Ontario ramping up vaccine sites

Ontario is expanding its vaccination program with the help of pharmacies.

 Beginning March 10, 2021, select pharmacies in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Toronto and Windsor-Essex County are booking appointments for AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for eligible people between the ages of 60 and 64.

With more than 50 percent of Ontario residents aged 80 and over having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Ontario government is expanding appointments through its online booking system to individuals aged 75 and over.

 This means Ontarians aged 75 and older can begin scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments through the province’s booking portal, while select pharmacies will begin offering the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to residents aged 60 and above.

 According to Premier Doug Ford, the number of pharmacies offering vaccines will double from nearly 350 to more than 700 in the next two weeks. He expects the further expansion will take place later this spring.

 Ford said details and locations of the extra pharmacies participating in the vaccination plan would be announced in the coming days. Eligible Ontarians can contact a participating pharmacy directly to make an appointment.

 Several public health units across Ontario use their own booking systems, so residents are being directed to consult with their individual public health units if they have questions about which system is in the place where they live.

 “Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline health care heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined,” said Ford. “All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the Federal government to ensure anyone who wants one gets one as soon as possible so we can all stay safe.”

 To date, more than 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the province, including 129,000 doses administered to long-term care home residents. As it stands, 294,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including 61,000 long-term-care home residents.

 Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is doing everything they can to protect those who are most vulnerable and will ensure they reach every Ontarian eligible for vaccination in Phase One as they expand the vaccination program further in the coming weeks.

 “Thanks to the efforts of our health care partners and the efficiency of our booking system, Ontario has been able to schedule more appointments and vaccinate more people quickly and conveniently,” said Elliott.

 Individuals turning 75 or older in 2021 and who do not live in a congregate care setting can schedule a vaccine appointment through the province’s website or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Information Line number at 1-888-999-6488 (Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

Story by Bird Bouchard, Ridgetown Independent, for the Local Journalism Initiative Reporter