COVID-19 vaccination plan ramping up with pharmacy sites set to quadruple

© Can Stock Photo / vkovalcik

Ontario is expanding its COVID-19 vaccination program at pharmacies.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday morning that the number of pharmacies offering vaccines will double from nearly 350 to more than 700 over the next two weeks with further expansion set to take place later this spring.

The province expects the number of pharmacies administering vaccines to double again to approximately 1,500 by the end of April.

Officials said retail pharmacies could administer up to 40 per cent of all vaccinations by the end of April, depending on vaccine supply. The premier added participating pharmacies and doctors will be offering the AstraZeneca shot to those 60 and older beginning on Monday, March 22, 2021.

Ford said details and locations of the extra pharmacies that are participating in the vaccination plan will be announced in the coming days. Eligible Ontarians can contact a participating pharmacy directly to make an appointment.

Many primary care providers are also directly contacting eligible patients to book an appointment, but members of the public are specifically being directed not to call them to book an appointment.

Pharmacies in Windsor-Essex started offering vaccines last week as part of a pilot project. Eligible adults aged 60 and over who are interested in booking an appointment at a pharmacy, can click here to find a participating pharmacy and can contact the pharmacy directly to make an appointment.

Ford also said the provincial vaccination online booking system will be open to individuals 75 and older starting on Monday, March 22, 2021. Several public health units across Ontario are using their own booking systems, so residents are being directed to consult with their individual public health units if they have questions about which system is in place where they live.

“Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline health care heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined,” said Ford. “All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the Federal government to ensure anyone who wants one, gets one as soon as possible so we can all stay safe.”

Ontario began vaccinating individuals aged 80 and over in February, and launched an online booking tool and a call centre to help answer questions and support appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics. Since the provincial booking system was launched on March 15, more than 239,000 appointments have been scheduled for the first and second doses.

To date, over 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the province, including over 129,000 doses administered to long-term care home residents. Over 294,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including over 61,000 long term-care home residents.

“Thanks to the efforts of our health care partners and the efficiency of our booking system, Ontario has been able to schedule more appointments and vaccinate more people quickly and conveniently,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “We are doing everything we can to protect those who are most vulnerable and will ensure that we reach every Ontarian eligible for vaccination in Phase One as we expand the vaccination program further in the coming weeks.”

Individuals turning 75 or older in 2021 and do not live in a congregate care setting can schedule a vaccine appointment through the province by clicking here or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Information Line number at 1-888-999-6488. That line is open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is capable of providing assistance in 300 languages.