TORONTO — Vulnerable seniors, their caregivers, and health-care workers will be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario, but the province is still a long way from being able to offer the shot to the broader public.
Premier Doug Ford laid out his government’s three-part vaccination rollout plan on Monday as new details on the imminent arrival of the first doses were released by the federal government.
Ford said adults in Indigenous communities, residents of retirement homes, and recipients of chronic home health-care will also be priority groups, but it may be April before the shots are widely available to others.
“Our first shipments of a very small number of doses could arrive as early as next week,” the premier said. “But we’re still very far, and I’ve got to repeat that, very far, from having the millions of vaccines we need for mass immunization.”
Retired Gen. Rick Hiller, who is leading Ontario’s vaccine task force, said the province will receive 2.4 million doses - allowing it to vaccinate 1.2 million people - during the first three months of 2021.
The province may need to set up vaccination centres as it is still unsure of logistics surrounding the transportation of doses, he added.
“Every single day we learn something more about the characteristics and the properties of the vaccine and one of things is that the stability data when it’s moved is uncertain,” he said. “As of right now, we may be restricted somewhat in moving it after we receive it.”
People are going to have to be patient that their turn will come.Retired Gen. Rick Hillier
Hillier said the vaccine will be more broadly available to the public starting in April during the second phase of the rollout, and it will take between six to nine months to distribute across the province.
“People are going to have to be patient that their turn will come,” he said.
He said the third and final phase of the plan would then see the vaccine available through places like pharmacies on a regular basis.
Ontario reported 1,925 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and 26 new deaths related to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 601 new cases in Toronto, 512 in Peel Region, and 167 in York Region.
She also said there were 1,412 more resolved cases since the last daily update and nearly 45,300 tests completed in that time.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2020.