older
- April 15 – 75 years and older
- May 1 – 70 years and older
- June 1 – 65 years and older
- July 1 – 60 and older
How the province proceeds with vaccinating the remaining members of the population will depend on vaccine supply, Hillier told reporters. Timelines could move up or down as a result of how many vaccines Ontario receives.
“The federal government has been saying you can depend on the supply of vaccines now. It is stable and here are the numbers that are coming and more are coming later. Well we are going to take them at their word and starting from here on out, we are not going to be saving them in our freezers, that second needle,” he said.
Hillier said decisions on how to proceed with vaccinating the rest of the province will likely take place in the summer but would not commit to the federal government’s timeline of providing a shot to everyone who wants one by the end of September.
The province is urging those who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine to stay off the online portal when it launches next month. “You will be blocked from going into the system… and in the call centre you will simply be tying up a line that we need to help somebody out who can’t go online who needs that conversation,” Hillier said.
Most vaccines will be administered at mass vaccination sites across Ontario during the initial rollout. While vaccines will be sent to pharmacies in the coming months, the province has no immediate plans to vaccinate people in doctors’ offices, Hillier stated.
“Simply the handling characteristics of both Pfizer and Moderna and the scarcity of them do not permit that to occur,” he said.
He also said flyers will be mailed to people in these age brackets with more detailed instructions.
Local public health units are responsible for administering vaccines so where the shots will be given out depends on where you live.
“The rollout in Toronto will be very different from the roll out in North Bay, Thunder Bay and so on,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday.
Meanwhile the Ford government is being criticised for the slow rollout when compared to provinces like Alberta and Quebec.