Ontario to focus on vaccinating at-risk populations and hot spot zones

Ontario announced that it is moving into Phase Two of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, with a focus on reaching individuals in “hot spot” communities where COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted certain neighbourhoods. In addition, this phase will prioritize individuals with the highest-risk health conditions in April 2021.

The province says it is increasing vaccine allocations to COVID-19 “hot spot” communities across 13 public health units including Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, Ottawa, Peel, Simcoe-Muskoka, Southwestern, Toronto, Waterloo, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, Windsor-Essex, and York Region. Eligibility for individuals aged 50 and over in hot spot areas will be determined by postal code, officials said. All available vaccine delivery channels will be used including pharmacies, mass vaccination clinics, and mobile teams.

In addition, starting Tuesday, April 6 individuals with the following highest-risk health conditions will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in Ontario:

  • Organ transplant recipients
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients
  • People with neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised (e.g., motor neuron disease, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis)
  • Haematological malignancy diagnosed less than one year ago
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Kidney disease eGFR< 30
  • Essential caregivers for individuals in the groups listed above

Patients with the specific health conditions listed above, as well as their essential caregiver will be identified for vaccination due to an increased risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, regardless of age. The province is expecting to reach the majority of this group through hospital clinics by the end of April 2021.

Patients in the highest-risk clinical groups will be contacted by their health care providers to set up an appointment for a vaccination. The Ministry of Health is working with Ontario Health, as well as networks like the Ontario Renal Network and other clinical organizations and vaccination partners, to identify and vaccinate these patients and their caregivers as soon as possible.

Other groups that will become eligible to receive vaccines as part of Phase Two of the Ontario immunization program include:

  • Individuals with specific health conditions which make them at high-risk or at-risk, as well as some primary caregivers
  • People who live and work in congregate settings and some primary caregivers
  • Certain workers who cannot work from home (e.g., elementary/secondary school staff, food manufacturing workers, high-risk and critical retail workers, and more)

On March 15, Ontario launched its provincial booking system and call centre to support COVID-19 vaccination appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics. Public health units that are currently not on the provincial booking system and wish to use the system will continue to be onboarded throughout the month, the province said.



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