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Province announces expansion of vaccine delivery channels

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

As vaccine supply increases, the Ontario government is expanding the delivery channels available to administer COVID-19 vaccines to include pharmacies and primary care settings. The KFL&A region is among the first to offer the vaccine at local pharmacies.

As of Friday, Mar. 12, 2021 over 325 pharmacies will be offering the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine to eligible Ontarians aged 60-64, by appointment only, as part of the vaccine delivery pilot program in specific regions, according to a release from the Ontario government, dated Wednesday, Mar. 10, 2021.

Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and General Rick Hillier (retired), Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.

“We are about to achieve a major milestone in our battle against COVID-19, by the end of the day we expect to reach the one million mark for doses administered and continue to lead the country in vaccinations completed,” said Premier Ford. “But we are just ramping up and mobilizing even more members of Team Ontario in our pharmacies and primary care settings. We have a plan to get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible in order to keep people safe and we will do that as long as we have a steady supply from the federal government.”

With the arrival of 194,500 doses of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, select pharmacies will begin booking appointments starting today, Wednesday, Mar. 10, 2021, in three public health unit regions: Toronto, Windsor-Essex, and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, according to the release. The vaccine rollout will be expanded to more pharmacies in other regions of the province as supply increases. 

All vaccinations available through pharmacies will require an appointment to be made in advance. Eligible adults aged 60-64 (as defined by year of birth between 1957-1961), who are interested in booking an appointment, can visit ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccine to find a participating pharmacy and can contact the pharmacy to make an appointment.

“Today’s announcement further underlines our commitment to make vaccines available to Ontarians as quickly and efficiently as possible,” noted Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Opening up new channels to deliver the vaccine, through trusted health care partners like pharmacies and primary care providers, will enable us to reach even more people and we appreciate the effort to help make this happen.”

To ramp up capacity for vaccination, the province says they are working with primary care professionals to offer vaccinations in primary care settings and community locations, such as physician offices, in collaboration with public health units. This initiative will  begin in Hamilton, Toronto, Guelph, Peterborough, Simcoe-Muskoka, and Peel as of Saturday, Mar. 13, 2021. Primary care providers will not be taking appointments by request but will be contacting eligible Ontarians aged 60-64 directly to book an appointment starting today, Wednesday, Mar. 10, 2021. They will only be offering the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine at this time.

“Ontario’s vaccine rollout is a true team effort and we are thankful for the support of our dedicated frontline health care providers in as we advance through each phase,” said Minister Elliott. “Together we are continuing to build capacity to ensure every Ontarian who wants a vaccine can get one as quickly and safely as possible.”

The Ontario government is preparing to move into Phase Two of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan next month, with a focus on vaccinating populations based on age and risk. Vaccinations continue to be offered to eligible populations at hospitals, mobile clinics and mass immunization clinics. Mass immunization clinics are a significant delivery channel to administer Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The province says over 120 mass immunization clinics are planned to open this month across Ontario in addition to sites already open, increasing the province’s vaccine administration capacity to over 150,000 doses per day, dependent on supply.

“Rolling out the pilot with pharmacy and primary care providers will enable us to prepare and refine our mass vaccine distribution plan for the months ahead,” said General (Ret’d) Rick Hillier. “This a significant step in our progress to make vaccines available to all Ontarians. As we enter Phase Two, we are ready and well positioned with our public health partners to open mass vaccination sites and increase our capacity as more and more vaccines arrive each week.”

The province says Phase One of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is nearing completion, with nearly one million doses administered and over 279,000 Ontarians fully immunized. Approximately 88 per cent of long-term care residents are fully immunized and public health units continue to prioritize vaccinating staff and essential caregivers. According to the release, the province will launch an online booking system and a provincial customer service desk on Monday, Mar. 15, 2021. These supports will help to answer questions and book appointments at mass immunization clinics, starting with those over the age of 80.

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