City of Toronto provides updated details of City COVID-19 Vaccination Program and collaboration with health sector partners

Today, Mayor John Tory, Chair of the Board of Health Councillor Joe Cressy, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg shared details of the City’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program and provided an update on collaboration with health sector immunization partners.

In alignment with the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, the City and Toronto Public Health have built a robust program for the administration of vaccines in Toronto. The City’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program is founded on public health and clinical expertise and is informed by engagement and collaboration with partners and diverse populations and communities, including the health sector and Indigenous and Black communities. The program builds on Toronto Public Health’s 2016 Mass Immunization Clinic Plan, which was tested during the 2017 emergency exercise EpicTO, and Toronto Public Health’s longstanding success in delivering immunization clinics and supporting internal and external partners to deliver vaccinations within their communities.

The successful implementation of the City’s Vaccination Program is dependent on many areas of cooperation with the Province, Ontario Health, primary care providers and other health sector partners. When people are eligible and receive vaccines is in accordance with provincial priorities and vaccine allotments for the City are determined by the provincial government. Participants for each phase of vaccination have been and will be identified in accordance with the Province’s Ethical Framework for COVID-19 vaccine prioritization. Additionally, the provincial COVaxON system is planned to support the administration of all vaccine preparations in all settings, including mass immunization clinics, as well as be used for booking vaccination appointments and for registration at clinics. Learn more about the Province’s vaccine plan: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/covid-19-vaccines-ontario.

The City and Toronto Public Health are responsible for implementing the City’s COVID-19 Immunization Program and working with other health sector agencies, such as Ontario Health Teams, and community groups that will immunize people in Toronto. Through the City’s program, in accordance with the Province’s phased approach and direction, the City is responsible for:

  • Identifying and supporting access to vaccines and vaccination information for people in Toronto
  • Operating the nine City-operated immunization clinics to vaccinate people in Toronto
  • Concurrently and intermittently operating mobile immunization clinics and deploying specialized, targeted immunization teams
  • Working to address the specialized needs of vulnerable populations
  • Providing vaccine information to other immunizing agencies such as pharmacies and primary care providers who will immunize their clients when vaccine supply permits community-based vaccination
  • Collaboratively planning with health sector, community and grassroots partners for coordinated immunization

The nine City-operated immunization clinics are on schedule to be ready to open on or before April 1. Once fully operational – seven days per week, nine hours per day – it is estimated that more than 120,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses will be administered each week through the network of City-operated clinics. Physical setup of five City-operated clinic locations is complete, with work on a sixth starting today at Mitchell Field Community Centre in Willowdale. More information on City-operated clinics is available online: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-how-to-get-vaccinated/?accordion=city-immunization-clinics.

City-operated immunization clinics are just one piece of the immunization plan for Toronto – there will be many and varied opportunities for vaccination for all residents, once the supply of vaccine is established. Other immunization clinics will be operated by hospital, Ontario Health Team and community partners, mobile clinic operations, targeted community response and the widespread availability of vaccine through family doctors and pharmacies. At this time, based on current vaccine supply, health sector partners coordinated by the City’s Ontario Health Teams and Local Health Integration Networks have identified a number of community clinics that will include:

  • 49 planned vaccination clinics to be operated by hospitals and Ontario Health Teams (on site and elsewhere, i.e. parking lots)
  • 46 planned vaccination clinics to be operated by community health centres
  • 249 pharmacies that will begin to operate with provincial direction

The City is working with partners to continually update the existing online map that will show neighbourhood COVID-19 vaccination options. The vaccination clinics identified are a work in progress and will change as additional information becomes available.

Toronto Public Health is co-chair of the Toronto Health Sector Leadership Table, created to coordinate the delivery of vaccines by the considerable number of organizations needed to get the job done. The structure draws particularly on Toronto’s hospital system, which has highly-valuable capabilities in supporting vaccination delivery, including networks into health care at the community level and staff who can give vaccines. East Toronto Health Partners, an Ontario Health Team of more than 50 community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations, has already rolled out a mobile pilot program that delivered vaccinations to seniors living in high-risk congregate settings and intends to expand their direct delivery to seniors. East Toronto is also planning to operate four independent vaccination clinics, dependent on vaccine supply. Working together, Toronto Public Health, the hospitals, Ontario Health Teams, the Local Health Integration Networks and community-based health care providers have significant capacity to deliver vaccinations across the city.

