Torontonians can't start pre-registering for vaccines due to 'complicated' situation, city says

·3 min read
Torontonians can't start pre-registering for vaccines due to 'complicated' situation, city says
Toronto Mayor John Tory says he expects there will be more than 350 community immunization sites to operate in the city. (The Canadian Press/Cole Burston - image credit)
Toronto Mayor John Tory says he expects there will be more than 350 community immunization sites to operate in the city. (The Canadian Press/Cole Burston - image credit)

Despite plans in other Ontario regions to start pre-registration for vaccinations, Toronto's medical officer of health says Toronto is dealing with much more "complicated and wide-ranging" situation.

"As the largest city in the country, we have much more ground to cover," Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa said at a press conference on Monday, noting that the number of people who are 80 years and over in Toronto is "roughly equivalent" to the population of the city of Guelph.

Some public health units, like York Region, have started accepting appointments for residents over the age of 80.

"This is a sensible course of action for them based on their size," de Villa said. "Toronto is organizing a vaccination campaign in a much more complicated and wide-ranging landscape."

Nine city-operated immunization clinics are on schedule to be ready to open on or before April 1, according to the City of Toronto..De Villa said they will also be using mobile teams of immunizers and pop-up clinics to ensure that vaccinations levels are consistent across the city.

In an update at the same conference, de Villa said that Toronto has seen 312 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 new death.

Mayor John Tory also discussed the roll-out of immunization clinics. He said the city expects more than 350 community immunization sites, including 49 hospital-run vaccination clinics, 46 operated by community health centres and 249 operated by pharmacies. He said these sites will be in addition to the nine city-run vaccination sites, while mobile and pop-up clinics will be added later.

"This will be the largest vaccination effort in the history of Toronto and I am very confident that we are ready to meet this challenge," Tory said. He said the city has also released its vaccination playbook, which includes plans for addressing vaccine hesitancy.

Starting March 1, front-line police officers will be eligible to be vaccinated as part of the first phase if they respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required. Approximately 2,250 frontline constables and sergeants will now be eligible, according to Toronto police.

The city also plans to begin administering vaccines to people experiencing homelessness in Toronto's shelter system this week. The city said on Sunday that provincial officials have updated the vaccination framework to include those experiencing homelessness as part of its Phase 1 priority for vaccinations.

Coun. Joe Cressy, who chairs the Toronto Board of Health, outlined a plan on Monday to recruit 280 neighbourhood ambassadors and work with city organizations to inform residents about where to get vaccines and build trust with communities.

"In short order, we will have a situation where we have supply," Cressy said. That's when the question will turn to making sure everyone who needs vaccines can get it, he added.

"As Torontonians, we've all gone through too much to come up short right now. Every neighbourhood, every community agency, every resident must be a part of it."

Ontario's website for booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments will begin a "soft launch" in six public health units this week, two weeks before it becomes available across the province, The Canadian Press reported on Monday. Toronto Public Health says the city will also be using the province's appointments website.

Toronto remains under the stay-at-home order, which is expected to remain in place until at least Monday, March 8.

De Villa also said it remains important to isolate from other people even as the weather becomes warmer.

"The risk is significantly reduced outdoors," de Villa said. "That's true. But that doesn't take away from the fact that the more we are able to reduce the interaction we have with other people, particularly those outside of our household, we'll be able to reduce transmission."

She said that's particularly important due to concerns about the new more transmissible variants of the novel coronavirus, such as the B117 variant first identified in the U.K.