Stricter measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its variants may be on the way, as Premier Doug Ford announced Tuesday the province is moving into Phase 2 of the vaccine distribution plan.
The situation is changing day by day, hour by hour, said Ford, and he will never hesitate to do what’s needed to protect the people of Ontario.
“I think we made a massive move last week by shutting down the entire province, thousands and thousands of businesses, that I hated doing, but we’re going to have further restrictions moving forward very quickly,” Ford said. “We will discuss this tomorrow.”
Ford expressed his disappointment in the abundance of Ontarians who did not follow Public Health protocols in a provincewide shutdown over the Easter weekend, saying parking lots at malls were jam packed.
The province is also working on a plan for teachers. Ontario is working with school boards and the ministers of education and health. More information on that will be coming, Ford said.
Phase 2 is focused on age and at-risk populations to prevent further death, hospitalization and transmission. To support this, Ontario is increasing vaccine allocations to COVID-19 "hot spot" communities across 13 public health units, targeting historic and ongoing areas with high rates of death, hospitalization and transmission. The province is supporting regions to vaccinate individuals aged 50 and over by postal code in these COVID-19 hot spot zones.
In addition, this phase will prioritize individuals with the highest-risk health conditions in April. Starting as early as 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; and
- 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.
On March 15, Ontario launched its provincial booking system and call centre to support COVID-19 vaccination appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics. The system has already supported the immunization of other groups identified in Phase 2, including individuals aged 70 and over, with many public health units using the provincial booking system to offer appointments to individuals aged 60 and over beginning on April 7, 2021 at 8:00 a.m.
Other groups that will become eligible to receive vaccines as part of Phase 2 of the Ontario immunization program include:
- People who live and work in congregate settings and some primary caregivers; and,
- Certain workers who cannot work from home (e.g., elementary / secondary school staff, food manufacturing workers, high-risk and critical retail workers, and more).
Ontario continues to work with public health units to offer vaccines to remaining Phase 1 populations.
To date, there have been in excess of 1.4 million appointments booked already, however, there are more than 1 million people who are eligible for a vaccine.
For residents 80 years of age and up, there are more than 88,000 who have not booked an appointment.
For residents 75-79, there are 108,000 who have not booked an appointment.
For residents 70-74, there are 279,000 residents who have not booked an appointment.
For residents 65-69, there are 618,000 who have not booked an appointment.
With a steady supply of the COVID-19 vaccine expected from the federal government, over 9 million Ontarians will be offered their first vaccination between April and end of June 2021.
“This is the largest mass vaccination campaign in the province’s history, with 9 million more doses expected to be delivered by the end of June,” said Ford. “If we all stay the course, keep following the public health guidelines, and get a vaccine when your turn comes, there will be a brighter summer ahead for all of us.”