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Homeless in Toronto shelters begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines in pilot program

File photo. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

People living and working in Toronto homeless shelters have begun receiving COVID-19 vaccines as part of a pilot project.

Dr. Stephen Hwang of St. Michael’s Hospital — which is helping run the project with the city — says 55 residents and 30 staff at a city-run shelter in the east end got their first dose on Friday.

He says the pilot project is targeting homeless seniors living in shelters, as well as those with a higher risk of having COVID-19-related complications.

He says only a small number of people refused the vaccine.

Hwang says they have enough of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the pilot, but a delay in delivery of doses for Canada may affect the wider rollout of the shots to homeless people.

The city says it will use the pilot project to refine its plan to vaccinate the homeless.

It plans to offer the vaccine to those at more than 100 shelters as well as people living in encampments and on the streets in the coming months.