Some Ontarians aged 60-64 will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine at their doctor’s office as soon as this weekend, the government said Wednesday as it further expanded its immunization effort.
The initiative will start in Toronto, Peel Region, Hamilton, Guelph, Peterborough, and Simcoe-Muskoka, with doctors administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot. The province plans to expand the program as vaccine supply increases.
Physicians will initially have a limited amount of vaccines to work with, receiving 29,500 out of 194,500 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot that arrived in the province this week.
The rest of those shots will go to 325 pharmacies in three regions that will administer the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine starting Friday to residents aged 60 to 64.
Premier Doug Ford said vaccine shipments to the province are now increasing after months of sluggish supply, allowing the immunization effort to ramp up.
“My friends, the light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting brighter,” he said. “Please be patient. We will get through this.”
The government said primary care physicians were to start contacting eligible patients Wednesday to schedule shots. Those appointments will begin Saturday.
In Toronto, Windsor-Essex and Kingston, residents aged 60 to 64 could also start making appointments directly with participating pharmacies for shots that will start being administered Friday.
Meanwhile, a provincewide vaccine booking system, consisting of an online portal and phone line (Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007)), is set to go live on Monday.
The head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force urged people not to attempt to book multiple appointments through the various available avenues.
Retired Gen. Rick Hillier said he expects there may be instances where people are able to evade safeguards against double booking.
“Book one appointment and don’t try to diminish the opportunity that your friends and your family and other others could have to get their vaccine by clogging up (the system),” he said.
Hillier also cautioned people not to overwhelm the province’s booking portal when it launches.
“I know almost every system that has gone live across the country, across the world, in fact, has had challenges,” he said. “Undoubtedly, we will have some. … If they are encountered, we will fix it and get it back online. I ask all of you to give us a chance to roll that out.”
Ontario reported 1,316 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 16 more deaths linked to the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2021.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press