Massive flu immunization program launched as Ontario preps for second wave of COVID-19

The province has purchased 5.1 million vaccine doses

The Ontario government is launching a massive flu immunization campaign as part of the province’s fall preparedness plan to help grapple with a possible second wave of COVID-19.

The government said this is the first of six pillars that will be rolled out over the next several days.

The strategy comes as the province reported 478 new infections on Tuesday, with Toronto, Peel and Ottawa the main flash points.

Ontario is going to spend $70 million to purchase 5.1 million flu vaccine doses, which is 700,000 more than what was used last year. This includes 1.3 million high-dose vaccine doses for Ontario seniors, especially those with pre-existing health conditions.

Premier Doug Ford urged residents to get the flu shot and prevent overwhelming hospital emergency rooms.

“The flu shot helps reduce visits to our emergency rooms and doctor’s offices during this season. This will help with keeping capacity in our healthcare system.”

Doses will be prioritized with early distribution to people in long-term care homes, hospitals and retirement homes. The government expects those doses to arrive next week, then the province will move on with the general population, probably a week after that.

The vaccine will also be available at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and at public health units.

For the first time, seniors will be able to access high-dose flu vaccines at participating pharmacies.

“We’ve been working through the summer to put in place a robust and comprehensive plan to tackle a potential, more challenging second wave of COVID-19,” said Premier Ford. “It’s important that we prepare for any scenario in order to protect all of our citizens, especially our seniors and most vulnerable. Our government is doing everything it can to defeat this deadly virus, including delivering an unprecedented flu shot campaign to maintain capacity in our hospitals.” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

The Keeping Ontarians Safe plan will:

  • Maintain strong public health measures, including continued expansion of testing and case and contact management;
  • Quickly identify, manage and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks;
  • Accelerate efforts to reduce health service backlogs;
  • Prepare for surges in COVID-19 cases;
  • Recruit, retain, train and support health care workers, while also continuing to engage families and caregivers; and
  • Implement the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history.