The Ontario government announced on Sunday that adults aged 80 and over are among the priority groups next in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the first phase of its rollout plan once supply increases.
In a memo dated Sunday to medical officers of health and hospital CEOs, retired general Rick Hillier, chair of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, said the government has drawn up a list of “next priority” groups to provide direction for its vaccination program over the coming weeks.
“Given the expected gradual increase in Ontario’s vaccine supply, the next target groups within the Phase One priority populations have been identified for vaccination,” Hillier said in the memo.
The groups that have been identified as “immediate priority” are:
- Staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, and any residents of these settings that have not yet received a first dose of vaccine.
- Alternative level of care patients in hospitals who have a confirmed admission to a long-term care home, retirement home or other congregate care home for seniors.
- Highest-priority health-care workers, followed by very high priority health-care workers, in keeping with the Ministry of Health’s guidance.
- Indigenous adults in northern remote and higher-risk communities, including on reserves and in urban communities.
The groups that were announced on Sunday as being “next priority” are:
- Adults 80 years of age and older.
- Staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings for seniors, including assisted living.
- Health-care workers at the high-priority level and in keeping with Health Ministry guidance.
- All Indigenous adults.
- Adult recipients of chronic home care.
Once first doses have been offered to people in the highest-priority groups, the province will administer first doses to the next priority groups, Hillier said.
He added that the Ontario government has nearly finished offering a first dose to all residents of long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes in the province.
“The provincial target of providing a first dose offer of vaccine to residents of all long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes is arriving at completion,” Hillier said.
“This includes work underway to make vaccinations available to First Nations elder care homes across the province. At this time, we are pleased to report that residents at all long-term care homes across the province have been given an opportunity for their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.”
Hillier said the province had to adjust its vaccination plan because of an unexpected reduction in supply of vaccines from the federal government, but the disruption in deliveries has not stopped the rollout or Ontario’s commitment to vaccinating high-risk populations and people who care for them.
In the event of last-minute cancellations, no-shows and end-of-day remaining doses, public health units and vaccination clinics should vaccinate people identified in the memo as immediate and next priority for vaccination and only to priority populations listed in the province’s first phase of its rollout, he said.
Planning in works to get vaccines to adults 80 and over
Alexandra Hilkene, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Health Ministry, said in an email to CBC News on Sunday that adults aged 80 and older are now considered part of what the province calls “Phase One” populations.
“When all reasonable steps have been taken to complete first-dose vaccinations of all staff, essential caregivers and residents of long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, first-dose vaccinations may be made available to the remainder of the Phase One populations, which now includes adults 80 years of age and older,” she said.
Hilkene said the logistics of making the vaccine available to people aged 80 and older are still being worked out.
“Planning is underway for how adults 80 years of age and older will be vaccinated. More details will be provided in the near future,” she said.
Infectious disease expert calls news ‘fantastic’
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases specialist with Toronto General Hospital and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, told CBC News Network on Sunday that the key development is that the program is going to expand.
“The big addition here is really for people who are aged 80 and older who are community dwelling. Obviously, that’s a major priority and that’s fantastic to see because we know those who are over the age of 80 are certainly at greater risk of having a severe outcome from this infection. I think that’s the biggest key addition,” Bogoch said.
“Expanding these programs outside of health-care providers, outside of institutions, and of course, with the Indigenous communities, are extremely important. But expanding the program well beyond them will provide tremendous good.”
Bogoch said details will be coming quickly because the vaccination sites will have to be up and running very soon.
“We’re going to watch those distribution centres massively scale up as we move from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of the program. But currently we only have 20 or so places where people can get the vaccines. We’re going to see local plans enacted to ensure those over the age of 80 can come in and get their vaccines,” Bogoch said.