Toronto Mayor John Tory says while he welcomes the province’s decision to expand vaccine eligibility to all Ontarians 18-and-up as of Tuesday, he’s worried it will greatly impact several City-based residents as thousands try to get a shot.
Starting tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., eligible people will be able to book a vaccine appointment at mass immunization clinics through the province’s online booking portal, or directly through public health units that use their own booking system.
The Ford government had originally said they hoped to open appointments to all adults next week, by May 24, but were able to move that up ahead of schedule due to an influx of Pfizer and Moderna supply.
At the same time, the province said Monday that it was adjusting how it distributes vaccines and will begin to spread them out on a per capita basis, after two weeks of sending half the supply of doses to COVID-19 hot spots which include Toronto.
With that in mind, Tory admitted he’s concerned that Toronto residents will be left out in the dark come Tuesday.
“The answer is yes,” said Tory, adding that he’s calling on the Ford government to reconsider the decision not to send vaccine supply to specific hotspots.
“I think it’s fairly clear that the capacity in terms of vaccine availability… will likely not match the number of people seeking to get a vaccination,” said the mayor.
Tory says it will be challenging to meet the expected rise in demand given that move, particularly when more people who don’t live in hot spots become eligible tomorrow.
Mayors of the largest municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas (GTHA) are jointly calling for additional vaccine supply to meet the spike in demand.
“We know this will create increased demand for vaccine appointments and we will therefore require additional supply of vaccine from the provincial and federal governments if we are to be able to meet the increased demand for appointments,” they said in a statement.
Tory says city officials have informed Premier Doug Ford of its vexation that less vaccine supply will leave residents struggling to book appointments despite being eligible as of Tuesday.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says a shipment of vaccines arriving early has allowed the province to expand its immunization effort ahead of schedule.
She says local public health officials can continue to send more shots to hot-spot neighbourhoods and adds that the province will send Toronto more vaccines if they run out.
Opposition politicians are criticizing ending the hot spot allocation period, saying more focus on hard-hit communities is needed to bring down infections.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwarth said the pivot away from hot spots ignores scientific advice.
“The extra vaccines should be used to even further inoculate those folks in the hotspots, just as the science table recommended to the government,” she said.
An April report from experts advising the government on the pandemic found that prioritizing hot spots for vaccines until June 7 would prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases and deaths.
However, Premier Doug Ford says it’s all about vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as they can.
“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.”
As of Sunday evening, approximately 659,000 people have booked COVID-19 vaccination appointments at a Toronto-run clinic.
Today, Toronto is holding nine city-operated immunization clinics, including but not limited to Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto Congress Centre, Scarborough Town Centre, and Malvern Community Recreation Centre.
With files from The Canadian Press