Ontario opening COVID-19 vaccine appointments for those 18+ starting Tuesday

Ontario is opening up eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 18 and older a week ahead of schedule, the province said Monday.

Expansion of eligibility comes 1 week ahead of schedule

Maria Rey, 27, gets her first does of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at an overnight clinic in Mississauga on May 16, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario is opening up eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 18 and older a week ahead of schedule, the province said Monday, as public health units reported another 2,170 cases of the illness.

Those who meet the criteria can begin booking appointments through the province's online portal and call centre or through their local public health unit, depending on where they live, as of 8 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Ontario expects 2.2 million more doses of vaccines to arrive this week ahead of the Victoria Day long weekend. Among the additional doses is a shipment that was not supposed to land until next week, the province said in a news release.

Meanwhile, Ontarians who are 17 and set to turn 18 in 2021 will also be able to book an appointment for a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only one currently approved for use in adolescents aged 12 and older in Canada, starting Tuesday.

The province said it intends to start opening appointments through its online portal and call centre for those aged 12-17 the week of May 31. Officials say they are working with health units, school boards and First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to finalize the details. Family members of adolescents who have not already been vaccinated will be encouraged to attend those same clinics for a shot, the province said.

Lastly, as of tomorrow, public health units administering the Pfizer vaccine through mobile and pop-up clinics, or via any clinics where walk-ins are permitted, will have the option to offer shots to those aged 12 and over. 

New cases continue downward trend

The new cases reported today include 566 in Toronto, 556 in Peel Region, 215 in York Region, 120 in Durham Region and 101 in Hamilton. 

The seven-day average of daily cases fell to 2,352, its lowest point since April 1.

Labs completed 24,498 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, and Public Health Ontario reported a provincewide positivity of 7.9 per cent. While still relatively high, the positivity rate is notably lower than the 9.1 per cent logged last Monday. The measure has been trending steadily downward for weeks.

Another 2,953 infections were marked resolved. There are currently about 25,869 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 throughout Ontario.

As of yesterday, there were 779 patients being treated for COVID-related illnesses in critical care. Of those, 536 required a ventilator to breathe.

The Ministry of Health also confirmed the deaths of four more people with the illness, bringing the official toll to 8,489. The seven-day average of daily deaths decreased to about 23.

Hot spots no longer getting 50% of vaccines

Public health units collectively administered 112,330 doses of vaccines yesterday, relatively few compared to recent days but a new high for Sundays.

More than 54 per cent of all Ontarians aged 16 and older have now had at least one dose of a vaccine.

This week, Ontario is shifting gears in its distribution of vaccines, with doses being sent to public health units solely on a per capita basis.

For the last two weeks, 50 per cent of all available doses had been going to 114 provincially designated hot spots.

Ontario recently reached a new milestone, with 154,104 shots administered last Friday — the most ever on a single day and the first time the province has topped the 150,000 threshold it has been aiming for.

Meanwhile on Sunday, a mass vaccination site hosted by Michael Garron Hospital on the east side of Toronto administered shots to 10,470 people in just one day.

The achievement followed a 32-hour long event in Peel Region, just west of the city, called Doses After Dark that saw nearly 5,000 residents get a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Premier Doug Ford made a visit to the event in Peel, where he told reporters that Ontario's summer camps would be given a green light to operate this season, though he didn't offer any details.

A spokesperson from his office later said details would be revealed before the province lifts its current stay-at-home order, which was recently extended to June 2 in a bid to help combat the pandemic's third wave.

Ontario has 14 blood clot cases linked to AstraZeneca

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate medical officer of health, said the province has 14 cases of serious blood clots known as thrombotic thrombocytopenic syndrome (TTS) linked to the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine.

Ten of these cases meet the criteria for vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).

"I want to reiterate that those who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine did absolutely the right thing to prevent illness and protect their families, loved ones and community," Yaffe said.

She continued to say Ontario continues to make progress when it comes to flattening the third wave of the pandemic — although there's still reason for caution.

"The trends remain encouraging but the numbers are still very high and they represent people who are still very ill from the disease," Yaffe said.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said the province is making "progress, steady progress" but the province is still has patient transfers taking place to ensure there is capacity in intensive care units.

"We are not out of this by any means," Williams said.

Williams urged Ontario residents to continue to follow public health guidelines this upcoming long weekend.

"Be really careful on this long weekend coming up. We don't need to have a big surge back up again. We don't need another cohort admitted to our ICUs," Williams said.

"Enjoy the warm weather, do what you can with household and family, wear your mask, keep your distance. Enjoy it while you can but enjoy it with care and caution."

Ontario awaits federal word on mixing vaccines

Williams reiterated Monday that Ontario was awaiting federal guidance on mixing and matching vaccines before offering second doses to AstraZeneca recipients.

"It would seem to be quite an excellent choice to make and have a second dose with AstraZeneca vaccine, knowing that you had no issues on your first dose ... but we also want to answer a couple of questions," he said.

"One is what is the capacity for an informed consent of individuals who may want to choose to have an mRNA vaccine as a second dose, and we want to make sure that you have that option in front of you when you're going to make that choice."

The province has said some of its AstraZeneca doses may expire while it comes up with a plan for second doses.

With files from The Canadian Press

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