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When will you be eligible for a COVID-19 shot? Ontario lays out plan for mass vaccination campaign

The head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force revealed on Tuesday the most detailed look to date at the mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign set to ramp up in 2021.

Ontario plans to begin widespread vaccinations in April, peaking at about 150,000 per day

A health-care worker prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at St. Michael’s Hospital. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The head of Ontario's vaccine distribution task force revealed on Tuesday the most detailed look to date at the mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign set to ramp up in 2021.

Retired general Rick Hillier said Ontario is anticipating large numbers of vaccine doses to begin arriving early next year, when the province will focus on vaccinating vulnerable seniors and health-care workers.

Ontario plans to expand those vaccinations to a wider range of the population in the late spring and summer.

Here's what the government is planning.

Phase 1: Now to April

The province will focus on health-care workers and the residents of long-term care facilities and retirement homes, which have experienced widespread and deadly outbreaks throughout the pandemic.

The province says it will also offer vaccines to select vulnerable communities during this phase, such as First Nations in Northern Ontario.

The supply of vaccine doses is expected to gradually ramp up throughout January.

Ontario expects to receive an additional 50,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the first week of January, and approximately 80,000 per week after that for the remainder of the month.

Ontario is also expecting its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine, comprising 50,000 doses, to arrive within the next 24 hours.

A second shipment of 50,000 Moderna vaccines is scheduled to arrive during the first week of January, which Hillier says will be used for the operation to vaccinate people in remote northern communities.

Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine does not require storage at ultra-low temperatures and can therefore be more easily shipped to various parts of Ontario.

Retired general Rick Hillier is leading Ontario's task force that will oversee the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the province. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Both vaccines are said to require two doses to be effective, though Hillier has asked Health Canada to examine if a single dose of the Moderna vaccine would provide sufficient protection.

The province says it expects to vaccinate approximately 1.1 million people by the end of March.

Phase 2: April to July

Phase 2 will mark the start of a widespread campaign to administer millions of vaccines every month to a wider range of Ontario's population.

Hillier said the province anticipates that it will receive 15 million doses of vaccine between April and the end of June, or about five million per month. It's not yet clear how many doses of each vaccine will be included in that supply.

The province plans to set up mass vaccination sites during this phase to administer the doses. Some hospitals will also offer vaccinations, and Hillier suggested that pharmacies could also take part.

Ontario says it has not yet decided how it will prioritize access during the start of this phase, though Hillier said essential workers and older Ontarians would likely be first in line.

He said people 75 and older might be prioritized, followed by people aged 50 to 75. Hillier also listed farm workers, police officers and teachers as examples of essential workers who could be prioritized during this phase.

Ontario hopes to vaccinate approximately 8.5 million residents by the end of phase 2, at a rate of about 150,000 residents daily. The province has a population of 14.7 million.

Phase 3: August and beyond

Hillier referred to the third and final part of the campaign as the "steady state" phase, in which the vaccine will be widely available on an ongoing basis at places like family doctors' offices and pharmacies.

Hillier said that getting a COVID-19 vaccine during this period should be no harder than getting a shingles or flu vaccine.

If there is a need for renewals or booster shots for any of the vaccines, those will also be administered within this phase.

It's not yet known if additional doses will be necessary.

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