Essential employees who can’t work from home could get a shot by mid-May as part of phase two of vaccine rollout

Those 60 and older will also soon be able to book a shot anywhere in Ontario

Those who cannot work from home will be among the groups offered a COVID-19 vaccine in Phase Two of the province’s inoculation plan now underway and could be offered a shot ahead of schedule.

On Tuesday, the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force handed down an updated timetable of who will be given access to the vaccine in the latest phase, running until the end of June. Phase Two will not only include essential workers who cannot work remotely, but also those aged 60-79 in decreasing five-year increments. Those with high- or at-risk medical conditions will also be prioritized in this phase, as will those living in congregate settings like shelters or group homes.

When first announced in early March, Phase Two forecasted essential workers rolling up their sleeves by the beginning of June. Queen’s Park now expects many to have already had their shot by then.

Phase Two also calls for more focus on hot zone areas, with increased vaccine allocation to these locations based on postal code. In Simcoe County, that means more vaccines going to those who live in the area with a postal code starting with L3Z.

PROVINCE BUMPING UP VACCINATION TIMETABLE, ESSENTIAL WORKERS INCLUDED IN PHASE 2

“As we continue our fight against COVID-19, it is critical that we continue to ramp up capacity to protect our vulnerable populations and those with the highest-risk health conditions,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “While we have recently implemented a provincewide emergency brake to protect Ontarians and limit transmission, vaccines remain our best defense against COVID-19 and the variants. With more supply expected to arrive, we encourage everyone to sign up when it’s their turn.”

The province is expected to make vaccines available to essential workers who cannot work from home in the following occupations by the middle of May:

  • Elementary and secondary school staff
  • Police, fire, compliance, funeral, special constables and other workers responding to critical events
  • Childcare and licenced foster care workers
  • Food manufacturing workers
  • Agriculture and farm workers
  • High-risk and critical retail workers in grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Remaining manufacturing labourers
  • Social workers, including youth justice
  • Courts and justice system workers, including probation and parole
  • Lower-risk retail workers (wholesalers, general goods)
  • Transportation, warehousing and distribution
  • Energy, telecom (data and voice), water and wastewater management
  • Financial services
  • Waste management
  • Mining, oil and gas workers

While the plan does stipulate education workers will have access to the shot by the middle of next month, teachers’ unions are calling on the Ford Government to get teachers vaccinated by the end of next week’s postponed Spring Break.

The leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, Steven Del Duca, issued a statement, making a similar call to action. “Today I am calling on Doug Ford to use the upcoming April Break to vaccinate all education workers who would like to receive one, so that our schools stay open permanently,” said Del Duca. “School closures have caused nonstop chaos for students since last March, but this is entirely preventable by vaccinating education workers.”

Health Minister Elliott points out doing so would mean others would have to go without. “That then means you’re also taking supplies away for some of the seniors too. So, you need to be fair, you need to continue to follow the plan based on age plus risk, and that’s what we’re constantly assessing.”

The province’s seven-day rolling average of doses in arms is 73,442 vaccines administered per day. The province says, split among Ontario’s 34 public health units, projected supply could support 300 vaccination sites across Ontario by the end of April. The target is to reach 100,000 doses administered per day before the end of the month. The rate of vaccination does heavily depend on continued supply.

Between now and May 24, the province is expecting 3,181,230 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. There are 751,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine expected by the end of the week of April 19, while just 122,900 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were expected this week. There are no further forecasted shipments of these or the Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

To date, over 2.6 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered through Phase One of the provincial plan. Approximately 85 per cent of those 80 and above have received at least one dose. Of those in the 75-79 age group, about 68 per cent have gotten their first shot, while some 42 per cent of folks aged 70 to 74 have rolled up their sleeves for it.

About 92 per cent of long-term care home residents in Ontario have been fully immunized, while about 80 per cent of long-term care staff have gotten at least their first dose.

Phase Three of the province’s vaccination plan would see those 16 years of age or older offered a vaccine. It is expected this will commence in July.