As parts of the GTA start to close their mass vaccination sites, health experts say the switch marks the start of a newer, possibly more challenging phase of the vaccine rollout plan.
"This last mile of vaccine isn't necessarily having mass vaccination available and open," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla.
"It's having community leaders and peer groups being able to reach populations that can't be reached by typical medical providers."
Peel Public Health shifted their vaccine efforts this week, closing two of their mass vaccination sites. The clinic at the International Centre closed on Monday, while another at the University of Toronto Mississauga shut down on Tuesday.
It's all in an effort to divert resources to vaccination strategies that bring the shot to communities with lower vaccine uptake, such as mobile clinics and outreach initiatives.
The move comes as Peel Region surpasses two million vaccine doses administered, with nearly 80 per cent of people aged 12 and over having received their first shot. Fifty-five per cent of adults in Peel Region are fully vaccinated.
'There are still barriers'
But as successful as the mass vaccination sites have been, there are some groups who have nevertheless faced hurdles to getting immunized, including newcomers and those from low-income neighbourhoods.
"There are still barriers," Chagla said. "There is educational barriers, there's language barriers, there's mobility barriers, there is disability barriers."
"It's people that may not have the supports to deal with a day or two of side effects from the vaccines and again, providing them education and even resources to deal with that or a way to access some leave off work."
Chagla says the strategy needs to adapt to the places that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and have lower vaccination rates, taking the lead from community members with a more targeted approach.
"This is a good model for the rest of us, learning from this strategy and how to apply it into the local public health context," Chagla said.
"I think we're going to see this more and more across the board."
Toronto has yet to follow suit but is expected to provide a COVID-19 update Wednesday morning.
Community groups already making push for outreach
Meanwhile, community groups in the city, have already started taking up the work.
WoodGreen Community Services has been running door-knocking campaigns to get doses into arms in communities that have trouble accessing their first or second shots.
"One of the benefits of knocking on doors is starting that person to person conversation," said Nadjib Alamyar, the manager for newcomer wellness.
"You knock on the door, you ask the individual, 'Have you been vaccinated? Would you like to get vaccinated?'"
The organization recruits local ambassadors, which include neighbours and individuals who live in the same building, to start the conversation with other residents.
Alamyar says they've seen a lot of success administering shots to those who otherwise would not of gotten one at a mass vaccination site.
"That has really motivated us and encouraged us to go door-to-door over and over again, making sure that we don't leave our community members and residents behind," he said.
Chagla say community-based strategies, not mass vaccination sites, is what will be effective going forward into the homestretch of the vaccine rollout.
"Is this the end of mass vaccination? Probably not. But I think it's probably the end of it for now."