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COVID-19 vaccinations to begin in Toronto's shelter system this week

Last Updated Feb 28, 2021 at 11:53 pm EDT

The City of Toronto plans to start vaccinating people experiencing homelessness in the shelter system starting this week.

Toronto Public Health says doses will be administered at homeless shelters deemed the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 under the province’s Phase One priority framework for vaccinations.

Last week, public health officials confirmed as many as 29 COVID-19 cases at the Maxwell Meighen Centre all screened positive for a variant of concern since an outbreak at the shelter was declared back on Feb. 3. Other city-run shelter facilities that have declared outbreaks include Seaton House, Dixon Hall, Warden Woods Community Centre and the Salvation Army.

“People experiencing homelessness are at elevated risk of serious health impacts due to COVID-19 and are vulnerable to transmission in congregate settings,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, who is also chair of the Toronto Board of Health. “By updating their vaccination prioritization plan, the Province has made it possible for the City and our hospital and health care partners to help keep those most at risk in our communities safe.”

The City says it is also continuing to vaccinate first responders while also preparing to rollout vaccines for those 80-years of age and older as soon as additional supplies are delivered. Other GTA municipalities, such as Peel Region and York Region, have already started to vaccinate seniors above the age of 80 or will start doing so this week.

Provincial officials say they expect to start booking appointments for that priority group starting March 15.

“Vaccination is resuming in earnest in Toronto. A vaccinated Toronto is the foundation of the return to so many of the things we miss about life before COVID-19,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health. “I ask you to get your vaccination when your turn comes and, in the meantime, to keep practising the steps for self protection that are the best protection for the unvaccinated, which for the time being is most of us.”

Vaccine supply is expected to increase substantially in the coming weeks and opportunities for more people to be vaccinated will be announced as information becomes available.