TORONTO -- Nearly a year after the first infection was found in the province, Ontario reached a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19 on Dec. 14, 2020.

On that date, the first dose of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus was administered in the province.

Now, as more doses become available and more needles go into arms across the province, many questions remain.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

WHO CAN GET VACCINATED RIGHT NOW?

Ontario is currently transitioning to Phase 2 of its vaccine plan.

60 and older: The province launched an online booking system for mass immunizations. Anyone 60 years of age who lives in a region using this booking system can now sign up for a shot.

55 and older: Residents who are 55 years of age and over can get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at pharmacies and doctor’s offices. Here is the full list of pharmacies.

Education workers: Starting April 12, education workers across Ontario who provide daily support to students with special education needs will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, all education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel Region will be able to get their vaccine.

50 and older: Residents of Toronto and Peel Region who are living in high-risk neighbourhoods and who are aged 50 and older can now schedule their COVID-19 vaccine appointment through the provincial booking system.

45 and older: In York Region, adults aged 45 and older living in the following priority neighbourhoods are able to get the vaccine: L4L, L6A, L4K, L4J and L3S.

18 and older: On April 7, the province announced that any adult over the age of 18 in the following priority neighbourhoods can also get the COVID-19 vaccine at mobile and pop-up clinics.

Under Phase 1, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes can their shot, according to the provincial government’s vaccine priority list.

Indigenous adults across Ontario are also eligible.

Health-care workers identified by the province as highest priority can also currently receive their vaccine followed by those identified as very high priority.

Highest priority:

  • All hospital and acute care staff in frontline roles with COVID-19 patients and/or with a high-risk of exposure to the disease, including those performing aerosol-generating procedures
  • All patient-facing health-care workers involved in the COVID-19 response
  • Medical first responders, including paramedics and firefighters
  • Community health-care workers serving specialized populations

Very high priority:

  • Frontline health-care workers in the following sectors and settings; acute care and other hospital settings, congregate settings, community care with high-risk of exposure and serving specialized patient populations, other health-care services for Indigenous populations, community care with high-risk of exposure and serving the general population, and laboratory services.


WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

The Ontario government has launched a web portal to help with booking appointments for the general population. The portal went live at 8 a.m. on March 15.

For those with a red and white health card, or anyone who is not comfortable using the online tool, the province has also launched a call centre. The Provincial Vaccine Information Line number is 1-888-999-6488.

As part of their individual strategies, each local public health unit will outline where residents can sign up to receive their vaccine. Residents in the regions of Durham, Halton and Peel will not be able to use the province’s web portal, as they have opted to stick with their own booking systems.

On March 15, the province released a list of which public health unit was using their portal.

Some individual hospitals are also using their own booking system, found on their websites.

Hamilton: Hamilton residents turning 70 years old this year or older can book an appointment using the province’s booking portal. Anyone in that age category unable to use the portal or who may not have a valid Ontario photo health card should call the public health unit’s COVID-19 hotline at 905-974-9848 and choosing option seven.

York Region: Residents in York Region will transition to using both the provincial online booking tool and the provincial call centre. More information can be found here. York Region has said that it is now vaccinated residents aged 70 and over.

Peel Region: Residents in Peel Region has opted to use their own online booking tool or phone line to book vaccinations. Officials said residents in the 50+ age category, or their caregiver, can book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at the William Osler Health System Vaccine Clinic through an online booking tool or by phone at 905-494-2120, ext. 56685.

Halton Region: Officials said an online booking system is available or residents can call 311 if assistance is required. Halton has said that it is now vaccinated residents aged 70 and over.

Durham Region: Officials said an online booking system is available.

Toronto: Officials have set up a website that allows residents to pre-register or book a vaccine appointment, but will transfer to the provincial booking portal and call centre on March 15. Mass vaccination clinics in Toronto are scheduled to begin administering doses of the vaccine on March 17.


WHO IS NEXT IN LINE?

In Phase 2, age remains a strong focus. As of April 6, adults aged 60 and older can get the vaccine. That number will decrease in increments of five years throughout Phase 2. Other prioritizations include those living or working in high-risk congregate settings, individuals with high-risk chronic conditions (and their caregivers), those who cannot work from home and at risk populations.

A full list of who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine can be found here.

Some hospitals and vaccine clinics are vaccinating people in these groups. Mass vaccination sites using the province's booking system are still using Phase 1 groupings aside from age.

COVID-19 vaccine timeline April 6

Officials have said they are aiming for essential workers to be able to book their appointments by mid-May depending on supply.

The vaccine will be available to the general public in Phase 3, which is projected to start in July.


WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW BEFORE REGISTERING?

