The province says it is running ahead of schedule on its vaccination program.
Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday morning that over 50 per cent of Ontario residents aged 80 and above have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and thus, the province is expanding access. As of Monday, March 22, Ontarians aged 75 or up will be able to book an appointment for a vaccine through the online booking system or by phone at 1-888-999-6488.
It was originally anticipated this age group would have to wait until mid-April to roll up its sleeves.
“Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline health care heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined,” said Premier Ford on Friday. “All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the Federal government to ensure anyone who wants one, gets one as soon as possible so we can all stay safe.”
Also effective March 22, participating primary care settings will offer vaccination appointments to individuals 60 and over. Primary care providers are directly contacting eligible patients to book an appointment. It is anticipated the province will allow more pharmacy locations across Ontario to provide vaccination within the next two weeks. Currently, only pharmacies in Toronto, Windsor-Essex County, and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington provide vaccination clinics as part of a pilot project.
While there were glitches, delays, and frustration reported on Day One of the online and telephone booking system on March 15, retired General Rick Hillier, the person tasked with leading vaccine distribution, said everything has been addressed. “We had a surge of calls and there was a wait time in the first half of the day. But by afternoon on Monday, the wait time was down to just minutes. And on Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday, the wait time was down to seconds,” Hillier said during Friday’s media briefing. “And in some cases, with no wait time whatsoever, you phoned and somebody answered the phone and help look after you,” Hillier added the online portal, while glitchy on day one, has since allowed more than 300,000 vaccination appointments to be made.
So far this week, the province has averaged more than 50,000 doses administered a day.