Today, Mayor John Tory was joined by Deputy Medical Officer of Health Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg to provide an update on efforts underway to ramp up third-dose COVID-19 vaccination capacity.
Toronto Public Health (TPH) is reporting 498 new COVID-19 cases today, potentially including cases of the Omicron variant that will be identified during sequencing at the provincial testing laboratory. The Omicron variant, also known as the B.1.1.529, was first confirmed in Toronto on December 3. TPH is now reporting 20 confirmed cases of the variant as of December 13. Scientists and health professionals are carefully monitoring the Omicron variant as data suggests the variant spreads very quickly, even in vaccinated populations, and there is some evidence of reinfection. Omicron is poised to overtake Delta as the dominant strain of COVID-19.
Given the emergence of this new variant and the ongoing transmission of the Delta variant, it is more important than ever to get vaccinated and follow public health guidance. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine lowers the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death, while protecting individuals and the wider community from getting sick.
A third dose of COVID-19 vaccine provides an extra layer of protection against COVID-19. Anyone over the age of 50 who received their second dose approximately three months (84 days) ago is now eligible for a third – sometimes called “booster” – dose of COVID-19 vaccine. More than 271,000 third doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Toronto, with more than 33,000 third doses administered since December 9. Most Toronto residents in long-term care homes have already received third doses as part of a coordinated flu shot campaign.
Team Toronto is doing everything it can to expedite the rollout of vital third doses, including for people 18 years old and older who become eligible for a third dose starting December 20, as announced this afternoon by the Province of Ontario. Third-dose appointments can now also be booked three months (84 days) after a second dose, rather than the original six-month (168 days) wait, as the Province expands booster eligibility in Ontario.
Growing third dose capacity at City-run clinics
Currently, Team Toronto has capacity to administer hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine each month. To grow this already substantial capacity, the City will be increasing capacity at the five City-operated immunization clinics by almost double. The increase in capacity will come from expanded clinic hours as the five City-run clinics resume operating seven days per week with the potential to administer 41,000 doses weekly.
On Monday, the City opened 100,000 appointments between December 5 and January 19 across City-run clinics. As of this morning, 12,844 adult and 12,943 child appointments remained available. Tomorrow, an additional 8,800 appointments at the City’s Woodbine Mall clinic will open in the system.
These new appointments and appointments that will be gradually added as capacity expands are available through the provincial vaccine booking system by clicking the blue button on toronto.ca/covid-19 or calling 1-833-943-3900.
Expanding Team Toronto clinic options
Team Toronto, with the largest network of vaccination clinics in Ontario, is also looking at ways to increase capacity through new locations and expanded operations. The team is immediately pursuing additional pharmacies to join the 450 pharmacies currently administering COVID-19 vaccines. The neighbourhood locations work alongside City-run clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices and community clinics offering COVID-19 vaccines across Toronto. Many hospital clinics and primary care physicians are carrying out operations with an increased focus on COVID-19 vaccination.
Reaching out to residents eligible for third doses
On Friday, December 10, VaxTO reached out to 500,000 Torontonians through interactive broadcast voice messages that featured Mayor Tory and enabled more than 5,500 people to transfer to the provincial call centre to book an appointment. Those contacted represent communities across Toronto, with a focus on neighbourhoods where vaccination uptake has been historically below the City’s overall average.
This week, Team Toronto continued to connect residents with opportunities and resources to encourage vaccination. As part of the VaxTO campaign, approximately 55,000 text messages were sent Monday to encourage eligible residents to book their third-dose appointment. The campaign also continues to reach out to all eligible first-dose recipients to encourage them to complete their vaccination series by getting their second dose.
Increasing community outreach
The City is distributing $6 million in additional funding among 155 community agencies and a network of 410 neighbourhood ambassadors to bring vaccine information to every corner of Toronto. This community outreach is focusing on equity-seeking communities and priority areas identified by Toronto Public Health as having lagging vaccination rates.
The City continues to update toronto.ca/covid-19 with the latest pandemic data, guidance for individuals and organizations and vaccine information. While vaccination progress continues, all people in the city are urged to continue to follow public health measures, including staying home when sick, practising physical distancing and wearing a mask when physical distancing is not possible. Residents who exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has had COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible.
“We are ramping up Team Toronto’s capacity to administer third doses. We continue to do everything we can and our Team Toronto partners are doing everything they can to make sure people continue to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine – first dose, second dose, and their booster dose. I know that we can face the emerging threat of the Omicron variant and get through this. This is a team effort and I want to thank everyone who is dedicated to helping administer vaccine doses for the life-saving work they have done so far and the work they will do now as the province opens eligibility to booster doses. Thank you as well to everyone who has already stepped forward to get vaccinated and all those who will step forward to get their third dose as soon as possible.”
– Mayor John Tory
“COVID-19 continues to spread in our city with Omicron circulating in our population. While we are still learning about this variant, we do know that is highly transmissible that is why it is more important than ever to limit the number and size of in-person gatherings. Continue to follow public health advice and stay home when you are sick, wash your hands often, wear your mask when indoors and to get two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, if you haven’t already, and a third dose as soon as you are eligible. Residents have continued to demonstrate incredible strength throughout the pandemic and I ask that you continue to do your part to protect yourself and each other against this virus.”
– Dr. Na-Koshie Lamptey, Deputy Medical Officer of Health
“I know that after almost two years, people are worn down. But, by continuing to follow the guidance of our public health experts, we will end this pandemic. Through our multi-pronged strategy to urgently accelerate our Team Toronto third dose rollout, we will ensure as many Torontonians as possible are vaccinated as quickly as possible. Time and time again we have seen through the data that vaccines work. Whether it’s your first, second, or third shot – get it as soon as you are eligible.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health
“Toronto’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be both nimble and responsive. I am pleased that we are able to significantly expand our City-operated vaccine clinic capacity in support of our collective Team Toronto vaccine effort. We will continue to scale our COVID-19 Incident Management System to meet the challenges that the pandemic brings moving forward.”
– Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management
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