City of Toronto launches COVID-19 Immunization Task Force to prepare for arrival of COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 continues to circulate in our community. There are 31,908 cases of COVID-19 in the city, an increase of 504 new cases today. There are 161 people hospitalized. In total, 26,814 people have recovered from COVID-19. To date, there have been 1,411 COVID-19 deaths in Toronto. Case status data can be found on the City’s reporting platform.

The City of Toronto has formed a COVID-19 Immunization Task Force as part of its pandemic response and recovery efforts.

While it is not yet clear when a safe and effective vaccine will be available, this Task Force will ensure that the City is ready to play its role in helping Torontonians get vaccinated. This Task Force will be led by Chief Matthew Pegg in his role as the City’s COVID-19 Incident Commander and will use the COVID-19 incident management system that the City has developed.

The Task Force has brought together staff from across key divisions including Toronto Public Health, Toronto Fire, Toronto Paramedics Service and the Emergency Operations Centre to create a comprehensive plan that will ensure that the city is ready once a safe and effective vaccine is available for Toronto residents.

All three levels of government will play essential roles to make the goals of the Task Force a success. Each has very specific roles and responsibilities in relation to the COVID-19 vaccination strategy and implementation. A clear understanding of these roles will be a key success factor as all levels of government, and community and public health agencies work together to get Torontonians vaccinated.

For example, the Government of Canada is responsible for the procurement and approval of vaccines for use in Canada. The Province of Ontario is responsible for the overall immunization strategy, which could take a phased approach, and will determine specific population prioritization and distribution of the vaccine to potential delivery agents such as public health units, doctors and pharmacies.

Once guidance from the Province is received, the City’s role will be to lead implementation at the local level. This could range from allocating and distributing allotted vaccine doses, working with medical practitioners, administering vaccines through clinics and other methods and providing data to the Province to evaluate the success of the campaign.

The City and Toronto Public Health together bring a great deal of experience to this undertaking, including the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, the yearly flu vaccination clinics run by Toronto Public Health and a full-scale emergency mass immunization exercise conducted in 2016. The lessons learned from these experiences are being applied to the COVID-19 immunization plan.

Additional information on the COVID-19 Immunization Task Force will be presented to the Toronto Board of Health next week.

The City’s website is updated daily with the latest health advice and information about City services, social supports and economic recovery measures. Check www.toronto.ca/covid-19 for answers to common questions before contacting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline or 311.

Quotes:

“The work of the COVID-19 Immunization Task Force is mission critical. I know how many changes and sacrifices the great people of Toronto have made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While we don’t know when a vaccine will be ready, I want you to know that we are not waiting idly by. The preparation work of the Task Force will be of paramount importance to ensure that we will be ready to implement the strategy and deploy a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it’s time. This work provides us with comfort and a sense of hope that one day – hopefully sooner than later – we can say that together, we beat COVID-19 in Toronto.”

– Toronto Mayor John Tory

“While our team at Toronto Public Health and the City is focused on protecting the health of our residents today, we are also preparing for the roll-out of a COVID vaccine in the future. Each level of government has a role to play in this complex operation, which includes procuring, distributing, and administering a vaccine for a city of 3 million people. While this is no small feat, I know that with the work of our COVID-19 Immunization Task Force, Toronto is prepared and ready to rise to the challenge.”

– Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health

“My team has been working hard with our City and our provincial partners to plan a COVID-19 vaccine delivery program for Toronto. While we don’t know exactly when we’ll have a vaccine to protect us from this virus, my team is using lessons learned from our annual flu vaccine clinics and experiences from the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009 to inform this critical work. A safe and effective vaccine will be the reward for all the months of sacrifice that we’ve all made and will help us to restore and enjoy life more as we remember it.”

– Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto

“Our COVID-19 Immunization Task Force is proactively planning for the day when there is a safe and effective vaccine available for you. We are leveraging our existing expertise across the City of Toronto to create a comprehensive plan to ensure that once a vaccine is ready, we will be ready. This team is already hard a work and preparing for what will be a massive planning and logistics operations – possibly the most complex one in Toronto’s history.”

– Chief Matthew Pegg, City of Toronto COVID-19 Incident Commander, Fire Chief and General Manager Emergency Management