The city of Toronto is hoping to set a North America record on Sunday when it plans to vaccinate about 25,000 people against COVID-19 in one day at Scotiabank Arena.
Officials have turned the sports arena into a vaccination clinic after more than a week of planning. The arena, located on Bay Street, is the home of the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.
A total of 25,000 people have booked appointments, an average of 1,785 vaccines can be administered per hour, a total of 800 volunteers have been recruited to lend a hand and 400 vaccinators are available to give the doses.
According to the city, 17,003 doses were administered at a drive-thru clinic at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in April. The city wants to beat that record.
Mayor John Tory said "Our Winning Shot" clinic has been a major undertaking. He has proclaimed Sunday, June 27 as Toronto Vaccine Day.
"We're here on the floor of the Scotiabank Arena, which is a place, I think, that is near and dear to the hearts of many people in Toronto and across the country," Tory told reporters on Saturday.
"Of course, we're used to seeing our beloved Raptors and Leafs play here. But on Sunday, it's going to be the home of something equally special and equally important to the well-being and happiness of the city," Tory said.
"I say happiness because there's just no question, as we get people vaccinated, it's going to lead us closer and closer to the day when we can fully reopen the city and get back to a more normal life, whatever normal means in the post-pandemic environment."
The mayor said he will get his second shot at the clinic at about 7:30 p.m. He is expected to get a Moderna shot for his second dose after getting AstraZeneca for his first dose. The doors open at 7 a.m.
Tory said the event is being organized to send the message that residents need to get vaccinated in the interests of public health. More than 75 per cent of Toronto residents have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 35 per cent have had their second dose. He said the event will be special.
"It will show that, when we work together in this city, we can get amazing things done," Tory said. "We didn't have any trouble filling the appointments."
People who get vaccinated at the clinic will sit in the stands for 15 minutes after they receive a dose as part of after care, he added.
'These vaccines are safe,' hospital CEO says
Sarah Downey, president and CEO of Michael Garron Hospital, said the clinic needs to administer 30 shots a minute to beat the record.
"These vaccines are safe," she said. "The only way to return to normal to take advantage of the incredible science of vaccinations and to get ahead of this. We all know about the Delta variant. Two doses are essential."
Maple Leafs official say logistical problems 'ironed out'
Nick Eaves, chief venues and operations officer for Maple Leafs & Sports and Entertainment, said the company is used to putting on large events involving upwards of 20,000 people. He said the company is ready, proud and honoured to take part in the clinic. Many MLSE employees are volunteering, he said.
"It's a great day. There are many logistics. Over the course of the last eight days that we've had to plan, we have gotten them ironed out," Eaves said.
Eaves said he doesn't think that residents who have booked appointments will have to wait long.
To date, 3,205,467 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto as part of what it calls its "Team Toronto" initiative. As of Friday evening, about 794,086 people have booked COVID-19 vaccination appointments at a city-run clinic.
In a news release on Saturday, the city said Michael Garron Hospital, University Health Network, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Scotiabank are working together to make the clinic happen.
The clinic will involve 135 pharmacy staff, 116 registration staff, 50 community ambassadors and 30 organizations. The city said 25 pairs of Maple Leaf tickets and 25 pairs of Raptors tickets will be given away.
Scotiabank Arena is not currently being used for any major events. The Raptors played games from Florida this season and failed to make the post-season, the Leafs were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs and indoor concerts are still not allowed in Ontario.
On Sunday night, the Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square will be lit pink to show support for everyone in the city who has been vaccinated or made an appointment to do so.