Ontario is lowering the age threshold for its mass COVID-19 vaccinations next week, allowing individuals aged 75 and over to sign up for the shot using the province’s online booking portal.
Currently, only residents who are 80 years of age or older are able to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine through the province’s online booking portal. The change will go into effect on Monday.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement in Etobicoke on Friday morning alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and retired Gen. Rick Hillier, chair of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine task force.
Thanks to the efforts of other people in the pharmacy in the army of frontline healthcare heroes and volunteers, we’re getting needles in arms even faster than we could ever imagine, Ford said.
The premier added that more than 50 per cent of Ontario residents aged 80 and over have already received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Since the provincial booking portal was launched on March 15, more than 239,000 appointments have been scheduled for the first and second doses of a vaccine, the province said.
This means that about 119,500 residents in municipalities using the booking system will receive the shot.
Not every public health unit is using the province’s booking system. Residents in the regions of Peel, Durham and Halton will continue to use the booking systems created by their municipalities.
As of Monday, the province will also be making an adjustment to the age requirement for the AstraZeneca vaccine to align with new recommendations by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
On March 22, individuals aged 60 and over will now be eligible to get a vaccine at an Ontario pharmacy or through their primary care provider.
For the last week, 325 pharmacies in Toronto, Windsor-Essex and the Kingston area have been administering doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to residents born between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1961.
The decision to only administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to those between the ages of 60 and 64 was originally made due to insufficient data on how efficient the shot would be in seniors.
This week, the NACI revised the recommendations after reviewing three real-world studies that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and effective in older populations.
About 165,000 doses of Ontario’s AstraZeneca supply were provided to pharmacies while the remaining 29,500 shots were given to primary care providers in Hamilton, Toronto, Guelph, Peterborough, Simcoe-Muskoka and Peel Region.
Ford said that about 91,000 people have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at one of Ontario’s drugstores.
On Friday, Ford also announced that another 350 pharmacies will soon begin administering the vaccine in the next two weeks. This would bring the total number of pharmacies participating in the vaccine rollout to 700.
The government hopes to have more than 1,500 pharmacies on the list by April.
Anyone who wants to get the AstraZeneca vaccine will be required to book an appointment through one of the pharmacy websites. These systems will be different from the provinces booking portal.
Residents are also being encouraged not to contact their primary care providers for a COVID-19 vaccine. Family physicians will reach out to their eligible patients.
It is not clear when Ontario will get another shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Details on where the new pharmacies involved in the COVID-19 rollout are will be announced in the coming days. The province has a list of pharmacy locations on its website.
Anyone who wants to book a COVID-19 vaccine through the Ontario government booking portal can click here or call the Provincial Vaccine Information Line number is 1-888-999-6488.