Ottawa

Vaccine team 'ready to go' as province ramps up immunization efforts

Ontario's vaccine rollout is about to pick up speed, and the man in charge of Ottawa's campaign says the city is ready.

Sped-up schedule should see all Ontario adults eligible to book by May 24

As of April 30 at 8 a.m., all Ottawa residents 55 and older will be eligible to schedule an appointment to get vaccinated against COVID-19. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)

Ontario's vaccine rollout is about to pick up speed, and the man in charge of Ottawa's campaign says the city is ready.

"I'm really excited about it. It's long overdue. We've been waiting for this day when we're going to have a lot of vaccine coming in," said Anthony Di Monte, the city's general manager of emergency and protective services.

On Friday at 8 a.m., all Ottawans 55 and older will be eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with the province planning to expand vaccination to all adults by the end of May.

The local team has been set up for many months, but is only running four of its seven mass vaccination clinics because there wasn't the supply to warrant a full operation.

The Horticulture Building and the Canterbury Recreation Centre are set up with chairs ready for staff and vaccines. The local rollout could include drive-thru sites, mobile clinics, and 24-hour service, Di Monte said.

'Aggressive timeline'

Di Monte called Ontario's new vaccine schedule an "aggressive timeline".

Provincial officials said Thursday that bigger and more predictable shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and some Moderna doses, are expected through the end of June.

Eligible age brackets will drop quickly over the next month:

  • Week of May 3: those born in 1971 and earlier. 
  • May 10: 1981 and earlier.
  • May 17: 1991 and earlier.
  • May 24: all adults 18 and over.

During the first half of May, Ontario will focus on allocating half the vaccine supply to the 114 hot spots it's identified, followed by a provincewide distribution on a per capita basis the week of May 17.

Ottawa has identified high-risk neighbourhoods beyond the province's hot spots, and Di Monte says the city team plans to go door to door, offer pop-up clinics, and reach out to faith groups to make sure anyone over 18 in those areas gets their shot as soon as possible.

Essential workers eligible in early May

Essential workers also have greater clarity, with those in the first priority group — teachers, police officers, and inspection officials — slated next week.

The second group of essential workers, which includes transit employees, grocery store workers, social workers and many others, should be eligible the week of May 10.

The union representing OC Transpo employees pushed for months to have its drivers and other workers prioritized, ramping up those calls recently as positive cases spiked.

"At least we have a date. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, and it's great news," said ATU Local 269 president Clint Crabtree.

In recent weeks, many people seeking an AstraZeneca vaccine from a pharmacy have had difficulty with an array of online portals — a vaccine rollout that's separate from the provincial booking system.

The vaccine timeline, officials say, only denotes when a person is eligible to book, not the week they will get their shot. Di Monte said Ottawa only opens appointments if it has enough doses so that there are no cancellations.

"We are confident that because of the many pathways we have and opportunities for people to access a vaccine, we will be able to get it into people's arms very quickly," said Sylvia Jones, Ontario's solicitor general.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Porter

Reporter

Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past two decades, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

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