The team leading Toronto’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign says it is ready and willing to open immunization clinics across the city as soon as possible, though supply issues have made it hard to say exactly when that process will begin.
The update from the Immunization Task Force (ITF) was delivered during a Monday meeting of Toronto’s Board of Health.
The ITF will oversee the operation of multiple immunization clinics when the province enters the second phase of its mass campaign to inoculate Ontarians against COVID-19, which is tentatively set to begin on April 1.
“We understand that that date remains very fluid, and that is directly tied to the availability of vaccines,” ITF chair and Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg told the board.
Mayor John Tory will join Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and Toronto Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management, Matthew Pegg, are set to provide a briefing on the COVID-19 situation in the city at 2 p.m. You’ll be able to watch that event live in this story.
The second phase of the province’s vaccination plan will be the first time Ontario makes COVID-19 vaccines widely available to the general public. The first phase of the plan, which is now underway, prioritizes the residents of long-term care facilities and frontline health-care workers.
The city plans to open clinics at various locations during this phase, including large public facilities and city-operated properties like community centres.
The clinics will operate until such a time when the vaccine becomes available at places like family doctor’s offices and pharmacies, which is tentatively expected to begin around the end of summer.
City to slow down vaccinations after Pfizer shipment delay
The early stages of the city’s plans were complicated last week after an announcement from Pfizer that it would temporarily reduce its delivery of vaccines to Canada while it upgrades a manufacturing facility.
The delay means Toronto will experience a 20 to 80 per cent decrease in vaccine availability over the next four weeks as the city focuses its efforts on inoculating its highest-risk residents.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said the city will focus on administering second doses of its available vaccines during the delay, rather than offering a first shot to others who are in need.
“While there are limits on vaccine supply, vaccines in those circumstances are being provided and administered where the greatest value can be provided,” she said.
New ‘proof-of-concept’ clinic opens
Meanwhile, the City of Toronto has opened its first COVID-19 immunization clinic on Monday for health-care workers on the front lines.
The early opening of the clinic will help the city fine-tune the operation of its future clinics, “ensuring safety and increasing efficiency in advance of wider immunization,” according to a news release.
The clinic’s aim is to vaccinate 250 people per day, although the delays in obtaining Pfizer-BioNTech doses may delay the daily goal, according to a city news release. As of now, those being vaccinated at the clinic will be receiving the Moderna vaccine, unless requirements to reallocate the doses are made.
The clinic will vaccinate healthcare workers involved in harm reduction and Streets to Homes staff who support the city’s vulnerable populations.
Today, the Toronto sign will be lit up pink to celebrate the opening of the first <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> Immunization Clinic for health care workers. We’re using pink bandaids as the symbol of City’s immunization campaign, which is starting off with the opening of the clinic today. <a href=”https://t.co/dYFMW2bQXb”>pic.twitter.com/dYFMW2bQXb</a>
The clinic’s opening comes as the province reported 2,578 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the fewest number of cases since early January. Toronto alone reported 815 new cases, according to a tweet from Health Minister Christine Elliott. City officials are expected to provide an update to that figure Monday afternoon.
The city’s new clinic will be testing how to set up in a non-hospital setting, while also ensuring safety and efficiency.
Once its been in operation for a few weeks, the city will produce an immunization clinic playbook, in collaboration with provincial and hospital partners, to help establish other immunization clinics across the city and province.
City nearing 75,000 COVID-19 cases
The city’s Board of Health will also discuss a request to the province to expand paid sick leave during the pandemic and any future public health emergencies.
“We are nearing a total of 75,000 cases since the pandemic started. Over 2,200 people have died from this virus — friends, family members, neighbours and loved ones,” Board of Health chair Joe Cressy wrote on Twitter.
He called the COVID-19 situation in the city “dire” and said new cases, hospitalizations, and outbreaks in the city are “moving in the wrong direction.”