Ontario plans to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in all nursing and high-risk retirement homes by the middle of next month, building on a plan to prioritize people most vulnerable to the virus during the first phase of its immunization rollout.
The province said Wednesday that residents, workers and essential caregivers at those facilities will get the first dose of the vaccine by Feb. 15.
The government pledged earlier this month to give the COVID-19 vaccine to long-term care facilities in hot spots by Jan. 21.
Officials said the province is now able to move the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine safely to long-term care facilities, which has allowed it to speed up immunizations in nursing homes.
“With protocols in place to move the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine safely, regions are expediting efforts to vaccinate in long-term care homes and high risk retirement homes,” they said in a briefing.
Long-term care homes have been hit hard during the pandemic, with 3,063 residents dying of COVID-19 since March.
The province said it had administered more than 144,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday. It also said about 8,000 people have now received the two doses of the vaccine required for full immunization.
Ontario projects it will be administering 20,000 doses a day by early next month, but said it has the capacity to administer at least 35,000 doses of the vaccine.
“Ontario’s capacity is at least double what vaccine doses are currently available,” the government said in briefing materials.
“We can absorb that amount immediately, and could ramp up to triple or quadruple our ability to vaccinate with some notice.”
The province said it expects to receive 80,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine a week until the end of January. During the first week of February it expects to receive a shipment of 143,000 doses.
The province expects to receive 56,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, but said shipments of it will be less frequent than the Pfizer-BioNTech shots.
It further expects to have 38 delivery sites for the vaccines – one in each public health unit – by the start of February.
The province also said it has launched an online portal to help it expand the number of health-care workers who can administer the shot.
Nurse practitioners, registered nurses, registered practical nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy students, interns and pharmacy technicians can now all apply to be granted permission to provide immunizations.
The government is currently focusing on vaccinating health-care workers and those in long-term care facilities but says people over the age of 80 will be the first priority group to receive the shot when Ontario enters the second phase of its vaccine rollout in April.
It said Wednesday it is also working to determine criteria to begin vaccinating front-line workers by mid-February.
Those workers could include first responders, teachers, food industry and construction workers.
Ontario reported 2,961 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 74 more deaths linked to the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2021.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press