Eligible Ontarians can get a vaccine in a pharmacy, even if living outside of participating regions
57 Windsor-Essex pharmacies will distribute vaccines to people aged 60 to 64
Ontario residents between the ages of 60 and 64 are eligible to get vaccinated at any of the 325 pharmacies that are participating in a provincial pilot program announced last week.
While only three regions were selected for the project — Windsor-Essex, Toronto and Kingston — people don't need to be living in those areas to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pharmacies are to administer 194,500 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which the province gained access to this week.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by Health Canada in late February, though the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) subsequently recommended that it be used only for adults aged 18 to 64. Due to its limited supply right now, the doses will be targeted toward residents born between 1957 and 1961.
Sebastian Di Pietro, the pharmacy owner of Shoppers Drug Mart at Tecumseh Rd. and Howard Ave., said he's happy to be administering vaccines, regardless of whether patients live in the region or not.
He says he's already received hundreds of calls and expects to roll out 50 doses a day once vaccines arrive to his store.
"From my point of view, the more people that get vaccinated, who are eligible in the province of Ontario, the better. And we're excited to be part of the solution," he said, adding that he's not concerned about people outside the region trying to book an appointment.
"There are many doses available for the age group that we are allowed to vaccinate at this point," he said.
Theresa Marentette, the CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said the province's decision to be more inclusive with its planning is likely intentional.
"I know [the province is] wanting access for everybody. And in doing so, they do allow for people to schedule outside of their own location, their own health unit jurisdiction or their own community," she said.
'Book an appointment as soon as possible'
Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, said he doesn't know what led the provincial government to not include location as a criteria, but he expects most people to be from within the participating regions.
"I think the vast majority are going to be in the local regions," he said.
"And it's a first-come, first-serve basis. They will fill up pretty quickly. Will there be a case of somebody coming from out of town? I think that's likely in some cases. But, I think it underscores the need to get these vaccines in arms and then expand the program."
Bates said pharmacies have the flexibility to decide how they will schedule appointments, whether that be over the phone or online. Whichever method they decide, he says people should book an appointment as soon as they can.
Di Pietro agrees and urges the community to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
"Book an appointment by calling your Shoppers Drug Mart store or your pharmacy that's participating and get an appointment booked right away so that we can get you vaccinated as soon as possible, so we can quickly put an end to this pandemic," Di Pietro said.
In an email statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Health said, "Ontarians should get their vaccination within their public health region to help manage vaccine allocations."
"We strongly encourage pharmacies administering the vaccine to ensure residents live in their PHU. We're working with our frontline pharmacy partners to ensure everyone who qualifies can get their vaccine, recognizing limited supply," read the statement.
The ministry said as supply increases, it will continue to ramp up the availability of vaccines in all public health units, including through expanded pharmacies and primary care physicians.