Ontario to expand workplace vaccinations, offer Moderna in select pharmacies

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Ontario will begin offering the Moderna vaccine in select pharmacies across the province as it continues to focus its attention on COVID-19 hotspot communities for the next two weeks.

In an update provided on Wednesday, provincial officials say the option to get the Moderna vaccine will be available in up to 60 per cent of pharmacies in hotspot postal codes in Durham, Hamilton, Ottawa, Windsor-Essex and York. An exact number was not provided by the province, however the locations will be updated on the province’s website.

By the end of the week more than 2,500 pharmacies will be ready to administer vaccines.

Ontario expects to receive more than 786,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week and expects to have more than four million doses delivered by the end of the month. An additional 3.7 million doses are scheduled to arrive in June. Provincial officials say they don’t have any plans yet to offer the vaccine to kids aged 12-15 despite Health Canada’s approval announced Wednesday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott added the announcement could see children aged 12 and older offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in schools, with a second dose given before the new school year begins in September.

She added that the province was also working to ensure education workers are able to get a second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine before September.

“We want to make sure that our young people are protected from COVID as well,” Elliott said. “We’ve already been in conversations, discussions with the Minister of Education, to make sure that we can start as soon as possible.”

All schools are currently teaching classes online as the province remains under a stay-at-home order imposed due to high COVID-19 rates.

Moderna is scheduled to deliver 388,100 doses this week but no further projections were issued. The province is scheduled to receive 116,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, no delivery date has been confirmed. Ontario is currently reviewing the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendation that it be offered to anyone 30 plus.

There was no additional information on AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries.

Health officials say they will continue to focus on hotspot communities for the next two weeks with 50 per cent of allocated doses going to those areas for weeks of May 3 and May 10. As of this week, anyone 18 plus in hotspot communities are eligible to book an appointment through the provincial booking system.

Ontario is also expanding efforts to vaccinate employees at workplaces in Toronto and Peel. Employees at the Ontario Food Terminal will start receiving vaccines the week of May 10 while employer-led workplace vaccination clinics are already underway at Maple Lodge Farms, Maple Leaf Foods and Amazon Canada in Peel. There are plans to hold additional workplace clinics in Peel at Walmart Canada, Loblaws companies, Air Canada, Purolator, Magna and HelloFresh sometime in the middle of the month

Mobile clinics are also planned in Peel, Toronto and York to vaccinate workers at small to medium-sized workplaces who cannot work from home starting May 7

The province says it is also on track to offer a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 65 per cent of Ontarians 18-years and older by the end of May.

“The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter with every vaccine administered, and together we can stop the spread of COVID-19,” Elliott said.

Provincial officials say they are carefully monitoring research underway in England regarding the mixing of different vaccines between the first and second doses, meaning people could get a second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna if they have received a first dose of AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson.

Officials continue to say that the best vaccine “is the first vaccine you can get,” noting that the risk of getting COVID-19 and the serious complications from it are greater than any potential risk from vaccines such as AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson.

More than 5.5 million COVID-19 doses have been administered across Ontario with over 381,000 people having been fully vaccinated with two doses.

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