  • You will be asked to stay for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving the dose to monitor for any adverse events
  • As with all other medications and vaccines, the COVID-19 shot can cause side effects – the most frequent adverse reactions were typically mild or moderate in intensity and resolved within a few days
  • Some of the potential side effects include; pain at injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain, chills, fever, swollen glands, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, enlarged lymph nodes in your underarm


WHERE ARE THE VACCINES BEING ADMINISTERED?

All of Ontario’s local public health units will announce plans on where the vaccine will be distributed as doses become more widely available. The Ministry of Health said plans could include administering vaccines at mass immunization clinics in convention centres, warehouses or retail spaces, as well as pharmacies and physicians’ offices.

Currently, vaccines are being administered at clinics, hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, and First Nations using mobile units. As of April 1, more than 750 pharmacies began offering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to residents aged 60 and up.

Some primary care professionals in Hamilton, Toronto, Guelph, Peterborough, Simcoe-Muskoka and Peel Region will also be contacting patients between the ages of 60 and 64 to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Toronto vaccine clinic

When supply is available the following clinic sites are ready to open, according to each local public health unit.

Toronto - The following locations are open:

  • Metro Toronto Convention Centre – 255 Front Street West
  • Scarborough Town Centre – 300 Borough Drive
  • Toronto Congress Centree – 650 Dixon Road
  • East York Town Centre - 45 Overlea Boulevard
  • Mitchell Field Arena – 89 Church Avenue
  • Malvern Community Recreation Centre – 30 Sewells Road
  • The Hangar Sports & Event Centre –75 Carl Hall Road.

Officials said on March 1 that there will be more than 350 different locations administering COVID-19 vaccines in the city once supply improves. A full list of vaccination sites can be found here.

York Region

  • Cornell Community Centre – 3201 Bur Oak Avenue in Markham
  • Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital – Major Mackenzie Drive West in Vaughan
  • Ray Twinney Complex – 100 Eagle Street West in Newmarket
  • Aaniin Community Centre – 5665 14th Avenue in Markham
  • Maple Community Centre – 10190 Keele Street in Vaughan
  • Richmond Green Sports Centre – 1300 Elgin Mills Road East in Richmond Hill
  • Georgina Ice Palace – 90 Wexford Drive in Georgina
  • Canada's Wonderland - 1 Canada's Wonderland Drive

Peel Region

  • 7120 Hurontario Street in Mississauga
  • 10 Peel Centre Drive in Brampton
  • Caledon East Community Complex – 6215 Old Church Road in Caledon East
  • Brampton Soccer Centre – 1495 Sandalwood Parkway East in Brampton
  • Paramount Fine Foods Centre, Sportsplex C – 5600 Rose Cherry Place in Mississauga

Durham Region

  • Durham College in Oshawa
  • Ontario Tech University in Oshawa
  • Chestnut Hills Development Complex – 1867 Valley Farm Road in Pickering

Halton Region

  • Gellert Community Centre – 10241 Eighth Line in Georgetown
  • St. Volodymyr Culture Centre – 1280 Dundas Street West in Oakville
  • Compass Point Bible Church – 1500 Kerns Road in Burlington
  • FirstOntairo Arts Centre – 1010 Main Street East in Milton
  • Joseph Brant Hospital – 1245 Lakeshore Road in Burlington

Hamilton

  • St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton – 100 West 5th Street
  • Saltfleet Community Centre – 605 Regional Road 8 in Stoney Creek
  • Ancaster Rotary Club/Morgan Firestone – 385 Jerseyville Road West in Ancaster
  • Dundas Community Centre – 10 Market Street South in Dundas
  • Harry Howell Arena – 27 Highway 5 West in Flamborough


WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO MY APPOINTMENT?

  • Ontario health card
  • If you do not have an Ontario health care you are asked to bring another piece of photo identification that is government-issued, such as a drivers licence, passport, status card or other provincial health cards
  • Face mask
  • Immunization record to keep track of this vaccine and others
  • Assistive devices as needed
  • Reading glasses and/or hearing air if required
  • Support person if required
  • You should take your regular medication and eat meals as per usual
  • Do not wear any scented products
  • Wear a loose-fitting top so health-care provider can easily access your arm for the vaccination


WHEN DO I GET MY SECOND DOSE?

Initially, Ontario residents receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were advised to receive their second dose 21 days after the first dose. As well, those receiving the Moderna vaccine were advised to receive their second dose within 28 days of their first.

On Feb. 14, the provincial government said all second dose appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be conducted within 35 days and no later than 42 days of receiving the first dose to increase availability during a supply-limited time. This new messaging does not apply to residents of long-term care, high-risk retirement and First Nations elder care homes, as well as residents of other types of congregate care homes for seniors and those 80 years of age or older.


WHO DO I CONTACT IF I HAVE QUESTIONS?

Residents of Ontario can contact their local public health unit for further information on vaccine rollout plans.