Published Wednesday, February 24, 2021 8:19AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 24, 2021 10:42AM EST
Speaking at a news conference at Queen’s Park on Wednesday, Retired Gen. Rick Hillier said the province’s online vaccine booking system and call centre will go live on March 15 and residents who are over the age of 80 can make an appointment at that time. The province will not begin administering the vaccine to that age group until the third week of March and Hillier says there about 550,000 people in the province in that group who will need to be vaccinated.
Hillier said the province expects to begin vaccinating those over the age of 75 starting on April 15 and people over 70 one month later. The target date for vaccinating people over the age of 65 is June 1, Hillier said.
How the province proceeds with vaccinating the remaining members of the population will depend on vaccine supply, Hillier said.
The news conference comes two days after Premier Doug Ford confirmed that each of Ontario’s 34 public health units will bear the brunt of the responsibility when it comes to inoculating Ontarians against the novel coronavirus.
The provincial government has already provided guidance on which priority groups to vaccinate in each of the three phases of its vaccination program but details on how and when to administer those vaccines will be left up to the individual public health units.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Hillier has been in “frequent communication” with all local medical officers of health to help them develop their strategies.
Local public health units will also be responsible for communicating their strategy to the public, contacting residents, and deciding where vaccines should be administered.
At a news conference on Monday, Ford denied the suggestion that the province is passing off all of the heavy lifting to local public health units and their medical officers of health.
“By no means is anyone taking a light load on this… no matter if it’s the administration, if its Gen. Hillier, he is going around the clock, public health units, everyone is working collaboratively together,” Ford said. “We are working side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder.”
Ontario is currently in Phase 1 of its vaccination program, and so far, all long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents in the province have been offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The province is now focussing on completing vaccinations for patient-facing health-care workers who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19, long-term care home workers and essential caregivers, and residents and workers at retirement homes across Ontario. Members of the general population who are age 80 and over are also included in Phase 1.
Phase 2, which includes inoculating an estimated 2.8 million members of the general population between the ages 60 and 79, is set to formally begin in April. Phase 3, which opens up vaccination to all remaining members of Ontario’s population, is currently projected to begin in August.
Ontario has administered a total of 585,707 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to date. Two doses are required to be fully vaccinated and so far, 247,042 Ontarians have received both shots.
The province is expecting to receive 186,030 more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week along with 47,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The federal government has said Pfizer will deliver a total of four million doses and Moderna will deliver two million doses to Canada by the end of March.