Province hands down further details of long-term vaccination plans, grouping folks by age through the summer

Short on time? Here’s what you need to know:
-As of mid-March, the province will expand beyond phase 1 vaccine recipients (primarily those associated with long-term care) and move on to Ontarians in the 80+ age-range. By mid-April, 75 and over, 70 and over by mid-May, 65 and older by the middle of June
-It is hoped the broader public will have access to the vaccine by September, but that is “vaccine-dependent”
-An online and by-phone booking system will be established by March 15, but only those in the appropriate category will be permitted to book

The man in charge of Ontario’s vaccination rollout says the province’s 34 public health units will soon be able to administer 10,000 vaccines per day. Those 80 and over should be prepared to roll up their sleeves by mid-March. Anyone under age 60 will likely have to wait it out all summer.

Retired General Rick Hillier, the chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, highlighted some of the province’s long-term vaccination plans on Wednesday morning, saying health units will be working with local hospitals, healthcare providers, and pharmacies to administer vaccines to residents in certain age groups over the coming months. He added vaccine distribution will ramp up significantly over the coming weeks and months.

General Rick Hillier (retired) at Wednesday’s media briefing

“Starting the third week of March is 80-year-olds and plus. Starting on the fifteenth of April, it will be 75-years-old and plus. Starting the first of May, it will be 70-year-olds and plus. And starting the first of June, it will be 65-year-olds and plus, and it will go down further from there,” said Hillier during a Wednesday morning media briefing.

The retired General indicated the hope is to have all Ontarians offered a vaccine by September. “Everything is vaccine-dependent,” he added. “I’d love to say ‘yeah, you know, by Labour Day weekend, we’re going to have every single person in Ontario who is eligible, and who wants a vaccine, to have one.’ I’m a little bit reluctant to do that because it depends on the arrival of those vaccines.” Hillier indicated the federal government has guaranteed a steady supply of vaccine shipments from here on out, and taking them at their word, the province expects to supply enough doses to health units to allow 10,000 administered per day. There was no timeline provided at Wednesday’s briefing on when to expect health units to reach that goal.

Hillier says an online booking system will go live as of March 15, as will a bilingual call centre for folks to book their vaccine. But only those in the right age range can be permitted. “Unless you’re 80 years old, or unless you’re acting to get a reservation for somebody who’s 80 years old or more, please do not go online, you will not be permitted to go through the system if you’re not in that age bracket or acting for somebody in that age bracket.”

Simcoe-Muskoka’s first vaccine was administered December 22

Early on in the province’s vaccination distribution plan, it was stated that those with underlying medical conditions would be among those with priority access to the vaccine. When asked when this group of people should expect to learn when they can get the shot, Hillier deferred to Queen’s Park. “There is a breakdown and a matrix of which ones should go first,” said Hillier. “That work is being moved now, through Cabinet Committee, into cabinet, to give their direction back to the task force on when to move it. And so, in these next few days, we would be able to articulate that. I don’t want to do it now because that would be pre-empting the prerogative of cabinet and the Government of Ontario.”

To make sure everyone knows when to expect their shots, Hillier says a massive public information campaign is being introduced. “We will have a flyer go out to households to say when it’s your turn, here’s how you will find out and here’s what you should do, and here’s what you should be prepared for,” concluded Hillier. “You will find out by public announcements from here at this podium, to public service announcements, through the media, through phone calls. And from the public health units themselves who again, utilizing their strengths of knowing the populations in their area of operations, in their region of responsibility, they will reach out to those populations and make sure they know.”

To date, just under 603,000 vaccines doses have been administered. There were 17,141 doses administered before 8 p.m. Tuesday.