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V-Day has arrived as Ontario begins rollout of COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto

The vaccine can't come soon enough, with Ontario reporting over 1,900 new cases this week

Ontario’s first doses of the Health Canada approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be administered in Toronto today.

The shots will be administered at a pilot site at the University Health Network in Toronto (the exact location hasn’t been revealed for safety reasons).

Retired General Rick Hillier, head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, told CBC Morning Live that the number of vaccinations administered today will likely be “pretty small,” but he believes there’s a “trickle-down the spine of every single person in the province and in the public service and in the health sector who have been working for months,” to fight COVID-19.

“This is exciting. This is what we wanted,” Hillier said, adding that there will be challenges, but this means that we’re on our way out of the abyss. “We’ve asked both the University Health Network and Ottawa Hospital, who are launching here today and tomorrow, we’ve asked them to do a bit of a playbook for us and come back by later this week and tell us what they did, what went right, what went wrong, and what they did to fix it. Then we want to distribute that and talk to all of the other sites that are going to get the next doses in. Then we’ll learn from that and build to gradually a vast immunization program across Ontario.”

The news comes as Ontario reported 1,940 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with nearly 57,100 tests completed. Out of these new cases, 544 cases were reported in Toronto, 390 in Peel, 191 in York Region, 134 in Hamilton and 114 in Windsor-Essex County. There are 1,535 more resolved cases.

In a press statement last week, the Ontario government said that an expected 90,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses received from the federal government will be delivered to up to 14 hospital sites in Grey-Lockdown and Red-Control zones this month. These doses will vaccinate health care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes.

Deliveries of 35,000 to 85,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, once approved by Health Canada, will enable vaccinations to be expanded to long-term care homes in the Grey-Lockdown areas. The expansion would include congregate-care settings for seniors (e.g., long-term care homes, retirement homes, etc.), public health units and adults in First Nations, Métis and Indigenous populations.

In early 2021, there will be an expansion of additional hospital sites providing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Grey-Lockdown and Red-Control zones (again, with continued vaccination of health care workers and residents of long-term care homes and retirement homes).

By the end of January, the province expects that over 20 hospitals across the province will be administering the Pfizer vaccine.

Phase Two of vaccination implementation is expected to begin in the winter of 2021 where vaccinations will be administered to health care workers, residents in long-term care homes, retirement homes and home care patients with chronic conditions, as well as to additional First Nation communities and urban Indigenous populations (including Métis and Inuit adults).

Phase Three will occur when vaccines are available for every resident in Ontario who wishes to be immunized. While COVID-19 vaccination will be voluntary in Ontario, Ontarians will likely be provided with a proof of vaccine card. In a press conference last week, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott added that the card may be required to access certain settings.

“That is going to be really important for travel purposes, perhaps for work purposes and for going to theatres or cinemas or any other areas where people will be in closer physical contact when we get through the worst of the pandemic,” she said.

Click here for more COVID-19 news in Ontario.