City of Toronto launching initial COVID-19 immunization clinic to prepare for City’s role in vaccine distribution

The City of Toronto continues to respond to COVID-19. Today, Mayor John Tory, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg provided an update on the City’s measures to combat the resurgence of the virus in Toronto, the rollout of vaccines to priority groups and wider immunization planning.

Since the start of the pandemic there have been a total of 71,078 cases of COVID-19 in the city, an increase of 978 new cases today. There are 433 people hospitalized. In total, 60,148 people have recovered from COVID-19. To date, there have been 2,064 COVID-19 deaths in Toronto. Case status data can be found on the City’s reporting platform: www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-latest-city-of-toronto-news/covid-19-status-of-cases-in-toronto/.

The Province of Ontario is currently in Phase 1 of its three-phased vaccine distribution implementation plan. Limited doses of vaccines are currently available for health care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes and other congregate care settings. In preparation for Phase 2 and an increased stock of vaccines, the City and Toronto Public Health have developed a comprehensive immunization plan. The plan includes mobilizing scalable immunization clinics across the city that will operate as the Province prepares for eventual rollout of widespread, community-based immunization that includes vaccination by primary care physicians and pharmacies.

On January 18, under the direction of the Ministry of Health, the City and Toronto Public Health are launching an initial ‘proof-of-concept’ immunization clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This first clinic will help test and adjust immunization clinic setup in non-hospital settings, ensuring safety and increasing efficiency in advance of wider immunization. Staff will evaluate all aspects of clinic operations, including technology, logistics and operating procedure. In accordance with provincial allocations of COVID-19 vaccine, the goal of this first clinic is to vaccinate 250 people per day.

The proof-of-concept clinic is one part of preparing for public immunization rollout and is not open to members of the public. The clinic will operate with a sample group of healthcare workers, identified in accordance with the Province’s Ethical Framework for COVID-19 vaccine prioritization. These healthcare workers are directly involved in the frontline response to COVID-19, including frontline shelter workers and harm-reduction and Streets to Homes staff who work in support of some of Toronto’s most vulnerable residents. The healthcare workers attending the clinic will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Both the choice to receive COVID-19 vaccine and the choice to participate in the initial immunization clinic is on a voluntary basis.

Once the clinic has operated for an initial six weeks, the City will produce a thoroughly-evaluated immunization clinic playbook, in collaboration with provincial and hospital partners. This playbook will be provided to the Province for use in establishing other immunization clinics both in Toronto and across Ontario. Subject to vaccine availability, the City’s immunization clinic operations will expand across the city in strategically-located areas and will include mobile clinics, ensuring priority neighbourhoods and vulnerable populations have access to immunization. More information is available on the toronto.ca COVID-19: Vaccines webpage: www.toronto.ca/covid-19-vaccines/.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was the first Health Canada-approved vaccine to protect people against the COVID-19. The vaccine tells the body’s cells to make spike proteins, specific to the virus that causes COVID-19. The immune system will respond to the new spike proteins by making antibodies that will fight off infection. The new antibodies will break down the spike proteins and get rid of them. The new antibodies will protect from illness if an immunized individual is exposed to the COVID-19 virus. To be effective, the vaccine requires two doses given at least 21 days apart.

The Government of Canada is responsible for obtaining the supply of COVID-19 vaccines; the Province has responsibility for distributing the vaccines and administering them to priority groups established under the Province’s framework; and Toronto is responsible for supporting the administration of the vaccine in accordance with provincial prioritization and scheduling frameworks as vaccines are provided by the Province. Read more about the Province’s vaccine distribution implementation plan: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/covid-19-vaccines-ontario.

To reduce and eliminate the transmission of COVID-19, protect the healthcare system and save lives, Toronto Public Health continues to strongly encourages everyone to only leave their home for essential reasons and observe the prohibition against indoor gatherings. Please review the City’s simple “Dos” and “Don’ts” guide for recommended and mandatory public health measures. The guide communicates what is, and what is not, permitted under the  provincial Lockdown Regulation that remains in effect to help stop the spread of COVID-19: www.toronto.ca/lockdownguide.

Quotes:

“I’m pleased to announce today that in response to a request from the province, the City of Toronto will be opening a large COVID-19 immunization clinic next Monday – 14 weeks earlier than originally planned. This is good news and I am glad that the City’s Immunization Task Force, led by Chief Pegg, and Toronto Public Health are able to open this clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre early. This program will allow all of us to refine the immunization clinic concept so that we make sure we get it right in all the clinics we will have in operation across the city when vaccine is available for the general public.”

– Mayor John Tory

“As we continue to battle this serious second wave of COVID-19, it’s up to all of us to do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, including those on the front lines of our COVID-response. That’s why the City of Toronto is supporting the Province’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine by accelerating the launch of our first immunization clinic, which will focus on vaccinations for frontline staff working in our shelters, harm reduction programs, and public health. Over the past year, these essential workers have worked non-stop to protect our city – now, it’s our job to protect them.”

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

“My team at Toronto Public Health is committed to supporting our health system partners in their efforts to vaccinate residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes against COVID-19. As more vaccines become available in the months ahead, I hope that everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we can one day put this virus behind us. In the meantime, there has never been a time when it has been more important to take steps for self-protection, including staying home as much as possible and avoiding spending time indoors with people we don’t live with. We must remain committed at the individual level, so that we can get through this pandemic to better days ahead.”

– Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health

“From the outset of COVID-19, Toronto has worked tirelessly to respond proactively to the rapidly evolving pandemic. We initiated the proactive planning for immunization clinic operations in order to ensure that we are ready to administer vaccines as soon as they are made available by the Province of Ontario. When asked by the Province to accelerate the launch of this immunization clinic pilot, we responded without delay and will continue to work in collaboration with the Province and our hospital partners to finalize the COVID-19 immunization playbook. This is an important advancement in our battle against COVID-19.”

– Chief Matthew Pegg, Toronto Fire Services, General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management