Toronto has added five new hot spot postal codes to be targeted with mobile and pop-up vaccine clinics, as other hot spots surpass the milestone of having more than 50 per cent of adults receive at least their first dose.
The new hot spot postal codes are in Scarborough (M1E, M1K and M1R) and the city's downtown east (M4X and M5A), where Toronto Public Health estimates close to 95,000 adults remain unvaccinated. All residents over the age of 18 will now be able to get a first dose in these areas.
These additions bring the total number of neighbourhoods in the city's "sprint strategy" to 22, it said in a news release Thursday. However, the province will stop allocating 50 per cent of doses to hot spots beginning next week, despite city officials' requests for the program to continue until at least June.
The sprint strategy was designed to get residents vaccinated faster in communities with high COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates but low vaccination levels, the city said. Each week in many hot spots, vaccination coverage increased more than seven percentage points.
Starting today, residents aged 40 and over can book their vaccine appointment at a city-run clinic through the online provincial booking system. Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 will be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine beginning May 31, the province announced Thursday.
Toronto has administered almost 1.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far.
Residents will be contacted for 2nd dose
When it comes to how residents get their second dose of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming months, it all depends on how they got their first.
Those who booked through the provincial system were required to also book their second appointment within the four month window recommended by Canada's vaccine panel.
For residents who got their first dose at a pop-up or mobile clinic, Toronto Public Health said it is currently working on a plan with health-care partners that organized those clinics to ensure second doses are administered on time.
"You can rest assured that our health-care partners are committed to making sure that all of those who received the first dose are offered that opportunity and facilitated," said Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen on Wednesday.
She said when residents get their first dose, their information is registered into the provincial CoVax database, which will be used by the clinics to contact residents for their next dose.
North York General Hospital said it is already doing this for frontline health-care workers who now qualify for an early second dose.
Michael Garron Hospital said it will contact residents who visited one of its pop-up or mobile clinics about 12 weeks after receiving their first dose.
Canada's largest pharmacy operators, Loblaw, Rexall and Shoppers Drug Mart, say they'll notify patients at a later date when to book their second dose. For people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine, it remains unclear what their second dose will look like as research is still being conducted on the safety of mixing vaccines.
Stay-at-home order extended
Premier Doug Ford's extension of the provincial stay-at-home order to at least June 2 was welcome news to Mayor John Tory.
"Public health officials at the province and at the city have been clear that we are making progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and that we need to stay the course right now," Tory said in a statement.
Ford also committed to reopening all recreation facilities currently closed under the provincial order by June 2, as long as COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop. The city has been calling for outdoor amenities to be kept open during the lockdown, along with Ontario's science advisory table.
"I know we all hope that by June 2 we will see drastically reduced case counts, improved hospitalization numbers, tremendous additional progress on vaccinations, and that we will absolutely be able to reopen the closed recreation amenities," Tory said.