Ontario sends more vaccines to hotspots, promises vaccine access for 18+ by end of May
TORONTO – Ontario will send half of its vaccine supply to hot spots over the next two weeks and hopes to make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by the last week of May thanks to the expected arrival millions of doses.
The acceleration of the vaccination effort was announced on Thursday as the province’s science advisers said case rates were high but declining under a stay-at-home order, although new workplace limits essentials are needed to bring the devastating third wave under control.
The government has been criticized for a slow and bumpy vaccine rollout as cases have skyrocketed, but Health Minister Christine Elliott said a massive influx of doses in the coming weeks would help the province get out of the pandemic.
“The way out of the pandemic is vaccines, and a light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter every day,” she said.
The province will send half of its vaccine supply for the first two weeks of May to 114 postcodes identified as hot spots, an increase from the 25% allocation these areas currently receive.
The move follows a recommendation from the province’s science advisers to allocate injections based on transmission rate rather than age group to reduce hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
The government has announced that it will revert to a per capita vaccine distribution for the week of May 17.
Ontario is also working to reduce vaccine eligibility by age throughout May, saying people 50 and older can reserve vaccines at mass immunization clinics from the month of May. next week.
If the offer continues, the province expects those 18 and older to be eligible for shooting at mass venues across the province during the week of May 24.
In hot spots, the province said those 18 and older will be able to reserve vaccines at mass sites starting Monday. Pop-up clinics in hot spot communities have so far seen long lines of 18 and over hoping to get vaccinated.
Also on Monday, the government announced it would open vaccine eligibility to people with high-risk health conditions, such as obesity, developmental disabilities, and treatments requiring immunosuppression. A group of employees who cannot work from home – including food industry workers and foster family workers – also become eligible.
Dr Peter Juni, scientific director of the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said the government was moving in the right direction but needed to do more for hot spots.
“We just have to be careful not to stop and say after two weeks, ‘OK we did it, and now we can redistribute per capita,'” he said.
He urged the province to be flexible in its schedule for prioritizing hot spots, especially if appointments don’t fill up as quickly as the government anticipates.
The vaccine’s developments were followed Monday by the province’s science advisers who said Ontario must continue its efforts to tackle COVID-19, especially as workplace mobility remains too high.
Dr Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the group, said case rates were stabilizing but pockets of growth remained in hot spots, with high positivity rates in Peel Region and Toronto.
“There are clear reasons to hope, but that hope takes commitment, unwavering determination to get the job done,” Brown said, urging people to make “the third wave the last wave.” “.
Additional limits on essential businesses and a sick leave program that helps workers self-isolate will help limit worker mobility and lower rates further, he said.
The comments came as the province accelerated and passed legislation that gives workers three days of paid sick leave to self-isolate.
Critics said the government program was well short of the 10 to 14 days required to isolate due to COVID-19, and would not help bend the infection curve among essential workers.
When asked if the provincial program would be adequate to meet the most optimistic case projections, Brown said no.
“We modeled strong and effective sick pay as, starting immediately, lasting essentially two weeks of work, so 10 days, and being at a level that allows people not to have to make difficult choices,” he said. -he declares.
Brown said the province’s health care system is under “incredible pressure” as it grapples with record admissions and overcrowded intensive care units.
“Our health system is no longer functioning normally,” he said.
The health ministry said there were 2,248 COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Thursday, including 884 in intensive care and 620 on a ventilator.
The group is also increasingly concerned about the so-called “missing patient,” Brown said, referring to people who are sick but do not come to the hospital for treatment.
The province’s surgical backlog has now reached 257,536 procedures and will be a “huge challenge” to clear, Brown said.
Brown also warned that while cases have started to decline, tough action will likely be needed after the current home support order expires.
“If you want to continue to bring down cases, you have to … probably maintain public health measures,” he said.
Ontario reported 3,871 new cases of COVID-19 and 41 new deaths on Thursday, a figure that brought the total number of deaths from the virus in the province to 8,000.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 29, 2021.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly stated that people aged 50 and over could book photos at mass vaccination clinics starting on Friday.