Toronto will wait for Ontario COVID-19 booking portal to come online before vaccinating seniors
TORONTO -- Toronto will not begin a mass registration of its seniors for COVID-19 vaccination for at least another 12 days because it is waiting for a centrally-run registration program set up by the province to come online, Mayor John Tory said Wednesday.
“We have chosen I think wisely to be part of provincial registration and scheduling system which isn’t up and running until March 15,” Tory told CP24 on Wednesday.
Unlike its smaller neighbouring public health regions such as York, Peel and Halton which all began registering those 80 and up for shots and administering them this week, Tory says the sheer size of the city’s elderly population, coupled with the concentration of healthcare workers that live in the city, dictate that Toronto will be slower than the rest of the GTA in reaching its seniors for vaccination.
“Half of all doctors in Ontario reside in Toronto, and they’re on the priority list together with first responders and so on,” Tory told CP24 on Wednesday. “We don’t get any extra vaccine to account for that.“
He said that other public health regions that had smaller pools of healthcare workers to vaccinate got a head start on vaccinating elderly people in the community.
“What’s happened in some of the other places is they finished doing the healthcare workers because they have fewer of them, so they can move on to do some of the other people.”
Some hospitals including Michael Garron Hospital in East York, are pre-registering seniors age 80 and above for vaccination, but have not yet given them any shots.
Earlier this week, the City of Toronto released its official vaccination plan, which calls for a mix of 350 different sites and mobile teams to administer coronavirus vaccines to residents.
As noted by Tory, the provincial registration portal for COVID-19 vaccination does not go live across Ontario until March 15, but other public health units have simply set up their own portals in conjunction with hospitals.
Tory said the sheer size of Toronto dictates that it won’t be able to move as quickly as other public health units to vaccinate seniors.
“We have as many people aged 80+ in Toronto as the entire population of Guelph. The scale of everything done in the City of Toronto is just massive and you want to make sure you get it right.”
He said the provincial registrations program will include a call centre for seniors without internet access to register over the phone.
In the current first phase of Ontario’s vaccination program, only frontline healthcare workers, residents of congregate care settings such as long-term care homes and retirement residences, the homeless, first responders, Indigenous adults and people aged 80 and above in the community can be immunized up until March 31.
Ontario Vaccine Task Force leader Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier said the province expects to begin vaccinating those over the age of 75 starting on April 15 and people over 70 one month later. The target date for vaccinating people 65 and over is June 1, and July 1 for people 60 and over.