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Ontario has altered vaccination appointment requirements through its online booking system to allow individuals aged 75 and over to book appointments as of this week. The provincial government has also begun offering vaccine appointments to individuals aged 60 and over through a number of participating pharmacies.
The province began vaccinating all Ontario residents aged 80 and over in February. Since then, the government has launched an online booking tool and a call centre to support appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics across Ontario. To date, more than 230,000 appointments have been scheduled for first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline health care heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford in a statement. “All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the federal government to ensure anyone who wants one, gets one as soon as possible.”
As of the writing of this article, over one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the province, including about 120,000 doses administered to long-term care home residents. More than 290,000 residents of Ontario are fully immunized, including around 60,000 long-term-care home residents.
Last week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) expanded its recommendation for the use of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine to include individuals aged 18 years and older.
In alignment with this recommendation and an expected increase in supply of COVID-19 vaccines over the next few weeks, individuals aged 75 are now able to book vaccines through the provincial online booking portal. Additionally, participating pharmacies and primary care settings will now begin offering vaccination appointments to individuals aged 60 and over. Eligible residents are able to contact any participating pharmacy directly to make an appointment.
Following this announcement, the Ontario government indicated that another 350 pharmacies are expected to be brought on board across the province in the next two weeks, bringing the total to approximately 700 locations. It is expected that this number will again be doubled to approximately 1,400 by the end of April. Depending on vaccine supply, retail pharmacies could administer up to 40 per cent of all vaccinations by that time.
Ontario received limited allocations of the Moderna and AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccines this month, with 483,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine split over three weeks and 194,500 doses of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine received the week of March 8. The province’s exact allocations and delivery timing for the Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines after March are pending confirmation from the federal government and are not currently known.
“Ontario’s vaccine distribution plan is now well underway,” said Rick Hillier, Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force. “We are grateful to the army of diverse teams — the health care practitioners, IT specialists, data analysts, the dedicated individuals working in logistics and many others — for their outstanding service and commitment to put the needed processes in place to make this happen.”
The province continues to expect a high volume of traffic on its online booking system, as most individuals are eager to receive their vaccine. Those who are not yet eligible for a vaccine are encouraged to avoid accessing the booking system or calling the service desk to allow those that are eligible the opportunity to book an appointment.
Individuals aged 75 or older can schedule a vaccine appointment by visiting www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine, or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Information Line number at 1-888-999-6488. Eligible adults aged 60 and over who are interested in booking an appointment for the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine can visit www.ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccine to find a participating pharmacy.