Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine effort shifted into high gear on the weekend, administering its seven millionth dose as it prepared to accelerate immunization efforts even further in the coming week.
Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, offered hope that the province’s summer camps would be given the green light to operate this season, though without providing any details.
Ford stated camps would be able to open for the coming summer, though did not specify whether he was referring to day or overnight facilities.
“The more people can come out [to get vaccinated], the quicker we can open up. And we are going to open up very, very soon,” said Ford. “And I have to say one thing about the summer camps — July 3 is usually the time they open and they’re opening up this year.”
A spokesman from his office later said details would be revealed before the provincial lifts if current stay-at-home order, which was recently extended to June 2 in a bid to help combat the pandemic’s third wave.
The Ontario Camps Association said it was “thrilled” by the Premier’s announcement.
— Ontario Camps Association (@OCACamps) May 16, 2021
Ford’s remarks came at a large vaccine clinic held west of Toronto that operated overnight in a bid to provide shots to those who could benefit from extended hours.
Organizers of Doses After Dark, which they dubbed the first mass overnight vaccination clinic in Canada, said it was well attended but may not have achieved the goal of vaccinating between 4,500 and 5,000 people through the night.
Paul Sharma, co-lead of Peel Region’s mass vaccination program, said the overnight clinic aimed to attract a wider range of people from across a region that’s long been one of the province’s most active COVID-19 hot spots.
“This was really targeted toward essential workers who are working non-traditional hours,” he said in an interview on Sunday. “Shift workers, taxi drivers, truck drivers ? but also to the younger age group, you know, the 18 to 39 (demographic), which we opened up a few weeks ago.”
Although a formal count of shots administered at the clinic was not immediately available, Sharma estimated that it reached 60 to 70 per cent of its target.
Despite the shortfall, however, Sharma said there was only a brief stretch between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. when the clinic wasn’t operating at full capacity.
“People are interested in getting their vaccine. They’re willing to come in all different hours,” Sharma said.
In addition to essential workers, Sharma said international students without provincial health cards and people aged 65 and above who had been eligible for some time also attended the clinic.
It took place ahead of the latest effort to speed up Ontario’s broader vaccination program, which is set to begin including all residents 30 and older later this week.
Monday will also see the province revert back to a per capita model of vaccine allocation after diverting half its supply to hot spots with high daily case counts over the past two weeks.
The province announced last week that it aims to have all willing adults in Ontario fully immunized with two doses by Sept. 22. All adult residents should be eligible to register for their first jab by the end of May.
Vaccine expansion efforts were already reaching new heights over the weekend, according to Health Minister Christine Elliott, who reported the province had delivered more than seven million doses as of Sunday morning. More than 139,000 of those were injected on Saturday alone, she added.
The province also reported 2,199 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, including 30 more virus-related deaths. Those figures were based on 33,142 tests administered over the previous 24 hours.
There were 1,292 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals as of Sunday morning, a decline of 254 from the day before.
Of those patients, 714 were in intensive care and 509 were on ventilators.