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Ontario expands COVID-19 vaccination eligibility

Monday, May 10, 2021 @ 2:52 PM | By John Schofield


Ontario is opening eligibility for COVID-19 mRNA vaccines to residents with at-risk health conditions and those turning 40 in 2021 as supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots surge.

According to a May 10 government news release, vulnerable individuals with conditions such as dementia, diabetes and sickle cell disease — as well as front-line workers in the province’s Group Two category who cannot work from home — will be eligible to arrange a vaccination appointment through Ontario’s online booking system starting May 11 at 8 a.m. Group Two workers include grocery store, restaurant and transportation workers.

And starting May 13 at 8 a.m., Ontarians aged 40 and over in 2021 across the province will be allowed to make an appointment at a mass vaccination clinic through the province’s online system or directly through public health units that use their own booking system.

Members of eligible groups may also make an appointment through the provincial vaccine booking line number at 1-833-943-3900.

The province is also expanding use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at pharmacies in hot spot areas for individuals aged 18 and over, the government announced. Almost 80 pharmacies are offering the Pfizer vaccine in Toronto and Peel Region and about 60 are providing the Moderna shot in Durham Region, Ottawa, Hamilton, Windsor-Essex and York Region. The number of pharmacies will increase throughout May, the release noted. A complete list of hot spot postal codes is available here and individuals can find a pharmacy offering vaccines at ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccine.

The increased supply of mRNA vaccines has also prompted the government to shorten the interval between the first and second shot for high-risk health-care workers, dialysis patients and all First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals — adding them to the list of eligible groups that may receive a second dose earlier than the recommended four-month wait time. They are eligible to book their second vaccination starting May 10. Details were provided in a May 10 government backgrounder.

Ontario is also continuing to conduct employer-based and community pop-up vaccination clinics. According to the news release, the province is on track to have administered first doses to 65 per cent of Ontarians aged 18 and over by the end of May.

“As we continue to vaccinate even more Ontarians,” said Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott, “we remain focused on protecting those most at risk, and I want to thank all of our front-line health care workers for their tireless work each day to protect the health and safety of Ontarians.”

As of May 9 at 8 p.m., the government reported, more than 48 per cent of the population aged 18 and over have received at least one dose and over 393,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including 95 per cent of long-term care residents.

Approximately 800,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in Ontario per week at the start of May, ramping up to 940,000 doses per week by the end of May.

But some sources are still reporting snags with the rollout. In a May 7 news release, York South-Weston NDP MPP Faisal Hassan said residents of his riding are frustrated with the lack of vaccine access in their area. At a May 6 virtual town hall, he said, residents spoke of confusing booking systems and long lineups. In some cases, they reported, vaccine supplies ran out and those lining up were sent home.

“Essential workers and community members living in a clear hot spot don’t deserve to be neglected by this government,” he said in the news release. “At least 14 paid sick days and paid time off to get vaccines is essential to protect our high-risk community and slow the spread of COVID-19.”

On May 10, Ontario reported 19 virus-related deaths and 2,716 new cases, the lowest level in about six weeks. But the test positivity rate remained high at nine per cent. Toronto and Peel Region accounted for more than 55 per cent of the new cases, with 807 and 707 respectively. York Region reported 294 cases, Durham Region 168 and Halton public health region 95.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care edged down to 828. The seven-day rolling average of new cases stood at 3,017, down from 3,917 on May 3.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact John Schofield at john.schofield@lexisnexis.ca or call 905-415-5891.