The City program includes a strategy to reach vulnerable populations that will have five mobile teams available to provide vaccine clinics. Mobile teams will be able to be deployed to locations like shelters, food programs and drop-ins for individuals experiencing homelessness as well as high-risk individuals living in Toronto Community Housing residential and seniors’ buildings as needed. Toronto Paramedic Services will be providing a response team of 10 paramedics to support mobile vaccinations.

Supporting community vaccination efforts are community mobilization and targeted outreach plans. The City is recruiting 280 neighbourhood ambassadors to promote vaccines in their community. Research has shown that when addressing vaccine hesitancy, people are more likely to listen to those they trust – a family doctor, local faith leaders, a member of the extended family. Neighbourhood ambassadors will be trusted local leaders that provide information and help direct community members to where they can be vaccinated. The City is also partnering with 140 community agencies that will be safely be going door-to-door to promote vaccines, confront vaccine hesitancy and help identify locations for mobile and pop-up clinics.

All aspects of the City’s Vaccination Program are supported by tailored communications. Communications have been planned to reach every resident, in every community, in every corner of Toronto and are founded on evidence-based research to promote trust in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and address misinformation. Identified audiences include those who may need additional information and supports to confidently decide to be vaccinated, vulnerable and racialized communities, non-English-speakers and new Canadians, youth and seniors. In all communications, the City is striving to acknowledge and address the social determinants of health such as race, income and food security, housing and disability to ensure equitable engagement.

The City’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Playbook is available online for those who would like more information on the City’s plan and work with government and community partners: https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/8e7c-TPH-Playbook-for-the-for-COVID-19-Vacination-Program-Public-Final-F….pdf.

Since the start of the pandemic there have been a total of 97,656 cases of COVID-19 in the city, an increase of 312 new cases today. There are 298 people hospitalized. To date, there have been 2,659 COVID-19 deaths in Toronto. In total, 91,224 people have recovered. 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/.

A provincial Stay-at-Home Order for Toronto has been extended until at least March 9. The City continues to ask all people to respect the goal of the COVID-19 regulations by staying home as much as possible in order to make spreading COVID-19 impossible. The City’s “Dos” and “Don’ts” guide lists recommended and mandatory public health measures to explain some of what is and is not permitted under the provincial Shutdown Zone. The guide can be found at www.toronto.ca/lockdownguide.

Quotes:

“This is a team effort and I believe the rollout plans we are discussing today show just how big this team is and that as you would expect, it will deploy its efforts right across the entire city. This will be the largest vaccination effort in the city’s history but I am very confident we will meet this challenge. I know people are tired of this pandemic and want it to be over – the vaccines are the best and ultimate weapon in fighting COVID-19. That’s why we have worked quickly, with the help of our excellent Toronto hospitals and other healthcare partners to get our most vulnerable residents vaccinated as quickly as possible. Thank you to everyone who is working on the vaccine rollout. Your work is saving lives.”

– Mayor John Tory

“As an intervention, the case for vaccines is clear. The reduction of virus spread in long-term care and retirement homes demonstrates why prioritizing vaccines for people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 is an effective course of action while more vaccines supply increases. As Medical Officer of Health in Canada’s largest city, we have a lot of people to vaccinate. The partnership in Toronto health care means we are able to deliver vaccines across the city as they become available. The sooner we have needles in arms – and the more needles in arms we have – the better off we all are. In the meantime, we must all remain vigilant and keep practising the measures for self-protection: stay home as much as possible, keep as much physical distance you can from people you don’t live with, wear a well-fitting mask and wash your hands often.”

– Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health

“Throughout our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve put equity front and centre, and this stage is no exception. The City is working with our hospital partners and the community sector to design a vaccine rollout plan that is fully accessible and meets people where they’re at: where they live, work, and access services. Our plan ensures that everyone in our city can quickly and easily get the vaccine in their community as supply increases and the rollout continues.”

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

“Our Immunization Task Force continues to be hard at work, ensuring that we are ready to commence COVID-19 immunization clinic operations, as soon as vaccine becomes available. This week, we will begin the setup of the sixth City-operated immunization clinic; one of nine clinics that the City will operate as part of the city-wide vaccination effort.”

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