Vaccinations in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot spots to start for those 50+ in coming weeks

Ornge head Homer Tien tapped to replace Hillier to lead Ontario vaccine drive Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

TORONTO — The second phase of Ontario’s vaccine rollout will target people in COVID-19 hot spots aged 50 and older, the province announced Tuesday as Premier Doug Ford said new restrictions would be coming soon to fight the third wave of the pandemic.

Government officials said people living in hot spot neighbourhoods in 13 public health units – many of them essential workers – will be able to book their vaccine appointments over the next few weeks. 

“We have to go in to the hot spots,” Ford said. “We have to go into the high-priority essential manufacturers, the meat packers, … the manufacturing sector, large, large companies.”

Ford said the government is currently working on a plan to vaccinate essential workers and teachers, but the government framework released Tuesday said those workers won’t get their shots until mid-May.

Officials also said starting Wednesday people aged 60 and over will be able to book their vaccine appointments in every region of the province.

The government aims to ramp up vaccinations to 100,000 shots a day. The current seven-day average stands at 73,442.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the province needs to vaccinate essential workers now, not in six to eight weeks. 

“Outbreaks at warehouses, food processing plants, and distribution centres are driving the spread of COVID-19,” he said in a statement. “It’s unconscionable that essential workers and their family members are packing ICUs because they don’t have paid sick days and it’s not their turn for vaccines yet.”

Ford said his government will impose additional restrictions targeting the hot spot regions of Toronto, Peel and York regions, but did not provide any specific details about the additional measures.

“I think we made massive moves last week by basically shutting down the entire province,” Ford said. “That was huge, shutting down thousands and thousands of businesses, that I hate doing, but we’re going to have further restrictions moving forward, very, very quickly.”

His comments come a day after top doctors of three COVID-19 hot spots in Ontario urged the province to impose tougher restrictions, including a stay-at-home order.

The top doctors for Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa appealed to Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams, to move schools to online learning in regions with significant COVID-19 outbreaks, remove businesses from the list of essential services, and implement 50-per-cent staffing limits for those businesses deemed essential.

They also asked the government to impose travel restrictions between regions within Ontario and for the province to provide paid sick days to supplement the federal program.

The province reported 3,065 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and eight more deaths linked to the virus. Of the total cases, 955 were in Toronto, 561 in Peel Region, and 320 in York Region.

There are 510 people in intensive care because of the virus and 310 on a ventilator.

A total of 2,621,839 vaccine doses have been administered in the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2021.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press