Ontario plans to substantially expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines in May, officials said Thursday, with shipments to the province expected to ramp up significantly in coming weeks.
With millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines anticipated to begin arriving in Ontario, the province’s vaccine task force says it can accelerate its timeline so that all adults will be able to register for a first dose by the end of May.
When someone will actually receive their first shot depends on where they live and whether shipments stay on track, health officials cautioned at a media briefing today.
The revised outlook, based only on scheduled deliveries of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, breaks down like this:
- Week of April 26: All Ontario adults age 55 and up; those 45 years old and up in hot-spot communities; and licensed child-care workers.
- Week of May 3: Ontario adults over the age of 50; adults age 18 and up in hot-spot communities; those with health conditions deemed “high risk”; and some people who cannot work from home.
- Week of May 10: Ontario adults over the age of 40; those with health conditions deemed “at risk”; and more individuals who cannot work from home.
- Week of May 17: Ontario adults over the age of 30.
- Week of May 24: Ontario adults over the age of 18.
Officials said the process could move even more quickly depending on the potential arrival of doses of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines, neither of which have further allocation numbers at this point.
Notably, the province said it will also allocate 50 per cent of all available doses to 114 hot-spot communities for the weeks of May 3 and May 10. It is currently allocating 25 per cent of doses for those postal codes.
The move follows advice from Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table that 50 per cent of available doses should be sent to 74 hot spots only.
“This is exciting news. The way out of the pandemic is vaccines, and the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.
However, she added, “until the majority of Ontarians have received both doses of the vaccine, we must continue to follow the public health measures we know work and keep us safe.”
Pfizer doses coming to some pharmacies
The province also confirmed that a pilot project that makes Pfizer vaccines available in select pharmacies for those 55 and up will begin tomorrow.
It will begin with eight pharmacies in Toronto and eight in Peel Region, with plans to expand it to other locations and public health units later in May.
Meanwhile, remaining doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which more than 1,400 pharmacies were at one point offering to eligible adults, are expected to run out this week.
It’s not clear when further doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be available to Ontario, officials said.
Given that, the province says it is still not in a position to lower the eligibility age of AstraZeneca shots to 30 and up, as was recommended earlier this month by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
Similarly, officials were unable to say exactly how many doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines the province expects to receive.
The federal government anticipates 300,000 doses of that vaccine will arrive through May, but hasn’t yet confirmed how many will flow to Ontario. Officials said they estimate Ontario will get 116,000 or so.